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Johan Cruyff – Moments of Artistry

Our new “The Artists” collection was launched on 15th February celebrating the exceptional skill and contribution of some of the greatest exponents of the beautiful game. There are 10 players honoured in this initial range and over the next few days our blogs will share some magical moments of artistry from each one of them. 

Today we feature Cruyff.

1 – v Brazil, 1974 World Cup Second Round, Group A, 3 July 1974

I’ve included this moment not because it’s the best goal Johan Cruyff ever scored; it’s included because this is the last game before Total Football’s bubble burst against West Germany in the final. 

Having already beaten Argentina 4-0 it was clear that Rinus Michels’ side were cruising through the competition, but they were made to battle by post-Pele Brazil. Johan Neeskens had scored fifteen minutes earlier before Cruyff sealed the tie.

Rob Rensenbrink brings the ball under control in Brazil’s half and plays a lovely ball down the line into the path of the overlapping Ruud Krol. Krol declines to take a touch, instead producing a glorious first-time cross for Cruyff who carefully leaps and volleys the ball into the net to double the Netherlands’ advantage. Cruyff’s team would go on to lose in the final, 2-1 to West Germany, perhaps as a result of their overconfidence. This goal represented the last dominance of Michel’s ’74 vintage.

Relive It:

2 – ‘The Phantom Goal’ v Atletico Madrid, Camp Nou, 1973 

Another volley here, but something special and totally Cruyff. Having moved to Barcelona from Ajax, Cruyff fitted in perfectly at Camp Nou, winning European footballer of the year in 1974. To give it to anyone else after moments like ‘The Phantom Goal’ would have seemed absurd.

A cross is hooked into the penalty area by a Barcelona player, and glides over the heads of numerous Atelico Madrid heads before finding its way to Cruyff, who arrives unchallenged at the far post. His work is not done however, as he finds the ball at a difficult height.

Jumping and twisting his body at the same time, the Dutch trickster is forced to contort his body in mid-air, kicking the ball into the net from an almost horizontal position. Think Zlatan, forty years ahead of his time...

Relive It:

3 – v Sweden, World Cup Group 3, 19 June 1974 ‘The Cruyff Turn’

Many artists have a signature; a sweep of the brush or direction of the pen that defines them. Cruyff’s flourish of watercolour was his turn, which came at the expense of Jan Olsson of Sweden.

The ball is floated over to Cruyff from the right flank to the left, and to be perfectly honest Jordi’s first touch is worthy enough. He brings it down and awkwardly pulls the ball into the relative protection of his body’s position with Olsson, wisely, in close attendance.

Cruyff is too quick though. One moment the two seem glued together, a battle for the ball about to ensue; the next, and Cruyff is in a different postcode with Olsson checking his pockets for any trace of the Dutchman.

Faking as if to cross the ball, Cruyff sold the trick to Olsson before flicking the ball back behind his standing leg, changing direction in the same movement. For a brief moment Olsson is looking in entirely the wrong direction as Cruyff speeds away. The cross came to nothing, but there aren’t many players who have a move named after them.

Relive It:

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