Since its inception in 1960, the European championship has given us many thriller matches. From last-minute victories and equalizers to extra time and penalty shootouts, the UEFA Euro Cup has never had a lack of surprising football results and interesting matchups.
We can’t really decide which was the best Euro, but what we can talk about are best euro fixtures. We can only hope that the UEFA Euro 2020 will bring more memorable football scores that will be remembered for years to come.
Concluding with Euro 2016 we count off the most memorable Euro Cup matches played in its history.
The first Euro Cup held in 1960 comprised of only 4 teams, compared to 24 teams that will feature in the 2020 Euro Cup. Nevertheless, this cup is not only remembered for being the first one, but also for one of the most memorable games in Euro Championship history.
Football today and football back then are very different, but the excitement seen on that fateful evening on the pitch cannot be compared to any contemporary event today. France was a heavy favorite, expected to win both the game and the tournament.
They started with a comfortable lead and dictated the entire game. 15 minutes separated France from reaching the final, but out stepped Drazen Jerkovic. In a quick turn of events, the Yugoslav team scored three goals, eliminating France and delivering one of the best European cup results till this day.
The Euro 1976 finals, or the “Nacht von Belgrad,” will be remembered for two things. Firstly, it was the first Euro Cup final decided by penalties, and secondly, because of the famous penalty kick taken by Antonin Panenka.
The first three goals all came in the first half and the Czechoslovakian team was already celebrating when Holzenbein grabbed an equalizer and sent the game into overtime. Since no goals were scored, the champion would be decided on penalties.
When Antonin Panenka stepped to take the penalty, he did something nobody expected to see. An audacious lob sent right down the middle of the goal made the stadium erupt and forever etched his name into the history of football. The style in which the penalty was taken will forever be called Panenka from there on.
The clash between Portugal and France at Euro 1984 is widely regarded as one of the best games played in UEFA Euro history. The game had it all; great goals, stunning equalizers, a last minute winner, literally everything one could wish for.
France was again the host of the European championship and favored to win. They started the game by scoring from a free-kick courtesy of Jean-Francois Domergue. But the Portuguese side didn’t think much of it as they managed to, first, equalize and, secondly, take the lead in the 98th minute of extra time.
Domergue scored his second goal of the game making the result 2-2. The Portuguese side was already preparing for the penalties when an incredible assist by Tigana and an even better reaction by Platini earned France a victory in the 120th minute of the game. France went on to the final to beat Spain, which is a result that they will be trying to replicate in 2020 Euro Cup Final.
Before making all the football news back in 1996 for their famous run to the finals, the Czech Republic team needed to make it out of the group stage first. It all came down to the final game where the Czechs needed a victory.
The Czech side started the match well and was already leading by 2-0 in the 19th minute of the game. But the Russian side was not having it and took advantage of their chances. The Czech lead was nullified by the 54th minute of the match. The real shocker came from Vladimir Beschastnykh in the 85th minute taking Sbornaya to an unexpected lead.
The Czech side had to rally and rally they did. Thanks to a young Vladimir Smicer who came on as a substitute to score the equalizing and his first ever international goal to take the Czechs through to the next stage. This game will forever be remembered as one of the best euro fixtures ever played.
Before going on a massive run to win two European competitions and one World Cup, Spain wasn’t considered as a massive powerhouse that we know today. Their last favorable European cup result came 44 years before they finally reached the Euro Cup final in 2008. In 2000 though, with a talented team comprised of players from the Spanish football league they were on the brink of elimination in the group stage of the UEFA Euro tournament.
Yugoslavia managed to grab the lead first. In fact, they grabbed the lead three times, but Spain just kept coming back. It was extra time and Spain was trailing by 3-2. Spain scored two goals in two minutes to turn the game in their favor. A penalty taken by Mendieta in the 94th minute and a late winner by Alfonso in the 95th allowed La Furia Roja to advance from the group stage.
Spain went through as the first team of group C but was immediately eliminated by future champions France. Nevertheless, this game will always be remembered as one of the most thrilling games in Euro Cup history.
Euro 2004 saw Greece dominating the tournament and winning against the host nation of Portugal. Nevertheless, in order to reach that faithful Euro Cup final, Portugal needed to defeat England.
England was off to a flying start with a 3rd-minute leading goal from Michael Owen. Unfortunately, for them, Helder Postiga managed to bag in a late equalizer at the brink of the finish. The game went into extra time where two more goals were seen. This time Portugal took the lead but Lampard kept England’s hopes up with a 115th-minute equalizer.
Historically, the English team never had luck with penalty shootouts. The Portuguese goalkeeper, Ricardo, was the true hero of the game.
Denmark wasn’t supposed to even be at the tournament, let alone reach the finals. But they managed to write probably the best Cinderella story in European football history. The Euro Cup 2020 is not likely going to have massive underdogs like this one, but the Danes will always remember their faithful night in Gothenburg.
United Germany was a heavy favorite to win. But Peter Schmeichel kept a clean sheet emerging as the true hero of the finals saving every possible shot. With goals scored by Jensen and Vilfort, Denmark took home the trophy with a 2-0 victory.
The surprising team of Euro 2008 was definitely Turkey as they reached the semis of the Euro Cup. But they first had to make it out of the group stage and to do so they needed a win against the heavily favored Czech team.
After 62 minutes of play, the Czech Republic had a comfortable lead of two goals. Then the Turkish side managed to pull probably the most unexpected comebacks of UEFA Euro Cup history. They scored three goals in a span of 14 minutes, with two from their captain Nihat Kahveci in the 87th and 89th minute.
The finals of Euro 1988 were famous for many reasons. First of all, it was the stage where an emerging force of Dutch players proved how much they were actually worth, and secondly, this game marked a clash between the Eastern and the Western blocks.
Even though the Dutch side eliminated the host nation West Germany in the semifinals, the Soviets were seen as the team favored to take home the trophy. But a decisive 2-0 victory, staged by Rud Gullit and Marco Van Basten’s volley, proved that the Dutch were not there only to participate. They were there to win. The goal scored by Van Basten has been voted numerous times as one of the most beautiful and most important goals in Euro Cup history.
The first spot as the best game in European championship history deservedly goes to the final game of Euro 2000. According to many, this game was also seen as the best Euro Cup final ever!
Italy drew first blood with a goal by Delvecchio in the 55th minute. A few minutes of added time separated the Azzurri from claiming their long-awaited UEFA Euro crown. Until Sylvain Wiltord scored the equalizer in the 93rd minute sending it into overtime.
This was the year when the Golden Goal rule was in effect, meaning that whoever scores first wins. Thanks to their substitutes, Pires and Trezeguet, France surprisingly came back from a goal down and won the game in the 103rd minute of extra time. Nobody could have written this story better making this the best Euro fixture played in the history of European Cup tournaments.