Euro 1976 semi-final: Czechoslovakia v Netherlands – (as) live

It’s all over, Czechoslovakia have beaten the Netherlands 3-1 after extra-time to reach the finals of the 1976 European Championships.

Truth be told, this much-hyped Dutch side looked disjointed for the majority of the game, with Cruyff, Rep and Neeskens especially poor. Not until the introduction of Ruud Geels on sixty-five minutes did they look like a side that could trouble a resolute, brave and battling Czechoslovak defence.

Anton Ondrus surely has to go down as the man of the match. Yes, he did score at both ends, but despite his brief wobble in the second-half, he was imperious and wasn’t afraid to step out of the backline and maraud forward.

However, will this game be remembered for the Netherlands’ meltdown in extra-time? We still don’t know what happened in the moments before van Hanegem’s dismissal. Did he mouth off at Clive Thomas, or did the experienced Welsh referee make an absolute clanger?

I hope you’ll join me in four days time for the final, when Czechoslovakia will take on either West Germany or Yugoslavia.

(It’ll be West Germany, probably)


Czechoslovakia 3-1 Netherlands

118′ | That’s it! That’s surely it! Frantisek Vesely beats the Dutch offside trap, rounds Schrijvers and hammers the ball home. Czechoslovakia are going to Belgrade!

Czechoslovakia are going to Belgrade!

GOAL – Frantisek Vesely

CZECHOSLOVAKIA 3-1 Netherlands

115′ | I’ll be honest, I have no idea what has happened. All I know is that Wim van Hanegem has been shown the red card.

Red card (Wim van Hanegem, Netherlands)

114′ | Was that a foul in the build-up? Probably, but Czechoslovakia won’t care!

Panenka chops down van Hanegem but Clive Thomas waves play on as Frantisek Vesely bursts down the wing with three Dutch trying to keep up.

He reaches the byline and puts in a perfect cross to Zdenek Nehoda who has all the time in the world to pick his corner and power his header past a stricken Piet Schrijvers!

GOAL – Zdenek Nehoda

CZECHOSLOVAKIA 2-1 Netherlands

Well, well, well….

112′ | Straight from the free-kick Czechoslovakia move the ball quickly downfield to Nehoda, who has taken up a position on the right wing. In plenty of space, he has the time to look up and measure his cross which curls dangerously behind the Dutch defence and towards Masny.

However, alert to the danger Schrijvers punches clear and now it is Geels who is breaking free towards the Czechoslovak goal!

But Geels and his teammates take one touch too many in opposition territory and squander the chance.

The Dutch attempt to go forward once more but Dobias cuts down van Hanegem and the Netherlands have another free-kick in a dangerous position.

112′ | During a brief pause in play (I would use the word lull but that would suggest the past couple of minutes have been filled with action) Johan Cruyff gets his ears chewed off by Clive Thomas. Over what I have no idea.

110′ | The free-kick is swung in and unchallenged, Geels rises highest to meet it. Unfortunately for him, he mistimes his jump and can only wince in pain as the ball smacks his square in the face.

109′ | Probably thanks to his heavy legs, Jan Pivarnik hauls down Rob Rensenbrink on the edge of his own penalty area. Free-kick to the Netherlands…

108′ | Poor by Geels. He may have been the Netherlands’ most dangerous playing since coming on, but Ruud Geels’ brain just switched off. Once again, he found himself with plenty of space to play with down the Czechoslovak left. He drives forward and aimlessly passes the ball into a penalty area populated with white shirts.

107′ | Tentative going so far. Both sides are attempting to look after the ball and not make any type of rash decision, be it pass, tackle or forward run. It’s been a pretty turgid start to the second-half of extra-time.


Nehoda and Panenka kick-off and we are underway in the second-half of extra-time!


Substitution for Czechoslovakia: Ladislav Jurkemik replaces Jozef Capkovic

Capkovic, who has been a rock in the heart of the Czechoslovakian defence comes off. Ladislav Jurkemik, a fellow centre-back, comes on. A like-for-like change.

Half-time (Extra-time)

Czechoslovakia 1-1 Netherlands

We’ve seen a couple of chances punctuate a rather pedestrian first-half of extra-time.

Fifteen minutes now separate these two sides and penalties.

105′ | What a chance for the Netherlands!

After Dobias’ interception, Capkovic picks the ball up and passes it out wide to Pivarnik who is quickly closed down by three Dutch players.

