Classic Final Goals

Changing of the guard

Johan Cruyff’s opening goal for Ajax in the 1972 European Cup final was simple, emphatic and heavy with significance

WORDS Sheridan Bird | ILLUSTRATION Osvaldo Casanova

A calm, languid figure in brilliant white and vibrant scarlet reacts quickly while two bewildered men in dark kits flounder helplessly in front of him. A snapshot of the first goal in the 1972 European Cup final, and of one philosophy humbling another.   

The competition has served up plenty more spectacular moments down the years. Long-range thunderbolts smashed into the top corner.; delicate lobs delivered with grace and precision. By contrast, Johan Cruyff’s opener for Ajax against Inter was the cheapest coin of the realm: a calm tap of the ball into an empty net. But few goals have ever felt so thoroughly symbolic.

The lean livewire’s finish not only gave Ajax the lead in Rotterdam but also represented the new overthrowing the old: the Italian defensive dogma that had flourished in the 1960s dissolving in the face of Dutch fluidity. Cruyff and Co were the incarnation of Totaalvoetbal (Total Football), a system in which every outfield player could thrive in any role. To a man they knew how to prevent, create and score goals, as they showed by defeating Panathinaikos in the final the year prior.

Inter were opponents of a different calibre, however. The Italian champions boasted hardened men who had appeared in the 1964, 1965 and 1967 deciders, triumphing in the first two. They were perfectly drilled in Catenaccio: defend deep, mark without pity and sting through swift counterattacks. 

It was the Dutch side that had the better of the first half at De Kuip but Inter’s defensive knowhow kept it goalless. The team, captained by Sandro Mazzola, was on full alert from kick-off, but scurrying around to close spaces was always likely to be a challenge after the break. The inevitable lapse occurred two minutes into the second half. Ajax’s lanky centre-back Barry Hulshoff strode forward. Unchallenged, he played a pass from memory, lofting the ball to the right wing, but for once he didn’t find a team-mate as Inter trequartista Mario Frustalupi got in the way. The buzzing dynamos from Amsterdam quickly regained possession though, and right-back Wim Suurbier swept a looping, curling cross to the far post. 

A calm, languid figure in brilliant white and vibrant scarlet reacts quickly while two bewildered men in dark kits flounder helplessly in front of him. A snapshot of the first goal in the 1972 European Cup final, and of one philosophy humbling another.   

The competition has served up plenty more spectacular moments down the years. Long-range thunderbolts smashed into the top corner.; delicate lobs delivered with grace and precision. By contrast, Johan Cruyff’s opener for Ajax against Inter was the cheapest coin of the realm: a calm tap of the ball into an empty net. But few goals have ever felt so thoroughly symbolic.

The lean livewire’s finish not only gave Ajax the lead in Rotterdam but also represented the new overthrowing the old: the Italian defensive dogma that had flourished in the 1960s dissolving in the face of Dutch fluidity. Cruyff and Co were the incarnation of Totaalvoetbal (Total Football), a system in which every outfield player could thrive in any role. To a man they knew how to prevent, create and score goals, as they showed by defeating Panathinaikos in the final the year prior.

Inter were opponents of a different calibre, however. The Italian champions boasted hardened men who had appeared in the 1964, 1965 and 1967 deciders, triumphing in the first two. They were perfectly drilled in Catenaccio: defend deep, mark without pity and sting through swift counterattacks. 

It was the Dutch side that had the better of the first half at De Kuip but Inter’s defensive knowhow kept it goalless. The team, captained by Sandro Mazzola, was on full alert from kick-off, but scurrying around to close spaces was always likely to be a challenge after the break. The inevitable lapse occurred two minutes into the second half. Ajax’s lanky centre-back Barry Hulshoff strode forward. Unchallenged, he played a pass from memory, lofting the ball to the right wing, but for once he didn’t find a team-mate as Inter trequartista Mario Frustalupi got in the way. The buzzing dynamos from Amsterdam quickly regained possession though, and right-back Wim Suurbier swept a looping, curling cross to the far post. 

