Football Language Podcast: 1990 World Cup Netherlands vs West Germany

1994 World Cup Netherlands vs West Germany English Through Football Podcast – 1990 World Cup Netherlands vs West Germany: In this podcast we continue with our reviews of some of the great World Cup matches by looking at the 1990 World Cup last-16 match between West Germany and the Netherlands. This is another game from the #WorldCupAtHome series from in which we look back at some of the language around this game and the rest of the 1990 tournament.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the file below while you can also subscribe and listen to all our football-language podcasts. If you’d like to show your support for what we do then think about becoming a patron (through Patreon). There is a transcript for this show which may help you to improve your language skills by reading as you listen, or if you are a teacher of English you can use the transcript to make different kinds of activities for your learners. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments then please email us at: (Damian=DF).


DF: Hello again everyone, this is Damian from the languagecaster team and you are listening to the Learn English Through Football Podcast. We hope you are all well and still staying safe. I’m here in London where the weather is bright and very warm and hopefully the weather is good where you are.

Right, on today’s podcast we continue with our series of watching some of the classic World Cup matches that have featured on’s website in their #WorldCupAtHome series and on today’s podcast we’ll feature a game from the 1990 World Cup between West Germany and the Netherlands. We have already looked at the match between Spain and the Netherlands from the 2014 World Cup, the quarter-final between the Netherlands and Brazil from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the second round match between Brazil and Italy from 1982, the cracker between France and Brazil in the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup and the 1994 World Cup last-16 match between Nigeria and Italy. So, in this podcast, we’ll look at some of the background to the 1990 World Cup and and then discuss some of the language used to talk about the match between the Dutch and the Germans; before ending with a review of what happened in the rest of the tournament.

Stinger: You are listening to (in German)

1990 World Cup: Background

DF: Italy hosted the 1990 World Cup tournament – the 14th edition – and this was the second time they had done so after they won the 1934 tournament on home soil. The Azzurri were one of the favourites to lift the trophy along with the 1986 winners Argentina and 1982 and 1986 runners-up West Germany, the 1988 European champions the Netherlands and Copa América holders Brazil; dark horses included Yugoslavia, Belgium and England. Three teams made their World Cup debuts: Ireland, Costa Rica and the United Arab Emirates, while Denmark, Portugal and France all failed to qualify, as did both Chile and Mexico who missed out as they had been disqualified in the qualifying rounds.

24 teams took part in the tournament in six groups of four and this meant that the top two qualified for the knock-out stages along with four of the best third-place teams. This meant that only eight teams were eliminated and so, much of the football was often rather dull. In fact, after this World Cup, it was decided to abolish the back-pass rule and to award three rather than two points for a win in the hope of promoting more attacking football.

Controversies and Shocks

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Well, perhaps the biggest shock of the competition occurred in the opening game between holders Argentina and Cameroon with the African side scoring the only goal of the game mid-way through the second half despite being a man down at the time – they had another player sent off near the end but held on to record a famous win and top Group B. Costa Rica also qualified for the last 16 after defeating both Scotland and Sweden which saw the Central American side progressing behind Brazil from Group C. Now, myself and my brother had travelled to Italy for this World Cup – we had no tickets but just wanted to experience the atmosphere – and we were in Genoa on the evening when Costa Rica shocked Scotland and I remember a lot of very dazed Scottish fans walking around the city not quite being able to believe the result. Yet again, the Scottish team had been knocked out in the first round – the seventh time that this had happened.  

Joining Costa Rica in the knock-out stage were three teams from Group F: England, who were the only team to win a game in the group, the Republic of Ireland and the Dutch who drew all three of their games. The Dutch ‘finished’ in third place after lots were drawn to decide the finishing position of the two teams with identical records. Other teams to make it through included Spain, Belgium and Uruguay from Group E, West Germany, Yugoslavia and Colombia from Group D and Argentina and Romania from Group B, while the USA, Sweden, the UAE and South Korea all left the competition without gaining a single point. 

Stinger: You are listening to (in Dutch)

Last-16: Netherlands vs West Germany

West Germany versus the Netherlands is one of the great rivalries in football. The Germans had beaten the Dutch in the 1974 World Cup final, while the Netherlands had recently defeated their neighbours in the 1988 semi-final of the European Championship before going on to win the title. So, when they were drawn to face each other in the last-16 of this tournament we were all looking forward to another chapter in their rivalry.

