The eighth European Championships were held in West Germany. This was the second time the country had held a major international tournament after hosting the 1974 World Cup. They won that tournament and hopes were high of a repeat performance this time round.
After the successful addition of a Semi-Final stage four years previously, UEFA decided not to tinker with the format. The eight qualifiers were drawn into the following groups;
GROUP A: West Germany, Italy, Denmark, Spain
GROUP B: England, Republic of Ireland, Netherlands, USSR
England, Italy and Netherlands all missed the 1984 tournament and were desperate to make an impression this time. Republic of Ireland were in a major tournament for the first time.
The tournament will be remembered for the Dutch finally succeeded in a major international competition. Runners-up in the World Cups of 1974 and 1978, they went one better this time. The hosts expected to win, but fell at the Semis and USSR were the surprise of the tournament.
10 June 1988, Rheindstadion, Dusseldorf, 62,552
WEST GERMANY (0) 1 (Brehme 55)
ITALY (0) 1 (Mancini 52)
West Germany: Immel; Buchwald, Kohler, Herget, Brehme (Eckstein); Littbarski, Matthaus, Thon, Berthold; Voller (Borowka), Klinsmann
Italy: Zenga; Ferri, F Baresi, Bergomi, Maldini; De Napoli (Altobelli), Ancelotti, Giannini, Donadoni; Mancini, Vialli (De Agostini)
The opening game in Dusseldorf was a potential classic, a repeat of the 1982 World Cup Final. It was no classic but a hard-fought game. No goals in the first 45 minutes but soon after the re-start, an error in the German defence saw Donadoni set Roberto Mancini free on the right and his low shot put Italy in front. It was Mancini’s first international goal. But the lead lasted for just three minutes when Zenga, the Italian keeper, was penalised for taking too many steps whilst holding the ball. The free-kick was passed to Andreas Brehme and his deflected goal levelled things up for the home side. The Italians seemed to settle for a draw and so the two shared the spoils.
11 June 1988, Niedersachsenstadion, Hanover, 55,707
DENMARK (1) 2 (Laudrup 24, Poulsen 82)
SPAIN (1) 3 (Michel 5, Butragueno 52, Gordillo 67)
Denmark: Rasmussen; Sivabaek, Busk, M Olsen (L Olsen), Nielsen; Heintze, Helt (Jensen), Lerby; Laudrup, Poulsen, Elkjaer
Spain: Zubizarreta; Renones, Munoz, Andrinua, Camacho; Sanchis, Gallego, Bakero, Gordillo; Butragueno, Michel
This was a repeat of the 1984 Semi-Final when Spain won after a shootout. Spain had also thrashed the Danes, 5-1 in the Second Round of the 1986 World Cup. They took an early lead this time round when Michel put them in front after just five minutes. Michael Laudrup equalised twenty minutes later with a fine goal. Michel then missed an opportunity to put Spain back in front when he missed a penalty. They weren’t deterred as Butragueno made no mistake soon after, although there was a hint of offside. On sixty seven minutes, Gordillo curled a free-kick into the net and Spain were now 3-1 up. Flemming Povlsen then got a consolation, but it was purely that and Spain had got off to a great start.
14th June 1988, Parkstadion, Gelsenkirchen, 64,812
WEST GERMANY (1) 2 (Klinsmann 10, Thon 85)
DENMARK (0) 0
West Germany: Immel; Buchwald (Borowka), Kohler, Herget, Brehme; Litbarski, Matthaus, Thon, Rolff; Voller (Mill), Klinsmann
Denmark: Schmeichel; Sivebaek, M Olsen, L Olsen, Nielsen; Vilfort (Berggreen), Heintze, Lerby; Laudrup (Eriksen), Elkjaer, Poulsen
Four days after their first game, the hosts travelled to Gelsenkirchen to meet Denmark. The Danes needed to bounce back after their opening defeat, but things started badly when Jurgen Klinnsmann put the home side in front in the opening ten minutes. Although the Germans were well in control, Denmark were technically still in the game with five minutes to go, but Olaf Thon headed in Littbarski’s corner and West Germany were up and running with their first win of the tournament. For Denmark it was the bus home.
14 June 1988, Waldstadion, Frankfurt, 47,506
ITALY (0) 1 (Vialli 73)
SPAIN (0) 0
Italy: Zenga; Ferri, F Baresi, Bergomi, Maldini; De Napoli, Ancelotti, Giannini, Donadoni; Mancini (Altobelli), Vialli (De Agostini)
Spain: Zubizarreta; Renones, Andrinua, Munoz, Sanchis; Bakero, Gallego (Vazquez), Soler, Gordillo; Butragueno, Michel (Bergiristain)
In Frankfurt, Italy and Spain fought a tight battle with neither side prepared to give an inch. These two sides met in the 1986 Under-21 European Championships and Spain won on penalties. Seventeen players who were on show that day, were in opposition again. The game was decided by a goal in the 73rd minute from Gianluca Vialli. Italy now joined West Germany as the only unbeaten sides in the group. Spain would need to beat the Germans in their final game to go through.
