The 1988 UEFA European Championship concluded pretty much as it had begun, with a meeting between the Soviet Union and the Netherlands – on-song Marco van Basten ensured there would be no repeat of the USSR's group stage triumph, though.
Van Basten was left out of the 1-0 defeat, but had become the first name on the team sheet since and was at his inspirational best in the Munich final. His gravity-defying header set up Ruud Gullit for the opener before a moment of poise and class that will inspire admirations for decades to come, lashing in a stunning volley from the acutest of angles. It sealed a 2-0 victory and the Oranje's long-awaited first major title.
A final packed with players of the highest class – eight of them from FC Dynamo Kyiv – was slow coming to life. For the Soviet Union it never really did, from the moment Gennadiy Litovchenko beat a man but hit his shot straight at Hans van Breukelen. Within two minutes the Netherlands were in front.
Erwin Koeman took a corner on the right; when it was headed out, he crossed to the far post. With the defence coming out to play offside, Van Basten craned his neck to square towards the unmarked Gullit, whose own header beat Rinat Dasayev for power rather than accuracy. The game went back into its shell, with few real chances – but how the Dutch took theirs on 54 minutes.
A bad touch by Olexandr Zavarov allowed Adri van Tiggelen to intercept and feed Arnold Mühren, playing his last international match, wide on the left. His instant high cross went deep across the Soviet penalty area and when the ball reached him, Van Basten was eight metres from goal and only five or six from the right-hand goal line, with no obvious option except a cross towards Gullit.
Instead, full of confidence, he hit an astonishing top-spin volley over the head of the best goalkeeper in Europe and just inside the far post. Even the 'neutral' West Germans, whose own aspirations were ended by the Netherlands in the last four, rose at the Olympiastadion to applaud; yet to their credit the USSR refused to lie down.
They could have halved the deficit when Van Breukelen needlessly brought down Sergey Gotsmanov. The goalkeeper made amends, as 1986 European Footballer of the Year Igor Belanov's long run-up did more to upset his own rhythm than terrify Van Breukelen, who blocked the low shot.
A month earlier, his penalty save had won the European Champion Clubs' Cup for PSV Eindhoven. This time he had to make do with a key support role in the Van Basten show.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.