From Netherlands to Newcastle, some runner-ups overshadow the champions

Flair and style seem to be at the heart of why some second placed teams are remembered more than winners

BY Raf Diallo 14:46 Friday 25 March 2016, 14:46 25 Mar 2016

(l-r) Netherlands captain Johan Cruyff tries to get past West Germany captain Franz Beckenbauer. Picture by: Peter Robinson / EMPICS Sport

It's a saying that has become cliché but is it true that we never remember those who finish second place?

The short answer is no and the truth is that from time to time a runner-up can either be as equally remembered as the winner or even overshadow the achievements of their conquerors.

It is relevant in the case of Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, who won so much at club level, but unfortunately fell just short of the greatest prize of all.

Yet the Netherlands side which took the lead in the 1974 World Cup final and toyed with their German opponents before losing 2-1 in Munich is even more remembered than the champions.

Gerd Muller, Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier and Paul Breitner have all gone down as legends in Germany and the world for winning the World Cup, but Cruyff and his orange-clad Dutch team-mates are the team most talked about from that tournament due to the Total Football they introduced to the viewing public.

They were following on in a tradition set by the 1954 Hungary team, an imperious side also defeated by Germany in a World Cup final, with Ferenc Puskas and his Magical Magyar team-mates the biggest takeaway from that tournament in Switzerland. Significantly, that team played a style of football reminiscent of Total Football in its fluidity and flair.

And the Brazil of 1982 didn't even manage to finish runner-up as Italy defeated them 3-2 in a second round group game yet are the best remembered side from that year's World Cup because of the beauty of their attacking play. Even to this day, future World Cup-winning Brazil teams are unfavourably compared to the '82 vintage of Zico, Socrates and Falcao and the legacy of the Selecao's glorious failure in Spain was the more rigidly effective style that Brazil went on to implement at international level.

Even when you think of the 1995-96 Premier League season, Manchester United might have won but it's King Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United who are remembered even more fondly for their swashbuckling play, the manager's 'I would love it' speech and the collapse in the second half of the season. You could argue that Liverpool's 2013-14 thrust at the title will live on in the memory longer than the Manchester City side that actually won the whole thing.

Beyond football, many who have finished runner-up are remembered such as Damon Hill in the 1994 Formula 1 world championship. It was a season overshadowed by the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger and won by Michael Schumacher. But a review of the season could not be written without mentioning Hill taking the title race to the final circuit and the on-track collision with Schumi which ended up handing the title to the seven-time champion. Despite not winning the championship, the Williams driver was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 1994.

Andy Murray's first Wimbledon final appearance in 2012 might have ended in defeat to Roger Federer but the tears and visible emotion are even more memorable than the winner in some respects and probably inspired the Scot to victory at the second attempt the following year.

And in Gaelic football, the fact that Mayo have been unable to step beyond a runner-position in every one of their All-Ireland finals from the last six decades (sorry for the reminder, Mayo fans!) has probably generated as much interest in the county's summer fortunes - although they'd swap that for Sam, as would all the aforementioned teams and sportspeople.


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