In the first round match against West Germany in the 1980 European Championship, Johnny Rep scored his eighth and last tournament goal for Oranje. In doing so he equaled a record set in 1912 by Jan Vos. It also meant that he, Dennis Bergkamp and Willy van de Kerkhof are the only men ever to score for Holland in three tournaments.
Born in 1951, Johnny Rep was a typical product of the Ajax school. Rinus Michels had set up the youth programme and it was delivering better results than most top clubs’ purchasing policies. Rep was coming through the ranks as Ajax was wreaking havoc throughout Europe. He made his debut onto the first team a few months after they won the European Cup for the first time in 1971. A year later he could call himself European Champion, but it was in the third Final, in 1973, that the world was given a preview of Rep’s knack for scoring critical goals. Tensions were high as Ajax kicked off against the strong Juventus side. But the whole atmosphere changed when Rep headed Ajax into the lead after just a few minutes of play. He did it with such ease that it took the wind out of the Italians’ sails. It turned out to be the only goal of the match. Rep had made a name for himself. He was a bit of a glamour boy off of the pitch and he was building a reputation as an “enfant terrible” on the pitch. Rep was known to be provoker and was often at the source of “incidents”.
Rep made his debut for Oranje in 1973. A year later, as the team prepared for the World Cup in West Germany, he had established himself in the starting line-up. In the tournament opener against Uruguay, Johnny Rep went into the record books when he became the first Dutchman in forty years, after Kick Smit and Leen Vente in 1934, to score in a World Cup match. His two goals were the only ones of the match and they gave Holland its first ever World Cup victory. He would score two more times during the tournament, once against Bulgaria and once against Argentina. In the Final he was very close to equalising a few times but the contact was never quite there.
Ajax underwent a big break-up after the 1973 title. Each season more players left and by 1975 Johnny Rep followed in the footsteps of Faas Wilkes and signed with Valencia. In the 1976 European Championship, Rep was still on the team in his attacking role. He scored in the Quarter-Final against Belgium, but could not deliver in the last two matches. It was to be only time in which he would not score in the final round of a tournament. In 1978 most of the veterans of the 1974 World Cup came together to form the team for the World Cup adventure in Argentina. At this time Rep was playing for Bastia, the Corsican team in the French first division. Together they had reached the Final of the UEFA Cup that year, but they lost to PSV. Rep showed in Argentina that he had not lost his scoring touch. His most important goal that year was the beauty against Scotland which allowed Holland to move on to the second round. He would score two more against Austria.
As the 1980 European Championship rolled around, Rep and his fellow veterans had a last chance to win an international title. Rep was now playing for St. Etienne, still in the French first division. The tournament in Italy was a disappointment for Holland but Rep did break a new record. In the first round match against West Germany he converted a penalty and became the first Dutchman ever to score in three international tournaments. Willy van de Kerkhof equaled the record a seven minutes later.
Rep retired from the national team shortly after the 1980 European Championship and eighteen tournament appearances. His retirement was not really complete as he appeared in a few matches in Holland’s unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the 1982 World Cup. Amazingly Rep saved his goals for tournaments, he only scored twelve times for Oranje, but two-thirds of those were in an international tournament.