HISTORY OF THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP
Holland's Adrie van Tiggelen holds aloft the trophy after his side's 3-0 victory
1988 European Championship
Brilliant Holland at last find international success
Holland deservedly won their first international honour through playing the most enterprising and entertaining football of the whole tournament.
Most of the stars who shone brightest in West Germany wore the orange of the Dutch side and it would have been an injustice had the USSR spoilt the party at the final in Munich.
With more quality players in their squad than any of the other seven competing countries, their superior teamwork, technique and discipline was too much for the teams they faced. However, the Dutch were not the unstoppable machine that many people look back on that side as having been.
They panicked at times and for a twenty minute spell against the Germans in the semi-final, lost their composure completely in the wake of intimidating tactics imposed by their opponents. In addition, the woodwork twice rescued them in their crunch group match against England.
However Holland did possess the man of the tournament in Marco van Basten. Fresh and ready to go having missed most of the season through injury, the AC Milan ace set the competition alight.
His hat trick against England was a display by one of the greatest strikers of his generation playing at the peak of his powers, but his overall work in being the target man in attack,able to hold on to the ball and then distributing to teammates round him, underlined his overall outstanding contribution.
He saved his best goal for the final. Leading by Gullit's first half strike, van Basten struck a glorious volley with his right foot some eight yards from the by-line on the edge of the penalty area which found the top left corner of the net. Simply stunning.
In many ways the Soviet Union were the surprise team of the tournament. They went into the final as the only unbeaten side left and the only one who had scored in as many as four games.
However, for the final they were stretched by injuries and suspensions. In Alexander Zavarov they had one of the true midfield stars of the championships and his industry was a central part of the team.
If Holland were one of the luckiest sides, the Republic of Ireland were undoubtedly the unluckiest. Having effected the perfect smash-and-grab job on England, the Irish led the Soviets until late on and held the Dutch until a viciously swerving header dropped into the Irish net.
The secret behind Jack Charlton's team's success was that they played to their strengths and exposed others' weaknesses.
For England, the championships were massive disappointment. In hindsight it is easy to blame the hot weather and more importantly a virus suffered by Gary Lineker which robbed the frontman of his sharpness which had seen him win the World Cup Golden Boot only two years previously.
However, prior to the tournament, England were confident- having qualified with the fourth best record, Bobby Robson felt that his side had a good chance of going all the way and with Gary Lineker, Bryan Robson, John Barnes, Glenn Hoddle and Terry Butcher in his side, such optimism was justified.
A looping Ray Houghton header saw England get off to the worst start possible, losing 1-0 in the group match that they had to win. Lineker missed several chances and saw one shot fly narrowly over the bar.
Against Holland, England recovered from a van Basten strike through captain Bryan Robson and started to dominate the match.
For twenty minute either side of half time, England were the better side. Then van Basten scored two wonderful goals to knock the stuffing out of Robson's men. In the final game, England showed little fight, went down 3-1 to the USSR and exited the competition without a point.
1988 European Championship - Finals statistics
1988 European Championship - Qualifying statistics