Despite not even playing in the Dutch team’s opening game at the Euro ’88 championship in West-Germany, 23-year-old Marco van Basten went on to become the leading scorer of the tournament and one of the top names in soccer.
Among his goals at the event was a hat-trick against England, but it was a dipping volley from a nearly impossible angle in the 54th minute of the final against the Soviet Union that went down in history as one of the greatest goals of all time. Rather than with a penalty kick or a goal mouth scramble, this really is the way a major international tournament should be won.
About the goal Van Basten said:
"It was in the second half and I was a little tired. The ball came from Arnold Mühren and I was thinking, okay, I can stop it and do things with all these defensive players or I could do it the more easy way, take a risk and shoot. You know, you need a lot of luck with a shot like that. Everything went well. It is one of those things that sometimes just happens. You try to do it, but you need so much luck and at that moment it was given to me, to do it at the right time.
I can tell a lot of stories, but it was just a fantastic feeling. I have to be happy and thankful that such a moment was given to me and to Holland. That was the moment where we could say: 'It is 2-0, we can win this game'. But the excitement about the goal, I did not really understand it and what I did. You can also see that in my reaction. I am asking: 'What is happening?'"
Van Basten continued to make a name for himself throughout his career, scoring 277 goals and becoming one of the all-time greatest players. As well as being FIFA World Player of the Year in 1992, he was also named European Soccer Player of the Year in 1988, 1989 and 1992. His playing career is perfectly encapsulated in that winning goal at the European championship in 1988, where his skill, timing, courage and a bit of luck fused into a shot that epitomizes why soccer is called ‘the beautiful game’.
For much more on the history of the Dutch national soccer team, read Issue 17, of Dutch the magazine.
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