Pivarnik tries to turn and head back towards his own goal but he gets dispossessed, allowing Geels to break forwards. Geels drives on in the rain with Capkovic for company and gets a shot away at goal, which is pushed by Ivo Viktor.

Geels drives on in the rain with Capkovic for company and gets a shot away at goal, which is pushed by Ivo Viktor.

105′ | As soon as I say that, Czechoslovakia launch a blistering attack, with Vesely once again playing a key role in proceedings.

The substitute dances past a couple of challenges and cuts the ball back from the byline to Antonin Panenka, who, takes a touch too many and gets robbed of possession at the edge of the area.

The Netherlands try and break on the counter but a good-looking ball from the back towards Geels is quickly cut out by Dobias.

104′ | There are about sixty seconds left of this period of extra-time and both teams are clearly looking at the clock.

It’s been a succession of long balls, all of which have been comfortably dealt with by the defences.

102′ | Some really shocking decisions being made at the moment by both teams and as a result, we’re seeing what can only be described as a playground level of football gracing a European Championship semi-final.

Masny and Suurbier are the worst offenders, both just sending mindless passes off towards the opposition.

100′ | Strange.

Jan Pivarnik takes his sweet time to take a throw-in and when he does finally decide to throw the ball back into play he casually drops it on the floor.

Clive Thomas is immediately on the scene, blowing his whistle and seemingly indicating for a foul throw. Yet all is not what it seems: When Cruyff picks the ball up, the Welsh referee signals for a Czechoslovak throw and berates the full-back for timewasting.

Like I said, strange.

98′ | After those Czechoslovak attacks, we have had a bit of a lull. Once again, both sides are enjoying varying amounts of time on the ball but aren’t really doing anything with it.

95′ | The corner is played short, allowing Pivarnik to fire in a shot from the edge of the penalty.

However, the ball rolls past the near post and goes behind for a goal-kick.

94′ | Czechoslovakia have a corner.

Again Vesely finds a pocket of space on the flank and this time he opts to send a low ball straight through the Dutch backline for Nehoda to chase. The Dukla Prague strikers gets to the ball first but takes one touch too many and is immediately surrounded by a gaggle of orange shirts who are happy to quickly concede a corner.

93′ | Frantisek Vesely looks to have changed the complexion of this game. Once again, with his fresh legs a distinct advantage, he bursts free down the right and darts past orange shirts like they were training cones.

The Slavia man links well with Masny to create an opening before sending a delightful cross towards the head of Anton Ondrus, who has marched forward like a lumbering elephant with a one-track mind.

Schrijvers is able to get to the ball first but only succeeds in punching it out to Gogh on the left.

Gogh then sends the ball into the area, back towards Ondrus, where Schrijvers, once again, gets a hand on the ball.

93′ | It’s been a measured start to extra-time with both the Dutch and the Czechoslovakians happy to prod and poke the ball around on this wet surface. However, that calm has just been punctuated by a dangerous and incisive run from Frantisek Vesely.

The Slavia man has gone to play in an advanced role on the right of midfield and he has found acres of space to exploit. He breaks down the flank but his cross, aimed at Nehoda, is hacked clear.


The Dutch kick-off and we are underway in extra-time.

Can either of these sides find a way through?

Or, are we destined for a penalty shootout here in rainy Zagreb?


Substitution for Czechoslovakia: Frantisek Vesely replaces Jozef Moder

Jozef Moder has had a busy game in the centre of the Czechoslovak midfield and with his legs probably tiring, Vaclav Jezek has opted to introduce the Slavia Prague man Frantisek Vesely.

Like Moder, Vesely has scored nine goals for his club this season.


Bar a couple of chances for the Czechoslovaks, the Netherlands had the better of the second-half. Yet, for all their attempted neat buildup play in these monsoon-like conditions, they just couldn’t find their way past a dogged and resolute wall of defenders.

That said, if one team is going to go on and win this tie then you’d have to favour the Dutch.


Czechoslovakia 1-1 Netherlands

90+2′ | The Dutch are still probing but they can’t find a way past the Czechoslovakian back four. Extra-time approaches…

90′ | Masny’s free-kick isn’t a great one (how many times have I said that about a set-piece during this game?) and the Netherlands quickly turn defence into attack as Cruyff finds Suurbier in acres of space on the right. The Dutchman moves the ball forward towards Rensenbrink and Geels, but he doesn’t do it quick enough as a blizzard of white shirts suffocates the Dutch forwards.

89′ | Free-kick to Czechoslovakia.