17 June 1988, Olympiastadion, Munich, 63,802
WEST GERMANY (1) 2 (Voller 29, 51)
SPAIN (0) 0
West Germany: Immel; Brehme, Kohler, Herget, Borowka; Littbarski (Wuttke), Matthaus, Thon, Rolff; Voller, Klinsmann (Mill)
Spain: Zubizarreta; Renones, Andrinua, Munoz, Camacho; Sanchis, Bakero, Gordillo, Vazquez; Butragueno (Salinas), Michel
In Munich, West Germany put together their best performance of the tournament so far. Rudi Voller scored both goals in this win. They didn’t find out they’d won the group until the final whistle, but then they only had themselves to blame after their ‘arrangement’ with Austria in 1982.
17 June 1988, Mungersdorfer Stadion, Cologne, 53,951
ITALY (0) 2 (Altobelli 67, De Agostini 87)
DENMARK (0) 0
Italy: Zenga; Ferri, F Baresi, Bergomi, Maldini; De Napoli, Ancelotti, Giannini, Donadoni (De Agostini); Mancini (Altobelli), Vialli
Denmark: Schmeichel; Heintze, M Olsen (Bergreen), L Olsen, Nielsen; Frimann (Vilfort), Jensen, Kristensen; Laudrup, Poulsen, Eriksen
Italy compounded Denmark’s misery in Cologne when they brushed them aside with goals from Altobelli and De Agostini. With the Germans winning 2-0 against Spain, Italy needed to win by three goals, but they’d done enough to get to the Semi-Finals.
12 June 1988, Neckarstadion, Stuttgart, 51,373
ENGLAND (0) 0
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (1) 1 (Houghton 6)
England: Shilton; Stevens, Wright, Adams, Sansom; Waddle, Webb (Hoddle), Robson; Beardsley (Hateley), Lineker, Barnes
Rep Ireland: Bonner; Morris, Moran, McCarthy, Hughton; Houghton, McGrath, Whelan, Galvin (Sheedy); Aldridge, Stapleton (Quinn)
This was an eagerly anticipated meeting as England looked to get their campaign off to a good start against a side making their first appearance in the competition. Ireland were managed by Jack Charlton, a member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning side. Six minutes in and a long ball into England’s penalty area, saw Kenny Sansom make a mess of the clearance and Ray Houghton’s header looped over Peter Shilton, and against the odds the Irish were in front.
England then spent the remainder of the game laying siege to the Irish goal but Packy Bonner was in fine form and made a string of fine saves to thwart Lineker, Barnes and Beardsley. In the end, the Irish hung on to claim a famous victory and England now knew they had an uphill task.
12 June 1988, Mungersdorfer Stadion, Cologne, 54,336
NETHERLANDS (0) 0
USSR (0) 1 (Rats 52)
Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Tiggelen, R Koeman, Rijkaard, van Aerle; van’t Schip, Bosman, Wouters, Muhren; Gullit, Vanenberg (van Basten)
USSR: Dasaev; Besonov, Demianenko, Kuznetsov, Khidiyatullin; Protasov, Belanov (Aleinikov), Zavarov (Sulakvelidze), Lytovchenko; Rats, Mikhailychenko
After England’s defeat earlier in the day, the Dutch could claim an early advantage. Having missed the 1982 and 1986 World Cups as well as the 1984 European Championships, the Dutch were keen to make an impression this time round. After a goalless first period the game changed when Rats and Belanov combined to put Rats through and he opened the scoring. The Dutch then reverted to the long ball to try and find a way back into the game, but the Russians held on and the second upset of the day was complete.
15 June 1988, Rheinstadion, Dusseldorf, 63,940
ENGLAND (0) 1 (Robson 58)
NETHERLANDS (1) 3 (van Basten 44, 71, 75)
England: Shilton; Stevens, Wright, Adams, Sansom; Steven (Waddle), Robson, Hoddle; Beardsley (Hateley), Lineker, Barnes
Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Tiggelen, R Koeman, Rijkaard, van Aerle; E Koeman, Wouters, Muhren; Vanenberg (Kieft), Gullit, van Basten (Suvrijn)
England moved on to Dusseldorf to a game against the Dutch which neither side could afford to lose. England started brightly and both Lineker and Hoddle hit the woodwork, but with a minute to go before half-time Marco van Basten put Netherlands in front.
