Argentina outlasted the Netherlands in a viciously played, double-overtime soccer match before 78,000 hysterical fans in Buenos Aires yesterday to win the World Cup, the most coveted sporting title anywhere, by the score of 3-1.
An estimated one billion television viewers--that's 400 million more than watched the moon landing in 1969--looked on as Argentina goalkeeper Fillol frustrated the "clockwork orange" Dutch scoring juggernaut, and Argentina striker Mario Kempes provided most of the offense with two brilliant goals.
The Netherlands 11, a smooth-working machine, dominated play through much of the game, but Fillol's brilliant play in goal kept his squad in the game long enough for them to come back in the two 15-minute overtime periods. By that point, the Dutch game of "total football" had taken its toll on the defenders, who were visibly tired and generally outclassed in O.T.
Play was brutal in the opening five minutes, and it remained so throughout the epic 120-minute battle. Kempes and star Dutch midfielder Jan Neeskens were both bloodied by the end of the contest. Referee Sergio Gonella never got a grip on the game, as he not only let rough play go unfettered, but also played to the partisan home crowd with numerous pro-Argentina calls.
Neither team got untracked in a sloppy first half of play, as both squads played tentatively. The usually fine-tuned Dutch machine looked rusty, and the flashy, explosive Argentinian squad played erratically.
The two squads both missed scoring chances by inches midway through the half before play bogged down again. And then Mr. Kempes stepped into the act.
With nine minutes remaining in the period, Kempes threaded his way through two defenders at the 18-yd. line, took one quick dribble and flicked a low left-footed shot just under the arm of charging Dutch goalie Yongblood.
The quick pop brought back memories of Gerd Mullers's pivoting tally for West Germany in the 1974 World Cup.
Goalkeeper Fillol kept the home country on top at the half by stopping a point-blank blast at the one-minute mark with a sliding kick save.
The Dutch took charge in the second half, dominating play--with occasional defensive lapses--and threatening to score for nearly 35 minutes before finding the net.
Willy van de Kerkhof beat the stingy Argentinian defense along the right side at that point and lofted a neat little cross to Poortmiller, who snapped a header into the top of the goal.
Holland--which was favored to win the '74 Cup before suffering a 2-1 loss to West Germany in the final--seemed at that point on the verge of completing their eight-year quest for the Cup.
A Dutch shot with two minutes left caromed off the left post, but bounded away as the two teams headed into overtime.
Holland's Yongblood stopped a breakaway at the 12-minute mark of the first overtime, signalling the end--his fullbacks had simply run out of gas after nearly two hours of "total futbol."
Two minutes later, Kempes broke in on Yongblood, who repelled one volley before Kempes poked the ball between two sluggish Dutch defenders for the eventual game-winner.
Argentina scored the third goal just minutes into the second overtime to kill Holland's hopes and set off a celebration the likes of which has never been seen in Argentina.
One in four human beings on the planet had seen the Argentinians establish themselves as the best soccer team anywhere--at least until 1982, when the next Cup will be played.