Ondrus finally takes the goal-kick and his teammates waste no time in pushing the ball downfield to Nehoda who cleverly draws a foul from Ruud Krol.

Marian Masny looks like he’s going to take it…

89′ | It would be harsh to criticise Czechoslovakia here…but they are clearly timewasting.

After withstanding another barrage of volleys towards their goal, Ivo Viktor and Anton Ondrus are taking an age to take a goal-kick. They’re clearly playing for extra-time. Can they hold on?

86′ | Geels manages to break free down the Czechoslovak left, but his rather speculative cross is headed behind by Ondrus. The resulting corner is cleared by Nehoda, but not far. The Dutch quickly work the ball back to Cruyff who takes aim from twenty yards. His shot is on target but underhit.

85′ | The Dutch are mounting some serious pressure in the final few minutes with corners and free-kicks flying into the Czechoslovak penalty area. Ondrus, Capkovic and Gogh are doing just enough to keep the Orange tide at bay – for now.

83′ | Trying to atone for his shocking miss seconds before, Rensenbrink fires a piledriver of a shot from the edge of the box.

At full stretch, Viktor gets a glove to it and pushes the ball around the post and behind for a corner.

This is more like it from this much-fancied Dutch side.

83′ | What a miss from Rob Rensenbrink!

Everybody is aghast. From six yards out and with the goal at his mercy, Rensenbrink toe-poked the ball into the grateful arms of Ivo Viktor. If he had gone left or right, or even put some power behind his shot, the Dutch would surely be 2-1 up.

Instead, there’s just a shocked silence here in Zagreb.

What. A. Miss.

82′ | How the pendulum swings!

After some nice play from the Czechoslovaks, it is the turn of the Dutch to maraud forward into opposition territory.

Johan Cruyff has dropped deep into midfield and has started to really dictate the tempo of the game. His range of passing has enabled his teammates to exploit a few promising positions, but none of them can fashion any kind of shooting opportunity. Until Wim Suurbier has a pop from twenty yards that is.

His effort trickles wide.

A poor shot, but a warning shot nonetheless.

80′ | With only ten men on each side, there’s a lot more space to be found on the Maksmir pitch and it is the Czechoslovaks who are making use of the new found room. Pivarnik has just made a marauding run up from right-back and is starting to cause his opposite number a whole host of problems, much like Gogh did in the first-half.

Anyway, out here on the Czechoslovak right, Masny has just been felled by Krol.

78′ | Yellow card (Cruyff, Netherlands)

Czechoslovakia have a corner but Clive Thomas brings proceedings to a halt and calls Cruyff over, only to give him a yellow card!

I can only presume that Cruyff has talked his way into the referee’s notebook there.

His booking means that should the Netherlands beat Czechoslovakia, the Dutch captain will play no part in the final. A huge loss, for both the Dutch and for the neutral.

76′ | What is this, the day of ridiculous red cards?

Neeskens unnecessarily lashes out at Zdenek Nehoda, catching the Czechoslovak forward with a wild kick. Clive Thomas immediately rushes over and brandishes a red card.

For the final fifteen minutes of the game, it is going to be ten versus ten.

Red card (Johan Neeskens, Netherlands)

75′ | The Dutch smell blood and Ondrus, who has been imperious most of the game, is their target.

Cruyff embarks on a mazy run straight through the heart of the Czechoslovak side, evading a couple of challenges before coming to Ondrus who launches himself at the Dutchman. Cruyff goes down in a heap, much to the amusement of Clive Thomas who waves play on.

The Barcelona man was a little theatrical but Ondrus could easily have wiped out Cruyff and in doing so, would have wiped out the chances of his nation too.

GOAL – Anton Ondrus (own goal)

Czechoslovakia 1-1 NETHERLANDS

Well, the man who scored at one end has now scored at the other!

I’m not sure what Ondrus was thinking there. He has dealt with everything that has been thrown his way with ease tonight until now.

Geels works his way into space down the Dutch right and swings in a cross towards Cruyff. But Ondrus attempts to clear the ball, only to go with the wrong foot and instead of booting the ball into row Z he can only deflect it past his own goalkeeper.

You have to say that the equaliser has been coming, but nobody expected it to arrive like this.

72′ | Anton Ondrus is down and it looks to me like he has taken a blow to the head at some point. Clive Thomas is on the scene and is having a word with the defender, though it looks like he’ll be okay to continue. Groggy, but okay.

In the preceding minutes, it has been all Holland with Ondrus and his partner at centre-back, Jozef Capkovic, bravely repelling attack after attack.

