Wembley has long been accepted as the ‘Home of Football’. The old Empire Stadium, first built in 1923, staged the epochal ‘Match of the Century’ in which England were given a footballing lesson by the Magical Magyars in 1953, and also witnessed English football’s finest hour, the national team beating West Germany 4-2 after extra time to win the 1966 FIFA World Cup final.
The venue has likewise hosted seven European Cup and UEFA Champions League deciders, the first in 1963 when AC Milan beat Benfica 2-1, as well as the final of EURO ’96, when Germany beat the Czech Republic 2-1 via a golden goal, having eliminated the hosts on penalties in the previous round. Next up, the stadium will now stage the climactic last three games of UEFA EURO 2020 – will any make it onto our list of all-time UEFA Wembley classics?
West Ham 2-0 1860 München
1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup final
Forward Geoff Hurst and captain Bobby Moore picked up a more significant trophy at Wembley the following summer, but they were stars under the Twin Towers as West Ham became the first English side to win a UEFA trophy at the stadium.
Bayern’s local rivals 1860 ran the Hammers close for 70 minutes until Alan Sealey struck twice to clinch the trophy for the East London side. Celebrations were modest, as forward Brian Dear recalled: “We went nowhere afterwards. We had a sandwich and a cup of tea and came back to Upton Park.”
Manchester United 4-1 Benfica (aet)
1968 European Cup final
Manager Sir Matt Busby, Bobby Charlton and defender Bill Foulkes were among the survivors of the Munich air crash that killed eight United players, among others, on the way back from a game in Belgrade in 1958. All three were involved as United came through an exhausting final against Benfica; it was 1-1 after 90 minutes, but George Best, Brian Kidd and Charlton won it with goals in extra time.
“They’ve done us proud,” said Busby. “They came back with all their hearts to show everyone what Manchester United are made of.”
Netherlands 1-4 England
EURO ’96 group stage
The 2-0 win against Scotland was the game that got pulses racing in England, but this demolition of the stylish Dutch was a more impressive performance from Terry Venables’ side. Alan Shearer’s penalty put England ahead in an action-packed first half, and he struck again in between two Teddy Sheringham efforts as the hosts finessed a game they only needed to draw.
“Beating Holland 4-1 the way we did, scoring two goals and being made man of the match – it doesn’t get much better than that,” Sheringham later remarked.
Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United
2011 UEFA Champions League final
Magnanimous in defeat, Sir Alex Ferguson had nothing but praise for Pep Guardiola’s 2011 Barcelona vintage. “In my time as a manager,” he explained, “I would say they’re the best team we’ve faced. No one has given us a hiding like that.”
Wayne Rooney cancelled out Pedro Rodríguez’s opener, but United had no response to further strikes from Lionel Messi and David Villa as the tiki-taka era reached its absolute pinnacle. “It was incredible how we played,” said man of the match Messi. “We were very good in all areas.”
Bayern München 2-1 Borussia Dortmund
2013 UEFA Champions League final
Beaten in the 2010 and 2012 finals, Bayern won perhaps their sweetest victory of all in the first all-German UEFA Champions League showpiece. It was an extremely competitive game, İlkay Gündoğan levelling from the penalty spot within minutes of Mario Mandžukić’s 60th-minute opener for Bayern, before Arjen Robben’s 89th-minute effort won the day.
“You can’t describe it,” said the Dutchman. “So many emotions go through your head, especially because you know what it’s like to lose. I think you can enjoy it even more when you win the title.”