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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2014
Why do the Dutch play such wonderful, captivating football - but never win anything ? (OK, aside from one European Championship.

An enigma that David Winner sets out to understand and explain. The book's very well-researched and engagingly written, but despite the galaxy of past and present players, coaches and journalists interviewed, one key figure - THE key figure - in post-war Dutch football is missing. That of course is Johan Cruyff, and as the prime onfield innovator and motivator of Dutch 'total football' a book that's about this subject without any direct personal input from him is very much Hamlet without the Prince. And this is all the more frustrating because Cruyff is genuinely such a pivotal character in Dutch football at both club and international level. Massively influential; idolised by most, (but - tellingly - not all), of his playing/coaching contemporaries and then a notable coach in his own right. If anyone could get closest to explaining why Holland are such perennial under-achievers, it would surely be him.

So for me - close but no cigar. A really good book nonetheless and one I genuinely enjoyed reading. David Winner knows his stuff and while I'm sure he'll have done his absolute utmost to get some kind of contribution from Cruyff (and from personal experience, I know this is anything but an easy task), the fact he hasn't managed this means his book falls tantalisingly short.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2002
This is an excellent book. In the same way that Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch" is about so much more than just 'being a football fan', this is as much about the Dutch people and their fantastic little country (my wife and I love it so much we've moved here) as it is about their footballers.

Winner does really well to find credible links between Dutch 'total' football, and the way the Dutch organise themselves, in particular how they make use of what little space they have. Since the Netherlands is the 2nd most densely populated country in the world, space is at a premium here, just as it is on the football pitch. So one fine passage notes how Dennis Bergkamp's *genius* for defence-splitting through balls relates to how the Dutch use their land: efficiently, perceptively, decisively, brilliantly. (Before the pass the pitch is crowded and narrow; after the pass it is wide open.)

Winner also deals very well with the 'Lost Final of 1974, and the complex Dutch attitudes toward their neighbours, the Germans, and their curious ambivalence toward actually *winning* tournaments rather than being universally lauded as the best team (1974, 1978, 1998, 2000).

And looming large over it all is the marvellous Johann Cruyff (which is pronounced, correctly, to rhyme with 'Slough' I've discovered!), a man of fabulously contradictory insights, my personal favourite being:
"If I wanted you to understand, I would have explained it better."

Definitely worth a read. And the country is definitely worth a visit (and get out of Amsterdam too).
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on 9 February 2014
David Winner is an English journalist. This book is for the thinking fan – cultured but not academic. It is about football and it is about Holland. A worthy subject – what would football be without the Dutch?
The story is woven around the big characters – Cruyff, of course, Michels, Gullit, Bergkamp. The focus is mostly on Ajax Amsterdam and the national side. Winner explains why Holland nearly always fall at the final hurdle – once again in South Africa in 2010 after this book was published. He suggests why the great Ajax team broke up in 1974. He pokes at the psyche of Cruyff. He revisits the national agony after Resenbrink’s miss in 1978.
Football is placed in a wider context. The author spoke to artists and architects as well as players and coaches. “Total football” and the "passing game" make sense in a small country with a flat landscape; you have to use the space. Links are elsewhere made with political movements, with the Provos and Calvinism. Chapters look at World War 2, football as war, collaboration and Ajax's supposed "Jewish identity", not to mention twins and penalty shoot-outs..
I was not absolutely convinced by some of the arguments, but Brilliant Orange was a diverting read. I revisited memories of great players and games, and I learnt a bit more about Holland and its people.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 August 2001
Winner's book is a class act, much like the Dutch national team he examines. Not so much about football, as the whole Dutch ethos on life, politics and architecture, Winner manages to plot their footballing history in context to social shifts and changes, providing answers to questions like, Why are the Dutch worse than England at penalties? Sublime, technically gifted and ouzing quile, and that's just the team... Brilliant Orange is well worth the read.
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on 25 March 2010
As a football-crazy architect, I understood this book from the off. Indeed I was quite jealous - it would've made an absolutely superb university dissertation topic.

The Netherlands is obviously a very forward-thinking and industrious country. I had an prior to reading this book, why that tended to be, but had never ever thought about how that could ever have been applied to the reasons behind how this relatively small nation became a fringe footballing superpower.

Without spoiling the book content too much, the book goes into how the mindset of this forward-thinking nation, through the genius of Rinus Michels and Johan Cruijff (to name but two), led to the evolution of total football in the 1970s and through its chief exponents in the Dutch national side, Ajax and FC Barcelona, was to influence and change the global game forever.

If you are mesmerised by the current all-conquering Barcelona side, then this is the book you can trace the tactical mindset back to. The football that Michels, Cruijff and Neeskens exported from Amsterdam to Camp Nou has evolved to the current day, but most importantly has endured as a tribute to attacking football.

Perhaps the best football paperback you can buy today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 July 2001
I knew I knew precious little about football, but thought I knew more about the Dutch than I now know I knew. This is far more than a book about football - although the analysis of Holland's strengths and malaises is masterful, and admirably researched. It embraces all aspects of Dutch culture, effortlessly leading the reader to consider that most difficult of notions to pin down: a nation's character. Certainly Orange, definitely Brilliant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Brilliant Orange" is written so brilliantly that well deserves five stars. Mr. Winner is at the same time, so informative to ousiders (i.e. who does not give a damn to either football or Holland) and so provocative to insiders (i.e. Dutch people!) I do not think that any so tolerant! Dutch man could stand to finish reading this book! They would rather swallow a brick!
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on 19 January 2013
I must start by saying that this book is the best book I've read, fiction or non-fiction.

A lot of books in the football genre either ramble endlessly about training and drills or go the other way and offer nothing of real intellectual note, with a ton of witty but tiresome anecdotes. David Winner manages to avoid both ends of the spectrum by writing a book that manages, somehow, to link culture, society and history to the unique class and technique of Dutch football. To many, this may sound boring or even irrelevant but Brilliant Orange, time and time again, manages to make these links believable and almost inevitable when we consider the style of Dutch teams of the last 50 years. The story of Michels' Ajax takes up a decent chunk of the book, and the 1974 World Cup is examined in detail. There is plenty of football in a book that combines sociology with football and psychology with style.

If you're sick of the same old football books then Brilliant Orange is well worth your time. Any others will pale in comparison.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2002
This is an excellent read on Total Football. It clearly explaines the reasons why the Dutch are able to play such a good game, but also why they always seem to lose in the later stages of big cups (or even fail to qualify !!).
The book is easy to read and I could not put it down. It's very interesting and if your a football fan, pick it up and learn.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2000
This book revealed as much about exactly what makes the Dutch dutch as it did about their football. It would have more accurately been named Ajax/Holland the names and nightmares but it was still an extremely entertaining read. So entertaining that I deliberately slowed down my reading off it towards the end as I didnt want it to finish!!!
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