Read the full story
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Normally this would have led to a routine clearance. Here, in a costly mix-up, leaping goalkeeper Ivano Bordon and youthful Gabriele Oriali both went for it. Like a gift from the heavens, the ball sailed over them and dropped to Cruyff. In a flash of those deadly, slightly bowed legs, he controlled it and passed into the near corner of the net. 

The poster boy for Total Football sprinted away and performed his trademark leap with a pump of the right arm. His team-mates savoured the moment too, except that their reaction felt restrained. It was as if they had always known they were going to win – and no doubt thanks to Cruyff. Like most of that Ajax side, the No14 looked almost unfootballer-like with his long hair and slim torso, but his muscular thighs allowed him to outrun and outmanoeuvre Italy’s finest. He scored again half an hour later from a powerful header, which demonstrated his all-round ability while underlining the thankless task bestowed upon his 19-year-old marker Oriali. Thankfully the versatile teenager didn’t allow such a torturous evening to derail his fledgling career: a decade later he was patrolling the midfield for Italy’s 1982 World Cup winners.

“Cruyff was impossible to mark,” Oriali later explained. “I also marked Zico, Michel Platini and Diego Maradona, and I have to say Johan was the best I ever faced. I’ve got his shirt from that match on display in my house. He and his team changed football forever. I regard it as an honour to have tested myself against him, even if he sent us home in tatters.”

Ajax were victorious again a year later in Belgrade – against Juventus – and provided the lion’s share of the Netherlands teams that reached the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals, losing both (Cruyff having retired from international football before the latter). Total Football didn’t clinch as many trophies as it should have, but those Dutch masters made the biggest impact on the game since Real Madrid’s 1950s swashbucklers. 

As for Cruyff, the 1972 final was the high point of his playing career in the European Cup, though he later steered Barcelona to their first continental title as coach in 1992. Thirty-eight years after he hung up his boots and six years on from his death in 2016, people still ponder: was he a right-winger, left-winger, playmaker, centre-forward or false nine? The answer is simple: yes to all. As Inter and Oriali discovered to their cost in Rotterdam. 

A calm, languid figure in brilliant white and vibrant scarlet reacts quickly while two bewildered men in dark kits flounder helplessly in front of him. A snapshot of the first goal in the 1972 European Cup final, and of one philosophy humbling another.   

The competition has served up plenty more spectacular moments down the years. Long-range thunderbolts smashed into the top corner.; delicate lobs delivered with grace and precision. By contrast, Johan Cruyff’s opener for Ajax against Inter was the cheapest coin of the realm: a calm tap of the ball into an empty net. But few goals have ever felt so thoroughly symbolic.

The lean livewire’s finish not only gave Ajax the lead in Rotterdam but also represented the new overthrowing the old: the Italian defensive dogma that had flourished in the 1960s dissolving in the face of Dutch fluidity. Cruyff and Co were the incarnation of Totaalvoetbal (Total Football), a system in which every outfield player could thrive in any role. To a man they knew how to prevent, create and score goals, as they showed by defeating Panathinaikos in the final the year prior.

Inter were opponents of a different calibre, however. The Italian champions boasted hardened men who had appeared in the 1964, 1965 and 1967 deciders, triumphing in the first two. They were perfectly drilled in Catenaccio: defend deep, mark without pity and sting through swift counterattacks. 

It was the Dutch side that had the better of the first half at De Kuip but Inter’s defensive knowhow kept it goalless. The team, captained by Sandro Mazzola, was on full alert from kick-off, but scurrying around to close spaces was always likely to be a challenge after the break. The inevitable lapse occurred two minutes into the second half. Ajax’s lanky centre-back Barry Hulshoff strode forward. Unchallenged, he played a pass from memory, lofting the ball to the right wing, but for once he didn’t find a team-mate as Inter trequartista Mario Frustalupi got in the way. The buzzing dynamos from Amsterdam quickly regained possession though, and right-back Wim Suurbier swept a looping, curling cross to the far post. 

