Wednesday 21 March 2018

Kit Holden: The day a swapped German shirt was used as toilet paper by Dutch star Ronald Koeman

Arjen Robben in action for Holland
Arjen Robben in action for Holland

THERE is, in German football, a phenomenon known as the "englische Elfmeter-Krankheit" – the English penalty disease. Failure from twelve yards has, in the course of the last few decades, come to be as synonymous with England as black cabs, the monarchy and self deprecation. England and their choking superstars are not so much the arch enemies, but invalids, the sick men of Europe, worthy only of pity and the odd smug smile.

This is, perhaps, a slight exaggeration. Germany love to beat England as much as the next team. Bild’s “Revenge for Wembley!” headline, after that fateful afternoon in Bloemfontein, was proof enough that defeats to England linger in the memory. But on the list of arch rivals, England will always be eclipsed by one nation: the Netherlands.

There are differing accounts of how and why the mutual hatred between the Elftal and the Nationalelf first came into being. Dutch fans of a certain generation will point to the Nazi troops marching through the streets of Amsterdam, while others will cite Uwe Seeler’s hat trick in the 7-0 drubbing of 1959, or the Gerd Müller goal which toppled Total Football.

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