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When things turned out differently for Cruyff

When things turned out differently for Cruyff

It’s not a trick question – in which major finals did Johan Cruyff wear something other than 14 for the Netherlands?

Certain numbers tend to carry heavy legacies – Manchester United’s number 7, for example, and the Dutch number 14 shirt is similarly full of lore. Recent years haven’t been too kind to the Netherlands, but there has been a resurgence and that is reflected in their odds on Euro 2020 related betting sites. It will be interesting to see who gets to wear 14.

However, Cruyff didn’t always wear it. Obviously, we know that he developed an affinity for the famous number during the 1970-71 season, when Gerrie Muhren’s number 7 shirt went missing and Cruyff offered the midfielder his usual number 9.

That season’s European Cup final was the first of three in a row won by Ajax, with Cruyff wearing 14 in all three, his influence so powerful that his team-mates began to look for higher numbers too, despite the fact that they were starters.

A year later, in 1974, Cruyff was the captain of the Dutch team that reached the World Cup final and, while an alphabetical numbering system was used, he was allowed to buck the order and wear 14 rather than the number 1 which his name entitled him to.

By that stage, Cruyff was playing for Barcelona and, with the rules a bit stricter in Spain – as they are now – he only ever wore 9 as a starter for the Catalan side (there are images online of Cruyff with 14 on the back of his Barça shirt, but these are rather pointlessly edited from the originals, in which he is wearing 9).

Similarly, he was prevented from wearing 14 while on ‘normal’ international duty, i.e. games outside of finals, where 1-11 was enforced. However, the Euro ’76 finals tournament provided an exception – an example of a situation where Cruyff could have worn 14 but didn’t.

This was the first time that the semi-finals and final of what had been known as the European Nations Cup were played together, with Yugoslavia the venue.

The Netherlands were up against Czechoslovakia in the semi-final, and lined up 1-11, with Cruyff wearing 9. Perhaps they weren’t aware that squad numbering was in force for this mini-tournament, but each of the other three countries – West Germany faced the hosts in the other semi – had numbers above 11 in their starting line-ups. However, the two subs used, Willem van Hanegem and Ruud Geels – the man who would wear 1 at the 1974 World Cup – wore 12 and 13.

Incidentally, the formation below differs from the ‘classic’ Dutch 1-11 in that the accepted midfield now is 6-10-8 (with 10 further forward) and 7 on the right wing.


Funnily enough, all four games in the competition finished level after 90 minutes, with two Czechoslovak goals in extra time earning them a 3-1 win over the Netherlands. West Germany beat Yugoslavia 4-2 after extra time in the other game and would go on to lose a penalty shootout for the only time in the final, made famous by Antonin Panenka’s chipped spot-kick for Czechoslovakia.

While there is no third-and-fourth-place play-off in the European Championship nowadays, in 1976 and 1980 there was, meaning that the Dutch had to take on Yugoslavia and this time, they did have squad numbers.

We don’t know if Cruyff was injured or just didn’t fancy it but he didn’t feature, with van Hanegem taking his place at centre-forward with 13 on his back while future Celtic manager Wim Jansen, midfield and number 7 against Czechoslovakia, dropped back to defence.

Midfielder Jan Peters was the man to wear the number 14.

Cruyff would play for the Netherlands for another year but he retired in the autumn of 1977 and so missed the chance to wear 14 at the World Cup in Argentina. Johan Boskamp wore the shirt as the Dutch again reached the final only to lose to the hosts, as they had in 1974.


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When things turned out differently for Cruyff