West Germany 1-2 Netherlands
(Matthäus 55; Koeman 74, Van Basten 88)
Hamburg, 21 June 1988
In a dramatic ending to this semi-final, the Netherlands rallied after falling behind to Lothar Matthäus's second-half penalty, thanks to goals by Ronald Koeman, also a spot kick, and the irrepressible Marco van Basten, two minutes from time, to stun hosts West Germany and take the Oranje into a UEFA European Championship final for the first time.
Anyone who tried to pretend this was not a rematch of the 1974 FIFA World Cup final – also held on German soil – would not have found much agreement in the Dutch camp. Goalkeeper Hans van Breukelen, for example, had watched that match as a 17-year-old in an orange shirt: "It was one of my motivations in '88 not to lose again. I think the whole team had that kind of feeling – we have to beat them this time."
West Germany tried to subdue Rinus Michaels's side by putting Ulrich Borowka on Ruud Gullit, but the Oranje captain had one of his better games, as did Van Basten, buoyed by his hat-trick against England. Even so, hardly a chance was made in the first half, while plenty of tumbles in and around the penalty area were witnessed.
Franz Beckenbauer's team took the lead against the run of play when Jürgen Klinsmann was upended by Frank Rijkaard ten minutes after the interval, enabling Matthäus to beat Van Breukelen. Yet, after firing two long-range efforts just over, Koeman got the opportunity to level matters when Jürgen Kohler was adjudged to have fouled Van Basten. The PSV Eindhoven sweeper made no mistake.
With the match heading for extra time the Dutch, who had dominated the second period, came forward for one last hurrah. The impressive Jan Wouters, in metres of space, sent another searching ball to Van Basten, who ran across the face of Kohler and hooked the ball at full stretch back across Eike Immel and low into the far corner. The Netherlands had at last beaten West Germany for the first time in 32 years.
What happened next?
Van Basten was not yet done and his glorious volley, after Gullit had broken the deadlock, gave the Netherlands a 2-0 win against USSR and their first major tournament success. At the World Cup two years later, however, an improving West Germany would gain their revenge by overcoming the Oranje 2-1 en route to their third world crown, to which they would add a third European title at EURO '96.
The Netherlands have yet to match the glory of 1988, although they would reach the last four at the UEFA European Championships of 1992, 2000 and 2004, twice going out on penalties. Spot kicks also condemned them against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup semi-finals, before the Dutch were spared a similar fate in the 2010 World Cup final when they conceded Spain midfielder Andrés Iniesta's extra-time winner.
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