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USSR's Rats rattles Netherlands in EURO 1988 Group 2 opener

Netherlands 0-1 USSR
Fancied to go all the way, the Dutch were condemned to defeat by Vasiliy Rats' 52nd-minute opener.

Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko takes on the Dutch
Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko takes on the Dutch Icon Sport via Getty Images

The Netherlands may have been many people's favourites for the tournament, but a Soviet Union team with Valeriy Lobonovskiy at the helm was never likely to be one to bow to reputation.

Lobonovskiy's Dynamo Kyiv sides had played brilliant football to lift the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1986, and as far back as 1975, winning the final 3-0 on both occasions, but it was a different approach which reaped reward this time. Though seven minutes after half-time that Vasiliy Rats struck the only goal of this Group 2 opener, it was the opening period which laid the foundation for such an impressive success.

EURO 1988: All you need to know

Rinat Dasaev pulled off a string of fine saves prior to the interval, but Lobonovskiy's strategy of packing the midfield, thus reducing the Dutch to a long-ball game so alien to them, had the most telling impact. Job done in the first half, two of the USSR's very own splendid talents then came to the fore.

The Netherlands' John Bosman is pursued by Anatoliy Demyanenko
The Netherlands' John Bosman is pursued by Anatoliy DemyanenkoIcon Sport via Getty Images

Rats and Ihor Belanov, who had scored spectacular goals in the last FIFA World Cup, combined for the only one in Cologne. Rats hit a long ball, Belanov drew the defence to the left, and his reverse pass was volleyed low into the far corner.

Marco van Basten went on to make an impact on the tournament but was not an automatic choice at this juncture, with John Bosman, who had scored heavily in the qualifiers, preferred. Rinus Michels did turn to Van Basten just before the hour, though, and it was the AC Milan striker who went closest to claiming an equaliser when he headed against the bar with seven minutes remaining.

EURO 1988: Team of the Tournament


Ruud Gullit and Rinat Dasaev exchange pennants
Ruud Gullit and Rinat Dasaev exchange pennantsIcon Sport via Getty Images

Netherlands: Van Breukelen; Van Tiggelen, Ronald Koeman, Rijkaard, Van Aerle; Van’t Schip, Mühren, Wouters, Vanenburg (Van Basten 59); Bosman, Gullit (c)
Substitutes: Troost, Erwin Koeman, Hiele, Suvrijn
Coach: Rinus Michels

USSR: Dasaev (c); Demyanenko, Khidiyatullin, Kuznetsov, Bessonov; Rats, Lytovchenko, Mykhaylychenko, Zavarov (Sulakvelidze 90); Protasov (Aleynikov 82), Belanov
Substitutes: Sukristovas, Chanov, Baltacha
Coach: Valeriy Lobanovskiy

Referee: Dieter Pauly (West Germany)