Euros – 5 best European Championship finals of all time

The European Championships has produced some iconic moments, often in the finals. Here we look at our top-five Euro deciders.

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Euro 2020 gets underway on Friday and the tournament runs until July 11 when the final will take place at Wembley to crown Europe’s new kings.

Here we look back on five of the most memorable European Championship finals.

West Germany v Czechoslovakia – 1976

The fifth installment of the tournament, held in Yugoslavia, was only a four-team affair back in 1976 and West Germany and Czechoslovakia progressed to the final in Belgrade.

The Czechs raced into an early two-goal lead through Jan Svehlik and Karol Dobias but West Germany halved the deficit before half-time when Dieter Muller pulled one back. It looked like Czechoslovakia would hold on in normal time but Bernd Holzenbein equalised to send the final to extra-time and, eventually, the first penalty shoot-out in a European Championship final was needed to decide the winners.

After the first seven kicks were converted, West Germany’s Uli Hoeness fired his effort over the bar so Antonin Panenka had the chance to win the trophy for the Czechs – and he did so with an unexpected cheeky, chipped finish as German goalkeeper Sepp Maier dived to his left.

The penalty remains one of the most iconic ever taken and that type of spot-kick is now known as a ‘Panenka’ – in tribute to the man who first bravely executed it successfully in such a high-profile match.

Netherlands v Soviet Union – 1988

Another final best remembered for a single moment when Netherlands striker Marco van Basten scored one of the most breathtaking goals ever seen in his country’s 2-0 win in Munich.

Holland, who are 12/1 to win Euro 2020, had been the outstanding team throughout the tournament in West Germany and went in front in the first half through one of their star men, Ruud Gullit, who headed home powerfully from a Van Basten assist.

Then, after the break, Van Basten spectacularly volleyed in the aforementioned second from a ridiculously tight angle on the right, somehow firing Arnold Muhren’s looping cross back into the opposite corner of the net. It was a stunning strike and a true wow moment in one of the biggest games of all, and it remains arguably the best goal the Euros has ever seen.

Denmark v Germany – 1992

Four years later, Denmark shocked hot favourites Germany in Sweden, winning the final 2-0 in Gothenburg to cap a fairytale tournament for the Danes, who were only late replacements for war-torn Yugoslavia just before the competition began.

After failing to qualify originally, Denmark were not expected to advance very far but they clearly thrived under little pressure and got to the final after beating the Netherlands on penalties in the last four.

John Jensen struck early on to give them the lead and, with the Germans failing to muster a response, Kim Vilfort added the all important second goal to seal a most unexpected tournament triumph with 12 minutes to go.

Germany v Czech Republic – 1996

England hosted its first major tournament since the 1966 World Cup and it was a summer to remember in 1996 as Terry Venables’ side were agonisingly knocked out on penalties in the semi-finals by Germany, who went on to face underdogs, the Czech Republic, in the final at Wembley.

With the score level at 1-1 after Patrik Berger’s penalty had been cancelled out by Oliver Bierhoff’s equaliser, the game headed into extra-time and, with it, both teams knew another goal would be enough due to the short-lived ‘Golden Goal’ rule.

Bierhoff was the hero again when he turned in the area and his strike, after a slight deflection, was fumbled into the net by Czech keeper Petr Kouba to give the Germans, who are 15/2 to win Euro 2020, an instant victory.

Spain v Italy – 2012

In Kiev in 2012, Spain retained their European crown in fantastic style as they outclassed Italy, winning 4-0 in the final. Spain are 15/2 to emulate the class of 2012 and win the Euros again this summer, while Italy are available at 8/1.

La Roja were at the peak of their powers, winning their third successive major tournament after triumphing at Euro 2008 and the World Cup in 2010, and they were untouchable in the Ukrainian capital that night, dominating from start to finish.

David Silva put Vicente del Bosque’s side in front after 14 minutes and then Jordi Alba doubled the lead just before half-time. Two more goals in the final 10 minutes from substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata underlined Spain’s superiority as their tiki-taka style, orchestrated by the Barcelona duo of Andres Iniesta and Xavi, left Italy chasing shadows.

*All odds correct at time of writing.

A sports journalist for over 15 years, Aidan has been part of written and audio coverage on a wide-ranging number of events. Having played and coached at amateur level, he offers in-depth insight and opinion into the world of football in particular.
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