It was 25 yrs ago today, Oranje taught the world to play

Most Oranje supporters simply have to be masochistic. Playing brilliant football (sometimes) and hardly ever winning the prize.

Over the last 7 years, we have covered all the upsets, the highs, the magical, the drama and we will keep on doing this for years to come….

Hopefully amidst future tournaments where we can harvest some silverware too. I for one, am not one of those supporters who secretly enjoy being the “loser”. Even if I am a Feyenoord fan….

So, 1988.

As most of you know, I lived in Holland back then and I was pretty convinced we would do well. As I am always convinced we will do well.
As you know, a broken clock is correct twice a day :-).

I remember the lead up to the Tournament really well. Rinus Michels in charge. Ajax was doing really well. Johan Cruyff had won the 1987 Europa Cup II with Ajax (Van Basten scoring) and Ajax played the finals yet again, this time against Mechelen. Mechelen, with Erwin Koeman, won it this time, but Ajax had a strong side with Jan Wouters, John van ‘t Schip, John Bosman, Arnold Muhren and Aron Winter. Danny Blind was the right back in those days.

AC Milan had the “three of Milan” and although Marco was injured and struggling to be the starting striker in Milan, we all knew that these three were exceptional. PSV had just won the Europa Cup 1, with Koeman, Wim Kieft, Hans van Breukelen, Berry van Aerle and Gerald Vanenburg. Adri van Tiggelen played for the grand Anderlecht side in Belgium and Dutch football was doing really well.

But, Oranje missed out on the three big tournaments before 1988 and the last tournament we played ( 1980 in Italy) was a bit of downer.

Some people didn’t expect much from this young team and when Michels clearly didn’t know how to start the tournament, lots of fans lost faith. Marco van Basten was hardly used by Michels as a result of his injuries and when he was fit he missed the decided against Belgium as a result of a suspension.

So, Michels wanted to start with Bosman as center striker ( a very cool finisher in the box… A sort of Huntelaar, for the young ones under us). And John van’t Schip played on the left wing (he played right wing or midfield at Ajax), but Schippie was perfect two-footed and was able to cross from the left with his left. Gullit and Vanenburg competed for the right wing, and Gullit was the type of player some coaches didn’t know where to put. At PSV he even played central defender, while in Milan he was one of the two forwards in a 4-2-2 system.

Arnold Muhren and Jan Wouters played in midfield with Vanenburg on the right, behind Gullit.

Not a very well balanced team.

And future superstar San Marco van Basten was not amused. He felt fresh. He was fit. And super motivated. But Michels almost didn’t select him. Kieft and Gilhaus were a lethal duo at PSV. Bosman was a killer. Piet de Boer of KV Mechelen just scored the winner in the ECII finals. Michels had options. But he did pick Van Basten and gave him the number 12.

The ambitious striker was livid. How could he not get the support from the Ajax legend? And he went to his close friend, surrogate father and former coach Johan Cruyff to vent his anger. And to tell him he would gracefully thank Michels but no thanks. I am not benchwarm material.


Marco van Basten

Here goes….

But Cruyff told him to shut up, to pack his bag and go. There was no pressure on Bassie and JC knew that Michels would be using him in the tournament. “Be patient, await your chance and take the opportunity when you can”.

The rest is history. Oranje lost against the USSR in the first group game. The 4-3-3 Michels concocted didn’t work. So he changed it for the England game. The team needed more balance.


So Erwin Koeman came in to support 37 year old strategist Muhren and Bassie came in to play with Gullit in a 4-4-2 set up. Bosman and Schippie took the bench.

A hattrick against England, a freak Kieft goal (off side) against feisty Ireland and a true battle in Hamburg vs West Germany and before we knew it, Oranje got a second chance against the USSR in the finals.

In the Olympic Stadium in Munich, with yours truly sitting right behind Dasaev when “that moment” occurred….

It’s 1-0 (Gullit’s only goal of the tournament, the Oranje skipper was walking on his gums…) and pressure from the Russians. Van Tiggelen breaks out, passes the ball to Muhren who wants to reach Van Basten but he overhits the ball. Van Basten has three options… Option 1: control the ball and wait for midfielders to come closer…with a couple of defenders on his toes… Option 2: pass the ball with one touch to the penalty spot where Gullit should be. Van Basten took option 3.

