Since 1960, the European Championship has provided fans with lots of memorable moments.
Here are 10 that stood out above all others…
Marco van Basten’s volley
The scene: Munich’s Olympic Stadium, Euro ’88 final.
With the Netherlands sitting on a slender 1-0 lead over the Soviet Union, the Dutch poured forward early in the second half looking to extend their advantage. Adri van Tiggelen picked off an errant Soviet pass and shifted the ball out to the left flank to Arnold Muhren, who punted it deep into the penalty box. It fell to Marco van Basten on the far side of the box. The safe play would have been to knock the ball across the middle to Ruud Gullit. Instead, van Basten hit an audacious volley from a ridiculously tight angle that flew over the head of Soviet goalkeeper Rinat Dasaev and slammed into the net.
Legendary Dutch manager Rinus Michels jumped off the bench, a shocked look etched on his face as though he couldn’t believe van Basten had just scored. But he did. The Dutch went on to win 2-0, the result sealed by one of the greatest goal of all time.
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Long before Greece stunned the European elite at Euro 2004, Denmark pulled off the unlikeliest of upsets when they won Euro ’92, a result that was made all the more incredible by their failure to originally qualify for the tournament.
After failing to book their spot in the competition, the Danes went on vacation. But they had to cut their holidays short when they were invited to compete in the tournament after UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, banned Yugoslavia (one of the favourites) from competing over security reasons stemming from the outbreak of civil war in the Balkans.
Without star Michael Laudrup on the team, Denmark authored one of the most amazing chapters in Euro history, knocking off defending Euro champions the Netherlands in the semifinals before dispatching the heavily-favoured Germans in the final in Sweden.
Considered 80-1 long shots at the start of Euro 2004, Greece defied the odds and knocked off France and the Czech Republic—two of the favourites—before beating Portugal (for the second time in the tournament) in the final in Lisbon.
How much of an upset was this? Consider the fact that Greece had only previously qualified for two major tournaments (Euro 1980 and the 1994 World Cup), each time bowing out miserably without a single win.
Trezeguet’s golden goal
Italy was seconds away from victory in the Euro 2000 final in Rotterdam when Sylvain Wiltord scored for France deep into injury time to level the score.
Wiltord kept France alive, but Les Bleus’ hero on the day would be David Trezeguet, who took a pass from Robert Pires and blasted it into the roof of the net past Italian goalkeeper Francesco Toldo. Thanks to Trezeguet’s golden goal, France became the first reigning World Cup champion to win the European championship.
A month before the start of Euro ’96, England’s national team hit the town one night while training in Hong Kong. Photos of Paul Gascoigne and his teammates participating in a “dentist’s chair” drinking ritual were splashed all over the front pages of the English tabloids the next day.
All of England was outraged over the players’ public drunkenness, with many questioning the team’s preparedness for the tournament. But Gazza made everybody forget all about his indiscretion in a first round game against Scotland.
With England sitting on a 1-0 lead, Darren Anderton slid a pass to Gascoigne, who in one sweeping movement chipped the ball over Scottish defender Colin Hendry and then volleyed a low shot from distance past goalkeeper Andrew Goram. Bedlam ensued as Wembley Stadium. Gazza celebrated his brilliant goal by lying on his back as teammates poured water down his throat in an obvious imitation of the infamous “dentist’s chair” photo.
Platini a one-man show
No player dominated a single European championship like France’s Michel Platini did in 1984.
The former Juventus star, widely regarded as the best player of his era, scored eight goals—including two hat tricks— in four games to lead France to the finals in Paris.
He went on score his ninth goal against Spain in the final, helping Les Bleus win the title on home soil. Platini remains the all-time leading scorer in Euro history and holds the record for most goals in one tournament.
Panenka’s cheeky chip shot
Antonin Panenka’s game-winning goal in the final of Euro ’76 has to be one of the most cheeky moments in soccer history.
After Czechoslovakia and West Germany battled to a 2-2 draw, the match in Belgrade went to a penalty shootout. As the defending European champions, the Germans were expected to repeat, but Uli Hoeness blasted his shot over the net with his team down 4-3.
Up stepped Panenka, who could win it for the Czechs. But instead of playing it safe and blasting an attempt on goal, Panenka chipped his shot straight down the middle as German goalkeeper Sepp Maier dove wildly to his left, the ball dribbling over the goal-line.
The Magic Dragan
Still riding high from its World Cup victory two years earlier, England was hoping to add a European championship to its CV in 1968 in Italy.
Yugoslavia had other ideas, though. A chippy and physical semifinal match ensued between the two in Florence before Dragan Dzajic settled the match in the 86th minute.
Dzajic went on a quick run, blowing by three defenders before eventually being stopped. Undeterred, the speedy winger continued on his run past English captain Bobby Moore into the box. Once there, he controlled a high cross with his chest, before hammering the game-winner past legendary English goalkeeper Gordon Banks.
Soviets make history
It all began 56 years ago when the Soviet Union won the inaugural tournament, then known as the European Nations Cup, by dismissing Yugoslavia 2-1 in extra-time in the final in Paris.
Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin, considered by many the greatest ever to play the position, kept his country in the game with a series of outstanding saves before Victor Ponedelnik’s header in the 113th minute clinched the victory.
Spain wins first title
Spain looked poised to win the inaugural 1960 tournament after beating Hungary but a potential quarterfinal match-up with the Soviets caused problems. Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco barred the Soviets from entering his country to play the away half of the two-legged playoff, forcing Spain to forfeit the match. The Soviets went on to win the tournament in France.
Four years later in the final, the two sides met at Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium, with Marcelino’s header in 84th minute allowing Spain to gain revenge on the Soviets. The Spaniards had to wait until Euro 2008 to win another major international tournament. They repeated four years later.
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