Scriptwriters would have been labelled lazy and cliched had they thought it up.
Lieke Martens, Netherlands’ best player, performing a Cruyff Turn in the first minute of the Oranje’s opening World Cup game? Come on…
It’s almost too neat.
But she can’t have preempted it (could she?) and so it’s already one of the great moments of this World Cup, for symbolism alone.
Here’s the Johan Cruyff original, not that you need reminding…
The great man performed it for the first time in a group game against Sweden at the 1974 World Cup.
It’s an enduring skill; one of beautiful simplicity and with the capacity for utter devastation.
Now here’s Martens’ homage against New Zealand…
New Zealand’s Catherine Bott was just as dumbfounded as Sweden’s Jan Olsson in 1974.
And the similarities don’t end there.
Martens, like Cruyff, is a once-in-a-lifetime player, one capable of inspiring the next generation of Dutch talent.
She is carrying the hopes of a nation on her shoulders this summer, just as Cruyff was burdened with expectation in 1974.
He was Netherlands’ standout player in West Germany, inspiring them to the final as the centrepiece of their Total Football approach.
Martens will be hoping to go one better and add a World Cup to the European Championship the Dutch won in 2017.
Both turns occurred in a similar area of the pitch, down the left flank and in the final third.
It’s a shame Martens doesn’t wear No14.
Still, the symbolism is glorious.
Critics are keen to highlight the difference in standard between the women’s and men’s game, ignoring the millions who follow men’s teams competing outside the top tiers/elite competitions.
Doubters freely ignore the similarities; tactical contests, narrative, dynamics… a gifted forward leaving a defender for dead.
Martens’ symbolic turn is a demonstration that, whatever the gender, football is football.
Although there is still plenty of work to be done.
Bild, Germany’s most prominent sports paper, went with a headline that translates to ‘Ugly win thanks to our prettiest [player]’ after Germany beat China 1-0 on Saturday.
Emphasis on the players’ appearances is a problem that has hindered the women’s game for too long.
Martens’ first-minute turn would have been missed by those who tuned into BBC’s terrestrial channels this afternoon in hope of seeing one of the most-fancied teams’ opening game.
The game was only available via the red button as, evidently, the license fee paying public couldn’t go without a showing of *checks TV guide* 1953 film The Titfield Thunderbolt on a Monday afternoon.
Hopefully, players like Netherlands’ Cruyffian No11 will continue to level the playing field through thrilling performances.