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Euro 1988: The Dutch Master Marco van Basten

Euro 1988: The Dutch Master Marco van Basten

At Euro 1988, the Dutch master Marco van Basten helped the Netherlands win its first major trophy. The Oranje had been the nearly men of international football until the 1988 Euros. The brilliant team of the 1970s had been runners-up at the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals.

The Dutch Master Marco Van Basten, One of Four Dutch Greats

Rinus Michels’ Happier Time In Munich

In the genius Johan Cruyff, in 1974, the Dutch had a player who is arguably the greatest European footballer of all time. But, for manager Rinus Michels and his team, it was to be a bitter defeat to West Germany in the World Cup final in Munich. Fourteen years later Michels would oversee another Netherlands team in another major final – again in Munich.

Read More: Michel Platini: The Unstoppable French Midfielder at Euro 1984

In the 1988 Euros in West Germany, the Netherlands had world-class players in Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. That trio would find success in a great AC Milan side that would win the European Cup in 1989 and 1990. A fourth world-class player was Ronald Koeman. He would score the winning goal at Wembley in 1992 to land Barcelona its first European Cup. Barca’s manager? Johan Cruyff. In his second spell as national manager, Koeman will be in charge of the Dutch at Euro 2024.

The Three Lions Bewitched By Van Basten Magic

In West Germany, Van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard and Koeman were the core of the Dutch side. It was a side that seemed determined to make up for past disappointments. In veteran midfielder Arnold Mühren, they had a player on the fringes of the great Netherlands side of the ’70s. He would only be too aware of what winning a European Championship would mean to Oranje supporters – and past team-mates.

Read More: Netherlands Euro 2024: Looking at Three Key Players

Against England in a Group 2 game, Marco van Basten tore the Three Lions to shreds with a hat-trick in Düsseldorf. It announced van Basten’s arrival as a player of true world-class. It was also a much-needed return to form for the Dutch, who had lost their opening group game to the Soviet Union by a single goal.

Tables Turned On West Germany

In their third group game, the Netherlands needed a late goal from Wim Kieft to secure victory against the Republic of Ireland. The Irish had been the surprise packet of the tournament with a win against England and a draw against the Soviets.

Read More: Frenkie De Jong Ruled Out Of Euro 2024: Assessing The Netherlands Midfield

In the semi-finals, hosts West Germany were undone 2-1 by a late goal by the Dutch after taking the lead. It would be their star man, van Basten, who would secure a spot in the final for the Netherlands. After defeat against West Germany by the same score in the ’74 World Cup final in Munich, this victory must have tasted very sweet for the Oranje.

A Wonder Goal Creates History For The Dutch

It would be the Soviet Union who would line up against the Netherlands in the final in Munich. Though the Soviets had beaten them in a group game, the Dutch were now in excellent form. They were the favourites against a good, if limited Soviet Union side.

In the final, dreadlocked Dutch captain Gullit headed the Netherlands ahead in the first half. But the best was yet to come. In the second period, a long diagonal ball from Arnold Mühren was aimed at Marco van Basten. A goal attempt seemed fanciful. But, with his right foot, and from an acute angle, the striker volleyed in one of the most memorable goals in international football history.

It was a goal memorable for the sublime skill involved, but to score such a great goal in a major final was sensational. The Soviet goalkeeper, Rinat Dasayev, maybe the best ‘keeper in the world at the time, was left completely helpless by the power and placement of Van Basten’s strike.

Euro 1988 Remains The Greatest Football Moment For Netherlands Fans

The Netherlands beat the Soviet Union 2-0 to win their first major international title. It seemed like they could win the World Cup in Italy two years later. But Van Basten, being not at his best after an injury lay-off damaged their hopes. A Round of 16 defeat to West Germany ended in rancour and Frank Rijkaard was red-carded. Winning Euro 1988 will never be forgotten by Oranje supporters, and it remains the greatest moment for the Dutch national side.


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