Note from Black Matt: This is Part 2 of a guest article written by our own Lisgardfund. If you haven’t already, read Part 1 here. Thanks again to Lisgarfund for this wonderful look at one of the most dramatic Brazil matches of all time!
After an intense but scoreless first half, Brazil re-emerged from the tunnel firing on all cylinders. Kicking off the second half with a series of passes down the left side, the ball came to the ever-forward Roberto Carlos, who passed it back to Rivaldo on the left side of the midfield. Rivaldo, who had dropped back a bit, had all the time and space in the world to find Ronaldo, pulling on the left of Cocu and making a run towards the Dutch goal. At the time, Frank de Boer was charging forward to try and play an offside trap, which left a small gap behind him. That small gap was all Ronaldo needed. Rivaldo sent a delightful ball towards Ronaldo, who got across Cocu and into the penalty area, controlling the ball with his weaker left foot. Cocu did his best as he pulled on Ronaldo’s shirt and tried vehemently to stop Ronaldo from a getting a good shot away, but with him not a natural defender and Frank de Boer out of position, there was no stopping Ronaldo. Ronaldo simply had to tuck the ball below the onrushing van der Sar’s body and into the back of the net. Just like that, Brazil took a 1-0 lead only 22 seconds into the second half.
But Netherlands wasn’t going to go down easily. They won a series of corners down the Brazilian right, causing all sorts of problems. On the first corner, Kluivert got onto the ball first and redirected his header towards Frank de Boer to his right, who pulled off a one-timer. Taffarel got down and across and made an unbelievable save (I don’t think even he knew how he managed to make that save). The rebound went high into the air and Rivaldo managed to clear the ball over the bar with a header. This was Netherlands’s best chance of the game thus far – even Roberto Carlos was holding his hands together, perhaps sensing the bullet Brazil had dodged. The subsequent corners were all threatening but each was dealt with. On the last corner, the ball fell to Ronaldo, who broke with breakneck speed. Edgar Davids had to stop him with a rather cynical elbow at the halfway line to prevent Ronaldo from going any further. Typical professional foul from Davids.
A few minutes later, Wim Jonk gave the ball away in midfield to Bebeto. Bebeto took the ball and dribbled ahead to find Ronaldo. Ronaldo found Rivaldo in acres of space to his left, with the Dutch right back Michael Reiziger pushing too far forward. But the flag was raised for offside (wrongfully in my opinion).
In an earlier collision with Rivaldo, Michael Reiziger pulled his shoulder and was forced to be substituted by Aron Winter at right back. This substitution would have great ramifications to the game situation.
The Dutch were now really starting to exert pressure on the Brazilians and were calmly and confidently stroking the ball around. But Brazil’s defense revealed no holes for Netherlands to exploit and the Seleção were content to sit back and play on the counter-attack. One instance had Wim Jonk passing the ball into empty space and with Winter, Stam, and Frank de Boer all caught ball-watching, Rivaldo charged forward and pounced on the loose ball. Rivaldo managed to advance into Netherlands territory before another great tackle by Stam muscled him off the ball. Moments later, Cesar Sampaio started another Brazilian half-counter after winning yet another loose ball. He passed it back to Aldair, who then knocked it forward to Bebeto. Bebeto didn’t have any room to run as he was surrounded by Dutch players, but Cesar Sampaio took the ball and bulldozed his way through three Dutch players at the midfield circle. With Bebeto to his left and Ronaldo to his right, he had options. But before he could pick any of them, Davids brought him down and rightly received a booking.
In the 62nd minute, a controversial event occurred. After the Brazilians cleared the ball out of bounds, Cocu went to the far touchline to take the throw-in. The linesman, however, was not impressed and ruled an infringement. It is unclear from the video what exactly Cocu did (did he not throw the ball overhead or was it because one of his feet was off the ground?), but the referee gave the call the Brazilian way. Cesar Sampaio took the throw-in. Ronaldo headed the ball to Bebeto, who one-timed the pass right back into Ronaldo’s path. With great acceleration over the first ten yards, Ronaldo charged towards the ball for a possible one-on-one with van der Sar. The alert goalkeeper charged off the line to collect the ball. He just beat Ronaldo to it and prevented a shot from occurring. The ball squirted loose from his hands and Leonardo tried to kick the ball away from van der Sar, but van der Sar managed to recover and grabbed the ball with his hands.