Changing of the guard
Classic Final Goals

Changing of the guard

Johan Cruyff’s opening goal for Ajax in the 1972 European Cup final was simple, emphatic and heavy with significance

WORDS Sheridan Bird | ILLUSTRATION Osvaldo Casanova

A calm, languid figure in brilliant white and vibrant scarlet reacts quickly while two bewildered men in dark kits flounder helplessly in front of him. A snapshot of the first goal in the 1972 European Cup final, and of one philosophy humbling another.   

The competition has served up plenty more spectacular moments down the years. Long-range thunderbolts smashed into the top corner.; delicate lobs delivered with grace and precision. By contrast, Johan Cruyff’s opener for Ajax against Inter was the cheapest coin of the realm: a calm tap of the ball into an empty net. But few goals have ever felt so thoroughly symbolic.

The lean livewire’s finish not only gave Ajax the lead in Rotterdam but also represented the new overthrowing the old: the Italian defensive dogma that had flourished in the 1960s dissolving in the face of Dutch fluidity. Cruyff and Co were the incarnation of Totaalvoetbal (Total Football), a system in which every outfield player could thrive in any role. To a man they knew how to prevent, create and score goals, as they showed by defeating Panathinaikos in the final the year prior.

Inter were opponents of a different calibre, however. The Italian champions boasted hardened men who had appeared in the 1964, 1965 and 1967 deciders, triumphing in the first two. They were perfectly drilled in Catenaccio: defend deep, mark without pity and sting through swift counterattacks. 

It was the Dutch side that had the better of the first half at De Kuip but Inter’s defensive knowhow kept it goalless. The team, captained by Sandro Mazzola, was on full alert from kick-off, but scurrying around to close spaces was always likely to be a challenge after the break. The inevitable lapse occurred two minutes into the second half. Ajax’s lanky centre-back Barry Hulshoff strode forward. Unchallenged, he played a pass from memory, lofting the ball to the right wing, but for once he didn’t find a team-mate as Inter trequartista Mario Frustalupi got in the way. The buzzing dynamos from Amsterdam quickly regained possession though, and right-back Wim Suurbier swept a looping, curling cross to the far post. 

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

A calm, languid figure in brilliant white and vibrant scarlet reacts quickly while two bewildered men in dark kits flounder helplessly in front of him. A snapshot of the first goal in the 1972 European Cup final, and of one philosophy humbling another.   

The competition has served up plenty more spectacular moments down the years. Long-range thunderbolts smashed into the top corner.; delicate lobs delivered with grace and precision. By contrast, Johan Cruyff’s opener for Ajax against Inter was the cheapest coin of the realm: a calm tap of the ball into an empty net. But few goals have ever felt so thoroughly symbolic.

The lean livewire’s finish not only gave Ajax the lead in Rotterdam but also represented the new overthrowing the old: the Italian defensive dogma that had flourished in the 1960s dissolving in the face of Dutch fluidity. Cruyff and Co were the incarnation of Totaalvoetbal (Total Football), a system in which every outfield player could thrive in any role. To a man they knew how to prevent, create and score goals, as they showed by defeating Panathinaikos in the final the year prior.

Inter were opponents of a different calibre, however. The Italian champions boasted hardened men who had appeared in the 1964, 1965 and 1967 deciders, triumphing in the first two. They were perfectly drilled in Catenaccio: defend deep, mark without pity and sting through swift counterattacks. 

It was the Dutch side that had the better of the first half at De Kuip but Inter’s defensive knowhow kept it goalless. The team, captained by Sandro Mazzola, was on full alert from kick-off, but scurrying around to close spaces was always likely to be a challenge after the break. The inevitable lapse occurred two minutes into the second half. Ajax’s lanky centre-back Barry Hulshoff strode forward. Unchallenged, he played a pass from memory, lofting the ball to the right wing, but for once he didn’t find a team-mate as Inter trequartista Mario Frustalupi got in the way. The buzzing dynamos from Amsterdam quickly regained possession though, and right-back Wim Suurbier swept a looping, curling cross to the far post. 

