Ten great moments

Dutchman Marco van Basten was one of the stars of the 1988 tournament.-Pics: DPA

Emotional, revolutionary, surprising or even forgettable: in its 48-year history, the European Championship has had indelible moments. By Eduardo Garcia Barassi.

A STRANGE FINAL

The second goal against the Soviet Union in the 1964 final is the most successful image in the history of Spanish football. The game was played in Madrid before 125,000 people, including dictator Francisco Franco, a declared anti-communist. Minister Jose Solis Ruiz had to convince Franco that Spain had to play that game. The Spanish strongman consulted his personal doctor, Vicente Gil, who assured him that Spain would win.

ITALY 68, A STRANGE TOURNAMENT

Italy won its only European Championship with a mix of luck and suspicion. It reached the final by overcoming the Soviet Union after 120 minutes with the score 0-0, in a game decided by the toss of a coin. In the final, it drew 1-1 with Yugoslavia with controversial refereeing from the Swiss Gottfried Dienst, the man who was also in charge when Geoff Hurst scored his phantom goal in the final of the 1966 World Cup. In a replay, Italy won 2-0 and carried the trophy. Inter Milan general manager Italo Allodi was accused of having bribed Dienst. “Everything Allodi ever did was to present referees with gold watches,” former Italy player and coach Fulvio Bernardini said years later.

WEST GERMANY CONQUERS WEMBLEY

Franz Beckenbauer, Guenter Netzer, Gerd Mueller, Uli Hoeness and Paul Breitner, five historic figures of German football, definitively graduated by humiliating England with a 3-1 defeat in London, in the quarterfinals of the 1972 European Championship. This was a milestone for what was according to many the best German national team in history, which would then beat host Belgium and the Soviet Union on its way to the trophy.

France’s Michel Platini with the trophy in 1984.-

PANENKA’S PENALTY PLATINI AND HIS ‘MAGIC SQUARE’

France 1984 was the confirmation of Michel Platini as a world star and of “Les Bleus” as a winning team with spectacular play. Platini scored nine goals and was the anchor of the “carré magique,” which also featured Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Luis Fernandez. The memory of the final would be incomplete without mention of the blunder of Spanish goalie Luis Arconada, who let the ball go through following a Platini free kick although he apparently had it under control.

VAN BASTEN’S GOAL AGAINST THE SOVIET UNION

The striker’s impressive volley, from an apparently impossible angle, went in through the far post of Dassaev’s goal in 1988 to give the Netherlands its only international title. The goal was unforgettable, as was the football displayed by a team that also featured Ruud Gullit and Ronald Koeman, an orchestra under the leadership of Rinus Michels.

A SURPRISE NAMED DENMARK

Brian Laudrup, Peter Schmeichel and company were almost on holiday eight days before the start of Sweden 1992, but a resolution by the UN and FIFA which disqualified Yugoslavia over the wars in the Balkans pulled Denmark into the tournament. They beat France, England, the Netherlands and Germany. They went there to enjoy themselves and ended up winning the tournament.

THE GOLDEN GOALS OF BIERHOFF AND TREZEGUET

The classic neighbourhood game solution — “whoever scores wins” — made its way into two European Championship finals. Oliver Bierhoff was the first to make the most of it in England 1996, to give Germany its third title against the Czech Republic. David Trezeguet followed in his footsteps in 2000, to beat Italy and give France its second continental title.

NETHERLANDS-ITALY IN 2000

The curse of the hosts — which only won three of 12 European Championships — was apparent in the 2000 semifinal in Amsterdam between the Netherlands and Italy. Zambrotta was sent off after 34 minutes, and Frank de Boer and Kluivert missed two penalties over 90 minutes. The game ended 0-0 with goalkeeper Francesco Toldo as the star and with Italy coarsely protecting its goal. In the penalty shootout, the “oranje” missed three more shots.

GREECE’S FEAT

Greece celebrates with coach Otto Rehhagel after their surprise 2004 title win.-

They played ugly, but no one in Greece will ever forget the champion team of 2004. It was based on the double premise of keeping its own goal on zero and making the most of the half-a-chance it generated per game. Spain, France, the Czech Republic and host Portugal — twice! — fell prey to its labyrinth of legs. Greece thus secured what is undoubtedly the greatest surprise in the history of the European Championship.