71′ | The corner wasn’t a good one. But, making the best of a bad situation, the Czechoslovaks quickly shift the ball to Jan Pivarnik’s and the Slovan Bratislava defender takes aim from the edge of the area. Unfortunately, it fizzes a yard or two wide.

71′ | Corner to Czechoslovakia.

The Dutch have done the majority of the attacking this half but we have just seen that Czechoslovakia remain a threat on the break.

In the first real chance that Vaclav Jezek’s side have had, they burst forwards and send Marian Masny sprinting down the right. He has Zdenek Nehoda screaming for a pass in the centre, but the Slovan man decides to go it alone and wins a corner off a Dutch defender.

Truth be told, Masny was a little selfish there.

68′ | There’s been a bit of a lull these past few minutes, which has given everybody in the stadium a chance to catch their breath. The Dutch remain on top in the possession stakes but the Czechoslovaks have been a lot more measured in their defending and as such, we’re seeing something of a stalemate.

65′ | Substitution for the Netherlands: Ruud Geels replaces Johnny Rep

It’s an attacking substitution by George Knobel, who brings on Ajax’s free-scoring forward Ruud Geels.

Johnny Rep, who has been fairly invisible all evening, makes way.

64′ | Forget the water pouring down from the heavens, the Czechoslovaks could well be swept away by an orange wave if they aren’t careful. The Dutch are striding forward with confidence and even though their final ball leaves a lot to be desired, they aren’t allowing their opponents any respite.

61′ | Wim Jansen heads wide.

Scrappy barely cover the past couple of minutes from a Czechoslovak point of view.

A Dutch corner is routinely cleared, but in the aftermath, the ball is shifted out wide to van Hanegem who finds Jansen unmarked in the penalty area with a pinpoint cross.

Luckily for the Czechoslovak defence, Jansen’s header is a tame one and Ivo Viktor is able to shepherd the ball out for a goal-kick.

Meanwhile, on the sidelines, Johan Neeskens prepares to come back on. He has been off the pitch receiving some treatment in the wake of that challenge from Pollak.

60′ | Brainless. Absolutely brainless.

Surrounded by a blizzard of orange shirts, Pollak hoofs the ball straight to Neeskens who drives forward until he is brought down by a horrible tackle from the Kosice midfielder. Pollak, who has already been booked, was late, nowhere near the ball and went straight through the Dutch midfielder and Clive Thomas has an easy decision to make.

Pollak throws his arms up in despair but he can’t have any complaints about that decision from. Masny, however, can find a reason to protest to the Welshman but I’m not quite sure why he’s wasting his energy!

Czechoslovakia are down to ten men and there are thirty minutes left to play.

Red Card! (Jaroslav Pollak, Czechoslovakia)

58′ | Ondrus remains down on the floor is being looked at by the medical team.

Pivarnik and a few other members of the Czechoslovak team surround Ondrus, wearing worried expressions on their faces.

This could be a huge blow to Czechoslovakia if the giant central defender is forced to come off.

57′ | Yellow card (van der Kirchoff, Netherlands)

After some confusion, we have had it confirmed that Willy van der Kirchoff has been shown the yellow card for a challenge on Ondrus.

56′ | Okay, so it seems that both sides have calmed down a bit. The tackles aren’t flying in and there’s a commitment to playing football.

53′ | Marian Masny is down and receiving some attention from the Czechoslovak medical staff after being caught with a slightly late tackle from Ruud Krol.

Ondrus is talking to Clive Thomas, insinuating that the Dutchman stamped on his teammate but on first viewing I’m not so sure he did. However, I am sure that it was a nasty challenge that probably warranted a yellow card.

53′ | Well, the Dutch’s corner taking abilities have not improved. Panenka clears it comfortably.

52′ | It’s a corner to the Netherlands.

Some truly brilliant play by the Dutch who are showing off their new-found confidence in droves. Cruyff and company are trying flicks and tricks and, importantly, they’re all coming off.

Ondrus blocks a cross and concedes a corner.

51′ | Yellow card (Pollak, Czechoslovakia)

This has been coming and it’s an entirely deserved yellow card.

Unable to get to grips with the Dutch’s new-found confidence, the Czechoslovaks have been resorting to a little bit of cynical time wasting and thuggery these past few minutes and Clive Thomas has had enough.

After conceding a free-kick in midfield, Pollak decides to amble around the ball and block Cruyff from taking the set piece.

Unimpressed with his antics, Thomas books the Kosice midfielder.