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Normally this would have led to a routine clearance. Here, in a costly mix-up, leaping goalkeeper Ivano Bordon and youthful Gabriele Oriali both went for it. Like a gift from the heavens, the ball sailed over them and dropped to Cruyff. In a flash of those deadly, slightly bowed legs, he controlled it and passed into the near corner of the net. 

The poster boy for Total Football sprinted away and performed his trademark leap with a pump of the right arm. His team-mates savoured the moment too, except that their reaction felt restrained. It was as if they had always known they were going to win – and no doubt thanks to Cruyff. Like most of that Ajax side, the No14 looked almost unfootballer-like with his long hair and slim torso, but his muscular thighs allowed him to outrun and outmanoeuvre Italy’s finest. He scored again half an hour later from a powerful header, which demonstrated his all-round ability while underlining the thankless task bestowed upon his 19-year-old marker Oriali. Thankfully the versatile teenager didn’t allow such a torturous evening to derail his fledgling career: a decade later he was patrolling the midfield for Italy’s 1982 World Cup winners.

“Cruyff was impossible to mark,” Oriali later explained. “I also marked Zico, Michel Platini and Diego Maradona, and I have to say Johan was the best I ever faced. I’ve got his shirt from that match on display in my house. He and his team changed football forever. I regard it as an honour to have tested myself against him, even if he sent us home in tatters.”

Ajax were victorious again a year later in Belgrade – against Juventus – and provided the lion’s share of the Netherlands teams that reached the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals, losing both (Cruyff having retired from international football before the latter). Total Football didn’t clinch as many trophies as it should have, but those Dutch masters made the biggest impact on the game since Real Madrid’s 1950s swashbucklers. 

As for Cruyff, the 1972 final was the high point of his playing career in the European Cup, though he later steered Barcelona to their first continental title as coach in 1992. Thirty-eight years after he hung up his boots and six years on from his death in 2016, people still ponder: was he a right-winger, left-winger, playmaker, centre-forward or false nine? The answer is simple: yes to all. As Inter and Oriali discovered to their cost in Rotterdam. 

A calm, languid figure in brilliant white and vibrant scarlet reacts quickly while two bewildered men in dark kits flounder helplessly in front of him. A snapshot of the first goal in the 1972 European Cup final, and of one philosophy humbling another.   

The competition has served up plenty more spectacular moments down the years. Long-range thunderbolts smashed into the top corner.; delicate lobs delivered with grace and precision. By contrast, Johan Cruyff’s opener for Ajax against Inter was the cheapest coin of the realm: a calm tap of the ball into an empty net. But few goals have ever felt so thoroughly symbolic.

The lean livewire’s finish not only gave Ajax the lead in Rotterdam but also represented the new overthrowing the old: the Italian defensive dogma that had flourished in the 1960s dissolving in the face of Dutch fluidity. Cruyff and Co were the incarnation of Totaalvoetbal (Total Football), a system in which every outfield player could thrive in any role. To a man they knew how to prevent, create and score goals, as they showed by defeating Panathinaikos in the final the year prior.

Inter were opponents of a different calibre, however. The Italian champions boasted hardened men who had appeared in the 1964, 1965 and 1967 deciders, triumphing in the first two. They were perfectly drilled in Catenaccio: defend deep, mark without pity and sting through swift counterattacks. 

It was the Dutch side that had the better of the first half at De Kuip but Inter’s defensive knowhow kept it goalless. The team, captained by Sandro Mazzola, was on full alert from kick-off, but scurrying around to close spaces was always likely to be a challenge after the break. The inevitable lapse occurred two minutes into the second half. Ajax’s lanky centre-back Barry Hulshoff strode forward. Unchallenged, he played a pass from memory, lofting the ball to the right wing, but for once he didn’t find a team-mate as Inter trequartista Mario Frustalupi got in the way. The buzzing dynamos from Amsterdam quickly regained possession though, and right-back Wim Suurbier swept a looping, curling cross to the far post. 

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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