On the eve of the 2016 European Championship in France, we look back at five of the greatest clashes in the history of the competition.
Our selection features Michel Platini’s magic, the great Danes of 1992, some Turkish delight and a Balkan heartbreak.
1. France 3-2 Portugal (1984)
Hosts France went in to the 1984 Euro semi-final against Portugal as the overwhelming favourites to reach the final. They got off to the perfect start after defender Jean-François Domergue struck a rasping 25 yard drive from a direct free kick to send the home fans into raptures. However, Rui Jordão scored 15 mins from time to send the semi final into extra time. Jordão scored again, 8 minutes into extra time, to give the Portuguese a shock lead against Les Bleus, putting them on the verge of elimination from the competition in front of their own fans. However, Jean-Francois Domergue proved to be their savior yet again, scoring in the 115th minute to restore parity. French legend Michel Platini then stepped up to score his 8th goal of the competition, one minute from a potential penalty shootout, to send France into the final. France would eventually go on to win the European championship after defeating Spain 2-0 in the final.
2. Turkey 1-1 Croatia (2008)
The high point of Turkey’s dramatic Euro 2008 campaign came in the quarter final against Slaven Bilic’s Croatia side. Earlier in the tournament, the Turks scored injury time winners against Switzerland and Czech Republic to seal their progress into the knockout stage of the tournament. In the quarter final, a battle of attrition ensued as Croatia and Turkey laboured towards a goal-less ninety minutes. However, the match triggered a frenzy in extra time. Croatian striker Ivan Klasnic looked to have won the match for his side after scoring in the 119th minute of the match. Remarkably though, Turkey substitute Semih Senturk somehow scrambled home a 121st minute equalizer to send the match into a penalty shootout. Turkey’s veteran goalkeeper Rustu Recber saved 3 of the 4 penalties attempted by the deflated Croats to send his team into the semi-final of the tournament.
3. Denmark 2-0 Germany (1992)
Denmark scripted one of the most remarkable football fairy tales of all time when they went on to win the 1992 European Championship. It is worth noting that Denmark did not even qualify for the tournament and were only granted entry after war-torn Yugoslavia were barred from participating in the championship. After qualifying from a group comprising of England, France and hosts Sweden, Denmark, led by the legendary Peter Schmeichel, edged past the mighty Holland in the semis to set up a showdown with West Germany. John Jensen gave Denmark the lead after his rasping right foot drive nestled into the top corner. Kim Vilfort struck 12 minutes from time to seal a memorable title win for the Danes.
4. Yugoslavia 3-4 Spain (2000)
Yugoslavia’s painful 3-4 loss to Spain turned out to be their final competitive match in the international arena. Spain needed a win on the night to ensure qualification into the quarter final of the competition. In a game of continuously changing fortunes, Yugoslavia took the lead twice in the contest only to be pegged back by a resilient Spanish side. However, when Komljenović struck for the Balkans 15 minutes from time, Spain’s European hopes appeared to be hanging by a thread. Heading to stoppage time, Spain needed to score twice to progress to the next round. Valencia midfielder Gaizka Mendieta struck a 94th minute penalty to level things up before Alfonso Perez grabbed an unlikely winner a minute later to seal Spain’s spot in the quarter final.
5. Czechoslovakia 3-1 Holland (1976)
After losing out to West Germany in the final of the 1974 World Cup, Holland were the hot favorites to win the 1976 European championships. Led by the mercurial Johan Cruyff, Holland coasted through to the semi final after registering resounding victories over Italy, Poland and Belgium in the qualifying rounds. However, the mighty Oranjes were undone against then-undivided Czechoslovakia in one of the most thrilling matches of all time. Czech International Anton Ondrus, who was considered one of the best defenders in the 1970s, planted a header into the top corner to give his side the lead in the 19th minute. However, Ondrus turned from hero to villain with 13 minutes to go as he flicked in Ruud Geel’s cross into his own net to level the scores and send the match into extra time. Jaroslav Pollak and Johan Neeskens received their marching orders in the second half to reduce both the teams to 10 men. In extra time, Zdenek Nehoda and Frantisek Vesely scored for the Czechs to seal their team’s unlikely progress into the final of the tournament. Czechoslovakia eventually went on to defeat West Germany in the final to win the 1976 Euros in a match defined by Antonin Panenka’s iconic winning penalty.