World Cup - Nick Westby: Holland looking for another ‘Bergkamp moment’ to reach final

Dennis Bergkamp and the 1998 Dutch World Cup squad.
Dennis Bergkamp and the 1998 Dutch World Cup squad.
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MEETINGS between Argentina and Holland may be rare but they invariably conjure up images that endure through World Cup history.

The ticker tape in Buenos Aires as Mario Kempes stumbles through a desperate defence is the defining moment of the 1978 final, but the snapshot that sticks out arrived 20 years later.

It came in the 1998 quarter-final in France, in that vast bowl of a stadium in Marseille, the Stade Velodrome.

Holland and Argentina are locked at 1-1, with a place in the semi-final against Brazil up for grabs.

Frank De Boer has the ball 10 yards inside his own half. With just a cursory glance he launches a 50-yard diagonal pass down field. Back in England we’d call it a long ball, but because De Boer is a cultured left-back schooled at the famous Ajax academy, this is a pass of supreme vision and ambition.

The ball arcs upwards into the crystal blue sky over the south of France, gathering pace as it spirals downwards.

Below, Dennis Bergkamp peels away from Roberto Ayala, never taking his eye off the ball.

His first touch with his right boot deftly brings the ball out of the sky. His second, with the soul of his foot, knocks it inches to the side, just enough to take the onrushing Ayala out of the equation.

Carlos Roa, the Argentine goalkeeper, approaches from his line before quickly retreating, the speed of Bergkamp’s movement having caught him in two minds.

The Dutch No 8’s third and final touch with the top of his boot sends the ball soaring into the roof of the net – one of those square nets that is strung so tightly it propels the ball back outwards. Roa, arching backwards, has no chance such is the ferocity of the contact.

Bergkamp reels away in ecstasy, clutching his hands to his face before raising them to skies above the Mediterranean and sinking to the floor.

It is the critical goal at the biggest moment from the country’s most gifted player.

Bergkamp’s sense of timing is matched by the man in the commentary box, the incomparable Barry Davies, whose usually measured approach to calling the action is overwhlemed by the unbridled emotion of the occasion and the splendour of the execution.

“Beautifully pulled down by Bergkamp...oh what a goal...Dennis Bergkamp has won it for Holland...that was absolutely brilliant.”

Fast forward to the present day and a World Cup that is in need of a second wind would relish a moment of such footballing beauty when these two heavyweights reconvene tonight.