Football fans will tell you that even-numbered years are the ones they look forward to most. With most European leagues winding up in May, there is a void that appears for three months, during which they’re suddenly left without any football action. In even-numbered years, though, they have the World Cup and European Championships to look forward to, every two years. Euro 2016 in France promises to be a month-long football fiesta, and we get you in the mood by recounting six of the greatest Euro matches that have been played.


1976


Czechoslovakia 2 – 2 Germany 

This is a historic match for two reasons: it had the most memorable penalty kick in the history of football, and it was one of the rare occasions when the Germans bottled a penalty shootout. West Germany were a goal behind, but recovered thanks to an 89th minute equalizer by Bernd Holzenbien, taking the game to extra time. Germany missed their fourth penalty, and up stepped Antonin Panenka, who scored the cheekiest of penalties – a deft lob which left the keeper dumbfounded – and wrote his name in the history books. It’s not every day that a skill is named after a player, and from that day, the “Panenka” became a part of football folklore and vocabulary.


1992


Denmark 2 – 0 Germany 

Denmark were never supposed to play in the Euro 1992, forget winning it. They failed to qualify for the tournament and were last minute entrants, as the erstwhile Yugoslavia was in a state of civil war and wasn’t allowed to participate. They were the most unfancied team and began the tournament with a draw

with England and lost to Sweden in their second game. Some things, however, are just meant to be, and 1992 was Denmark’s year. In their third and final group game, they beat France to qualify for the semi finals. Netherlands were the tournament favourites, but Denmark beat them on penalties to set up a clash against the mighty Germans in the final. Germany were world champions and the final was meant to be a mere formality, one where the Danes would get thrashed. However, John Jensen, the Danish midfielder, scored a stunning goal in the first half before Kim Vilfort added another on the 78th minute to complete one of the biggest upsets in football. It was one of the greatest underdog stories of the European Championships, till Greece won in 2004.


2004 


England 1 – 2 France 

Cometh the hour, cometh the man is a maxim that suits Zinedine Zidane perfectly. When his team needed him the most, “Zizou” stood up and made it count. Case in point: the first group game of Euro 2004. England had a good team that year and were comfortably leading 1-0 via a Frank Lampard header till the 90th minute. These were two evenlymatched teams, loaded with talent. England had David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard, whereas France had the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Lillian Thuram. The game needed a moment of magic, and who better than the monk-like Zidane to provide it? In the 90th minute, Emile Heskey conceded a needless foul on the edge of England’s box, and Zidane struck a majestic free kick past the hapless England ‘keeper . 1-1 in the 90th minute, but Zidane wasn’t done yet. England were crestfallen after Zidane’s free kick, and a wayward back pass from Gerrard led to Henry being fouled by James, which resulted in a penalty kick. Once again, Zidane stepped up and coolly slotted it past James. It was a one-man show, and was yet another example of why Zidane was considered the greatest player of his generation.


 

Sport, Football, UEFA European Championships, Euro 2004, Estadio Da Luz, Lisbon, 13th June 2004, France 2 v England 1, England's Wayne Rooney moves past France's Lilian Thuram  (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
Sport, Football, UEFA European Championships, Euro 2004, Estadio Da Luz, Lisbon, 13th June 2004, France 2 v England 1, England's Wayne Rooney moves past France's Lilian Thuram (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
Spain v Italy - UEFA EURO
Spain v Italy - UEFA EURO

1984 


France 3 – 2 Portugal

Michel Platini has tarnished his legacy after a controversial spell as UEFA president, but there remains little doubt about his genius as a player. The Frenchman was a joy to watch in the 1980s, and his best moment perhaps came against Portugal in the 1984 Euro semi final. France were the hosts and the favourites to win the tournament. In the semi final, they found themselves 2-1 down in extra time, and were heading towards the exit. However, in the last six minutes, Platini scored two goals to complete a memorable comeback. He had a stellar tournament and scored nine goals and recorded five assists, as France went on to the final against Spain. Platini’s performance in Euro’84 is considered one of the best, and his crowning glory came in the semi final.


2012 


Spain 4 – 0 Italy

Championship finals aren’t meant to have such lopsided score lines. It wasn’t as if Italy were a bad team – for most of the 2012 final, they played quite well. But this was Spain at their best, a side which could make you surrender with their exquisite passing and movement. With midfield maestros Xavi and Andres Iniesta pulling the strings, Spain beat Italy 4-0 with goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata. What made this game special was that it cemented Spain as one of the greatest international sides of all time. They won the Euro 2008, followed it up with the 2010 World Cup and completed a hat-trick of titles with the Euro 2012 crown. For five years, they dominated football like no other team, and the 2012 final was an exhibition of what they stood for: beautiful football.


2000


 France 2 – 1 Italy 

They were the better team for more than 90 minutes in the match, but football can be cruel at times, and it was heartbreak for the Italians as they lost to France by a “golden goal”. Italy dominated world champions France for the majority of the match and was getting ready to celebrate their triumph. But two substitutes – Sylvain Wiltord and David Trezeguet – turned the game for France in the most dramatic fashion. First, in the fourth minute of injury time, Wiltord scored to take the game into extra time. Then, in the 103rd minute, Trezeguet scored a brilliant left-footed shot to score the “golden goal” and break Italy’s hearts. It wasn’t a deserved win for France, but they were the world champions became the first team to win the European Championships after winning the World Cup.


 

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