Entr.: Kovacs) Inter Milan (Bordon; Burgnich, Facchetti, Bellugi, Oriali, Giubertoni, Bedin, Frustalupi, Jaïr, Mazzola, Boninsegna, Entr.: Inverzini)
With over 25 European countries watching on Eurovision, 'total football' met catenaccio in the Rotterdam stadium, home to Ajax's bitter rival, Feyenoord. As the game began, it was clear from the lone figure of Roberto Boninsegna in attack that Inter were hère to defend. However, it soon became apparent that even the most stubborn and cynical defence in Europe was unable to cope with Ajax's precise, flowing football. Ajax had won the Dutch league and cup, and were intent on gaining an historie treble. The Dutchmen were interchanging positions, passing the bail with accuracy and flair and revelling in the occasion. Inter's resolve was weakened in the 12th minute when centre-back Giubertoni was injured and replaced by Mario Bertini, and goalkeeper Ivano Bordon, in for the injured Vieri, had to be alert. Mazzola and 19-year-old Gabriell Oriali in midfield were pressed back in an attempt to shore up the back line, who were being twisted and turned by Ajax's constant incursions and swift movement. The Ajax full-backs, too, were getting in on the act, Suurbier sending in a stream of crosses from the right and Krol smashing a 25-yard shot against Bordon's post. Although the game remained goal-less at half time, early in the second half the Dutch scored the goal their football deserved. In the 47th minute, Bordon and Burgnich collided trying to reach a cross from Suurbier, Bordon dropped the bail, and Cruyff turned and coolly stroked in a simple goal at the far post. Midway through the half, Inter roused themselves and Stuy did well to save from the feet of Mazzola. However, Ajax made the game safe in the 77th minute when European Footballer of the Year Cruyff soared to meet a Keizer free kick and head the bail beyond Bordon's grasp. Inter were finished and their dreary tactics had been exposed as redundant by a scintillating Ajax side.
Ajax's ego-driven young stars were shocked rigid when president Jaap Van Praag had introduced Stefan Kovacs as coach in place of Barcelona-bound Rinus Michels. They had mixed feelings about Michels's departure; they had crossed swords with him, but he was also a father figure whom they respected. Kovacs was a scarcely known Romanian whose short grey hair and sguat build marked him out as anything but a football man. 'How do you like the length of our hair?' the players asked him on his first day, ready to challenge some stereotypically authoritarian East European response. Tve been employed as a football coach not a hairdresser, Kovacs told them, sensing the tension and knowing there was more to corne.
Kovacs let the staff run the first training sessions while he observed from the touchline. Suddenly, out of a group of players, a football was fizzed directly at Kovacs at around knee height. He raised his right foot, brought the bail down smoothly out of its flight, trapped it and then knocked it back. No one taunted him again after that. He had passed the test, made his point and went on to take Ajax to new heights. Kovacs was the man who completed the job Michels had started by bringing 'Total Football' to its zenith. He compensated for giving Johan Cruyff freedom to roam back and across the pitch by encouraging technically adept defenders such as Wim Suurbier, Ruud Krol and Horst Blankenburg to advance in whatever direction the game took them. They could take that risk knowing that midfielders Johan Neeskens, Arie Haan and Gerrie Muhren could 'read' themselves back to fill the gaps. Ajax had been worried about taking on Inter in the home stadium of their greatest Dutch rivais, Feyenoord. They half-expected a spectator backlash. But such fears proved groundless. Ajax were playing for the glory of Dutch sport and for the greater good of association football in general. Inter claimed victim status: they were missing Mario Corso from midfield because of the year-long ban which had followed his expulsion in Monchengladbach and were playing in their opponents' back yard. However, Inter had benefited similarly from playing Benfica in Milan in the 1965 final. To the neutrals, this was payback time.
The pattern was predictable. Inter, coached by their ex-international wing-half Gianni Invernizzi, fell back in Herrera-esgue style. They conceded the initiative to Ajax and waited patiently for a chance to hit them on the break. It never came. Inter reached half-time safely, but the interval disturbed their concentration. Invernizzi had confessed before the game that his greatest concern was how Ajax's raiding defenders might penetrate Inter's orthodox man-marking System. His concern was justified. Three minutes after the restart Suurbier crossed from the right, 'keeper Ivano Bordon fumbled and Cruyff stretched out a leg to jab home the opening goal. Inter, at last, moved Sandro Mazzola forward behind Roberto Boninsegna, but the longer it lasted, the more dangerously exposed Inter became. Ultimately Piet Keizer eluded two defenders on the left and crossed for Cruyff to rise and glance home his, and his team's, second goal. The red-and-white banners were unfurled to hail the finest club team on the planet. They were champions of Europe (again), champions of Holland as well as domestic cup-winners and duly added the World Club Cup and the new European Supercup to their rapidly expanding trophy cabinets.
L'AFC Ajax était encore l'équipe à battre en 1971/72, une tâche insurmontable qui montre bien la domination qu'exerçait cette formation sur le football européen de l'époque. Même un changement d'entraîneur, le Roumain Stefan Kovacs remplaçant Rinus Michels, n'empêchait pas les coéquipiers de Johan Cruyff de marcher sur l'Europe. Le FC Dynamo Dresden, l'Olympique de Marseille, l'Arsenal FC et le SL Benfica étaient tous balayés, le tenant du titre marchant tranquillement vers sa troisième finale de Coupe des clubs champions européens en quatre ans. Benfica leur donnait du fil à retordre avant de s'incliner sur un but de Cruyff en demi-finale. L'Ajax se qualifiait pour affronter l'Internazionale FC sur la pelouse de Feyenoord...
Alors que le théâtre de la finale était néerlandais, les évènements qui précédaient Rotterdam suggéraient plutôt un succès italien. En effet, certains s'attardaient sur la qualification de l'Inter aux dépens du VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach au 2e tour, lorsque les Milanais, écrasés 7-1 à l'aller en Allemagne, obtenaient un sursis de l'UEFA, clamant que l'avant-centre Roberto Boninsegna avait été blessé par une bouteille jetée des tribunes. Les Nerazzurri l'avaient finalement emporté 4-2 sur l'ensemble des deux matches, avant de battre le Celtic FC aux tirs au but après une demi-finale sans but. Mais les espoirs d'un triplé de l'Inter dans la compétition étaient anéantis au stade De Kuip. Aidé par les Neeskens, Blankenburg, Muhren, Haan et Krol, Cruyff marquait deux buts au cours d'une victoire facile de l'Ajax. Score final : Football Total 2 Catenaccio 0. (Txt Uefa.Com Pics Footnostalgie.com)