UEFA Euro 1988, the first and only title of the Dutch National Team
In 1988, the Dutch National Team won its first official title in its history.
The Netherlands is a country that saw the birth of great football stars. Some examples are Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Johan Cruyff, Dennis Bergkamp, Arjen Robben, Edwin van der Sar, among others. However, despite having one of the best national teams in history (clockwork orange), the Dutch National Team cannot boast of being a winning team. They indeed reached 3 FIFA World Cup finals (which is very creditable), but they lost all 3 finals. Despite this, it is incorrect to say that they NEVER won a title. Its first and only title in its history occurred in 1988, 14 years after the historic clockwork orange.
The last UEFA Euro 2020 was played by a total of 24 teams out of 55 participating European teams. But in 1988, this tournament was only played by 8 teams, 7 teams that qualified through qualifiers and the other quota corresponding to the host team. Despite not being a Clockwork Orange, this Dutch team had magnificent players in its ranks such as Ronald Koeman, Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, and Frank Rijkaard, trained by Rinus Michels. This coach is considered the best coach in history according to France Football. He was one of the most prominent European football theorists and strategists of the 20th century, coach of Clockwork Orange, and inventor of total football. This coach won many titles with Ajax and FC Barcelona. However, he still had the thorn of never having won a title with his country's team.
Despite the incredible players, the Netherlands was not a title contender. After failing to qualify for the World Cup in 1982 and 1986, or UEFA Euro 1984, the situation of the national team was critical. That is why the historical Rinus Michels returned, to wake up the sleeping beast. However, the Dutch made their debut at UEFA Euro 1988 with an unexpected 1-0 loss to the Soviet Union. 3 days later, they played against a tough rival, England. That day, Marco van Basten had a dream night and scored a hat trick. That would be the start of the historic tournament played by the AC Milan striker and future Ballon d'Or winner. On the last date, they beat Ireland with a goal from Wim Kieft in the 82nd minute.
With 4 points (2 wins and 1 loss), the team coached by Rinus Michels qualified for the semi-finals. But they qualified second, so in the next round, they would face title contender and host team Germany. This was probably the match of the tournament. The first half ended goalless, but in the second half, Lothar Matthäus (Germany) scored from a penalty in the 55th minute. Nearly 20 minutes later and after multiple Dutch attempts, a German defender brought down the unstoppable van Basten and committed a penalty. After this, defender R. Koeman scored the goal and returned the score to equality. But in the final minute of the match (minute 89), tournament star Marco van Basten received a pass from Jan Wouters and scored the goal of the match. Incredibly, the Netherlands shocked all of Europe and eliminated the host team.
The UEFA Euro 1988 final was played between the Netherlands and the Soviet Union. Interestingly, this tournament would be the last to be played by the USSR, a country that later ceased to exist. This match was not difficult for the orange team, as it was the team that dominated the match from start to finish. In the 32nd minute, with a header, Dutch captain Ruud Gullit scored the first goal of the game. In the second half, in the 54th minute, Marco van Basten scored the best goal of the tournament. The future Ballon d'Or winner received a pass and, from an almost impossible angle, managed to score a historic volley goal. At the end of the match, goalkeeper Hans van Breukelen saved a penalty and sealed the match. Finally, the Dutch national team won its first, and so far only, official title in its history.