Dennis Bergkamp's famous goal for Netherlands against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup encapsulated not only the extraordinary elegance of the player himself, but also the essence of Dutch football.

Ahead of the sides' reunion in the World Cup semifinals in Sao Paolo on Wednesday, the goal stands as a monument to the twin Dutch obsessions of technique and the rapid exploitation of space.

The score was 1-1 in the quarterfinal match in a sun-soaked Marseille and both teams were down to 10 men when Dutch captain Frank de Boer launched a high 70-yard pass forward in the 90th minute.

After haring into the box down the inside-right channel, Bergkamp, then 29, leapt high into the air to meet the ball with his right foot, effortlessly bringing it down.

"You've got to be as still as possible, as if you are standing still, but in the air, and controlling the ball," Bergkamp explained to writer David Winner in a 2013 interview in football journal The Blizzard.

"I didn't realise how high in the air I was. But you know you want that ball in that position. Not there, but here. So you have to jump up to meet the ball."

As Argentine centre-back Roberto Ayala charged across to address the danger, Bergkamp cut inside him with his right foot and then, again with his right foot, bent a glorious shot past goalkeeper Carlos Roa and into the top-left corner.

Three touches, one unforgettable goal.

"You're in that moment," Bergkamp added. "That's the feeling. After the first two touches, that moment! You give absolutely everything. It's like your life has led up to this moment."

As the orange-clad fans behind the goal erupted in jubilation, Bergkamp put his face in his hands, as if scarcely able to believe what he had achieved, before falling flat on his back in the grass.

The moment was captured by Dutch radio commentator Jack van Gelder, who reacted to the goal by screaming Bergkamp's name five times — his voice quaking with emotion — before uttering a low, guttural howl.

"You never play the perfect game," Bergkamp said. "But the moment itself was, I think, perfect."

The goal was to prove the high point for a richly talented generation that also included Edwin van der Sar, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Marc Overmars and Patrick Kluivert. The Dutch won the match 2-1, but lost on penalties to Brazil in the semi-finals.

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