The UEFA EURO semi-finals have been packed with twists, turns and drama down the years, starting with the very first last-four contest in 1960. UEFA.com picks out six ties that had everyone on the edge of their seats.
The first ever game at a EURO finals set a thrillingly high standard, though there was little hint of the avalanche to come as half-time neared at the Parc des Princes. The two teams were locked together at 1-1, but François Huette fired Les Bleus in front on 43 minutes and he later added a second to make it 4-2. Yugoslavia, it seemed, were beaten. Instead, they had a shock in store for the home side, plundering three goals in the space of five minutes in what remains the competition’s highest-scoring match.
Holders West Germany were heading for defeat in Belgrade until Helmut Schön made one of the most inspired substitutions of all time. Danilo Popivoda and Dragan Džajić had earned a 2-0 lead for the hosts, who were still looking strong after Heinz Flohe’s deflected effort reduced the deficit – but that all changed when Schön brought on the uncapped Dieter Müller 11 minutes from the end. With his very first touch, the debutant sent the game into extra time where he scored twice more to cap an unlikely comeback win. He also scored in the final as West Germany lost on penalties to Czechoslovakia.
After missing out in 1960, the French eventually made it through to their first final 24 years later. Dominant for long periods thanks to the artistry of Michel Platini, they struck first through Jean-François Domergue and appeared poised for a routine victory until Rui Jordão nodded in on 74 minutes. The same player then volleyed Portugal ahead in extra time, but Platini teed up Domergue to level and clipped in the winner himself with a minute left to spark euphoric scenes at the Stade Vélodrome.
His stunning effort in the final may be better remembered, but Marco van Basten’s last-four decider carried its own significance. Determined to avenge the defeat by their arch-rivals in the 1974 FIFA World Cup showpiece, the Oranje found themselves facing another agonising loss when Lothar Matthäus scored from the penalty spot in Hamburg. Undaunted, they responded in kind through Ronald Koeman and, with extra time looking inevitable, Van Basten hooked in a dramatic late clincher.
Having become masters of the late goal in Austria and Switzerland, Turkey finally got a taste of their own medicine in a roller-coaster classic. Missing a raft of players, Fatih Terim’s men led for once through Uğur Boral, though Bastian Schweinsteiger quickly equalised and Miroslav Klose gave Germany the advantage with 11 minutes left. Turkey, of course, responded, Semih Şentürk pouncing at the near post, but the final word went to Philipp Lahm, who capped a dizzying game with a rare strike in the 90th minute.
The Mannschaft had breezed into the last four by winning all four games in Poland and Ukraine, and it was going to take something special to halt the juggernaut. Enter Mario Balotelli. The Italy striker – never overawed by a big occasion – thumped in a header from Antonio Cassano’s cross for the Azzurri’s first ever EURO semi-finals goal, then rifled a second past Manuel Neuer inside 36 minutes. Germany, who were on a run of 15 consecutive victories in competitive games, never recovered, with Mesut Özil’s added-time penalty offering them the most fleeting hope of salvation.