The European Championship has had numerous matchups which produced some of the most memorable games in the history of the tournament. Whether it was games with nine or more goals scored or last-minute winners, the UEFA Euro Cup has always been a joy to watch and has orchestrated some incredible football results, worthy of Hitchcock.
In loom of UEFA Euro 2020, which will be the first competition played in multiple countries, spanning across the entire continent of Europe, we are bound to get some worthy results.
In honor of the start of the competition, we are counting down the greatest football comebacks produced in Euro Cup history.
For our first matchup, we go all the way back to 1960 when France played Yugoslavia in their inaugural semi-finals game. The French side, led by their home supporters, started off with a decisive 2-1 lead which was increased to 3-1 by half time. The Yugoslav team did get one back but at the same time conceded another goal. Les Bleus were already cheering and thinking about the finals scheduled to be played in Paris.
It was then when the football Gods decided to pull one of the greatest comebacks in football history. The Yugoslav attacking force, led by Drazen Jerkovic, managed to put three past the French goalkeeper for a final result of 5-4 in favor of the Yugoslav squad.
Another semi-finals game and the second inclusion of the French side, but with a different outcome. Again, France was off with a commanding start with a goal by Jean-François Domergue, ending the first half of the game with a 1-0 lead for France. But according to football news back then, it was where everything started turning for the worst for the French side.
A late equalizer came 16 minutes before the final blow when Rui Jordão sent the game into overtime. Inspired by their fantastic performance till then, Portugal even took the lead at the start of overtime, devastating the home crowd. However, Michel Platini, the captain of the French side, didn’t think much of it. By himself, he staged one of the best comebacks in football when he first assisted for the equalizer and scored the winning goal by himself in the 119th minute of overtime, gearing France into the finals and an eventual Euro Cup trophy.
One of the things that separate football today and how it was played back then are the results of Euro 2000. We can only hope that something like this is replicated for Euro Cup 2020. What made this game even more interesting is that Yugoslavia and Slovenia were playing each other for the first time after the separation of old SFR Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav team was the clear favorite entering the game, with the Slovenian side being a complete underdog with their first ever game at a European Competition tournament.
Slovenia actually took a surprising 3-0 lead, with the help from their star player and all-time Slovenia great Zlatko Zahovic, who put two behind the net before the end of the half. What made things worse was that the Yugoslav team was a man down after Sinisa Mihajlovic was sent off in the first half. But thanks to a stellar performance by the tournament’s top scorer, Savo Milosevic, and super sub Ljubinko Drulovic, Yugoslavia fought for dear life and eventually held on to a 3-3 draw.
The same tournament managed to give us one of the most memorable football scores in the history of the European championships. The Euro Cup of 2000 gave us not one but two memorable comeback games and Yugoslavia was the participant of both. After the 3-3 thriller with Slovenia (read about it above), Yugoslavia was looking to bounce back and they had to do it against Spain. The only result favoring the Spanish side was a win, or else they would be eliminated from the tournament.
The teams were trading blows as the result constantly shifted in favor of both teams. Eventually, the Yugoslav side settled to a 3-2 lead when extra time started. Gaizka Mendieta’s penalty drew the sides level, but Spain still needed another one. So in the last minute of the game, Alfonso Perez managed to edge one in for his second goal of the game and push Spain through. Even though Yugoslavia lost a game they already won, they had to be content as they were also through to the next phase of the competition finishing second in the group after Spain.
Euro 2000 has produced probably the most memorable games of all UEFA Euro Cup competitions, but not more memorable than the final game. If the 2020 Euro Cup Final brings us at least half of the excitement this game has provided, we can probably expect to see a very exciting tournament. Both sides deservedly reached the finals and after a 1-0 lead, scored by Delvecchio, Italy entered the final minutes of the game already seen as the future champions of Europe.
However, the last minute of the game delivered a real stunner, just when everybody around Italy was celebrating their new title. Attacker Sylvain Wiltord scored a late equalizer prompting the game to overtime. Both sides had their chances but no goals were seen. The last minute of the first overtime period was played when Pires delivered a pitch-perfect cross to find David Trezeguet who stunned both the Italian goalkeeper Toldo and the entire stadium. The Golden Goal rule was in effect and it meant that France has become the new European Champion. This was a magnificent result for them as they managed to unify the European Championship with the World Cup title, won just two years ago in France.
After defeating Germany, as the top team of the group, the Netherlands were considered as the early favorites to win the whole competition. They even started the game in the same manner and were already two goals up in the 19th minute of the game with goals from Bouma and Van Nistelrooy.
Surprisingly, the second half gave us a completely different story. The Czech side fought their way to a draw and by the middle of the half period mark, the result was 2-2 courtesy of goals from Milan Baros and Jan Koller. But the surprise came at the very end of the match when Vladimir Smicer pulled an upset. In hindsight, Smicer will be in the main role of a much more important game in the Champions League final, Liverpool vs Milan 2005. He would score a goal for Liverpool’s comeback and later score the winning penalty in the shootouts, showing that he is a man always ready to step up in important situations.
Czech Republic was probably the surprise team of Euro 2004, but Turkey was a much bigger surprise in the European Competition of 2008. It all started with the group stage game that the two played against each other. The Czech Republic was a clear favorite, which they managed to prove by leading two goals to none. It seemed that just 30 minutes till the end of the game meant that all hope was lost for Turkey.
The Turkish side managed to get one back, courtesy of Arda Turan who came on as a substitute, but it was their captain and veteran Nihat Kahveci who was the real hero. He grabbed two goals in less than 3 minutes to win Turkey the game and stage one of the greatest upsets in Euro Cup history. Turkey went on all the way to the semi-finals of the tournament where they would be eliminated by the future winners, Germany.