20 Greatest Moments in European Championship History

Peter Webster@@petercwebsterContributor IIIMay 22, 2012

20 Greatest Moments in European Championship History

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    With Euro 2012 sure to bring us plenty of talking points and memorable incidents, it's easy to forget about the days of yore.

    With the co-hosts Poland and Ukraine counting down just 17 days until they entertain the world, here is a look back at some of the European international tournament's more talked about subject matters—be them good, bad or nondescript.

Greece Shock the World

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    In 2004 Greece shocked the world when they pulled off a European Championship victory over hosts Portugal in their opening game.

    That shock was multiplied ten-fold when the two teams met in the final—only for Greece to beat the hosts by the same scoreline and claim their first ever European Championship.

    Nobody saw it coming, not even the Greeks themselves.

    Emotional.

Paul Gascoigne Goal and Celebration

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    England met Scotland in Euro 1996 and it was a memorable affair—largely down to the presence of Paul Gascoigne.

    Gazza wowed fans with a sumptuous goal and then etched his memory into the minds of millions with an extravagant celebration involving a water bottle.

    Legendary.

Marco Van Basten's Volley

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    Marco van Basten has scored plenty of goals during his career, but are any quite as memorable as this strike against the USSR at Euro 1988?

    Classic.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic V Italy

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic often proclaims himself to be one of the best players that has ever graced a football pitch.

    It's sometimes easy to forget some of the great goals he has scored over the years and this is one of them.

    With his back to goal, surrounded by defenders and an onrushing goalkeeper, Zlatan somehow performs a back-heel volley and puts the ball in the only part of the goal that the Italian defence could not reach—one of Euro 2004's lasting memories.

    Ingenious.

Denmark Become Champions Against All Odds

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    If you'd have walked into a bookmakers and placed a bet on Denmark to win Euro 1992, the bookmaker would have probably laughed in your face.

    Denmark failed to qualify for the European Competition that year, but group winners Yugoslavia were at war and subsequently disqualified due to the country's unrest. 

    The Des were given a reprieve by way of being group runner's up, and thus began the magnificent journey to the final where they beat mighty Germany to win the competition.

    A true case of zero to hero.

Italy's 1968 Coin Toss Victory

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    Back in the day, matches were occasionally decided by a coin toss.

    No coin toss is perhaps so memorable as the one between Italy and the Soviet Union in the 1968 European Championship semifinal.

    After a 0-0 draw and a goalless period of extra time, the match was decided on a coin toss which Italy duly won.

    The Italians took their coin betting momentum and went on to win the competition.

    Fortune.

Antonin Panenka's Penalty

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    Bearing in mind that this penalty was to win the European Championship in 1976, you could say Antonin Panenka was cool under pressure.

    Panenka coolly dinks the ball over the German goalkeeper to win the tournament for Czechoslovakia and become a legend.

    The Panenka penalty was born.

    Calm.

Abel Gets Emotional

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    Lion-esque look-a-like Abel Xavier was a spirited performer on the pitch, but in Euro 2000 he took his protestations a little too far.

    Xavier handled the ball on the line in Portugal's semifinal match against France which resulted in a penalty being scored by Zinedine Zidane.

    The strike knocked Portugal out of the competition under the golden goal regulations, and Portugal players were a little upset at the decision.

    Xavier received a six-month ban after deliberating with the referee.

    Frankly, his case never stood a chance.

    Handled.

Zinedine Zidane's Touch

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    Whilst we're on the subject of Zinedine Zidane against Portugal, remember this iconic piece of skill?

    Only Zidane is capable of such masterful balance and poise in controlling a pass that he really shouldn't.

    Truly remarkable.

Davor Suker's Lob

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    Goalkeepers going up for corners can be a nerve-jangling experience.

    Peter Schmeichel probably thought he'd recovered well enough after his sprint forward in the 1996 European Championships.

    Davor Suker put paid to that idea with this delicate finish for Croatia against Denmark.

    Lofty.

Ronnie Whelan Smashes Home a Volley

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    The 1988 European Championships brought one of Ireland's greatest goals in their Euro history.

