16 moments that rocked the Euros
1. Van Basten goes from sub to superstar, 1988
He finished it with perhaps the finest goal the tournament has ever seen, a perfect dipping volley from an impossible angle as Arnold Muhren’s deep cross dropped from the heavens.
What few will remember, though, is that Marco van Basten actually began Euro 88 warming the Dutch bench. But after they lost that opening group game against the USSR – who they would beat in the final – Van Basten destroyed England with a hat-trick in the next game and slid home an 88th-minute winner against hosts and bitter rivals West Germany in the semis. But after Ruud Gullit’s headed opener, he saved his best for last.
2. Portugal lose
their shirt, 2000
There’s no shame in being undone by Zinedine Zidane at the peak of his powers, but it was enough for Portugal to collectively lose the plot, as they maniacally berated the officials in the Brussels semi-final.
As Abel Xavier’s goal-line handball was spotted by the linesman and Zizou scored the golden goal penalty, they embarked on an appalling mass protest that resulted in Nuno Gomes being sent off and banned for eight months, Paulo Bento for six, and mad-haired Xavier for nine.
Said Gomes: “I didn’t throw my shirt at the ref – I wanted to give it to him so every time he looked at it, he’d remember what he did to our nation.” That’s all right then.
3. Greece is the word, 2004
“It’s the biggest shock ever in international competition,” said Angelos Charisteas after his headed winner saw off hosts Portugal.
Having scraped through the group stage (which also featured Portugal), another Charisteas header did for the French, before Traianos Dellas’s noggin saw off the Czech Republic in the semis. Three headers, three 1-0 wins, one almighty smash and grab. No wonder the Greek media dubbed Otto Rehhagel’s unfancied thieves ‘the Pirate Ship’. Arrrgghh!
4. World, meet
Before 2002, none of us even knew what a metatarsal was. Soon, they were ruining English dreams every other June. After Becks in Japan, it was Wayne Rooney’s turn two years later.
This, after the 18-year-old looked like firing Sven’s men to glory almost single handedly. He ran France ragged in the opening game before Zidane’s late show, then scored a brace against both Switzerland and Croatia, and was just beginning to put Figo, Ronaldo & Co. to the sword in the quarter-finals when the dreaded fractured foot struck. Wazza went off, England lost on penalties, but an international star had been born.
5. Cruyff’s Oranje see
a lot of red, 1976
The European Championship in 1976 would be Johan Cruyff’s last international tournament, but he couldn’t sign off in style. Level at 1-1 and with an extra man, the semi-final against Czechoslovakia looked there for the taking, but the Dutch somehow contrived to lose.
First the other Johan, Neeskens, was sent off, then a booking for Cruyff meant he’d miss the final. And when the Czechs scored in extra time after one of a million fouls on Cruyff went unnoticed, Wim van Hanegem refused to kick off and got a red card for his troubles.
6. Bierhoff’s golden handshake, 1996
“I was delighted to meet such an important man,” said Oliver Bierhoff without a shred of Teutonic irony, after being rewarded for scoring the Euros’ first golden goal – in the 1996 final – by getting to shake the hand of, er, John Major.
The Chelsea-supporting British PM almost witnessed an upset at Wembley, after the Czech Republic – who were comfortably beaten by the Germans in their opening group game – took the lead through Patrik Berger’s 59th-minute penalty. But Bierhoff – who was reportedly named in Germany’s squad on the recommendation of coach Berti Vogts’ wife – headed home the equaliser just minutes after coming on as a substitute before squeezing home the sudden-death winner in extra time.
7. The Euros’ greatest ever game? 2000
If ever a celebratory bundle was warranted, the denouement of the best game in what was a thrilling tournament was it. In a Bruges ding-dong battle, Yugoslavia thrice took the lead – the third time after just having a man sent off in what was also a spiky encounter – but Spain just didn’t know when they were beaten.
Their third equaliser came in the 94th minute, Gaizka Mendieta coolly slotting home a penalty, and their winner in the 96th when Alfonso’s scuffed volley sparked a 23-man pile-up by the corner flag. When everybody had calmed down, it emerged that Yugoslavia had also qualified for the quarter-finals – where they got thrashed 6-1 by Holland. And after all that effort, too.
8. French supersubs break Azzurri hearts, 2000
“I feel like shooting myself,” said Dino Zoff, after his Italy team plucked defeat from the jaws of victory in a dramatic final. Trailing 1-0 to Marco Delvecchio’s goal, France coach Roger Lemerre threw on Robert Pires, Sylvain Wiltord and David Trezeguet to try to break down a heroic Italian rearguard.
Lemerre’s plan worked... in the nick of time. First Wiltord slid the ball home in the 94th minute to force extra time, and then Pires cut the ball back for Trezeguet to ram home the golden goal winner in extra time, to spark a famous shirtless celebration. Days later, Zoff got his wish, as the Italian FA controversially fired him.
