EURO 1988: Marco van Basten’s golden boot

In the 1988 final of the European Championship it was the Republic of Ireland who gave the most surprises, the USSR shown impressive display but it was the Netherlands, courtesy of the fine Marco van Basten, who scored one of the best goals in history to clinch the title for the Dutch side. The then AC Milan forward inspired the Netherlands to their first European Championship win.

The tenth edition of the UEFA European Championship featured an eight-team group stage (two groups of four teams) with the group winners – West Germany and the Soviet Union – faced the runners-up from the other groups in the semi-finals, which are the Netherlands and Italy. There was no third-place play-off. West Germany qualified for the finals automatically as hosts.

The architect of ‘Total Football’, the ex-Ajax striker RinusMichels won three European Cups with the Amsterdam club prior to taking his philosophy to Barcelona. He led the Netherlands to EURO glory in the third of his four spells in charge of the national side. Michels’ charge includes the lethal force of Marco van Basten along with fellow Dutch compatriots Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit.

The Netherlands were hopefuls of their maiden trophy, with thethen 23-year-old AC Milan striker, who had just returned from injury and had to sit out the first game as Netherland lost to the Soviets in their opening group game. Following the lost, theyhad beaten England, with van Basten’s hat-trick, and Ireland to advance in the semis facing the host nation. 

A rematch of the 1974 World Cup final happened with West Germany taking over the Netherlands. The hosts, who had not lost to their neighbours since 1956 got the lead through LotharMatthaus but Ronald Koeman equalized the match in the 74th minute. Then, as extra time was called, Jan Wouters managed to slip a through ball into the path on Van Basten and book a meeting with USSR in the final. 

It was one of the most star studded final in the Euro history,which took place at Munich’s Olympiastadion and contested by players who were either all-time greats or at peak of their careers. The Soviets, who were playing in their last ever European Championship, were behind the Dutch with Ruud Gullit, whose own header beat Rinat Dassaev, taking the lead. 

Meanwhile, Marco van Basten hit an astonishing top-spin volley over the head of the best goalkeeper in Europe. It became one of the best goals scored in a Euros final and the greatest single strike in any top-level final. Not only did it secure the Netherlands their first ever major title, that goal also won him the Golden Boot for the tournament and became a timeless symbol of footballing culture.

In August 1995, he announced his retirement as a player after two whole years on sidelines following an ankle injury had halted his career. In July 2004, van Basten was named as manager of the Dutch national team where he led his team to the semifinals of the Euro 2008. Recently, SC Heerenveen was headed by van Basten for the 2012-12 season.