    After a long throw evaded the USSR defence, Ronnie Whelan promptly powered home a volleyed strike to the delight of a nation.

    Champagne football it wasn't, but an amazing display of technique it was.

    Technique.

Soviet Beginnings

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    We wouldn't have reached the 2012 European Championships if it weren't for the original tournament beginning in 1960.

    The Soviet Union were the dominant force back then, and they showed it with a 2-1 victory over Yugoslavia after extra time.

    Original.

David Villa's 2008 Hat-Trick

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    In Euro 2008, Spain's David Villa scored a hat-trick against Russia during a 4-1 rout.

    It was the first hat-trick in the European Championship's since Patrick Kluivert in 2000, and Villa—in doing so— became just the eighth player to achieve such a feat in Championship history.

    The hat-trick marked the beginning of Spain's dominance in international competition.

    History.

English Carlsberg Advert 2012

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    England fans have been through a lot over the years—bad weather, cheating opposition, bad managers, and even more bad weather have tested even the most mentally tough supporter.

    In an effort to raise spirits—in more ways than one—Carlsberg created this hilarious commercial that features a host of English sporting heroes and TV personalities.

    Unfortunately for Carlsberg, the Argentinean viewers were unimpressed at the sight of a Diego Maradona look-a-like mopping the floor, prompting a series of complaints.

    Touchy!

Stuart Pearce's Emotion

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    When a player has missed a penalty in a World Cup semifinal and it subsequently knocks your country out of the competition, nobody wants to see that player step up again the quarterfinals of a European Championship.

    Stuart Pearce did just that for England against Spain in the shootout in 1996.

    His emotional response once he'd scored is a mixture of adrenaline, ecstasy, outpouring heartache and happiness all combined.

    The video link provides the perfect backdrop to a story that still brings a tear to an Englishman's eye.

    Passion.

Michel Platini's Last Minute Winner

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    Michel Platini was the driving force behind France's Euro 1984 championship charge and he broke Portuguese hearts along the way.

    The two teams faced off in the semifinal of the competition only for extra time to be required to settle the tie.

    With the scores at 2-2 and a penalty shoot out looming, Michel Platini stroked the ball home and put France dramatically into the final.

    The French went on to win the competition with a 2-0 victory over Spain.

    Orchestrator.

Amoros' Headbutt

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    A headbutt is hardly a great moment in a sporting event such as the European Championships, but it's certainly one of the most well-remembered incidents.

    1984 saw Manuel Amoros lose his cool for France when he was fouled by Denmark's Jesper Olsen.

    Amoros attempted to throw a ball at Olsen's face before deciding to just headbutt him instead—whatever works, Manuel.

    A red card ensued which Amoros tried to contest...in vain.

    Unnecessary.

Oliver Bierhoff's Golden Goal

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    Remember the days of the golden goal? The Czech Republic surely do.

    The European Championship final of 1996 saw Germany take on a resilient Czech side that had taken the lead earlier in the game before Oliver Bierhoff headed home an equalizer.

    Extra-time—a seemingly common trait in European Championships—ensued and Bierhoff notched his second to give Germany the victory.

    A classic goal it was not, but poignant? Certainly.

    Bierhoff's goal marked the first time a major tournament was decided by a golden goal.

    Unique.

Euro 2012 Wigs on Sale

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    I really am not joking.

    Worldsoccershop.com is offering Euro 2012 wigs for the excellent price of $9.99.

    The advertisement claims you can "look just like the UEFA Euro 2012 official mascot Slavek."

    I have included a picture of Slavek above should you decide you'd like to look like his doppelganger.

    Punk.

Euro 1996 Music

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    In an effort to bring together a nation, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner—two English comedians—joined forces with a band called The Lightning Seeds in 1996 to produce one of the most memorable football songs ever written.

    Unfortunately for England, the song only inspired them to the semifinals where Gareth Southgate missed a crucial penalty in the shootout against Germany.

    The song is still as catchy as ever though.

    Tune.

    On Twitter? Follow me @petercwebster where I post all my B/R content.

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