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Classics: Soviet Union vs Netherlands, 1988

Get all the background to the EURO '88 final here before watching the showpiece in full on UEFA.tv.

Two-time FIFA World Cup final losers in the 1970s, the Netherlands took on the Soviet Union in the final of the 1988 UEFA European Championship eager to prove they had steel as well as style.

WATCH IN FULL ON UEFA.tv


Context

1988 semi-final highlights: Netherlands 2-1 West Germany
1988 semi-final highlights: Netherlands 2-1 West Germany

Rinus Michels was furious after his side lost 1-0 to Valeriy Lobanovskiy's methodical USSR in the first game of the 1988 finals. "As a team, we are too soft," he said. "Not winners. We were losing the game and in the second half we only made four fouls. That is highly unprofessional." They had toughened up considerably by the time the teams met again in the final, the Oranje's semi-final victory over hosts Germany ensuring they were on cloud nine going into the rematch in Munich.

Key players

Marco van Basten: AC Milan won Serie A in Van Basten's first season in Italy, albeit his own 1987/88 campaign had been interrupted by niggling ankle injuries. The elegant striker made up for some lost time with four goals in his first four games at the 1988 finals.

Oleh Protasov: If the USSR lacked star quality (not a single member of their squad featured in the official 1988 Team of the Tournament), Lobanovskiy's football machine hinged on expert technicians like the Dynamo Kyiv forward, who struck twice en route to the decider.

Watch the best goals of EURO 1988
Watch the best goals of EURO 1988

Ruud Gullit: The Dutch captain left PSV Eindhoven for Milan in 1987 – the year he won the Ballon d'Or. The versatile attacking midfielder was fielded as an out-and-out forward at EURO '88, his mix of flair and power a fair reflection of his side's ethos.

What happened

Presented with an opportunity on the half-hour, Gennadiy Litovchenko shot straight at Hans van Breukelen, and it was all swiftly downhill from there for the USSR. Within two minutes, Van Basten had nodded Erwin Koeman's corner back to the unmarked Gullit, whose header beat Rinat Dasayev for power.

Arnold Mühren's cross on 54 minutes then led to one of the most famous goals in EURO history, Van Basten meeting it with an astonishing top-spin volley back over the head of Dasayev and just inside the far post. The USSR had chances to get back into it, not least when Van Breukelen brought down Sergei Gotsmanov in the box. The goalkeeper made amends, saving Igor Belanov's low-struck penalty.

Reaction

Great Netherlands EURO goals
Great Netherlands EURO goals

Marco van Basten, Netherlands forward: "Everything went well. It [the goal] is one of those things that sometimes just happens. You try to do it, but you need so much luck and at that moment it was given to me, to do it at the right time. That was the moment where we could say: 'It is 2-0, we can win this game.' But the excitement about the goal, I did not really understand it and what I did. You can also see that in my reaction. I am asking: 'What is happening?'"

Ruud Gullit, Netherlands midfielder: "He [Van Basten] could hit another million balls like these but he will never score a goal like that again. Never ever. So it's almost like you know this is your time. Sometimes you ask yourself, how did it happen? But it did and that’s the beauty of football. And the emotions that you feel, it’s like you're on a cloud or something. [When you get your hands on the trophy] that is the moment you really understand it – that you have it. And still, you are in a film."

Rinus Michels, Netherlands coach: "We won the tournament, but we all know that the semi-final was the real final."

Aftermath

Watch Van Basten's five EURO 1988 goals
Watch Van Basten's five EURO 1988 goals

Some 60% of the Dutch population watched the final, and skipper Gullit was unprepared for the welcome his side would receive when they came home with the Netherlands’ first major trophy. "We didn't realise what happened in Holland, without the internet, no mobiles – nothing," he told UEFA.com "When we arrived in Holland, we went from Eindhoven all the way to Amsterdam in a bus. The whole highway – that’s something like, maybe, 100km – was packed with people."

A further million people lined Amsterdam's canals as the Netherlands paraded their trophy on a barge. Houseboats reportedly sank under the weight of people dancing on the roofs. It remains the only major trophy that the Oranje have won, while the Soviet Union remain the only team to have lost three UEFA European Championship finals.

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