Despite Brazil getting the better chances, Netherlands was still circulating the ball quite well and hemming Brazil back. Kluivert had another header off a corner going wide.
One thing I constantly noticed was the lack of unity Brazil had in choosing not to win the ball back immediately after losing it. For example, in the 66th minute, after Rivaldo lost the ball to Davids, both Leonardo and Bebeto pressed high on Frank de Boer and Cocu to try and pressure them on, but Ronaldo simply tracked back slowly and refused to press and block Frank de Boer’s passing lanes. Perhaps it had something to do with fitness, but since going up 1-0, Brazil were more intent on actively ceding territory and hitting the Dutch on the counter rather than pressing aggressively. They were playing reactive football rather than being proactive, with the Netherlands dragging the Brazilian defense from flank to flank and forcing the Brazilians to chase the ball.
A minute later, Netherlands had a gorgeous build-up on the Brazil left. Winter took the throw-in, put it right to Kluivert, who made a beautiful turn to evade Dunga and Cesar Sampaio. Then he exchanged a quick one-two with Bergkamp who was situated at the edge of the penalty area. Bergkamp, being watched by Aldair, returned the ball to Kluivert, who subsequently hit a venomous shot towards the Brazilian goalmouth. But the shot was straight down the throat of Taffarel. The Dutch then tried something similar on the other side. This time it was the Davids-Bergkamp-Cocu combination doing the work, but Cocu hit his shot just wide.
Sensing weariness, Zagallo decided to look to the bench and did what he had throughout the 1998 World Cup, bringing on the most expensive player in the world at the time, 20-year-old Denilson for the veteran Bebeto, who had a hard-working but ineffective night. This move pushed Ronaldo even further to the right, as the Real Betis man was a left winger. Rivaldo, meanwhile, often acted as a kind of second striker.
However, the introduction of fresh legs didn’t elevate the energy level of the Seleção defenders. Compared to their Dutch counterparts, the Brazilian back four lacked composure and passing technique. By this stage of the game, Brazil almost never played out from the back, with Junior Baiano, Cesar Sampaio, Aldair, and even Roberto Carlos simply satisfied to bang the ball away and hope that the ball would land to Ronaldo and Rivaldo in front. However, the Netherlands couldn’t seem to create anything threatening against Taffarel, with most of their moves broken down around the Brazilian penalty area. Bergkamp being particularly guilty a couple of times of touching the ball one too many times to win himself more space, when a better option would have been to take a shot.
Suddenly, the Brazilians had a golden opportunity of their own. Wim Jonk crossed the ball into the Brazilian penalty area to Kluivert, but Sampaio got there first and managed to control the ball. He laid it off to Dunga who then one-timed pass to Aldair. Aldair passed to Roberto Carlos, who then passed it to Denilson and then immediately charge down the left flank, taking Winter and Ronald de Boer off to the side with him. Denilson flicked the ball to Rivaldo. Rivaldo did very well to handle Dennis Bergkamp as he dribbled forward into space. Then he made a wonderful flicked through-ball to Ronaldo, who was playing off the left shoulder of Zenden right at the halfway line. Ronaldo burst through the space between Stam and Zenden and had a one-on-one with van der Sar. But Davids raced back to make a great tackle from behind to put the ball just wide of the Dutch goal. It was a perfect tackle, as Davids did not touch Ronaldo at all. It was great showing of heart as well, as all of the Dutch players except him had given up chasing after Ronaldo. For all the talented that Holland boasted over the years, they often lacked the dedication and heart for their country. But on this play Davids showed plenty of both.
This event was just the beginning of what would become a frantic last 20 minutes of the match. First there, was an appeal for a Dutch penalty as Kluivert seems to be pushed by Aldair in the penalty area when trying to receive a cross. Then Zenden took a 25-yard shot that skimmed past Taffarel’s near post. Guus Hiddink then made another substitution to salvage a goal in the game, bringing on Nottingham Forest’s striker Pierre van Hooijdonk for the left winger Zenden. This move permanently put Netherlands into a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Cocu pushing extremely high on the left side and the only one to provide any width on the left. Bergkamp and Kluivert dropped back alternatively to receive the ball from the midfield, van Hooijdonk acted as the target man, while Frank de Boer, Stam, and Winter played a back three. Immediately the Dutch started putting more crosses into the box, with Ronald de Boer heading a Cocu cross wide.
