Blast from the Past – Euro 1988 Final: USSR 0-2 Netherlands

This edition of Blast from the Past relives the tense and tight Final clash between USSR and The Netherlands in the 1988 European Championships...

  0-2 R. Gullit  32'
M. Van Basten 54'


The eighth UEFA European Football Championship final tournament was held in West Germany. Euro 88 was a rare incidence of a major football tournament ending without a single sending-off or a goalless draw, nor any knockout matches going to extra time or penalties.

Olympiastadion, Munich

The Group Stages did not provide any major upsets and it was the Netherlands who were to square off with the Soviet Union in the Finals. The finalists had already met in the group stages with the USSR winning a tight game 1-0.

This was to be the last Championship Soviet Union as a nation would be participating in.

The final was a similar tense affair and not a great spectacle, truth be told, but the difference between the two matches was Holland’s sensational striker Marco Van Basten.

A final packed with players of the highest class – eight of them from FC Dynamo Kyiv – was slowly coming to life. For the first quarter of the game, nothing really happened as both sides looked for opportunities but the defenses of both units were strong. 

In one of those rare chances Netherlands had, Erwin Koeman took a corner on the right; and when it was headed out, he crossed to the far post. With the defense coming out to play offside, Van Basten craned his neck to square towards the unmarked Gullit, whose own header beat Rinat Dasayev for power rather than accuracy. It gave Netherlands the one goal advantage they needed.

Gullit Scores the Opener in the Final Against Soviet Union

You would have thought that the final would now become interesting and fast paced but it was never to be. The game went back into its shell, with few real chances, until one man decided to make things completely different in the 54th minute.

A bad touch by Olexandr Zavarov allowed Adri van Tiggelen to intercept and feed Arnold Mühren, who was 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 metres from the right-hand goal line, with no obvious option except a cross towards Gullit.

What followed thereafter is regarded as ONE OF THE GREATEST GOALS in the history of European Championships!It is the goal that made this match legendary and a goal that was never to be matched in a final again. 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.

Van Basten celebrates after scoring a wonderful goal

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.

Soon thereafter, USSR had the chance to bring down the deficit to half when Sergey Gotsmanov was brought down in the penalty area. The goalkeeper made amends, as 1986 European Footballer of the Year, Igor Belanov's long run-up proved fatal with the custodian blocking the low shot. A month earlier to that, his 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.

Netherlands- 1988 Euro Champions

Netherlands went on to win the game 2-0 and lift the Championship for the only time in their history. The match will not really be remembered for the tense and tight affair and the boring scoreline, but what made it a EURO Thriller was the one man show  by the legendary Marco Van Basten and his thunderous top-spin volley!!

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