50′ | Czechoslovakia are becoming a little ragged and have resorted to giving away a succession of free-kicks. First Pivarnik then Capkovic lunge in, drawing the ire of Clive Thomas.

49′ | We have got some fisticuffs in the Czechoslovak penalty area.

The Dutch free-kick is taken quickly and Cruyff attempts a dasiymudcutter from range. The Dutchman’s low effort is spilt by Viktor, who then gets caught somewhat nastily by Rob Rensenbrink.

In retaliation, Ondrus squares up to the Anderlecht forward (the size difference is something), which immediately attracts the attention of Thomas, who stops play.

From what I can see – and it isn’t the clearest of views – it looks like Viktor may be sporting a stud mark or two to the chin.

48′ | Pollak concedes a free-kick near to the Czechoslovakian penalty area.

Konbel might be on his way out, but I imagine he’s given his players a verbal thrashing as it has been a positive start for the Dutch, who are pushing forward with some threatening intent.

Cruyff, van Hanegem and Jansen have all looked quite dangerous in these opening minutes.

46′ | The Netherlands are now attacking the goal to our left as we watch and attack they do!

Aided by an absence of white shirts, van de Kerkhof advances forward into the Czechoslovak half and plays a couple of short passes with van Hanegem, who then delicately chips the ball to Krol who has made up some excellent ground on the left.

The defender lays it off to Cruyff who, with the outside of his right foot from the angle of the penalty area, sends in a dangerous looking cross towards the far post.

Luckily, Viktor reads the situation well and punches clear, enabling his defence to scramble the ball clear.

Within sixty seconds of the restart, the Dutch have shown more attacking threat than they did in the entirety of the first-half.


Referee Clive Thomas theatrically blows the whistle and we are underway in the second half!


The two teams are making they way out from the underbelly of the Maksmir ahead of the second-half. As far as I can see, neither manager has opted to make a substitution during the break, though Czechoslovakia have changed their shirts.


Czechoslovakia lead here in Zagreb thanks to Anton Ondrus’ header after nineteen minutes.

Truth be told, the Dutch have generally been very static and quite underwhelming. On the other hand, Czechoslovakia have defended well and look dangerous on the break.


Czechoslovakia 1-0 Netherlands

 45+3′ | The Netherlands are ending this half very strongly, belying their general mediocrity that they have exhibited for the majority of the first-half.

Rep, Neeskens and Cruyff have all been able to get their foot on the ball but none of them have been able to get past the Czechoslovak defence, who so far have defended admirably

45′ | The ball is nudged to van Hanegem who attempts to drive the ball through a crowded penalty area, but his effort ricochets of a white shirt and is somehow volleyed goalwards by Neeskens!

Neeskens’ shot hangs in the air forever, giving Viktor just enough time to reposition himself and safely catch the ball.

44′ | The Netherlands have a free-kick inside the Czechoslovak penalty areas.

Ivo Viktor took more than four steps with the ball and has gifted the Dutch a brilliant opportunity to level the game with less than a minute of normal time to play in this half.

Understandably, Viktor and the Czechoslovaks are complaining to the referee. I can only presume that it’s about the absurdity of this rule’s existence.

44′ | A quick counter attack sees Czechoslovakia with a 3v1 situation as Masny, flanked by Moder and Nehoda, charges forward. For ages it seems as if there is only going to be one conclusion, yet the first Moder and then Nehoda dally in possession and allow the Dutch defence to regroup and recover the situation.

43′ | The game is petering out as we near half-time. Given the weather, I imagine that both sets of players are looking forward to a change of clothes and a cup of tea.

39′ | The corner fails to come to much as the Dutch try to be a little too clever and Dobias clears his lines with ease.

38′ | The Dutch finally take their free-kick and it is literally on the edge of the Czechoslovak penalty area. Both Cruyff and Neeskens stand over it….

Cruyff lays it off to Neeskens who shoots, but a white shirt gets in the way and the ball goes behind for a corner.

Substitution for the Netherlands: Wim van Hanegem replaces Wim Rijsbergen.

Rijsbergen has been limping for a couple of minutes now and evidently cannot shake whatever injury he has off. He is replaced by his Feyenoord teammate, Wim van Hanegem.

37′ | Ondrus concedes a free-kick right on the edge of the Czechoslovak penalty area.The Dutch are claiming that contact was made inside the box, but Clive Thomas is having none of it.

There’s a bit of pushing and shoving (with Cruyff being the main culprit), but it’s all a bit of something over nothing.

