By William Hill
Last Updated: 25th March 2020
As we head into the closing stages of European Championship qualifying, some teams have secured progression into next summer’s tournament, while others have it all to play for.
In any case, it seems like an apt time to have a flick back through the history books and take a look at some of the European Championship’s greatest ever games.
France 4-5 Yugoslavia (1960)
Let’s take it back to the first ever instalment of the competition. France became the first host country and here took on Yugoslavia in the semi-final, a side who had beaten them in a World Cup quarter-final two years previously.
Once more a comeback materialised. France were 4-2 up and looking steady but just 15 minutes before the final whistle they suffered a capitulation fit for folklore, courtesy of keeper Georges Lamia. He fumbled an Ante Zanetic shot from range before spilling again minutes later to concede the equaliser. Barely 60 seconds after the restart he gifted Yugoslavia their fifth goal, rendering him the footballing party pooper of his nation’s inaugural role as Euro hosts.
Netherlands 1-4 England (1996)
After tournaments to forget for England in 1988 and 1992, the 1996 edition on home soil is one that will live long in the memory for Three Lions fans, particularly the drubbing of Netherlands. This group game also signified comeuppance for current Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman who, two years prior to the fixture, should have been sent off before scoring for the Dutch to knock England out of contention for the 1994 World Cup.
With the Three Lions anthem bellowing around Wembley, Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham took it in turns to put England 4-0 up, with the last three of those goals rolling in within 11 minutes of each other.
Terry Venables oversaw his side’s emphatic display, though Netherlands’ late consolation goal ended up knocking Scotland out of the tournament, with England making it to the semi-final stage before losing out to old rivals Germany.
Netherlands 2-3 Czech Republic (2004)
There are few European football fans who will forget this match in a hurry, though so much happened that you would be forgiven for not remembering it in its entirety. There’s the timeless element of the last-minute comeback, with Czech Republic 2-0 down before manager Karel Bruckner made the unorthodox substitution of a midfielder for a full-back barely 25 minutes into the game.
There was also Pavel Nedved’s ridiculous 35-yarder that almost broke the crossbar and Ruud van Nistelrooy’s goal for Netherlands that appeared to flout the offside rule. Then throw in Milan Baros’ regal leveller, Vladimir Smicer’s classy late winner and the delectable performances of new Chelsea signings Arjen Robben and Petr Cech. It wasn’t a bad group game.
Croatia 1-1 Turkey (1-3 pens) (2008)
It took penalties to break the deadlock here, with extra-time required to see the game’s first goal. Croatia went ahead courtesy of Ivan Klasnic in the 119th minute, putting them just ten minutes away from the chance to play for a place in the Euro 2008 final.
Yet just a minute later, the referee made the controversial decision not to allow Croatia to make a substitution that would have seen them bring on a man in defence. This occurred seconds before Semih Senturk’s equaliser, coming from a free-kick taken by 35-year-old keeper Rustu Recber, who now had to prepare for penalties.
Both sides now had to battle their nerves in order to nail down a semi-final spot from the 12-yard spot, with one nation categorically succumbing to the pressure. It was Croatia who choked, missing three of their four, while Turkey converted three from three. The game certainly played a big part in justifying why veteran Rustu is still regarded as his country’s greatest ever man between the sticks.