On June 24, 1990 – two high voltage matches took place. In the afternoon, an unimpressive Argentina knocked out the favourites Brazil in Turin courtesy of Holy Water Scandal and in the evening at the iconic San Siro Stadium, former West Germany and European Champions and tournament favourites Holland met each other.
The advancement of Germany had been dominating whereas, that of the Dutch were shaky. A lot was expected from such a brilliant unit, but time and again they failed to deliver according to the expectations. Most importantly, their prominent goal-scorer and best player in the world Marco van Basten was firing blank. Ruud Gullit was still recovering from an injury, but his goal against the Republic of Ireland hinted of a comeback.
The commentators were upbeat and expected that Gullit would come up with something special which would help Basten to deny Germany a place in the quarterfinals.
But as soon as the game progressed, the game turned out to be a volatile one.
The rivalry between Holland and West Germany was and remains notoriously fierce.
Its roots are in the second world war and the mutual loathing of both teams and sets of fans intensified after “The Mother of all Defeats” when the Germans famously triumphed over the Dutch of Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels in the 1974 World Cup final.
At the 1980 European Championships, the German goalkeeper Toni Schumacher was assaulted by the Dutchman Huub Stevens in another German victory, while the Dutch exacted some measure of revenge eight years later when Marco van Basten sent Holland through to the final at Germany’s expense on a night when his teammate Ronald Koeman enraged Germany by pretending to wipe his backside with Olaf Thon’s shirt.
The volatility was expected at San Siro!
After rolling the ball for a few minutes or so, Rudi Voller and Frank Rijkaard were involved in an ugly altercation.
At first Rijkaard’s challenge in the mid-pitch earned him a booking, which was his second of the tournament and meant he would miss the quarter-final should Holland progress.
Maddened by his entirely deserved punishment, Rijkaard was enveloped in red mist and, as he jogged past Voller to take up his position for Andy Brehme’s free-kick, he spat in the German’s carefully coiffured mullet.
Verbals between the pair ensued, at which point Argentine referee Loustau booked Voller, ignoring the German’s incredulity and accompanying invitation to examine the gobbet of spittle that had recently been deposited in his hair.
Germany prepared to take the untaken free-kick, Voller appeared to explain to Jurgen Klinsmann that he had been spat at, then took up his position.
Floated into the area by Brehme, the ball was nodded towards the edge of the six-yard box, where the goalkeeper Hans van Breuckelen grabbed it, having dashed off his line to do so.
Having followed in to contest the ball, Voller appeared to do all he could to avoid clattering Van Breuckelen in mid-air but an incensed Rijkaard attempted to drag Voller to his feet by the ear, then stamped on his foot, prompting the German to fall to the ground.
With Van Breuckelen and Klinsmann valiantly attempting to act as peace-makers, Loustau promptly brandished his red card in the direction of Rijkaard, before turning and showing it to Voller too.
As Rijkaard walked past Voller to the dressing room, he casually turned his head and “flobbed the mouthful of slimy gloop he had just harvested from his nasal turbinate” straight into his rival’s hair.
Both teams were down to 10-men, but Holland was playing better than the previous outings.
Well, it was the Germans, who showed the intent to score better than the Dutch.
Klinsmann and Brehme gave Germany a decisive two-goal lead and the Dutch dreams ended like Brazil.