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Top 5: Euro Finals

So hosts France will play Portugal in the Euro 2016 final after defeating surprise package Wales and World Champs Germany respectively in the semi-finals.


In a match-up even Paul the Octopus (god rest his soul) would’ve struggled to predict, the hosts will hope to lift the trophy for the third time, while their opponents are aiming to win a first ever international competition after 20 odd years of consistently lurking about at the sharp end of tournaments to no avail.


With the way football has panned out in recent times, anything is possible in Paris on Sunday.


So to get you in the mood for Sunday's showpiece event, we’ve selected what we think are the top 5 European Championship finals.


5. 1992: Denmark 2-0 Germany


The hosts caused an absolute stir in front of their supporters as they became the first real surprise winners of the trophy. The fact they progressed through their group was eye-catching, but to then defeat holders Netherlands in the last-four and World Champions Germany in the final was remarkable even by football’s standards. Add to that they hadn’t originally qualified for the tournament then you have a Hollywood movie on your hands. After losing just one qualification match, the Danes were distraught to miss out on the biggest sporting event in their country’s history as Yugoslavia pipped them to the post by just one point.

In a curious twist of fate war erupted in the Balkans and Yugoslavia forfeited their place at the tournament. In stepped the Danes, shorn of their star player Michael Laudrup. The Barcelona star had fallen out with the coach during qualifying and rated his nation's chances so poorly that he didn't deem the tournament worth cancelling a holiday for.

In the final John Jensen scored the opening goal and was quickly signed up by Arsenal boss George Graham. Four years later and portly powerhouse had scored the same amount of goals in North London as he had in that famous win over the Germans. More interestingly though, he was just one of 13 foreigners to play in the opening weekend of the Premiership. The mind boggles.


Anyway, Germany pressed and pressed before Kim Vilfort struck on the counter late on to seal the Championship.

 

 

And they didn't even qualify!


4. 2004: Greece 1-0 Portugal

In an even bigger shock than Denmark clinching the crown in 1992, Greece, whose were previously known for being the side which were on the other end of that David Beckham free-kick in 2001 and are now known for being the team which lost to Faroe Islands during Claudio Ranieri’s shoddy tenure, stunned everyone to lift the trophy. It’s 12 years since Otto Rehhagel led his troops to the unthinkable and still, even now, you look and wonder how on earth it happened, considering their key players were the likes of Leicester and Newcastle stalwart Nikos Dabizas, Bolton's finest Stelios Giannakopoulos and four-goal Werder Bremen striker Angelos Charisteas.

After beating Portugal in Lisbon on the opening night, the Greeks did the same in the final as the aforementioned Charisteas, who went on to perform extremely averagely for nine different clubs in the next nine seasons, headed the only goal of the game. Still, Chris Coleman’s love child, Milan Baros, was top scorer at the tournament, Germany went out in the group stage for the 2nd successive tournament and Paul Scholes played left wing. Football is a funny old game.  

 

Greece sent the whole of Europe into shock and Portugal into mourning. 
 

3. 1988: Netherlands 2-0 Soviet Union


Netherlands briefly shook off the tag of being ‘the best side to never win anything’ as they got their hands on the trophy in Munich. It's a tag they've done their damnedest to reclaim in recent years. Defeats in the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals, plus a third-placed finish in 1976 – all largely thanks to the majestic Johan Cruyff – got Dutch fans thinking that maybe they’d always be the nearly men.

But with a squad overflowing with top-class players in the shape of Ronald Koeman, Frank Rijkaard and captain Ruud Gullit, Oranje ended their long wait. Although the Rinus Michels’ side put in an impressive performance to get the job done, this match will always be remembered for a worldy goal by a player whose talent was on another level – Marco van Basten. With the score 1-0 to Holland and Soviet having missed a penalty, the striker transformed a hopeful crossfield ball into an assist as, from the tightest of angles, he volleyed the ball over the goalkeeper’s head and into the opposite top corner. The fact the crowd were sat firmly in the seat even when the then Milan star was winding up to strike shows how ridiculous the idea someone could actually score from that position actually was. Bravo MvB, bravo.

 

You still have to rub your eyes to quite believe it. 


2. 2012: Spain 4-0 Italy


Brazil blitzed Italy 4-1 in the 1970 World Cup Final with a performance considered to be the best ever at international level. Fast forward 42 years and the Azzurri, who had beaten the mighty Germany in the semi-finals thanks to Super Mario deciding he wanted to play, were on the receiving end of a wizardry display once again, this time conjured up by Spain. La Roja were aiming to be the first team to successfully defend the trophy and win three major tournaments on the spin after lifting the World Cup in South Africa. And Vicente Del Bosque’s side were in no mood to muck around as they dished out a footballing masterclass which had every spectator drooling like Neville Southall peering through the window of Krispy Kreme. It’s probably not best to discuss what has happened to the Spanish side since but we’ll say their decline has been similar to that of Andre Agassi in the late 90's. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end with Iker Casillas losing all his hair, growing a terrible goatee and harbouring a spicy little meth habit.
 


Spain carried out an Italian job on Italy.


1. 1976: Czechoslovakia 2-2 West Germany


Just like the ‘Cruyff Turn’ or a ‘Frank Sinclair back pass’, a match which sees the birth of a specially named technique goes down in football folklore. Two years after the Dutch legend twirled on the ball, and 28 years prior to the current Hednesford boss producing one of the funniest own goals ever, Antonin Panenka gave himself immortality in the game as he produced something players only ever dreamed of before. Stepping up to take potentially the spot kick following a pulsating 2-2 draw, fans at home would’ve been screaming at the midfielder to just hit the corner of the net.

But, in the biggest display of balls since Louis van Gaal dropped his trousers in front of his Bayern Munich players, the then Bohemians Prague star calmly dinked the ball down the centre of the goal. Luckily it was something nobody had ever seen done in a match before, leaving goalkeeper Sepp Maier even more confused than I was after hearing Joe Pasquale’s voice for the first time. Some of the world's best have tried and failed with a 'Panenka' spot kick since then. Attempt one at your peril. 

 

The 'Penanka' was born.

 

Daniel Tyler
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Cover Image - PA

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