36′ | The Netherlands are terrible. Whether it is the weather, the rumours of discontent within their camp or another reason, there’s really no excusing this kind of play in the semi-finals of the European Championships.

Once again Czechoslovak are allowed far too much time to pick their passes and their wide players are being afforded far too much space.

This time, after a foray forward by Dobias, Marian Masny fires high and wide. He should have done a better

33′ | Shambolic defending from the Netherlands!

My oh my. The Dutch almost capitulated there.

Gogh beats two orange shirts to the ball and launches a speculative clearance-come-pass towards the penalty area where Masny is lurking. The Slovan Bratislava forwards picks up the ball and cuts it across the six-yard box towards Moder, who misses it. Nehoda, though, arrives like a freight train and unleashes a powerful shot from the penalty spot which is heroically blocked by a Dutch

Nehoda, though, arrives like a freight train and unleashes a powerful shot from the penalty spot which is heroically blocked by a Dutch defender. I can’t make out who threw his body in the way of that, but I’m sure he’ll have a bruise in the morning.

Czechoslovakia have a corner.

31′ | The corner is easily cleared by Rijsbergen

30′ | Suurbier concedes a corner, under pressure from Zdenek Nehoda.

A bit of a silly way to concede a corner. Viktor launches the ball downfield towards Nehoda but Suurbier intercepts the route-one pass. Facing his own goal, and with Nehoda harassing him, the Dutch full-back tries to pass the ball back to his own goalkeeper but misjudges the distance and sends it out for a Czechoslovak corner instead,

27′ | Schrijvers is down and looks like he needs some medical attention after a coming together with Jozef Moder.

The goalkeeper has taken a knock on the arm and is clutching his shoulder, but he should be okay to continue.

26′ | This is better from the Dutch.

They’ve seen a lot of the ball over the past couple of minutes and they have successfully managed to slow the tempo down and force Czechoslovakia to chase shadows.

23′ | The Netherlands are reeling from going a goal down and they are extremely lucky not to fall further behind.

It’s simple stuff from the Czechoslovaks. Gogh, again involved, sends a long ball over the top of the Dutch defence for Masny to chase, and chase he does. The Slovan Bratislava forward gets to the ball and is through on goal! But his second touch is poor and the ball rolls into the arms of an onrushing Schrijvers.

A huge let off for the Dutch there. If Masny had scored, you feel it could well have been the end of the tie.

22′ | Prior to the opener, the crowd here in Zagreb were quietly cheering on the Czechoslovaks but after that goal they’ve turned into a truly partisan crowd.

Goal – Anton Ondrus

CZECHOSLOVAKIA 1-0 Netherlands

What a header by the Czechoslovak captain!

Panenka floats in the free-kick towards the penalty spot and Ondrus rises highest to meet it, easily outjumping his marker and sending a looping header over Schrijvers and into the top corner.

The Czechoslovaks lead!

19′ | Free-kick to Czechoslovakia.

Well, two free-kicks actually. First, Gogh is brought down by a rash tackle by Neeskens. The Czechoslovaks take it quickly and Nehoda gets cynically brought down by Jansen.

Panenka is lining up to take this as the big centre-backs make their way forward.

17′ | Clive Thomas blows for a foul on Ivo Viktor but I’m not sure he has got that decision correct. van de Kerkhof takes control and surges down the Dutch left and launches a rather speculative and looping cross into the Czechoslovak penalty area where Rensenbrink, Viktor and Ondrus are waiting.

There’s some jostling and the ball does eventually bounce away from goal yet Thomas pulls play back for a foul by Rensenbrink on the Dukla Prague goalkeeper, much to the Anderlecht man’s frustration.

16′ | Another terrible corner, this time by Johnny Rep.

Rep’s attempt skims across the floor and lands at the feet of Dobias.

16′ | Corner to the Netherlands.

A rather speculative ball forward is needlessly diverted out for a corner by Anton Ondrus

14′ | Masny dances down the right and attempts to put a cross into a sparsely populated Dutch penalty areas.

I say attempt as the ball drifts towards the goal, forcing Schrijvers into making an acrobatic save.

That really did come from nothing.

And it’s worked sparking a bit of life into the crowd who are just beginning to make their voices heard.

11′ | If the Czechoslovak corner we saw minutes ago was poor, then this corner from the Dutch is terrible.

Suurbier plays it short to van Kraay then needlessly concedes possession.


11′ | Free-kick to Czechoslovakia on their right, almost halfway between penalty area and touchline. Pollak delivers a dangerous ball in towards Masny but Suurbier is alert to the danger and hacks the ball clear.