But this also left Netherlands open at the back. Junior Baiano won an aerial duel and headed the ball to Ronaldo’s direction. Ronaldo then won another aerial duel against Frank de Boer, knocking the ball towards Leonardo. Sensing a big gap between the lines, Rivaldo immediately surged forward after seeing Leonardo getting the ball. Leonardo passed the ball to Rivaldo, who then knocked it left to Denilson. Denilson, with Winter pulled towards the center of the pitch by Rivaldo, had acres of space to run at the Dutch defense. With 6 or 7 stepovers, he charged into the Dutch penalty area and put Aron Winter on the wrong foot. He then knocked the ball across the face of the goal, finding Rivaldo free right on the edge of the penalty area! Rivaldo, who by this time had lost his balance trying to slide Denilson’s possible ball towards him, took a shot while still sitting on the ground. The shot of course didn’t have any power on it but van der Sar was unable to collect the ball. The rebound fell to Frank de Boer, who then simply walked the ball away with great composure, even though Ronaldo was almost breathing on him. Simply unbelievable.
Ze Carlos, whom I haven’t mentioned much in the second half, once again exemplified why Zagallo was unjustified in selecting him. After Zenden was taken off, Ze Carlos started to overlap on the right side, imitating his colleague, Cafu. A cross by him was cut out by the Dutch, who immediately started a counter-attack while he was woefully out of position to track Cocu. Wim Jonk started a run from the edge of his penalty area and passed to Kluivert. Kluivert, with Cesar Sampaio marking him, made a great turn and started charging at the last line of defence manned by Dunga and Junior Baiano. By now, both Roberto Carlos and Aldair had pushed too far forward. Dunga immediately charged out to confront Kluivert, but this move, resembling the situation in 1990 when Maradona made a great assist to Caniggia in space left behind by Dunga, further isolated Junior Baiano. Kluivert passed to his right, where Pierre van Hooijdonk made his run. Baiano was forced to come left to take care of van Hooijdonk, which then left space on his right for Kluivert and Cocu to run to, with Dunga, Cesar Sampaio, and Aldair all out of position to prevent Kluivert from shooting. Just as expected, van Hooijdonk made the pass to Kluivert, who then sidefooted over the bar with no one close to him! What a golden opportunity wasted by Kluivert! Kluivert had all the time and space in the world to control the ball and put it in the back of the net, but it was not to be. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Dutch to equalize, but once again Kluivert established his reputation of an elite striker who needed 10 chances to convert a goal.
The Dutch, however, were not deterred, fully knowing that they need a goal to remain alive in the world cup. They continued to dominate possession and territory, but with the defence led by Dunga and Zagallo calling everyone except Ronaldo back to defend, the Dutch simply lacked ideas in the final third. With Cocu not a natural wide player and always looking to cut infield, the Dutch could not stretch the Brazilian defence much and their possession was limited to knocking the ball around the perimeter. Every time Kluivert or Bergkamp dropped back to help with the build-up, they were swarmed by at least two Brazilians. They were either dispossessed or forced to play the ball back to either Frank de Boer or Davids.
On one of these occasions, Cesar Sampaio managed to strip the ball away from Kluivert. Leonardo took the ball and passed it to Denilson, who displayed an array of dribbling skills over 30 yards, taking Winter infield with him and allowing Roberto Carlos to overlap on the left. Roberto Carlos made a great run of 60 yards outside Denilson, who flicked the perfectly weighted ball to his left. Roberto Carlos simply tore apart Winter with his raw pace and then took a shot at a very tight angle. The ball came across the face of goal but no one was there to turn it home.
In the 86th minute, the Dutch finally had something to show for their superior possession. A long raking pass from Frank de Boer flew towards the head of Kluivert residing in the Brazilian penalty area, but Junior Baiano managed to head it away to Aldair. Aldair couldn’t clear the lines as the ball come as far as Cesar Sampaio, who again couldn’t clear the lines as Davids blocked the clearance. Cocu, who came sliding in from the left, knocked the ball down and beat Dunga to the loose ball and managed to slice it to the right where Ronald de Boer was waiting. With no one at least 15 yards from him, Ronald de Boer took a touch and had all the time he needed to pick out a cross to Kluivert. With Junior Baiano completely rooted, Kluivert’s perfect downward header equalized for Holland. The scoreline becomes 1-1. A completely deserved goal for both the enigmatic Dutch striker and Guus Hiddink’s men.
