Thijssen hopes Dutch can win with style

IPSWICH TOWN: Blues legend Frans Thijssen hopes that if his home nation beat Spain to win their first ever World Cup final tomorrow they will do it the Dutch way.

The 58-year-old football purist admits his joy over Holland’s progress to the final has been tempered somewhat by their functional approach – a style of play far removed from the ‘Total Football’ philosophy of the early 1970s and the stylish Dutch sides that followed.

“I must admit I have mixed feelings,” said Thijssen, who alongside fellow countryman and midfielder Arnold M�hren was at the heart of the great Town side which won the UEFA Cup in 1981 with some of the most attractive football in the club’s history.

“We have won every game so far, but have not played so well – especially in the first part of the tournament.

“People like results in Holland, but they also like good football and a few feel it has been a little bit too negative.

“There was an improvement against Brazil so we just hope the final is a good, attacking game.”

Beaten finalists in 1974 and 1978, Holland have never won the World Cup, while this is the first time reigning European champions Spain have ever reached the final.

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Playing with two defensive midfielders in Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong, Holland won all eight of their qualifying matches to reach South Africa and are now aiming to become the first nation since Brazil’s all-conquering side of 1970 to record a 100% winning record at the finals.

The winner of tomorrow’s match will also become the first European team to win the World Cup at a venue outside of the continent.

Thijssen – who earned 14 caps and scored three goals for the Oranje between 1975 and 1981 – has been enjoying a break from football in his home town of Nijmegen for the last year following a seven-year coaching spell in the Middle East.

He returns to the game as Under-23 coach for Eredivisie champions FC Twente next week though, linking up with new Belgian manager Michel Preud’Homme following Steve McClaren’s departure to German side Wolfsburg.

“I’ve enjoyed the break, but it’s great to be getting back into coaching,” said Thijssen, who made 167 appearances for FC Twente as a player before Sir Bobby Robson brought him to Portman Road in 1979.

Having previously managed Dutch sides Vitesse and De Graafschap in the 1990s, as well as Swedish giants Malm� FF in that period, Thijssen admits that the domestic league in his home nation has changed somewhat over the last decade though.

“Football has changed in Holland. The best players play for the big teams in Europe and the Dutch league has gone down a little bit. You don’t see the skilful players any more like you did in the past at the likes of Ajax. Hopefully, as a youth team coach, I can help address that.”

Thijssen made 125 appearances for Town before joining Brain Clough for a far less successful stay at Nottingham Forest in 1983. He was inducted into the Ipswich Town Hall of Fame in 2007 and returned to Portman Road last summer for fellow countryman Fabian Wilnis’ testimonial match.


Frans Thijssen

Age: 58

Position: Midfielder

International: 14 cap, three goals

– Started his career at hometown club NEC Nijmegen before moving to FC Twente

– Signed by Sir Bobby Robson at Ipswich Town in 1979

– Named English Footballer of the Year in 1981 as Town won the UEFA Cup, finished second in the top-flight and reached the semi-final of the FA Cup

– Scored in both legs of the UEFA Cup final that year as Ipswich beat Dutch side AZ Alkmaar 7-2 on aggregate.

– Left for Brain Clough’s Nottingham Forest in 1983 but made just 17 appearances. Finished his career playing in Canada (Vancouver Whitecaps) and Holland (Fortuna Sittard, FC Groningen and Vitesse).

– Between 1995 and 2001 managed Dutch sides Vitesse, De Graafschap and Fortuna Sittard, as well as Swedish giants Malmo FF.

– Coached various sides in the Middle East between 2002 and 2009 before returning to Holland.

– Starts as FC Twente’s Under-23 coach next week following a one-year break from the game.