We all remember the game between the Netherlands and the USSR at Euro 88, don’t we?
The fact that it’s Vasily Rats of the Soviet Union scoring a goal rather than Ruud Gullit or Marco van Basten should be enough of a giveaway that this was the group game between the countries. Kit-nerds will, of course, have spotted another difference from the final – both teams were in white shorts.
Successful kits tends to be remembered with extra fondness – would, for example, plain red England change shirts be so popular if the country had won the toss for colours in the 1966 World Cup final? Such emotions are amplified when it’s a strip with a shorter lifespan, as was the case with the Dutch.
The shirt is rightly lauded – The Football Attic ranked it as the third-best of all-time – but it was in fact only worn in the five games at Euro 88 in West Germany.
While the Netherlands have primarily worn white or black shorts with orange shirts, the outfit in the final featured the orange shorts of the away kit mixed with the home shirts and socks.
Presumably the rationale was that this was better than a white shorts-clash or the Soviets switching to red shorts – the Euro 92 semi-final between the Netherlands and Denmark proved that such a match-up wasn’t great on the eyes in terms of an overall clash. The all-orange look – and the shirt itself – are certainly rare, but the association with such a big success means that they have a lasting legacy.
Holland’s first match after the Euro success was a World Cup qualifier at home to Wales and they returned to the style used before the finals, a common adidas template using diagonally arranged parallelograms. Wales were forced to come up with a one-off white third kit for that game as their red home and yellow away both clashed with the orange.
Incidentally, Dutch goalkeeper Hans van Breukelen was also mixing his kits as he wore three different shirts in the five Euro 88 games. For the first two, against the USSR and England, he had the diagonally striped adidas design in blue, before switching to the newer geometric pattern for the match against Ireland. For the semi-final against Germany and the rematch with the Soviet Union in the final, he had a grey version of that, paired with unstriped black shorts.