Euro Moments: Van Basten stuns the Soviets with volley heard around the world

The AC Milan forward inspired the Netherlands to their first European Championship win

Euro 1988: Soviet Union 0 Netherlands 2

June 25th, 1988

It was the final of Euro 1988 and the Olympiastadion in Berlin was the venue. Confusion was in the air. The communist enemy that was the Soviet Union had blazed a trail through the tournament and now took to the pitch in the very capital of capitalism. Who could stand up to the Eastern block and save the blushes of Western Europe?

Well that was the task of the Netherlands. The only problem was that they had knocked out the home support’s beloved West Germany in the semi-finals. So who were the locals to get behind? Anyone but the communists was the answer and the beautiful flair and stylishness of the Dutch made that an easy task.


Rinus Michels' side had already lost to the Soviets in their opening group game before beating England and Ireland to advance. After disposing of the hosts in the semi-finals, could the likes of Ronald Koeman, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten lift the Dutch out of the slump that they had suffered since Johan Cruyff and the 1976 team had been so cruelly denied?

Key to that crusade was Marco van Basten. The AC Milan striker, who was just 23 years old at the time, had already put his stamp on the tournament with four goals in the first four games.

The final was a tight affair in Berlin with both sides quite cagey in the opening exchanges, afraid to concede an early goal.

However, the Soviets cracked first after 32 minutes when Ruud Gullit put the Dutch into the lead.

Michels’ side would take that advantage into the break before a moment of magic just short of the hour mark which will be remembered forever.

The evergreen 37-year-old Arnold Muhren ran onto a pass on the left wing after 54 minutes. With his left foot he played a hopeful, floating ball into the box which looked to have evaded everyone else.

It was a punt and a tired punt at that. It shouldn’t have caused the Soviet defence any problems.

And it wouldn’t have...had van Basten not tracked its flight the whole way across the box towards the back post.

With the ball dropping towards the byline and at a seeminlgy impossible, tight angle, van Basten met it. With a swish of his right foot he connected perfectly with the Adidas Tango football to fire a ferocious volley over the head of Soviet goalkeeper Rinat Dasayev and into the far top corner.

It was a goal worthy of any occasion, and not least the final of a major international tournament.

The reaction of Rinus Michels on the Dutch bench indicated just how unbelivable a goal it was. The manager jumped up from his seat but instead of celebrating he simply walked forward, hand over his mouth as if cast into a daze by the moment of genius he had just witnessed.

With that the Soviets were beaten and the Netherlands lifted their first – and to date only – major tournament.

Ruaidhrí Croke

Ruaidhrí Croke

Ruaidhrí Croke is a sports journalist with The Irish Times