Germany vs the Netherlands: Not just a friendly

The German National Team is taking on the Netherlands again this week. Despite the game only being a friendly, it remains a very special match and one filled with history. Here is why.

National pride is at stake every time these two sides meet. The match up between the ”Elftal” and ”Die Mannschaft” has over the years become one of the most competitive matches in European football. Most German football fans around the age of 30 will remember Frank Rikjaard spitting in Rudi Völler’s hair during the second round tie between the sides in the 1990 World Cup. Before that Völler had clashed with the Dutch goalkeeper van Breukelen. Both the goalie and Rikjaard went on to shout at Völler, and Rikjaard pulled Völler’s hair. Why the referee sent off both Rikjaard and Völler is still a mystery to many football fans, however, the famous spitting scene came when both players were leaving the pitch.  Regardless, it symbolizes what many still consider a very hostile rivalry. 

Uwe Seeler got a hat-trick against the Netherlands.

The fights of the past

Before the match up in 1990 there had already been plenty of memorable moments between the sides. In 1959 Germany defeated the Netherlands 7–0 in a friendly in Cologne. Uwe Seeler got his name on the score sheet three times in what was the most clear-cut victory Germany have managed to get against their arch rivals.

Simon Kuper describes in his book ”Ajax and the war” why this game is so important to the Dutch. Their intense dislike of the German national team had of course to do with the Second World War to begin with, and the rivalry between the sides grew over time as well. The 1974 World Cup defeat against Germany in the final was called ”the mother of all defeats” by the Dutch. In the following matches between the sides the pressure on the ”Elftal” grew to obtain a revenge for their horrid loss in 1974.

Gerd Müller gets the winning goal in the World Cup final of 1974.

The 1974 match up between the sides is looked upon as one of Germany’s finest hours. After a penalty for the Dutch in the second minute of the game, Paul Breitner equalized for Germany with a penalty in the 25th minute. Gerd Müller got the final goal of the match two minutes before half time, when Gerd Müller managed to turn around and score the final goal of the match, all the while Dutch defender Ruud Krol was on him.

Four years later the Netherlands got their revenge when they managed to draw Germany 2-2 in Cordoba. The result meant that Germany were out of the World Cup, and the Netherlands would go on to the final, where they lost 3-1 to Argentine after extra time. However, Germany got the better of the Dutch again two years later when they defeated them 3-2 after three goals by Klaus Allofs in the 1980 Euros. Germany should go on to win the European Championship, with a 2-1 victory over Belgium.  In the 1980 match up René van Kerkhof punched Bernd Schuster in the eye, and Toni Schumacher and now Schalke coach Huub Stevens got into a tussle on the pitch.

Only eight years later the two sides met again in a Euro fixture. This time around it was Germany taking on the Netherlands at home. And the German fans in the Volksparkstadion got to cheer about their side taking the lead, after Lothar Matthäus converted a penalty in the 55th minute. However, Ronald Koeman got the equalizer for the Dutch in the 74th minute, before Marco van Basten sent the Netherlands to the final with his goal in the 89th minute.

Here are the highlights of the 1988 clash between the two sides.

A new kind of rivalry

The hatred between those two national sides has decreased ever since the Dutch managed to snatch a victory against the Germans in the 1988 Euros. A new generation of Dutch players has come along, and many of them have chosen to play for German clubs. Rafael van der Vaart called Hamburg his second home in a recent interview with the German press. That sort of statement would never have come from a Dutch player in the 70s or 80s. Goalkeeper Hans van Breukelen said after the 1988 Euro’s win that the team ”had given the older generation some joy”, and ”something they have been waiting for since the war”.

The two last competitive meetings between the sides came in the European championship in 1992, where the Dutch won 3-1 and in the Euros 2004 where the sides drew 1-1.

That being said, the rivalary is still fierce between the two nations. When Bild suggested that Germans should support the Dutch in the World Cup final of 2010, the Dutch paper Telegraaf made a meal of Bild’s headline stating ”When lacking own talent…”. So, there is still plenty to play for on Tuesday, for both sides.

What to expect on Tuesday

German national team coach Jogi Löw put a very experimental side out on the pitch against Ukraine last Friday. It stands to reason that Löw won’t go with the same 3-4-1-1 system against the Netherlands on Tuesday. Too much is at stake for Germany against their arch rivals. Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose are both back from injury(or in Reus’s case the flu). However, it is still possible that Löw let’s his boys play in a 4-4-2 formation against the Netherlands, with both Gomez and Klose being available.

Former Dortmund coach Bert van Marwijk has injury worries of his own. Both Rafeal van der Vaart and Robin van Persie aren’t available for the match against Germany.

German team manager Oliver Bierhoff managed to inject some fire into the match on the Sunday press conference. When Dutch journalists asked him if the German way of playing was based on old Dutch traditions, the former German international replied: “No, we don’t want that. It would mean that we’d come in second.” It stands to reason that we are in for more than just a regular friendly.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.


  1. Por supuesto que no es un juego amistoso, hay mucho de por medio y quien piense lo contrario esta muy equivocado, Alemania siempre, siempre será superior a Holanda, claro que afortunadamente los jugadores holandeses de hoy, son muchísimo más profesionales que los de esa época, para muestra basta un botón, lo único que valía la pena en ese entonces era Gullit.
    Saludos, Daniela.

  2. Two points:
    “However, it is still possible that Löw let’s his boys play in a 4-4-2 formation against the Netherlands, with both Gomez and Klose being available.”
    Playing in the wrong formation is our excuse if we lose.

    “Rikjaard pulled Völler’s hair”
    Rhymes with ‘bacrilege’

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