The world of football was in mourning yesterday after one of the beautiful games all-time greats Johan Cruyff lost a six month battle against Lung Cancer at the age of 68. Tributes flowed in from all over the globe for the much loved Dutch wizard, who is still classed as the greatest footballer Europe has ever produced.
His legacy will never be forgotten thanks to his trademark Cruyff turn and he won the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974. Cruyff was one of the most famous exponents of the football philosophy known as Total Football and is widely regarded to be one of the greatest players the game has ever seen.
He led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. At club level he started his career at Ajax where he won eight Eredivisie titles, three European Cups and one Intercontinental Cup. In 1973 he moved to FC Barcelona for a world record transfer fee, winning La Liga in his first season and was named European Footballer of the Year.
After retiring from playing in 1984, Cruyff became highly successful as manager of Ajax and later FC Barcelona and remained an influential advisor to both clubs. He was also voted European Player of the Century in an election held by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics, and came second behind Pelé in their World Player of the Century poll.
This week’s International friendlies continued last night and on the domestic front Wales, who were without their two star players Gareth Bale and Aron Ramsey, grabbed a last gasp equalizer against Northern Ireland at a rain soaked Cardiff City Stadium.
Craig Cathcart gave the visitors the lead with 30 minutes remaining and they looked certain to leave Cardiff with a well-earned victory. However, there was a final twist in this well contested match when Gareth McAuley’s clumsy tackle for the visitors brought down sub Simon Church in the area, and the Aberdeen striker dusted himself down to slot home the penalty with great aplomb.
Scotland beat the Czech Republic 1-0 in Prague thanks to Watford midfielder Ikechi Anya’s 10 minute strike. Scotland were good value for the win and keeper Allan McGregor was an instrumental in this, pulling off a number of world class saves in both halves and they robbed of a clear cut penalty when Allan Hutton tripped in the area.
Elsewhere on the International friendly front Turkey beat Sweden 2-1 at the Antalya Atatürk Stadium in Antalya thanks to a brace from striker Tosun and the game of the night between Italy and Spain at the Stadio Friuli in Udinese ended in stalemate thanks to two goals in as many minutes midway through the second half.