Rob Rensenbrink was a rare commodity in Dutch football, he was essentially the only superstar to emerge from Holland since the Sixties who was never associated with the big three clubs, Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV. A superb playmaker, Rensenbrink was Holland’s top scorer of the 1978 World Cup with 5 goals.
Born in Amsterdam in 1947, Rensenbrink grew up in the Jordaan and was a classic street footballer from the city. He began his career with DWS Amsterdam before finding success in Belgium with first Brugge for two years and then Anderlecht. He debuted for Holland against Scotland but at first his international appearances were few and far between as he had to compete with Moulijn and Piet Keizer for his spot. Rensenbrink eventually disappeared from Oranje but success in Belgium brought him back in 1973 and he was an integral part of the team by 1974. Rensenbrink position on the national team meant that he go home regularly. He did not care for life in Belgium much but his lucrative contract with Anderlecht kept him there.
Rensenbrink’s skill, intelligence and versatility were perfectly suited to the Total Football tactics developed at Ajax and he fit into the pattern of play with ease. He had a very similar playing style to Johan Cruijff and even looked a bit like him. It often required the captain’s armband to tell the two apart on the wide angle camera shots. In the World Cup,
Rensenbrink had an outstanding tournament and scored in the second round match against East Germany. An injury suffered against Brazil brought his fitness for the Final into question. The papers were rife with speculation as to whether he could play. His importance to the team was critical and his absence would be felt. Although declared fit before the match, Rensenbrink was taken off in the second half of the 1974 Final.
After the disappointing end to the 1974 tournament, Rensenbrink returned to Belgium where he led Anderlecht to its most successful seasons ever. In 1976 and 1978 they won the European Cup-winners’ Cup, successes which they followed up each time with victories in the European Super Cup. Rensenbrink scored in each of these matches. In 1976 he was the first ever non-Belgian to win the best player of the year award in that country. He is still widely considered to have been the last international superstar to play in Belgium.
With Oranje, Rensenbrink had continued to be an essential cog in the Total Football wheel. He was also scoring goals. By 1978 Johan Cruijff had retired from the national team and Rensenbrink took over as the playmaker. He rose to the occasion in the World Cup. His pivotal role was an instrumental part in the Dutch resurgence and near success. In the opening match against Iran he scored a hat trick, with two of the goals taken from the penalty spot. He scored the 1,000th goal in World Cup history against Scotland and scored again against Austria. Rensenbrink’s most dramatic moment came in the Final itself. In the forty-sixth minute of the second half, with the score tied at 1-1, Rensenbrink received a deep pass but his shot bounced off the inside of the post. It was centimeters away from World Cup victory, the closest Holland has been thus far.
Bok de Korver
In 1979 Rob Rensenbrink retired from the national team and played briefly in the North American Soccer League. He retired completely after playing in France with Toulouse for a season. Rensenbrink’s retirement from the sport was complete, he never wanted to be a trainer and rarely gives interviews or television commentary. With his six goals, Rensenbrink is Holland’s second highest World Cup scorer, after Johnny Rep. Overall he scored 14 goals in 46 international matches.