Early in the 2nd half, Bryan Robson and Gary Lineker exchanged passes and Robson’s shot rebounded off the keeper and back onto Robson and into the net. The England fans went wild, and hoped their side were galvanised into a achieving a vital win. But the game was level until the 71st minute when van Basten scored his 2nd of the game. The Rheinstadion was a sea of orange and the Dutch victory was rounded off when van Basten completed his hat-trick from a Koeman corner. England were out. They had been impressive in qualification but now it was all over after just 180 minutes football.
15 June 1986, Niedersachsenstadion, Hanover, 38,308
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (1) 1 (Whelan 38)
USSR (0) 1 (Protasov 74)
Republic Ireland: Bonner; Morris, McCarthy, Moran, Hughton; Houghton, Whelan, Sheedy, Galvin; Aldridge, Stapleton (Cascarino)
USSR: Dasaev (Chanov); Demianenko, Khidiyatullin, Kuznetsov, Rats; Zavarov, Belanov, Aleinikov, Sulakvelidze (Gotsmanov); Protasov, Mikhailichenko
After England’s defeat both sides knew a draw would be enough. The Irish, buoyed by their opening game victory, were the more inventive but they took 38 minutes to break through the Soviet defence. Ronnie Whelan got the goal and the Irish really partied. They held the lead until the final fifteen minutes when Belanov put Protasov through and his shot went under Bonner. The game ended all-square and now Ireland knew a draw against Netherlands would be enough to get them to the Semis.
18 June 1988, Waldstadion, Frankfurt, 48,335
ENGLAND (1) 1 (Adams 16)
USSR (2) 3 (Aleinikov 3, Mikhailichenko 28, Pasulko 73)
England: Woods; Stevens, Watson, Adams, Sansom; Steven, Robson, McMahon (Webb), Hoddle; Lineker (Hateley), Barnes
USSR: Dasaev; Besonov, Khidiyatullin, Kuznetsov, Lytovchenko; Belanov (Pasulko), Zavarov (Gotsmanov); Mikhailichenko, Protasov, Aleinikov
England fans moved onto Frankfurt to try and rescue some consolation from a immensely disappointing campaign. USSR only needed a draw and couldn’t believe their luck when Hoddle gifted them the first goal as he passed straight to Aleinikov who waltzed past a non-existent defence to put USSR in the lead. Tony Adams was an unlikely scorer of England’s equaliser in the 16th minute. But this was a temporary aberration as England’s defence just seemed incapable of repelling any attack and twenty-eight minutes in and Mikhailichenko arrived unmarked in the box to put the Soviet’s back in front.
Pasulko completed the misery in the 73rd minute and England went home three defeats from three matches. USSR, on the other hand, had won the group.
18 June1988, Parkstadion, Gelsenkirchen, 64,731
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (0) 0
NETHERLANDS (0) 1 (Kieft 82)
Rep Ireland: Bonner; Morris (Sheedy), McCarthy, Moran, Hughton; Houghton, McGrath, Whelan, Galvin; Stapleton (Cascarino), Aldridge
Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Tiggelen, Rijkaard, van Aerle; Wouters (E Koeman), Gullit, Muhren (Bosman); Vanenberg, van Basten, Kieft
The Irish had their own chance to win the group if they could beat Netherlands. Paul McGrath hit the post in the first half as both teams looked to create chances but also make sure they didn’t lose. Into the final ten minutes and Ronald Koeman volleyed into the ground, and as the ball bounced back up Wim Kieft to glance a header which looked as if it was going wide but the spin on the ball just took it back inside the post. It was a freaky goal and in the end, it was decided the match. It sent the Republic back home but they certainly weren’t disgraced. Netherlands ended second in the group.
21 June 1988, Volksparkstadion, Hamburg, 61,330
WEST GERMANY (0) 1 (Matthaus 55 pen)
NETHERLANDS (0) 2 (R Koeman 74 pen, van Basten 88)
West Germany: Immel; Borowka, Kohler, Herget (Pflugler), Brehme; Matthaus, Thon, Rolff, Mill (Littbarski); Voller, Klinsmann
Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Aerle, R Koeman, Rijkaard, van Tiggelen; Wouters, E Koeman (Suvrijn), Muhren (Kieft); Vanenberg, Gullit, van Basten
These two rivals met in Hamburg. It was a repeat of the 1974 World Cup Final which was also held on German soil. The Dutch were determined not to repeat the same scoreline. The first half included few chances, but the second half soon came to life. As in 1974 there were two penalties. Lotthar Matthaus put the home side in front from the spot ten minutes into the half, and then Ronald Koeman equalised with his kick in the 74th minute. The game looked to be heading for extra time until, with two minutes to go, Marco van Basten grabbed the winner for the Netherlands.
