Friday, October 14, 2011

14 October 1992 - Van Basten's International Farewell

On 14 October 1992, Dutch captain Marco van Basten made his last appearance for the national team in a World Cup qualifier against Poland. A persistent ankle injury ended his career shortly afterward.

The match was only his 58th cap and came just over two weeks before his 28th birthday. Just four years earlier, he had starred for the Oranje in the European Championship, scoring a tournament-best five goals--including a hat-trick against England--as the Netherlands took the trophy. A disappointing early World Cup exit followed in 1990, however, with van Basten failing to find the net (the team scored only three goals in the tournament).

In 1991-92, van Basten finished the season with AC Milan as Serie A's top scorer and won a handful of individual awards, including the European Footballer of the Year and the FIFA World Player of the Year. But he missed a critical penalty in the Netherlands' Euro 1992 semifinal against Denmark and the Dutch went out 2-2 (4-5).

Van Basten hoped to turn the tide in the 1994 World Cup and captained the Netherlands for the start of their qualification campaign. But after only two matches, a 2-1 loss to Norway and the 2-2 draw with Poland, he missed the team's next two matches. Then, in May 1993, he suffered an ankle injury that forced him to sit out the entire 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons and the 1994 World Cup. The injury never fully healed and forced his early retirement in 1995.

Although he never played for Holland again, he did return to the team in 2004 as manager and spent four years in the role.

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