Now this goal made history. It’s one of the best goals ever! It is certainly the best goal ever scored at an EC.

Muhren: “I felt I overhit the kick. I was trying to launch him in space, but I overdid. He could only do one thing, or so I thought. Take it down and start the build up again.”

Van Basten: “You don’t think about this. The ball comes, I saw a defender closing me down, I felt I was fairly isolated. What do you do? You don’t think, you simply do. It works only in practice normally and it wasn’t against some shabby goalie either.”

Jan The Blogman: “I was sitting behind the goal with some other Oranje supporters and when the ball was in the air you could tell by Marco’s body movement that he was going to hit it. And we all stood up, arms raised up in the air because we could see in our minds’ eye that yes, there was a small chance he would score from there. And he did.”

Now the freaky thing is, that the AD Newspaper traced something really cool.

Oranje practiced before the EC 1988 against an amateur club. They won that match 8-1, but the amateurs scored as well. And the way they scored might have inspired Marco….

Take a look at this! His name is Michel Dreis.

Bookmark and Share


  1. Tomorrow, hopefully a really cool article on Berry van Aerle. The almost invisible back of Oranje 1988. Who was he? (stolen van NRC newspaper in Holland… no, borrowed…. they still have it….)

  2. I believe Rijkaard only joined Milan AFTER this tournament, however were there ANY substitutes used in the final game ? I can’t think of any ?

    1. No subs, well noted Carlos.

      Michels used a limited no. of players.

      Marco got a applause sub vs England (Wilbert Suvrijn fortified midfield) and he also came on against West Germany.

      Wim Kieft played a total of 121 minutes this 1988 Euro.

  3. Lets see, I totally agree with Laurent that NT is in a transition phase, where by we are still trying to mould the young up coming talents with ageing seniors . If you compare the WC 2010 NT and 1998 NT. For me 1998 NT will remain the greatest ever (Holland Dream Team), even greater then the 1988 NT which won the EC and I don’t think there will ever come a generation that will supersede the calibre of 1998 NT. For sure we would have beaten France in the final, if it was not for the dreaded penalty kick. It seems the lady luck always evades us at the last moment. (Nothing new).
    • 1 Van der Sar
    • 2 Reiziger
    • 3 Stam
    • 4 F. De Boer (c)
    • 5 Numan
    • 6 Jonk
    • 7 R. De Boer
    • 8 Bergkamp
    • 9 Kluivert
    • 10 Seedorf
    • 11 Cocu
    • 12 Zenden
    • 13 Ooijer
    • 14 Overmars
    • 15 Bogarde
    • 16 Davids
    • 17 Van Hooijdonk
    • 18 De Goey
    • 19 Van Bronckhorst
    • 20 Winter
    • 21 Hasselbaink
    • 22 Hesp
    • Coach: Hiddink
    Just look at the above squad, they had a super sub in every position. One may wonder how intense the competition might have been amongst the players to squeeze into the starting 11. This something you wanna see when you are going to a WC. Just like when you are going to a war and you know you have with ultimate backup if worst case scenario unfolds. At this point in time only two teams have this luxury, Spain and Germany .
    The success of 2010 NT, without out a shadow of a doubt was because of the midfield. Sneidjer, Van Bommel, De jong. From the distribution of ball to the forwards, holding possession, to disrupting build-up phases in the mids, the trio played a an instrument role leading up to the final and once again this will be the most critical area for our current NT in 2014. If you ask me we are just put the guns on the shoulders on RVP, Sneidjer and Robben and are saying that NT will be a top dog in 2014 . I know they are world class players, but what if, come the time for WC , these players get injured , what will happen to the team then. It will be devastating given that there are no ultimate backup for these players who are lethal and clinical in their respective department. It will be like surrendering even before going to the war.
    Given the WC just around the corner, one has to be positive that all players that are perusing for betters clubs will thrive and uplift their performance come time for World cup selection.Likes of Elia, Van Ginkle, Wolfswinkle, Pieters, Feor, Bruma, Afellay. The last thing you want is see is intense competition when it comes for selection time. This will bring out the killer instinct in players and hence will guide them to biggest event ( World cup).At this point in time it’s no use barking on who should be going and who should not be going as there will be a lot of movement in the transfer window and a lot can change in one year
    As for Elia, I think this was his first season for Werder Bremen in Bundasliga after having a treble season for Juventus where he was most of the time on the bench and had little playing time. Lets say the engine was steaming up at Werder and if he moves to Liverpool, the engine will to ignite to its full capacity. GOOD Move if it happens. Certainly a top contender for WC 2014

