An unprecedented 3-0 victory over world champion Italy, followed by an equally nice 4-1 victory over vice world champion France. During the European Football Championship in 2008, the Dutch national team seems on the way to write history.
As tens of thousands of Orange fans flood the Swiss capital Bern, faith in a new European title grows. Twenty years after 1988. The Netherlands also wins the last group match against Romania (2-0) at half power and confidently advances to the quarterfinals.
In the broadcast of Studio Sport Archive will be looked back on that European Championship on Sunday.
In the quarterfinals, the team of national coach Marco van Basten will meet Russia, coached by Guus Hiddink. The sense of euphoria and invincibility disappears painfully quickly with the Orange, because the strong Russian team completely outclasses the Orange.
Next to Hiddink on the Russian bank was assistant trainer Raymond Verheijen. He soon felt that his team could win, he says twelve years later.
“The results of the Orange in the group stage were indeed impressive, but if you look closely, that picture is distorted,” Verheijen looks back. “Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar had to make a lot of saves in those duels. The Netherlands also got a lot of opportunities, but also used them.
“Hiddink saw that and had all the saves of Van der Sar in sequence leading up to that quarter-final. He then told the players that they would look at the highlights of the Netherlands. They really thought: what is this?” Said Verheijen. they saw all those opportunities, you saw them bounce back and faith grew. “
“Russia often sees itself as an underdog, but at the time there were a number of factors that had a positive effect on the Russians. Prior to the European Championship, Russia won the Eurovision Song Contest and Zenit captured the UEFA Cup. That created a good mood.”
“In addition, the team mainly consisted of players from CSKA Moscow and Zenit. They were already very well attuned to each other. And conditionally they were very strong,” says Verheijen. “Finally, Guus was also tactically well organized.”
After a chance rain in the first half, Roman Pavljetsjenko took the lead after the break. Ruud van Nistelrooij headed in the equalizer just before time, but in the extension, the Russians looked fitter many times and eventually won 3-1, reaching the semi-finals.
“We started training differently. Where the Russians often trained for a long time at a slow pace, we did shorter trainings at a high pace. That turned out to be a bull’s eye. The players were very fit.”
It is striking to mention that Orange was a lot less fit than Russia in that quarterfinals. Marco van Basten had given a number of basic players a rest in the last group match against Romania and the Dutch national team also had more rest between the matches.
Verheijen: “Letting a country play with a B-team is a big mistake. Why would you want to break the rhythm of the players? This always has a negative effect. Also on the brain. That turned out to be the case, because all teams that did during that European Championship were eliminated in the subsequent round. “
A few days before the game against Russia, the Orange suffered a heavy mental blow. Defender Khalid Boulahrouz’s pregnant wife was admitted to hospital in Lausanne. Their daughter was born that day, three months early. The girl died shortly after birth.
“That is of course a very painful story,” said Verheijen. “But the staff of the Dutch national team has managed that completely amateurishly. That sounds harsh, because someone has died, but when players go to the hospital, football is no longer important. Although from a human point of view it is of course very empathetic . “
“When I spoke to a number of Orange players during the warm-up, I already noticed that their attention was not in the game. Although I can not say whether that was due to the previous good results or everything around Boulahrouz.”
Russia eventually went down in the semifinals (0-3) against the later European champion Spain. Nevertheless, Verheijen looks back on the tournament with great satisfaction.
“After the final tournament in South Korea (where he reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2002 as an assistant to Hiddink with the host country, ed.), This was certainly the best tournament I have experienced.”