With the momentum completely on the Dutch side, Brazil seemed to be winded. Netherlands had three chances to score before the 90 minutes were up. With van Hooijdonk and Kluivert in the penalty area, the Dutch were putting crosses into the space between Ze Carlos and Junior Baiano for them to head goalwards, but the quality of these crosses left much to be desired.
Going into stoppage time, in a similar position to where Frank de Boer hit the great pass to Bergkamp in the quarter-final game against Argentina, Cocu hit a long pass to van Hooijdonk just outside the Brazilian penalty area. Pierre van Hooijdonk put a header into the box and with Bergkamp outhustling Dunga and Aldair for the ball, Taffarel had to come off his line and collect the loose ball to just prevent Bergkamp from getting a shot away. Quickly Taffarel threw the ball to Ze Carlos’s direction. Under pressure from Cocu, Ze Carlos slipped and fell. Like a bald eagle sensing an opportunity to catch its prey, Kluivert swooped in and stole the ball from Ze Carlos. He took a few dribbles forward and let a low shot fly on the edge of the penalty area. Taffarel had to be alert again and dove to his right to make the crucial save. Spanning over less than 20 seconds, the Dutch had two great chances to win the match, but threw both of them away.
A minute later, another controversial event occurred. After Ronald de Boer hit a long pass to Bergkamp on the near touchline, the Dutch stroked the ball around the Brazilian box. Wim Jonk sent a 45 degree cross into the penalty area. Junior Baiano pulled down van Hooijdonk to prevent the Dutch striker from getting Jonk’s cross. That should have been a penalty given to the Dutch, but the referee from United Arab Emirates thought van Hooijdonk was play-acting and gave him a yellow card. Pierre van Hooijdonk could only shake his head.
Brazil dodged another bullet and the score remained 1-1. Extra-time was needed to separate the two teams.
Although it was Netherlands who finished extremely strong in the second half, it was Brazil who started brightly in the extra frame. Emerson took a shot from distance that went over the bar. Roberto Carlos had two great runs, skinning both Winter and Ronald de Boer with his pace in the process, but his crosses were either over-hit or cut out by the Dutch captain Frank de Boer.
But one of the maxims you have to associate with Roberto Carlos is: “If for once you don’t succeed, try, try again.” His previous runs had failed to produce many problems for the Dutch but he continued to overlap on the left touchline like a madman. When Rivaldo was brought down by Stam, Brazil took the ensuing free kick quickly and caught the Netherlands’ defence out of position. Denilson was once again running at Winter, with Roberto Carlos racing on his left-hand side. Denilson made a perfect flick to the overlapping Roberto Carlos, who then crossed the ball. Edwin van der Sar flapped it away, but only as far as Ronaldo. With van der Sar down and Stam not anywhere close to him, Ronaldo tried a bicycle kick for a shot, but he did not get enough power on it as the ball floated in the air for Frank de Boer to head it away off his goal line. Mario Zagallo, the Brazilian coach, could not hide his disappointment in this wasted opportunity, as he held his head in his hands.
The 1996 and 1997 FIFA player of the year, however, was not deterred. The best player in the world then created another good scoring opportunity within 60 seconds. Denilson probed the ball through the Dutch defense for Ronaldo. Ronaldo then took out Frank de Boer once, then took him on again before moving infield to evade Winter and releasing a great shot. The Dutch keeper van der Sar had to make an equally good save to beat the shot away.
Meanwhile, the trend of the game continued to be much of the same as the second half. The Dutch continued encamping themselves in the Brazilian half but not producing many opportunities or using the entire width of the field while on the other hand Brazil was content to launch quick breaks off Ronaldo and Denilson’s runs. Van Hooijdonk had a 35-yard free kick smothered by Taffarel, while on the other end Emerson had a half-chance to go for goal before being outhustled by Frank de Boer.
