In the first of a new series, Neil Sherwin looks at individual moments of brilliance that have helped shape the game that we love.
# 1 – Dennis Bergkamp v Argentina, 1998
“Dennis Bergkamp, Dennis Bergkamp, Dennis Bergkamp, DENNIS BERGKAMP, DENNIS BERGKAMP, OOOHHHH DENNIS BERGKAMP!!!”
It’s amazing how the repition of just two words over the radio airwaves can tell you exactly what’s going on in a game of football. Listeners to Dutch radio’s Jack Van Gelder would have been concerned for the commentator’s health after Dennis Bergkamp’s last minute winner against Argentina in the quarter final of the 1998 World Cup.
The heated encounter, which had seen Argentina’s Ariel Ortega sent off for a head butt on Edwin Van Der Sar, was deadlocked at a goal apiece as time ticked over to the 89th minute. As extra time loomed, a long hopeful ball forward from defender Frank DeBoer was turned into one of the greatest finishes of all time. De Boer collected the ball just outside his own six yard box and strolled forward unopposed. Lifting his head, the run of striker Dennis Bergkamp provided a welcome target to relieve some pressure.
With three Argentine defenders in close proximity, the danger appeared minimal until a sublime piece of magic saw the ball stick like glue to the right foot of the Dutch number eight. His first touch was exquisite to bring the ball down, the second brought him inside Roberto Ayala, and the third caressed the ball past goalkeeper Carlos Roa.
Jaws dropped around the world as Bergkamp wheeled away in celebration, while Van Gelder epitomised every fan decked out in orange as he struggled to contain his emotions.
Bergkamp scored many top drawer goals in his distinguished career, with those for Arsenal against Leicester City and Newcastle United probably the most famous. His ability to pick a pass when there appeared to be none was a joy to watch and players like him are a rare breed.