9. Panenka’s chocolate chip, 1976
The cheekiest moment in Euros history. After a 2-2 draw with Germany sent the Euro 76 Final to penalties, Czechoslovakia midfielder Antonin Panenka stepped up to take the crucial tournament-winning kick. Panenka had spent years practising pens against Zdenek Hruska, wagering chocolate and beer on the outcome.
After realising keepers generally dive early, he concluded: “It’s easier to score by feinting, then tapping down the middle.” And that’s just what he did here, immediately making himself a legend. The only downside? “I started getting fat because I won back all those chocolates.”
10. When it rains it (really) pours, 2012
Ukraine had only been playing France for four minutes and 20 seconds when an electric storm drowned their Group D clash to postponement. As thunder boomed and lightning crackled up above it was feared that the game would be called off altogether, but referee Bjorn Kuipers led the two sides back on almost an hour later for les Bleus to win 2-0 at the sodden Donbass Arena.
If that felt like a damp squib for hosts Ukraine, they duly lost 1-0 to England four days later and crashed out at the group stage.
11. Yugoslavia thrown out… so what? 1992
UN Security Council Resolution 757 officially banned Yugoslavia from Euro 92, but once civil war broke out in 1991, the writing had been on the wall for the Plavi.
Ivica Osim’s team had romped to qualification in Group Four, and with the bulk of the team coming from the 1987 FIFA Youth Team World Championship-winning team, Pancev, Boban, Savicevic, Prosinecki and Suker were tipped for big things in ’92. But it wasn’t to be. Their place was taken by group runners-up Denmark, but they weren’t up to much…
12. Danes bring home the bacon, 1992
Oh, they were. But after their late call-up, the Danes understandably looked rusty at the start of Euro 92. After drawing with England and losing to hosts Sweden, a 2-1 win over France helped them squeak through the group stages, before they hit form in their semi against the Dutch.
Henrik Larsen (no, not that one) bagged a brace in a 2-2 draw, but Manchester United’s Peter Schmeichel was the hero, saving Marco van Basten’s spot-kick in the shootout as the Danes went through to face a newly unified Germany in the final. The fairy tale was complete when a John Jensen rocket set them on their way to a shock 2-0 win. “Not bad for a bunch of beach bums,” ran a mocking Danish newspaper headline.
13. Bend it like
Gary McAllister may have been wary of David Seaman’s powers as he stepped up to the penalty that would have brought Scotland level in this Euro 96 group game – but he hadn’t reckoned against an Israeli spoon-bender hovering above Wembley in a helicopter. “I said ‘one, two, three, move’ as the kick was taken – and it did,” said Uri Geller, before adding: “For the ball to move on its own was a 50 billion to one shot.”
England won, and the mentalist was swamped with hate mail from Scottish postcodes. “I vowed never to use my powers in football again after that,” he said, a promise he kept (apart from at Arsenal, Newcastle, Exeter City, Bolton, Brazil and Reading).
cry Italians (for a change), 2004
Scandinavian stitch-up or Italian cock-up? You decide. Francesco Totti, having been caught spitting at his Danish man marker in an appalling 0-0 stalemate, bizarrely claimed he’d fallen into “an elaborate Danish trap”, then the Azzurri failed to finish off Sweden, despite dominating possession in a 1-1 draw. Giovanni Trapattoni’s men beat Bulgaria in their final group match, but were eliminated on goal difference after Denmark and Sweden drew 2-2 courtesy of Mattias Jonson’s 89th-minute leveller.
Both Nordic sides linked arms at the final whistle, after progressing to the knockout stages. A series of articles appeared screaming ‘Combine!’ (fix) but at least Alessandro Del Piero was a voice of reason, admitting: “We must blame ourselves for negative tactics.”
15. Platini puckers up, 1984
It was hardly the cherry on top of the icing on the cake, but Michel Platini earning himself a pair of smackers from President Mitterrand after leading France to glory on home soil reflected just how much the country had to thank their star midfielder for.
Assisted by the rest of les Bleus’ ‘Magic Square’ midfield he may have been, but this was essentially a one-man show. Hat-tricks against Yugoslavia and Belgium, a brace in an epic semi against Portugal – including a winner in the last minute of extra time – and the winner in the final (albeit fortuitously) cemented Platini’s place as the finest European player of his generation, and won him two kisses from frisky Francois. Every silver lining…
16. Holland pay the penalty again, 2000
England may have hang-ups with penalties, but the Dutch took it to an extreme in 2000. Having blown it previously on spot-kicks in three tournaments, they surpassed themselves in the semi-final against Italy, missing five in total.
The prime culprit was Frank de Boer, who missed one in normal time, and then, with a nervous wink at Francesco Toldo and a stuttering run-up, blew it in the shootout. “The entire country has a mental problem with penalties,” said Johan Cruyff, although the Dutch finally got their act together four years later, defeating Sweden on spot-kicks.