West Germany had hoped to match France in 1984 and win on home soil, but the Dutch spoiled the party.
22 June 1988, Neckarstadion, Stuttgart, 61,606
USSR (0) 2 (Litovchenko 58, Protasov 62)
ITALY (0) 0
USSR: Dasaev; Kuznetsov, Khidiyatullin, Besonov (Demianenko), Rats; Zavarov, Litovchenko, Gotsmanov; Mikhailichenko, Protasov, Aleinikov
Italy: Zenga; Ferri, Bergomi, F Baresi, Maldini (De Agostini); De Napoli, Ancelotti, Giannini, Donadoni; Mancini (Altobelli), Vialli
Both these countries went out in the Second Round at the 1986 World Cup and so were keen to progress as far as they could at this tournament. The first half failed to produce a goal but as the hour approached Litovchenko opened the scoring after good work from Mikhailichenko. Four minutes later they had doubled their lead when Protasov made it 2-0. Italy pressed to get back into the game but the Soviets were far too strong and were through to their fourth ever European Final.
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL 1988
25 June 1988
NETHERLANDS (1) 2 (Gullit 32, van Basten 54)
USSR (0) 0
Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Tiggelen, Rijkaard, R Koeman, van Aerle; Wouters, E Koeman, Muhren; Vanenberg, Gullit, van Basten
USSR: Dasaev; Demyanenko, Khidiyatullin, Lytovchenko, Gotsmanov; Zavarov, Mikhailichenko, Rats; Belanov, Protasov, Aleinikov
The Dutch really believed this was their time. Their first international tournament since 1980 and after losing in both the 1974 and 1978 World Cup Finals, they thought this was their chance to make amends. USSR were in their fourth European Championship Final. They won in 1960 but were beaten in 1964 and 1972.
The Dutch were overwhelming favourites due to players like Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Erwin and Ronald Koeman and Frank Rijkaard. They seemed to start nervously but on the half-hour a cross from the left saw Gullit unmarked in the area and his bullet header beat Dasaev. Netherlands lead 1-0 at half-time, but you always felt the USSR could find a way back. Ten minutes into the second half and the Dutch scored the goal which confirmed their name on the trophy and what a goal it was. Many who saw it still recall the technique required to control the shot. Marco van Basten was positioned in the Soviet area around the right-hand edge of the six-yard area. Arnold Muhren, once of Ipswich and Man Utd, crossed from the left into the Soviet area, and the ball fell over van Basten’s right shoulder as he turned away from the goal. As the ball fell, van Basten caught it on the volley with his right foot and it looped over Dasaev and into the left hand corner of the Soviet net. It was a goal to grace any final anywhere and it rather proved this was to be the Netherlands year.
The Soviets had a boost when van Breukelen was adjudged to have brought down Gotsmanov in the area, although the keeper looked to be knocking the ball towards the corner flag and the Gotsmanov appeared simply to fall over him. But the referee pointed to the spot. Igor Belanov stepped up but van Breukelen guessed right and saved the kick. More evidence it was to be a Dutch year.
USSR failed to make an impression after that and the Dutch had won. They had played some of the best football during the tournament and in van Basten and Gullit probably had two of the best players in Europe at that time.
As in the last three tournaments, the team who had played the best football won the trophy. Netherlands bounced back from losing their opening game, ironically against USSR , the side they eventually beat in the Final. West Germany fully expected to lift the trophy on home soil, they appeared in three successive Euro Finals in 1972, 1976 and 1980, but had missed out in the next two tournaments.
Italy continued their rebuilding after the disaster of not qualifying in 1984, USSR had reached their fourth Final yet had still only won one of them. England had also recovered from the failure to qualify for France ’84, but their resurgence in the World Cup in ’86, could not be matched here. Spain were expecting good things after they reached the Quarter-Finals in Mexico ’86, and were losing finalists in France ’84, but they had come to rely on Butragueno too much and he had a disappointing tournament. Ireland were the breath of fresh air, in their first ever international tournament they did not disgrace themselves and only a late, freak goal by the eventual champions, denied them a Semi-Final place. Denmark, were in competition with England for the most feeble performance, although England could point to their domination of the Ireland game and the period when they had Netherlands on the rack. The only time Denmark were matched their opponents in any of their games was prior to kick-off.
Overall, the tournament was a success and, as you’d expect from the Germans, it was well organised. There was crowd trouble but not during any of the matches. Gradually this tournament was becoming an important part of the international calendar.