Let’s Look at The Best European Championship Finals
Best European Championship
The year that was 2020 saw many big tournaments postponed, including the European Championships.
All eyes often fall upon the Champion League, the biggest tournament in domestic soccer across the Atlantic, but their own major international tournament is not without its own thrills and spills. Indeed, much like the World Cup, an international tournament can often add an extra narrative depending on the countries involved and their political standing at the time.
Euro 2020, which will now take place in 2021, promises to continue a rich tradition of international soccer tournaments that have delivered thrills, spills, shock and surprises. The final is set to take place at the so-called home of Football, Wembley Stadium in London, but group matches are scheduled to take be played across the continent. The unpredictable nature of the locations, as well as one of the biggest rosters of any tournament, promises to make Euro 2020 a competition packed full of surprises, like many that have gone before.
Few were more surprising than minnows Greece winning the 2004 tournament, but such is the quality and intrigue that it often serves up, that does not even make our list of the top four European Championship finals, which you can find here to relive and enjoy.
Czechoslovakia 2-2 West Germany, 1976
The fifth final of the competition’s history saw favorites West Germany up against Czechoslovakia. The Germans had won the competition in 1972, and the World Cup in 1974 and were widely recognized as one of the major forces in the world game. On an atmospheric night in Belgrade, the underdogs took a 2-0 lead within 25 minutes, courtesy of Karol Dobias and Jan Svehlik. Gerd Muller, who later played for Fort Lauderdale Strikers, pulled one back before the half-hour mark, and that is how it stayed until the last minute. Bernd Holzenbein seemingly broke Czech hearts with a late leveler and the game went to penalties. Germany missed one, leaving Antonin Panenka to nonchalantly chip his decisive kick down the middle of the goal, giving that style of kick a name which sticks today.
Netherlands 2-0 Soviet Union, 1988
The 1988 final between the Netherlands and the Soviet Union was expected to be a tight affair, with the latter having already beaten the former in the opening game. However, unlike now, the Dutch were well fancied. They are currently ranked as outsiders by Bwin for Euro 2020, but at the end of the eighties, they were a dominant European force, with the likes of Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and striker Marco Van Basten in their ranks. In a thrilling game, Gullit gave them the lead in the first half, a strike few remember due to the quality of their second. Van Basten struck a 54th-minute volley past Rinat Dasayev, known as the Iron Curtain, a goal which is still remembered as one of the finest ever in a major international final. Current manager Frank de Boer would certainly take a repeat of that this summer, as would Russia who are rank outsiders.
Denmark 2-0 Germany, 1992
Denmark should not have been at Euro 92, as they did not qualify under usual circumstances. Yugoslavia initially made the tournament, but due to the wars raging n the country at the time, Denmark replaced them at short notice. Drawn in a group with England, France and Sweden, few expected them to make the final stages. Instead, they scraped through in second place, then shocked the Netherlands in the semi-final to reach the final. Waiting were a unified Germany, World Cup finalists in 1986 and 1990. Nobody gave the Danes a hope, but John Jensen’s opener made for a tense affair, in which they defended stoically before snatching a winner through Kim Vilfort with 12 minutes to go. In the years since, Denmark have not gone further than the quarter-finals of any competition, failing to qualify at all for two of the last three tournaments. They will be hoping to provide another shock after securing their place at Euro 2020.
France 2-1 Italy 2000
France were reigning World Champions, having comprehensively thrashed Brazil in the 1998 final, and they went to Rotterdam in the Euro 2000 final as favorites over Italy. The Italians were a strong force too, and when Marco Delvecchio gave them a lead to defend it looked as though France were down and out. Deep into injury time, with the game seemingly over, Sylvain Wiltord grabbed a late leveler, to send the game into golden goal extra time. Just before half time in extra time, David Trezeguet converted a Robert Pires cutback to immediately end the game and give France a historic double.