In a dramatic end to the semi-final, the Netherlands rallied after falling behind to Lothar Matthäus's second-half penalty, thanks to goals by Ronald Koeman, also from 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. Hans van Breukelen, for example, had watched that game as a 17-year-old in an orange shirt: "It was one of my motivations 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, though there was no shortage of tumbles in and around the penalty area.
Ten minutes after the interval one proved telling as Jürgen Klinsmann was upended by Frank Rijkaard. Matthäus beat Van Breukelen as Franz Beckenbauer' side took the lead against the run of play. But, after firing two long-range efforts just over, Ronald Koeman got the chance to level 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 Netherlands, who had dominated the second period, came forward for one last hurrah. The impressive Jan Wouters found space and sent another searching ball to Van Basten, who ran across Kohler and hooked the ball at full stretch across Eike Immel and low into the far corner.
The Netherlands had at last beaten West Germany – for the first time in 32 years – to book a date in Munich four days later to face the Soviet Union. It was a day so special a poetry book was published in its honour.