World Cup's Craziest Moments: Italy and Netherlands Overcome

Bergkamp Scores the Perfect Goal - Netherlands versus France, Quarter Final 1998

One of the things to note about the World Cup is that it creates rivalries among nations that would ordinarily have little to do with one another. In the 1978 tournament, the Netherlands suffered its second successive defeat in a final, losing to home nation Argentina. The victory brought dancing on the streets of Buenos Aires, though it wasn't without controversy. Supposedly, before the game, the ruling Argentine military junta had assured that the Dutch team bus drove the wrong way to the stadium, passing by a small village where Argentine fans banged on the windows screaming at them. They also had FIFA change the match referee from the respected Abraham Klein to Serio Gonella, who had a howler of a match, clearly favoring the home team. Argentina won the final after extra time, sending the 70,000 Argentine fans in attendance into delirium, leaving Dutch hearts broken for the second time in four years.

This was the 8-year-old Denis Bergkamp's first footballing memory. Twenty years later, Bergkamp had emerged as one of the world's premier strikers, both at Ajax in his home country, and at Arsenal in England. He had gained a reputation as a clinical perfectionist, from his superstarched socks to his strict training regime. However, in the last minute of the World Cup quarterfinal against Argentina, the first time the two sides had met in a competitive match since the '78 final, Bergkamp's penchant for perfection truly came to the fore.

With the game standing at 1-1 and both sides reduced to playing a man short because of two sendings-off, Bergkamp received a long pass from Frank de Boer. Three deft touches later, Bergkamp has taken the ball around an Argentine defender and walloped it in the back of the net. "You never play the perfect game," he commented later, "but the moment itself was, I think, perfect."



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