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Van Basten volley crowns Netherlands' EURO 1988 final win against USSR

USSR 0-2 Netherlands
Marco van Basten's incredible volley sealed the Oranje's long-awaited first major title.

EURO 1988 final highlights: Netherlands 2-0 USSR

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 that 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 admiration 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.

EURO 1988: All you need to know

A final packed with players of the highest class – eight of them from Dynamo Kyiv – took a while to spark into life. Hennadiy Lytovchenko beat his marker before hitting his shot straight at Hans van Breukelen, but within two minutes the Netherlands were in front.

Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten celebrate the Netherlands' opener
Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten celebrate the Netherlands' openerPopperfoto via Getty Images

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 Dasaev. Chances were few and far between thereafter, but the Dutch doubled their advantage in truly spectacular fashion on 54 minutes.

A loose touch by Oleksandr 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.

Hans van Breukelen saves at the feet of Oleg Protasov
Hans van Breukelen saves at the feet of Oleg ProtasovVI-Images via Getty Images

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 brought down Sergei Gotsmanov, but the goalkeeper made amends by blocking 1986 European Footballer of the Year Igor Belanov's low shot. A month earlier, Van Breukelen's 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.


Watch Van Basten's five EURO 1988 goals

Marco van Basten, Netherlands forward: "It was in the second half and I was a little tired. The ball came from Arnold Mühren and I was thinking, OK, I can stop it and do things with all these defensive players or I could do it the more easy way, take a risk and shoot. You know, you need a lot of luck with a shot like that. Everything went well. It 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.

"I can tell a lot of stories, but it was just a fantastic feeling. I have to be happy and thankful that such a moment was given to me and to Holland. 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?'"

EURO 1988: Team of the Tournament


The Netherlands line up before the 1988  EURO final
The Netherlands line up before the 1988 EURO finalPopperfoto via Getty Images

USSR: Dasaev (c); Rats, Khidiyatullin, Aleynikov, Demyanenko; Gotsmanov (Baltacha 68), Mykhaylychenko, Zavarov, Lytovchenko; Belanov, Protasov (Pasulko 71)
Substitutes: Sukristovas, Sulakvelidze, Chanov
Coach: Valeriy Lobanovskyi

Netherlands: Van Breukelen; Van Tiggelen, R Koeman, Rijkaard, Van Aerle; E Koeman, Mühren, Wouters, Vanenburg; Van Basten, Gullit (c)
Substitutes: Bosman, Van't Schip, Kieft, Hiele, Suvrijn
Coach: Rinus Michels

Referee: Michel Vautrot (France)