The Dutch then sweep downfield, stringing a succession of lovely passes together and win a corner of their own.

10′ | The corner is dealt with ease by the Dutch defence.

10′ | A long, cross-field ball from Gogh is delightfully brought down by Marian Masny and played into the path of Jan Pivarnik down the right. The right-back has acres of space to exploit, and exploit he does.

He charges down the flank before drawing a challenge from Krol to win a corner.

8′ | Again we’ve seen a brief period of pressure on the Czechoslovak backline. Cruyff has attempted to make a number of darting runs down the middle but every time he does, he finds his way blockaded by two or three white shirts.

The Dutch do look threatening from out wide though and we’ve seen them get a few crosses into the Czechoslovak penalty area, though there hasn’t really been anything on the end of them – besides a tame header Rensenbrink.

6′ | Where on earth did Karel Dobias come from?

The man who many believe is supposed to be doing a man-marking job on Cruyff pops up on the left-wing to collect a pass from Pollak and lets fly from twenty-five yards out. The ball swerves viciously in the air, bamboozling Schrijvers who nervously parries the shot into the path of Nehoda, who is then tackled by Rijsbergen.

4′ | It has been the Netherlands’ turn to attack and we have seen just how well this side can play when going forwards.

A cross comes in from the Dutch right, from the full-back Suurbier I believe, towards Cruyff who has evaded Capkovic and Ondrus, but Ivo Viktor punches the ball clear.

3′ | Another nice move from Czechoslovakia. They nab the ball in midfield, spread it wide to the left-back Koloman Gogh who moves inside and sends a lovely vertical ball into space for Nehoda to chase.

Again, though, Schrijvers is alert to the danger.

2′ | The opening moments were rather sluggish but any fears of a pedestrian semi-final have been blown out of the water by a lovely Czechoslovak move. Jaroslav Pollak, a man more known for his exceptional work rate in midfield, dances past a couple of Dutch players and slips in a nutmeg for good measure.

From there, the Czechoslovaks work the ball out to Jozef Moder (via an errant Dutch header) who makes a darting run and attempts to slip in Zdenek Nehoda. Schrijvers is alert to the danger and collects the ball before the Dukla striker can get to it.

An encouraging start for those of a Czechoslovak disposition.

Kick Off

We are underway in Zagreb. The Netherlands kick off from right to left in their brilliant kit of orange shirts, black shorts and orange socks.

Czechoslovakia are in all white – for now.



Clive Thomas picks the ball up and does a couple of kick ups before passing to Cruyff who idly joins in with the fun and games. We need more referees like that.


Kick-off looks to be delayed by a couple of minutes.

The national anthems and pre-match niceties did seem to drag a little.


“That’s the Dutch side, of which there has been much controversy,” murmurs Brian Moore. “Although the players know very little about”, he adds, before contradicting himself by pointing out “the man at the centre of it all”, Johan Cruyff.

Anyway, aside from the rumour and gossip, one final look at the ground confirms my suspicions that we’re going to a crowd of (at most) 20,000 in tonight, which is a shame.

Ondrus and Cruyff exchange pleasantries before Thomas tells the two teams to swap halves.

We are moments away from the first semi-final of the 1976 UEFA European Football Championship!


The teams are making their way out.

Surrounded by a gaggle of photographers, the Czechoslovak and Dutch teams are making their way from the bowls of the Stadion Dinamo and out on to the pitch. On first impressions, nobody really looks like they want to be here – least of all that poor camera man who has curled up inside his coat because, presumably, it doesn’t have a hood.

Referee Clive Thomas leads them into the centre-circle and its time of the national anthems.


Seriously, the weather is ridiculous.

The vast majority of the crowd here in Zagreb are cowering under umbreallas and you can’t really blame them. The atmosphere is a bit subdued at the moment, though if you listen carefully there seems to be a fairly sizeable Czech contingent somewhere in the gloom as ‘Cesi do toho’ chant is audiable amongst the pitter patter of rain drops.

Kick-off is just fifteen minutes away!