Just before the end of the first fifteen minutes of extra time, Netherlands had another great opportunity for a golden goal. Frank de Boer launched a 40 yard pass downfield for Kluivert on the far side. Kluivert, being played onside by Aldair and Junior Baiano, outraced Dunga, who was covering for the nowhere to be seen Ze Carlos, waited for the ball to bounce once, and took a shot. The ball rolled inches wide of the near post, with Taffarel beaten comprehensively. So close for the Netherlands.
Holland continued to be dominant as the second extra time period began. After kicking off, for the first minute or so they managed to make almost twenty passes without getting intercepted, culminating in a van Hooijdonk shot on the right side of the penalty area. But Brazil’s bend-but-not-break defence continued to hold firm as Junior Baiano managed to block van Hooijdonk’s shot.
Moments later, it was all Ronaldo.
Ronald de Boer’s cross was headed away comfortably by Junior Baiano. The header fell to Emerson who passed it up to Ronaldo at the Brazilian side of the halfway line. Still facing his own goal and with Frank de Boer breathing down his neck, Ronaldo’s first touch was heavenly as he managed to turn, evade the Dutch captain, and pick up great speed from a standing still position all with one touch. He raced forward and blew by the chasing Frank de Boer. Then with another flick and change of direction he wrong-footed Stam, effectively taking the new Manchester United defender out of the picture. He burst into the penalty area, but just as he was about to take a crack at goal, Frank de Boer came roaring back and made a great tackle from behind. The Dutch captain stuck out a foot between Ronaldo’s feet and somehow managed to get a piece of the ball to knock it out of bounds.
Given the nature of the game today, one could appeal for a penalty on this play given the dangerous nature of Frank de Boer’s tackle. But there is no denial that the timing of the tackle could not have been any better.
This incredible Ronaldo run became a rallying point for the Brazilians. You could say that for the rest of the match it was all Brazil. First Emerson had a shot blocked by Frank de Boer off a Rivaldo corner. Then Denilson and Roberto Carlos linked up on the left, taking advantage of the fading veteran Wim Jonk, as Roberto Carlos got some space to hit a 20 yard shot that van der Sar couldn’t collect cleanly. However, he managed to hold on to the ball before the charging Rivaldo could knock in the rebound. Seeing that his side was ceding more and more space between the lines, Guus Hiddink took off the impressive but tiring Jonk for Clarence Seedorf. However, the substitution could not hide the fact that the Dutch were simply exhausted. Even Jaap Stam had to be carried off for cramp treatment. After all, they played a tough match against Argentina a few days before and had one less day to rest than the Brazilians. Moreover they were the ones pressing more aggressively in the second half with the likes of Frank de Boer, Davids, and Stam covering a lot of space. The Dutch level of fitness was quite impressive to watch.
With a minute left in extra time, Denilson had another chance to run at Seedorf. He then crossed to Rivaldo near the six yard area. Rivaldo managed to get a shot away, but Frank de Boer was there to block the shot at the last second. The ball looped up and into the arms of van der Sar.
Another Brazilian shot, this time from Aldair, was stopped by van der Sar. It turned out to be the last kick of the match, as this wonderful contest between two sides at the top of their game had to be settled in a penalty shootout.
In the penalty shootout, the four Brazil penalty takers held their nerves superbly and put in a flawless display of spot-kicks. Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Emerson, and the captain Dunga all managed to score their penalties. On the other hand, Taffarel managed to guess correctly on all four Dutch penalties, turning away both Cocu and Ronald de Boer’s attempts. Victory was secured on account of his brilliance.
Brazil were through to play France in the 1998 World Cup final, leaving Netherlands disappointed. They continued to solidify their reputation as penalty shootout tragedians, and their quest to win a World Cup continues to this day. It is a shame that the best side in France ‘98 could not play for the trophy, as this magnificent team had to follow the footsteps of their talented but trophy-less predecessors of 1974 and 1978. They were only the second team in world cup history to complete more than 3,000 passes in one tournament (only 2010 Spain and believe it or not, 1994 Brazil managed this feat) and came very close on several occasions to reach the final. But the Brazilians managed to match the Dutch performance and completely deserved the victory. It was a pulsating match and certainly lived up to all the pregame hype surrounding it, with lots of great skills, scoring opportunities, and drama.
 Note from Black Matt: I believe it. One more example of how the ’94 Brazil team wasbetter than they are usually given credit for.