Sunday, November 6, 2011

6 November 1966 - The Oranje's First Red

On 6 November 1966, Johan Cruyff earned one of his earliest distinctions, becoming the first player to be sent off in a match for the Dutch national team.

It was only the second national team appearance for Cruyff, who was then just 19 years old and in his third season with Ajax. He had scored in his Netherlands debut, a 2-2 draw with Hungary a month earlier in a European Championship qualifier.

His follow-up was a friendly against Czechoslovakia, played before a crowd of 52,000 at the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. The Czechs struck first, going up 0-1 with a 27th-minute goal from midfielder Ján Geleta. Dutch forward Sjaak Swart equalized for the hosts in the 51st minute, but they remained level for only three minutes, as midfielder Ivan Hrdlička restored the visitors' lead in the 54th minute.

In the 76th minute, with the Netherlands struggling to maintain possession, Cruyff committed a foul that drew the historic ejection from referee Rudi Glöckner. Czechoslovakia held on to win 1-2, while Cruyff's punishment continued far beyond the next match--the KNVB suspended him from international play for almost a year, so that he did not receive his next cap until 13 September 1967.

It was a costly suspension. Despite a storied career that included three European Footballer of the Year Awards (1971, 1973, 1974) he made only 48 national team appearances. But he still managed to score 33 goals for the Netherlands, a tally that ties him for fifth on their current all-time list.

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