Team news

Czechoslovakia (4-3-3): 1. Ivo Viktor; 5. Jan Pivarnik, 3. Anton Ondrus (c), 4. Jozef Capkovic, 12. Kololman Gogh; 2. Karol Dobias, 9. Jaroslav Pollak, 7. Antonin Panenka; 10. Marian Masny, 8. Jozef Moder; 11. Zdenek Nehoda

Netherlands (4-3-3): 1. Piet Schrijvers; 2. Wim Suurbier, 4. Adrie van Kraay, 5. Ruud Krol, 3. Wim Rijsbergen; 6. Johan Neesekns, 7. Wim Jansen, 10. Willy van de Kerkhof; 8. Johnny Rep, 9. Johan Cruyff (c), 11. Rob Rensenbrink

Our colleagues at Rude Pravo appear to think that the Czechoslovaks will line up in a 4-4-2, others, including myself, think it will be a 4-3-3 with Moder pushing up to support Nehoda and Masny.

I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough, though.

It’s a bit easier to work out the Dutch starting side, it’s the same eleven in the same free-flowing 4-3-3 that started in their 5-0 rout of Belguim last month.


In case you have missed the news….George Knobel is to resign as Holland manager

In what has become a rather bizarre turn-of-events, the Dutch press ran a story yesterday morning claiming that George Knobel is to leave his position as manager of the Netherlands’ national team at the end of the tournament. Since the news broke, a large number of reporters have been gathering in Samobor to quiz Knobels and the KNVB, but details as to why he has decided to quit remain sketchy at this moment in time.

I’m sure the full details will emerge in the coming weeks and months.


The Build-up

We are an hour away from kick-off here in Zagreb and I can confirm that it is absolutely pelting it down with rain. The all-weather running track that surrounds the pitch here at the Maksmir Stadion is slowly turning into a boating lake and the hardy photographers that have made their way out to check the conditions have quickly swapped their jackets for waterproof ponchos.

And to think we were basking in glorious sunshine yesterday afternoon…

Despite reaching two World Cup finals, Czechoslovakia have never made it past the semi-final stage of the European Championships. Actually, they haven’t even qualified for the past three tournaments – so you could say that getting here at all has been a great achievement.

By contrast, much is expected of their opponents tonight. Led by the three-time Ballon d’Or winner Johan Cruyff, the Netherlands are heavily fancied to progress to the final in four day’s time.

The Dutch may be favourites, but with Knobel’s resignation and rumours of a discontented dressing room, who knows what might happen?

After all, football is a funny old game…

How did we get here?

Czechoslovakia‘s qualification campaign began badly as they fell to a 3-0 defeat at Wembley in Don Revie’s first game as England manager. They rebounded, however, to secure dominant victories over both Cyprus (4-0) and Portugal (5-0) in Prague to set up a must-win tie against England in Bratislava.

By this point, England had dropped points to Portugal, meaning that a Czechoslovakia win would put them back in contention to top Group 1 with two games to play. Any other result and the advantage would remain with England, who would be heavy favourites to progress.

The tie at Tehelne pole stadium kicked off under a blanket of fog and visibility restricted to a few metres, the Italian referee, Alberto Michelotti, came to his senses after seventeen minutes and abandoned the game.

With the fog gone and the weather clear, the two sides returned to the pitch the following afternoon. England’s Mick Channon opened the scoring early on, but the Czechoslovaks came from behind to pick up the points, thanks to goals from Zdenek Nehoda and Dusan Galis.

A draw away in Porto, followed by a convincing win in Limassol, saw Vaclav Jezek’s side progress to the play-offs.

In the play-offs, the Czechoslovaks were paired with the USSR. However, the much-fancied Soviet side were brushed aside, going out 4-2 on aggregate.

The Netherlands had a far easier tie in the play-off round as they dismantled their neighbours Belguim in a 7-1 aggregate hammering. However, they had a far tougher time of it in the opening group stage when they were pushed all the way by both Poland and Italy.

The Dutch traded victories with their group rivals. They were hammered by Poland in Chorzow but recovered to win easily at home a month later. And it was a similar story when they faced Italy, losing the away fixture and winning at home.

For all their obvious talent, they look to be a team that does suffer from travel sickness when the pressure is on…

Recent results so far in 1976


  • 10 March – Czechoslovakia 2-2 USSR (Kosice – Friendly)
  • 27 March – France 2-2 Czechoslovakia (Paris – Friendly)
  • 24 April – Czechoslovakia 2-0 USSR (Bratislava – EC Play-off)
  • 22 May – USSR 2-2 Czechoslovakia (Kiev – EC Play-off)


  • 25 April – Netherlands 5-0 Belguim (Rotterdam – EC Play-off)
  • 22 May – Belguim 1-2 Netherlands (Brussels – EC Play-off)


  • Posted by Chris Boothroyd
  • On 16th June 2016