West Germany had got off to a flier in the tournament with a 4-1 thrashing of Yugoslavia in Milan and then hammered the UAE 5-1 to easily qualify for the next stage. The German side had five of their team playing in Italy’s Serie A, including Rudi Völler at Roma and three players from Inter Milan: captain Lothar Matthäus, Jürgen Klinsmann and Andreas Brehme. The Dutch, on the other hand, had not had a good World Cup up until then and had only managed to qualify from Group F as one of the best third-place finishers. Interestingly, the current European champions had three of their top players playing with Inter’s rivals, AC Milan and as both Serie A clubs shared the San Siro Stadium in Milan, where this game took place, this added another layer of intrigue to the story.  

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There was a capacity crowd of 75,000 in a humid Milan to watch the game and the Dutch started the game well but failed to take their early chances. There had been no real needle between the sides but then in the 20th minute Dutch defender Frank Rijkaard scythed down the German striker Völler and then as they moved into the penalty area for the resulting free kick the Dutchman appeared to spit at Völler. He then went in hard on the Dutch keeper and although he didn’t touch Van Breukelen a melee ensued.

TV commentary: …when it looked to me as if Rudy Völler… well, the red card has been shown to Rudi Völler …oh and… he’s spat at him again, Rijkaard … and both of them have been sent off by this Argentinian referee  

DF: The referee sent both players off and yet again Rijkaard spat at the German – disgraceful behaviour from the Dutch player who completely lost his head.  

The red cards seemed to take the sting out of the game and of course opened the pitch and five minutes after the break Klinsmann broke the deadlock with a fine volleyed finish from a cross by Buchwald. The Dutch almost responded immediately but their captain Gullit could not keep his volley down and then a minute later their midfielder Wouters had a glorious chance to equalise but he drove it inches wide of the far post. The Germans grew stronger and Klinsmann was denied a second after he smashed a first time shot against the post. But with five minutes to go Andreas Brehme curled the ball over the keeper to double their lead.

TV commentary: … here’s Brehme… tries to float it into the far corner, oh, that’s fabulous and Germany have got their second goal…it’s 2-0 against Holland… 

DF: With only a minute remaining Koeman scored an 89th-minute penalty but it was just a consolation as the Dutch were out and the West German side moved on to the last eight.       

Stinger: You are listening to (in Italian)

What happened next?

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The West German side defeated Czechoslovakia 1-0 in that quarter-final thanks to a penalty from their influential captain Matthäus and they would face England in the semi-final in Turin. The game was decided on penalties after the match finished 1-1 and the German side kept their nerve to progress to their third World Cup final in a row. In that final they would face the same side that had defeated them four years previously, Argentina, but this time the West German side were favourites to lift their third title. The Argentinian side had picked themselves up after that opening game defeat against Cameroon by beating the Soviet Union and drawing with Romania to qualify as one of the best third-placed teams. They then beat their fierce rivals and favourites for the tournament Brazil in a last-16 game that saw one moment of magic from Maradona to set up Claudio Caniggia to score a late winner. The holders then won their next two knock-out matches on penalties against Yugoslavia and then in Naples against the hosts Italy who even when the tournament’s leading scorer Toto Schillaci opened the scoring, seemed to freeze with nerves. Unbelievably, Argentina had managed to reach the final. 

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The final was a cynical, nasty affair with both sides guilty of fouling, diving and complaining to the referee. Argentinian midfielder Monzon became the first player to be sent off in a World Cup final and then with only five minutes remaining the Germans were awarded a penalty and their full back Andreas Brehme stepped up to score the only goal of the final. There was still time for the second ever red card in a World Cup final when Dezotti was sent to the stands in the last minute.

West Germany were worthy winners of the 1990 tournament but overall it was seen as one of the poorest in terms of quality. So bad in fact that rules were changed and by the time the next World Cup came around it was three points for a win and goalkeepers were not allowed to pick the ball up from a back pass – at least Italia 90 could say that it had been instrumental in that!   

Stinger: You are listening to (in Greek )


That’s it for this World Cup memory – don’t forget we’ve also looked back at games from the 1982, 1986, 1994, 2010 and 2014 World Cups and we’ll be looking back at some more World Cup memories over the following weeks. We also have a new World Cup resource page where we have got some World Cup quizzes where you can test your knowledge about the World Cup, while we also have some podcasts about World Cup stars from down through the ages. Just come along to our site at

You can also contact us here at languagecaster via our various social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. You can come and ask a question on our forums, make a suggestion or drop us a line and say hello at OK, take care everyone – stay safe and we’ll see you soon. Bye bye.

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PodcastEpisode 14