The UEFA Euro is a tournament with a history of more than 60 years, which has seen some of the best players and the best national teams in this sport. The Euros have left memories of all kinds for all football fans: good, curious, surprising, etc., and that is what we want to highlight with this article, which also serves as an appetizer for the 2021 edition.
Here are some of the best stories from UEFA Euro:
Euro 2004: When Greece Was European champion
The tournament was played in Portugal, which, for the first time in its history, hosted a football competition of this magnitude and the result was exceptional at an organizational level, although it left a wound in the Portuguese heart that possibly did not close until 2016, after losing the final before surprising Greece in the 2004 edition.
To add the context to the situation, Portugal, besides being the local team, brought together two generations of players; the golden generation that had achieved the first FIFA World Youth Championship for the country with Luis Figo and Rui Costa at the helm and the other generation, the one that was emerging with Ricardo Carvalho, Simao, Deco and a young Cristiano Ronaldo being the poster boys.
With this great team, expectations were high for the local team and they did not disappoint, reaching the final. Their rival, Greece, had just passed the quarterfinals and semifinals 1-0, showing great defensive strength. Portugal was great favourites to lift the trophy but a goal from Charisteas and excellent teamwork and absolute commitment from the Greeks managed to surpass the talent of the Portuguese.
Euro 1968: A Coin That Decided The Tournament
The third edition of the tournament was played in Italy and it was the local national team that was the champion, in what has been the only Euro they have won to date. Euro 1968 had a format that differs considerably from the current one since it was a Final Four: four national teams faced each other in pairings in the semifinals and from there the finalists were decided after overcoming the previous qualifying stages. In this case, in addition to the Azurra, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and England were part of the tournament.
Italy, which had all-time greats such as Dino Zoff, Giacinto Facchetti, Sandro Mazzola or Gianni Rivera, faced the Soviet Union. Both teams were possessors of great defences and played extra time after a 0-0 draw. At that time, there were no penalties, so a replay was used to decide who the winner was. However, in this particular match, due to the tight schedule of the tournament, no other match could be organized, so it was decided to launch a coin to choose the winner.
Luck favoured Italy who advanced to the final to face Yugoslavia. The match would also end in a draw but in this case, a replay was organized and the host national team won 2-0.
Euro 1976: The Most Famous Penalty Of All Time
That Euro was played in Yugoslavia and saw the powerful national teams of West Germany and Czechoslovakia reach the final which, as is often the case in these tournaments, was quite even. The Czechoslovak team took the lead with goals from Svehlik and Dobias in the first 25 minutes but the Germans closed the gap with a goal from Dieter Muller on 28 and one from Hozelbein near the end of the match.
After extra time, the tie was maintained, which, unlike other editions of the tournament, already had the penalty shoot-out to decide the winner. The Czechoslovaks hit their first four penalties while West Germany scored their first three. It was the turn of Uli Hoeness, whose shot went well over the bar and left the tournament at the feet of the attacking midfielder of the Czechoslovakia national team, Antonin Panenka.
Panenka had a particular way of shooting penalties that the Germans were not aware of but his teammates did and therefore nervousness took hold of the Czechoslovak team. Panenka put the ball in place, took a considerable distance, and started a furious run that ended with a subtle touch to the ball so that it entered softly through the middle of the net before an incredulous Sepp Maier, who had thrown himself towards his left side.
That’s how the now-famous Panenka way of shooting penalties was born.
Euro 1992: The Danish Miracle
In a changing context of the European panorama where Germany was reunified after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Balkan war broke out and Czechoslovakia separated, the Euro was disputed in Sweden. At that time, the final phase of the tournament consisted of 8 national teams who earned their classification by winning their respective groups in the previous phase.
In this sense, Yugoslavia had classified finishing first in group four over Denmark. However, UEFA, seeing the war in the area, decided to leave out the powerful Yugoslav team, so Denmark entered the tournament. This caught the Danes by surprise while they were on vacation and they had to improvise their preparation for the Euro. The Danish team managed to gather its best players except for its great star, Michael Laudrup, who had left the national team due to problems with manager Richard Moller-Nielsen.
The Danes advanced from the group stage by beating France 2-1 in the third game, kicking England and the French themselves out of the competition. In the semifinals they tied with the Netherlands in a tight match that would be decided by penalties, where Marco Van Basten would miss for the Oranje, allowing the Scandinavians to reach the final of the tournament. The Germany of Sammer, Brehme and Klinsmann was waiting for them, who, in theory, was the clear favourite, but Denmark would solve the match with a 2-0 win that would give them their first and only Euro in addition to completing an incredible story that went from not classifying to the championship to becoming champions without their greatest ever player.
As you can see, the Euro is a championship that is full of unique moments that remain in the history of the sport and this edition that will be held in several countries of the European continent will not be the exception.