    1. For me , the best dutch team will be always the 74 team , with Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff .
      98 team was a perfect team , but this team definitly had something wrong.
      This team , With a great coach like van gaal , wasn’t able to reach the WC . Can anyone explain this ? They lost the EC in their home against Italy after missing million chances + 2 PKs .
      This team was the reason why i loved Oranje and football , but actually i’ll never forgive them for not winning at least 3 tournaments in their time . WC 98 , EC 2000 & WC 2002 should have been Dutch .

  4. Thanks Jan. I remember the games just like yesterday. I couldn’t believe Holland was actually winning it in Germany. MVB was magical. And they had a super coach.

    1. if we dont take risk we wont acheive anything,but still i feel the invidual quality of the players was so high compared to other teams.There was no narsingh,kuyt,afellay kind of players in attack and defense we didnt had mediocre ones…Michels chose the right 23 for the cup and played exactly the best 11 of the country with out any bias…

  5. It remains a massive disappointment to me that in the only tournament we were crowned champions, we played 442.
    Other than that, thanks for the memories.
    What a team. What a great selection of players. Heroes, every one of them. I remember it well.

  6. Thanks for bringing back probably the best football memory. Besides the hero of Marco, I remembered also the hard work of supporting cast Van Aerle, Van Tiggelen, Erwin Koeman, Wouters,…I was also very impressed by the cockiness but rising when needed of Van Breukelen and the play of Frank Riikaard. He was superb tackling, half CB half midfield (Ronald Koeman was a bit less impressed as I was hoping for some goals from his lethal free kick). The rivalry between Voller and Rijkaard was born.

  7. For me, my fav teams are that of WC98 and EC2000. Then we really play nice football, good movement, good interplays and combinations and passing.
    Saw short video clips of the EC88 team and felt that it was won more by the individual brilliance of MVB, Rijkaard etc. Anyway, I stand corrected. 🙂

  8. and Gullit was the type of player some coaches didn’t know where to put. At PSV he even played central defender…

    Just to put a period on that. I was living in the UK in 1984, and Netherlands NT was just coming out of that rough patch following 1978 WC. They were playing an EC qualification game in Ireland, and I read a newspaper story talking about this young, talented Dutch team—mentioned names like Van Basten, Gullit, the Koemans, etc—-the emphasis was on how young they were, and whether they would b able to cope with the crowd in Dublin. first half, Gullit played in the defense, Ireland led 2-0 at half time. At ht, the Dutch coach (and I don’t recall who it was) moved Gullit into the attack, and Netherlands ended up winning 3-2. The papers the next day couldn’t say enough about Gullit…

    …I’m wondering if that is the last time he ever played in the defense.

  9. I agree with @Laurent about Ajax´s new policy. Also I found it a little bit incoherent.

    Ajax offer 7 million for Van Ginkel, but say that 8 million for Maher are too expensive.

    The last year Ajax said Narshing was too expensive and they won´t pay 4 millions for him. In consequence, Ajax buy Sana for 1 mm. The result is they didn´t find the right winger they had been looking for, and they ended the season playing with Shone (a defensive midfield) as right wing after try a lot of players like Lukoki, Boerrigther, Cuenca, etc.

    The questions are: who will do more money at the end? Ajax with Sana or PSV with Narshing? It´s is a good idea to risk a season playing without the right player as Ajax did last season? If Ajax wants to go through the second round in CL it is good idea to improvise?

    Or, ask Laurent asked: Can a team who are not in capacity to buy a player that cost 8 mm win the CL?

    Las season Ajax had a profit of 23 mm or close.

    This year it is suppose that Ajax sell Eriksen (14mm), Alderwilde (8mm) and Siem de Jong (10mm). Total 32 mm.

    What are going to do Ajax with that money? Pay more salary in order to retain they stars?

    Buy good players for the spots that the academy talents can´t supply?
    What happened with the last year profit? What are they going to do with this year profit?

    I just know that I prefer last season Ajax with a 19 mm of profit + Narshing, than an Ajax with 23 mm of profit without Narshing.

