By Duncan Wright
In the Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg on the 11th July 2010 Giovanni Van Bronckhorst played his final international game for the Netherlands. In one of football’s strange twists of fate Van Bronckhorst had scored his first international goal in the stadium fourteen years earlier. The game on the 11th July was the biggest in football, the World Cup Final, and prior to the game Van Bronckhorst was quoted as saying “There were no tears, just joy. The last game in my career and it’s a World Cup final, what can you say? It could not be more beautiful. I hope it will be the most beautiful game of my life. For everyone, it will be the game of their life.”
Van Bronckhorst had played a huge part in getting the Dutch side to the final, scoring what was arguably the best goal of his career, and one of the best ever World Cup goals, in the semi-final versus Uruguay. Ultimately the Dutch side were to come up just short in the Final, losing 1-0 in extra time to a talented Spanish side but being asked to lead his country in football’s biggest game underlined the status Van Bronckhorst held within the Dutch national team.
Awarded 107 caps in an international career that spanned fourteen years, Van Bronckhorst represented the Netherlands in three World Cups and three European Championships. He made his debut for the Dutch national team in August 1996 when selected by Gus Hiddink for a friendly versus Brazil and later that month he scored the first of six international goals in the aforementioned friendly against South Africa.
Although part of the Dutch squad for Euro 2000, held in Van Bronckhorst’s native Netherlands, he saw limited action. The left back slot that he was selected as cover for was occupied by former Ranger Arthur Numan at that time. In Euro 2004, with the Dutch then managed by former Rangers manager Dick Advocaat, Van Bronckhorst was again deployed at left back, despite at the time playing his club football in a more advanced midfield role. He was an integral player at this tournament and went on to become a regular for the Dutch side going on to represent his country in the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008 before his final tournament in South Africa 2010.
Van Bronckhorst has been named in various best ever Netherlands XI, the Dutch fans loving his desire to bomb forward from the full back role, alongside his obvious game intelligence. This love affair was a two way street with Van Bronckhorst never hiding his love of playing for the national side. Speaking in July this year he spoke about his desire to one day manage the ‘Orange’.
“…it is my ambition to become a coach of the Orange squad one day. From 1996 to 2010 I was part of the Dutch national team for fourteen years as a player. That was quite an honor. I also think it’s an honor to coach the team. Whether that will come now, later or never, I don’t know.”
During his time with the Dutch National side Van Bronckhorst played under a number of great coaches and leaders including Dick Advocat, Louis Van Gall, Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten. In an interview in 2019 he talked about how each had ‘…their own ways and different styles, and I’ve tried hard to form my own identity and philosophies as a coach, while never forgetting the positives I took from all of them.’
He has over 100 caps for his national side, has featured in six major international tournaments and has captained his national side in the World Cup Final. This record demands respect. Van Bronckhorst is a player who has played at the very highest level of football.
The manager of any club, not least Rangers, requires to be a leader. The fact that Van Bronckhorst was given the responsibility to lead his national team into the World Cup Final demonstrates that this is a man that can be trusted to lead in the most demanding, high intensity, pressure situations. The experience he gained with the national team will have been a great benefit not only in his development as a player but also in influencing his own coaching ideas and philosophies should he take up the post.
Rangers last Dutch manager, a certain Dick Advocaat, enjoyed a hugely successful spell at Ibrox. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, who played under Advocaat for the national team, could have the opportunity to create another chapter in his own illustrious football career.