“Het Oranje Legioen” spilled over the border in their thousands to West Germany in June 1988 to witness Holland finally end their wait for an international trophy.
Some 14 years beforehand, following four European Cup triumphs in succession – Feyenoord in 1970 and Ajax Amerstam in the three following seasons – the Orange Legion had made a similar trek to showcase Total Football on the international stage for the first time.
Masterminded from the sidelines by coach Rinus Michels and conducted by the sheer brilliance of captain and talisman Johan Cruyff, Holland blazed their way to the World Cup final playing a type of football few had witnessed before.
In Munich’s Olympic Stadium, they led their West German hosts 1-0 as early as the second minute of the final, with Johan Neeskens smashing a penalty past Sepp Maier – all this before a German player had even touched the ball – awarded after Cruyff outsmarted half the opposing team.
However, a team built on individual minds and collective expressionism floundered on those very strengths and the pragmatic Germans fought back to win 2-1, surviving a second half Dutch blitz.
“They tricked us again,” bemoaned tv commentator Herman Kuiphof, believed to be in reference to the Second World War when the Nazis invaded their unsuspecting neighbours.
There was a similar heartbreak in Buenos Aires in a blue and white ticker-taped tornado, where Holland lost 3-1 to hosts Argentina in extra-time in the 1978 World Cup final. Rob Rensenbrink had tantalisingly hit the post in the last minute of the 90 with the score at 1-1 to almost silence the River Plate Stadium.
Dutch football tends to be cyclical and by 1988 they had rediscovered their style on and off the pitch.
PSV had just become their third European Cup winners, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten had won the Scudetto with Milan and were soon to be joined at the San Siro by Frank Rijkaard, while the national side, under the godfather Michels, qualified for their first tournament in eight years.
They looked the part, although suffered a difficult start.
Sucker-punched in their opening fixture against the USSR in Cologne with van Basten only a substitute, a stunning hat-trick on his return eliminated England on a 3-1 scoreline in Düsseldorf.
Holland squeezed past Ireland 1-0 in Gelsenkirchen and into the semi-finals with Wim Kieft scoring the only goal nine minutes from time, with a header that spun unconventionally around Packie Bonner after Ronald Koeman’s miskick had skewed off the ground.
Like 1974, Holland and West Germany were level at 1-1 with a penalty apiece – Lothar Matthäus and Koeman on target – this time in Hamburg in the last four of Euro 88. With extra-time looming, van Basten slid onto a pass from Jan Wouters to score the winner with barely 90 seconds to go to send the Dutch support into raptures.
In the final, back at the Olympic Stadium in Munich, the USSR were defeated 2-0 with Gullit planting a first half header past Rinat Dasayev before a dipping van Basten volley from an acute angle following a deep Arnold Mühren cross made the world stand still for a moment and draw its breath.
It’s a goal that’s still talked about to this day. Hans van Breukelen’s penalty save from Igor Belanov preserved the two- goal cushion and Holland were champions of Europe.
They certainly weren’t tricked this time. Holland’s present had finally caught up with its past.
The jersey: An Adidas orange and white chevron pattern was tailor-made for the team in 1988 and, besides their stunning victory, perhaps what adds to its appeal was the fact it never sold as a replica.
To celebrate and pay tribute to the iconic Holland 1988 Retro Shirt Socks, sicsock.com have launched their very own Netherlands 1988 Socks. The bright orange socks in a chevron pattern make for a striking pair of socks.