    And this year I prefer Ajax spending 15mm in Maher and Van Ginkel and a profit of 17mm, than a good profit of 32mm.

  10. Maher and Bruma – perfect signing for PSV, but I dont Know about Ven Der Hoorn, hopefully since Ajax is also in the CL he will get second chance to prove himselves.Ajax and PSV will be the top contenders for Dutch Eredivisie
    next season.again it will be close battle and tough competition. that is some thing we need b4 WC

  11. I trust De Boer. He knows what he is doing. Frankly there is nothing I saw about Maher that would make me break the bank for him. PSV has been buying players left and right to no avail. I could be wrong but I don’t see it again this year for them. They lost arguably their 3 best players and are clearly not replacing them. The fact Maher is coming to PSV won’t solve the problem with Winaldum. He will be stuck on the flank. Ajax has so many players right now that I am not sure we need Maher. All we need is a capable right winger. We have several young centre forwards and if we get Duarte we will be set.

  12. I think it would be better Van Ginkle goes to Man United rather than Chelsea. The rotation policy at Chelsea will definitely hinder his overall performance given the big names that are coming to Chelsea.

  13. Totally agree. And I also agree with JC that nobody from the u21 team should go abroad except perhaps for Strootman. Huge mistake for Van Ginkel. I don’t understand that BS rivalry in Holland. Clubs always sell their players even to their most hated rivals. Dortmund does it, Arsenal does it, even Barca and Real have done it in the past. But NO… Vitesse does not want to sell to Ajax even though the player himself wanted to go to Ajax. Really it is shameful.

  14. What’s Ajax spending their money on? They’re spending it on Christian Eriksens and Viktor Fischers. By that I mean top talents in the 15-17 age range. They’re also attracting top talents from around the Netherlands in that age range that they also don’t have to pay money for. Being financially stable will allow them to hold onto these talents in a few years.

    Regarding Maher, the asking price, according to that article, is 10m Euros. But even at 8m it is too much money. 8-10m might be what he’s worth on the grossly inflated international transfer market, but it’s not what he’s worth to Ajax. This is a player who has yet to prove himself at an international level. For comparison, it seems that Ajax are having a hard time finding a team willing to pay ~15m for Christian Eriksen – a player who made his name at an international level, has three years of CL experience, and has been a key player in his team’s three titles. And that’s the grossly inflated international market that wont pay much for him. And somehow Maher is worth 10m on the national market? No thanks, Ajax is smart to pass on this one.

    If PSV want to spend that money on him only to sell him in two years at no profit, than all power to them since financial rules don’t seem to apply to them. But I don’t see Maher pushing PSV to an Eredivisie title, or pushing them on in the CL.

  15. And Sana was only 350k, not 1m. I think he’ll have more of an impact this season as well now that he’s adapted to the Ajax style. I also hope we’ll see him back on the left wing where he was really good at the beginning of last season before fucking Boerrigter pushed him out to the right side.

  16. Is Bruma Dutch or Portuguese ? Or are there 2 Brumas? I read an article on great young defenders and there was a Portuguese Bruma. It got me confused.

    1. Jeffrey Bruma has been a Dutch talent for a while. Bruma (I’m not sure if he has a first name) is a striker for Portugals U20 team at the World Cup.

    2. I think after a player has a good season in the eredivisie they should always stay for one extra year. That’s what both Sneijder and Huntelaar did, but what Drenthe failed to do.

      Van Ginkel just had a good season, so he should stay for one more and become a super star. Sneijder had a few goals and around 20 assists in his second last season, but then in his final season had 20+ goals and 20+ assists.

  17. @TFC Ajax, I again totally agree with you. Ajax has been taken for a ride on so many occasions in the past 10-12 years in Holland and I am glad the leadership said enough with that BS. I watched a video of the first training yesterday and saw deBoer, Bergkamp, and now Stam coaching these players. This is by far the best coaching staff assembled at Ajax since the Rinus Michels era. Maybe I am blind and too trusting but this coaching staff knows something about football. Players are stupid if they are not coming to Ajax. And the fact is that both Maher and Van Ginkel wanted to come. There are loads of talent at the moment. Again I agree with TFC Ajax, let PSV spend their millions on players like Bruma.

Start a Conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.