Johan Neeskens describes sheer tension of taking a World Cup final penalty

Netherlands and Ajax legend chats to Team 33's Raf Diallo about the 1974 World Cup and more

Johan Neeskens, Sepp Maier, West Germany, Netherlands, World Cup, final, 1974, Munich

German goalkeeper Sepp Maier (right) speculates on the wrong corner and Dutch midfielder Johan Neeskens (left) scores. Picture by dpa DPA/PA Images

Those orange jerseys still shine like a beacon from the long hair/sideburn strewn 1970s.

It was the era of Total Football, Ajax ruled Europe and the Dutch national team was bringing their footballing ideals to the masses.

At the heart of that time, sitting right behind the late, great Johan Cruyff on the pitch, was another legend of the game: Johan Neeskens.

The former Ajax, Barcelona and New York Cosmos midfielder was the man who scored the Dutch goal just a couple of minutes into the 1974 World Cup final before Germany fought back to claim the trophy and leave Netherlands in the same boat as Hungary 1954 and Brazil 1982 - teams that didn't win their respective tournaments but are remembered almost in the same way as if they had been winners.

This week on Newstalk's Team 33, we had the pleasure of chatting to Neeskens about his playing career for club and country. 

You can listen to the full interview with the Netherlands legend on the podcast player or on iTunes:

Aside from not picking up a winners medal, the 1974 tournament was a success for Neeskens. Just 22 years old, the former right back turned tenacious midfielder ended up being joint-second top scorer at the tournament, with five including a penalty in the final.

Four of his five goals in '74 came from the spot kick which showed his prowess and his technique was based around hitting it hard and true.

"Before me, there was Gerrie Muhren who used to take the penalties but he missed twice in a row and I also used to take penalties all the time in the practice and then [legendary Netherlands manager Rinus] Michels decided that I should take the penalties and so I did," Neeskens told me.

"I always liked the way I took it then by making a long run towards the ball that the goalie can't really look at your legs [to see] what you're going to do and I always tried to kick it as hard as possible because even when the goalkeeper would touch the ball, it has more opportunities to go into the goal."

But taking a penalty in a group match or in the run up was always going to be different than taking a penalty in a World Cup final.

And not just any final. Against West Germany on their opponents' soil in Munich. And barely a minute after the whistle had been blown to start the game.

Referee Jack Taylor (l) awards a penalty in the first minute after West Germany's Uli Hoeness (third l) tripped Holland's Johan Cruyff (third r, on floor). Looking on are Holland's Johan Neeskens (second l) and West Germany's Rainer Bonhof (c), Berti Vogts (second r) and Franz Beckenbauer (r). Picture by DPA DPA/PA Images

Cruyff had embarked on a mazy run from deep from his own half (in fact the Total Football style saw the nominal centre forward starting his run as the furthest player back) and the Ajax and Barcelona legend was felled in the box by a West German defender, with the referee awarding a penalty.

Neeskens, who was just 22, had the responsibility to give the Dutch a perfect start to their first World Cup final.

"As you say, it was after about one and a half minutes. Not even two minutes," Neeskens recalls of that pivotal moment as he stepped up to become the first man to score a penalty in a World Cup final.

"I had only touched the ball two or three times with small passes and normally you would feel more confident [to take a penalty] if you had played 20-30 minutes and feel well in the game. 

"This was so early in the game and there were maybe 75,000 Germans in the stadium and 5,000 Dutch people. Of course, at that moment, you were a little bit more nervous than normal but I think that is normal too because it is the final of the World Cup and after two minutes you have to take the penalty.

"I took the ball and walked up. But then you start thinking, the goalkeeper Sepp Maier has seen where I have shot the ball before against Bulgaria and a lot of things go through your mind. Then I decided to kick the ball hard but through the middle because I was thinking maybe he makes a choice and goes earlier. And he did. He went the good way where I had hit the ball before. But because he moved too early and there was maybe my luck because the ball went straight through the middle and he was already in the corner. So I was a little bit lucky."

As history shows, despite that perfect start, West Germany would fight back to win 2-1, with the Dutch losing the final again in 1978.   

In the full interview, Neeskens also chats to us about the other classic game from that tournament against Brazil which proved violent but also saw Cruyff set him up for the second goal. He also chats about the World Cup in Argentina when things got tense as they again faced a host nation in a final.

Plus, he also discussed his first European Cup final with Ajax as a teenager, making moves to Barcelona and New York Cosmos as well as just how good he was at baseball as a youngster.