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Van Basten sparks Netherlands joy

Van Basten sparks Netherlands joy
The Dutch players rejoice as they are handed the trophy in 1988 ©Bongarts

After bowing out of the tournament in agonising circumstances in 1984, West Germany expected far greater things when they finally got their chance to stage the UEFA European Championship for the first time in 1988.

Franz Beckenbauer was masterminding their effort for a start, and most neutrals envisaged his side steamrollering the field after reaching their second straight FIFA World Cup final two years earlier. Their lineup looked stronger too, with the injection of newcomers Jürgen Klinsmann, Jürgen Kohler and Thomas Berthold, plus a fit-again Rudi Völler.

Holders France failed to qualify, which left Italy as the one team expected to trouble Germany, and their youthful crop of players including Paolo Maldini and Gianluca Vialli managed just that in the Group 1 curtain-raiser. The two title aspirants contested a 1-1 draw before both went on to beat Denmark and Spain. Superior goal difference placed the hosts top above Italy.

Group 2 contained an England side impressive in qualifying, but their bid began unravelling with a 1-0 defeat to Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland. Ultimately, neither team progressed as the Soviet Union and the Netherlands took the semi-final spots on offer, although the Irish came within eight minutes of a goalless draw with the Dutch that would have seen them progress instead.

Wim Kieft's deflected effort made the difference in that encounter, but the real stars in Rinus Michels' team were the AC Milan trio of Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten. Merely a substitute for their opening 1-0 loss to the USSR, instinctive finisher Van Basten was particularly inspired in the Oranje's next outing, plundering a hat-trick in the crucial 3-1 success over England.

The Soviets matched that result against England and then sunk Italy 2-0 in the semi-finals, with danger-man Oleg Protassov among the goals. But the real sensation unfolded in Hamburg, where the Dutch overcame their German neighbours for the first time in 32 years, despite falling behind to Lothar Matthäus's penalty. Ronald Koeman levelled from the spot and Van Basten converted a late chance to avenge their 1974 FIFA World Cup final loss and earn another crack at the USSR.

Nearly 60% of the Dutch population tuned in to see their heroes succeed in the final where the 'total footballers' of the 1970s had failed. With dreadlocks flailing about him, Gullit headed in the opener before an absolute masterpiece sealed the result. Meeting Arnold Mühren's looping crossfield ball in a seemingly impossible position on the right, Van Basten crashed an acrobatic volley over goalkeeper Rinat Dasaev and just inside the far post. Hans van Breukelen later contributed a penalty save, yet it is that spearing, plunging, schoolboy's dream of a second goal that will forever capture the imagination.

Last updated: 11/04/16 13.12CET


West Germany


The final - 25/06/1988

Did you know?

New fact
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History maker

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Team of the Tournament



  • Netherlands 1988
    Netherlands 1988
  • Sergei Aleinikov (USSR) & Giuseppe Bergomi (Italy)
    Sergei Aleinikov (USSR) & Giuseppe Bergomi (Italy)
  • Marco van Basten (Netherlands) 1988
    Marco van Basten (Netherlands) 1988
  • Rudi Völler (Germany)
    Rudi Völler (Germany)
  • Luigi De Agostini (Italy)
    Luigi De Agostini (Italy)
  • Aleksei Mikhailichenko (USSR)
    Aleksei Mikhailichenko (USSR)
  • Wim Kieft (Netherlands)
    Wim Kieft (Netherlands)
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Also in this year

PSV Eindhoven 1988

European Cup winners: PSV Eindhoven (0-0 aet, 6-5 pens v SL Benfica)

European Footballer of the Year: Marco van Basten (AC Milan)

European Golden Boot winner: Tanju Çolak (Galatasaray AŞ)

Eurovision Song Contest winner: Céline Dion (Switzerland) singing Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi

Ayrton Senna (1988)

Nobel Peace Prize winner: United Nations Peace-Keeping Forces (for their participation in various conflicts since 1956)

Men's Olympic 100m champion: Carl Lewis (United States) running an Olympic record 9.92

Formula 1 world champion: Ayrton Senna (Brazil) driving a McLaren

Oscar for Best Picture: Rain Man

Space shuttle Discovery lift-off (1988)

Key events
27 September – Canada's Ben Johnson sent home from Seoul Olympics after testing positive for a banned substance, three days after setting a new world record of 9.79 in the 100m final

29 September – Discovery space shuttle lifts off from Cape Canaveral, two and a half years after the Challenger disaster

2 December – A cyclone in Bangladesh leaves five million homeless and thousands dead

Nicklas Bendtner (Denmark)

Nicklas Bendtner
Sergio Busquets
Mats Hummels
Nikola Kalinić
Marvin Martin
Juan Mata
Mesut Özil
Ivan Rakitić
Nuri Şahin
Gregory van der Wiel