5 Iconic European Championship Moments

5 Iconic European Championship Moments

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Italy wins on a coin toss – 1968 European Championship

Infamous for all the wrong reasons, this incident epitomized the early years of the European Championship. In 1968 the tournament underwent a name change transforming from the European Nations’ Cup into the Euros. Italy, as the hosts, found themselves pitted against the Soviet Union in the semi-final.

The clash produced a scoreless draw in 90 minutes and extra time. The culmination of this bizarre match saw Giacinto Facchetti, Italy’s captain, ‘defeat’ Soviet goalkeeper Albert Shesternyov in the most unconventional manner – through a coin toss conducted by the referee in the dressing room.

This incident, along with several others in the tumultuous 1960s, played a pivotal role in FIFA’s decision to introduce the penalty shootout in 1970, ensuring that future major football tournaments would have a more decisive and dramatic conclusion and sparing fans from the absurdity of a coin toss.

Platini’s extra-time heroics – 1984 European Championships

When Euro ’84 rolled around, the competition had undergone a significant expansion, accommodating eight teams divided into two groups, culminating in a semi-final and final. Hosts France, automatically qualified, carried high hopes of clinching their maiden title, buoyed by their talismanic captain and No. 10, Michel Platini.

France waltzed through the group stage and Platini was on fire, netting an astounding seven goals. However, they were put to the test in the semi-final when unfancied Portugal mounted a late comeback, with Rui Jordao bagging a brace to equalize. The underdogs even took the lead in extra time, putting the French dream in jeopardy.

It was at this critical juncture that Platini stepped up. In the 114th minute, he orchestrated a crucial assist, setting up Jean-Francois Domergue for an equalizer that breathed new life into France’s aspirations. Then, in the 119th minute, Platini himself found the back of the net with a finish that, while not necessarily extraordinary, would forever be etched in memory for the exuberant celebrations that followed his connection with Jean Tigana’s cross.

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Van Basten’s Masterpiece – 1988 European Championships

Widely regarded as one of the greatest goals ever witnessed in the history of the European Championship, Marco van Basten’s iconic volley not only showcased his incredible talent but also sealed victory for the Netherlands in the tournament’s final.

Euro ’88 marked a renaissance for Dutch football, as a new generation of footballing superstars came to the fore. Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Ronald Koeman, and Frank Rijkaard were pivotal to the Dutch team. Van Basten’s hat-trick eliminated England during the group stage, and his late winner in a thrilling semi-final comeback against West Germany sent the Dutch into the finals.

In the finals, Ruud Gullit found the net in the first half but it was Marco van Basten’s unforgettable volley that is etched in history forever. With precision and audacity, he executed a breathtaking volley from the most improbable of angles, leaving spectators and pundits alike in awe.

Denmark’s Unlikely Triumph – 1992 European Championships

Euro ’92 was a of the remarkable achievement of the Danish national team. What set Denmark’s success apart was their incredible journey to the tournament – they didn’t even qualify. Instead, they were awarded Yugoslavia’s spot just a month before the competition kicked off, as the former Balkan state grappled with UN sanctions amidst a brutal civil war.

They stunned the group favourites, France, with a remarkable 2-1 victory, setting the stage for a dramatic semi-final showdown against defending champions, the Netherlands. After an electrifying 2-2 draw, Denmark displayed nerves of steel, prevailing in a penalty shootout to advance to the final.

Awaiting them in the ultimate clash were the reigning world champions, Germany, heavily favoured to clinch the title. However, the Danish side, brimming with confidence defied the odds once again. They orchestrated a stunning 2-0 victory over Germany, lifting the European Championship trophy in a story that gives underdogs worldwide hope that the impossible is possible.

Greece shocks the world – 2004 European Championships

Euro 2004 had all the makings of a spectacular tournament, and it certainly delivered – albeit not in the way most had anticipated. Among the 16 competing teams, only Latvia and perhaps Bulgaria would have been considered longer shots for glory than Greece.

On the opening day when Greece pulled off an astonishing 2-1 victory over Portugal. However, they finished second in their group and had to face the reigning champions France in the quarterfinals. They sent France packing in the quarterfinals and overcame the impressive Czech Republic in the semis. Throughout their incredible journey, Greece achieved all of this with 1-0 victories.

The climax to this astonishing narrative saw Greece face Portugal once again in the final. Against all expectations, they held their nerve and secured another 1-0 triumph. The footballing world watched in disbelief as Theodoris Zagorakis lifted the coveted trophy, marking one of the most remarkable upsets in the history of the sport.

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