Igor Belanov (1960)

Ihor Ivanovich Bilanov (September 25, 1960), better known as Igor Belanov. Turned from hero to schlemiel because Hans van Breukelen stopped his penalty in the final of the European Championship in 1988.

In 1986, Igor Belanov won the European Cup II with Dinamo Kiev, scored four goals in four games during the World Cup and was chosen as European Footballer of the Year. Two years later, however, the frail striker was schlemiel instead of hero when he missed a penalty in the final of the European Championship 1988. Still, the USSR / CCCP was the revelation of the tournament. The most famous of them were next to Igor Belanov; Oleksander Zavarov, Gennady Litovchenko and Oleg Protasov. They were all Ukrainian players from Dinamo Kiev, at that time the best club in the Eastern Bloc at the time. The national coach was also a Ukrainian: the legendary, late Valery Lobanovsky, who won the European Cup II twice with Dinamo Kiev (in 1975 and 1986).

We are writing THE 1988 European Championship. The Netherlands started the year so successful in retrospect with a 1-0 loss against the Soviet Union. Belanov gets too much space on the right from 'nail' Van Tiggelen to take the ball. He cuts, looks and sends the ball to the left flank, after which Vasili Rats chases the ball from the edge of the penalty area with the left full behind a hopeless Hans van Breukelen. The newspapers would headline the next day: 'The Netherlands in the Rats', with an ironic nod to the goalscorer. After Van Basten was given the chance and respectively, England, Ireland and Germany were defeated, the Orange faced the, fair is and remains fair, the better-playing Soviets in the final.

In the second semifinal, a day later than the Netherlands against Germany in the Stuttgart Neckar Stadium, it would end in a 2-0 victory for the Soviet Union at the expense of the Italians. The first half had few highlights and no goals, which was partly caused by the fact that for both teams half of the players would be suspended for a possible final with a yellow card. However, the Russians played a better second half, which resulted in two goals within five minutes; on a pass from Alexei Mikhailitsjenko, Gennadiy Litovchenko fired the ball into the net for the first time in the 58th minute. A short time later, Oleg Protasov set the final score at 2-0 after a counterattack from the Soviet Union with a bow ball. Italy, which had many young players on the team, tried in vain to get back into the game; however, a shot from Gianluca Vialli towards the end went high, and the Soviet Union was in the final.

The finale. We know the story of the 1-0, Gullit and the magisterial 2-0. But with half an hour to go, Igor Belanov hits the post. The Netherlands seems a bit lost, because in the same minute they also receive a penalty. And there it is: Hans van Breukelen's moment. Belanov has put the ball on the dot, but before he starts his run, Van Breukelen walks up to him. He puts his finger under his right eye, raises his eyebrows and looks the Russian in his eyes with a look like "I already know at what angle you're going to shoot him."  Belanov moors, shoots and … "The Fracture" takes him! How different could it have been ..?!

The Belgian commentator 'yes there it is, goaaal' Rik de Saedeleer once said to a furious goal from the Soviet attacker: "You can't do anything about that. That's an SS-20. " Belanov was very quick, a good finisher and knew exactly how and when to run to get the goals. If he had scored again, he would characteristically walk away cheering: somewhat stooped, shaking his head and clenching his fists.

Igor Belanov now owns his own football school in Odessa. He was also a major shareholder of the Swiss club FC Wil. However, here he was fired after some unfortunate decisions. Igor still enjoys hero status in his own country.

(Photo: ANP – Foundation)

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