Italy play their fourth UEFA EURO final on Sunday but for England it will be a long-awaited first.
In all there have been 15 previous finals, with six going to extra time, one to penalties, two settled by a golden goal and one in a replay. We look back at the past deciders.
Lev Yashin provided the defiance and Viktor Ponedelnik the extra-time winner in Paris as the Soviet Union beat Yugoslavia 2-1 in Paris to become the first team to lift the Henri Delaunay Cup. Appearing in the inaugural final courtesy of a dramatic 5-4 comeback victory over hosts France in the last four, Yugoslavia came to the fore once more in the showpiece.
Milan Galić put them ahead in scrappy fashion and thereafter it was only Yashin’s goalkeeping heroics that denied them. Slava Metreveli eventually levelled the scores before Ponedelnik wrote his name into Soviet folklore with the decisive second. “That 113th-minute winner was the most important of my whole career,” he later reflected.
On home soil in Madrid and against the holders, Spain triumphed to collect their first major trophy. In front of a boisterous Santiago Bernabéu crowd which included Francisco Franco, the hosts took an early lead through Chus Pereda.
The USSR restored parity thanks to Galimzyan Khusainov but Spain came good once again, Luis Suárez demonstrating his influence by laying on Marcelino Martínez for the clincher. “We really were a good unit,” said Pereda later. “We had Suárez to conduct the orchestra. Then we had great players like Amancio and Marcelino, who was a natural goalscorer. It was a fantastic squad.”
The Azzurri were within nine minutes of defeat in the first attempt to decide the 1968 final – a 1-1 draw – yet returned to Rome’s Stadio Olimpico 48 hours later a different proposition, dominating Yugoslavia from the off in the replay.
One of five changes to the side and returning from a broken leg, Luigi Riva made the difference second time around. He might have had a hat-trick, yet his 12th-minute strike was enough. Pietro Anastasi quickly sealed victory, flipping up Giancarlo De Sisti’s angled pass and volleying in splendidly from the edge of the box. It was, said goalkeeper Dino Zoff, “the perfect performance”.
The Soviet Union must have feared the worst. Gerd Müller had scored all four in a 4-1 friendly win the previous month – and now three-quarters of the crowd were German. That is how the pitch must have looked to the USSR as well: at one stage their opponents strung together 30 passes.
Müller broke the deadlock midway through the first half in Brussels and claimed another in the second period, Germany’s third following Herbert Wimmer’s strike. “The team worked, the coach worked – it was great,” recalled Müller. “The team were on a roll and we won. That final was the best of the lot.”
THAT penalty. Like in the semi-final against hosts Yugoslavia, West Germany recovered from two down to force extra time in Belgrade. Dieter Müller and Bernd Hölzenbein, in the dying seconds, cancelled out first-half efforts from Ján Švehlík and Karol Dobiaš. This time, though, a winner proved elusive.
For the first time a major international tournament final went to penalties. The first seven spot kicks found the net before Uli Hoeness fired over for the holders; Antonín Panenka applied the coup de grace, achieving immortality by waiting for Sepp Maier to dive before chipping down the middle.
Horst Hrubesch, a late pre-tournament replacement, notched his first goals in international football to secure his country a second European crown. René Vandereycken’s 75th-minute penalty cancelled out Hrubesch’s early opener in Rome, but the latter forward lived up to his ‘Heading Monster’ billing at the death, rising at the near post to nod in Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s cross.
The pre-final voices calling for him to be dropped were silenced. “I had played three matches without scoring and if Jupp Derwall hadn’t selected me, I couldn’t have argued. Looking back, he made the right choice.”
Spain began strongly in Paris but Michel Platini had been captivating both the continent and opposition defences all tournament, and the moment he registered finals goal No9 at the Parc des Princes (no other side struck as many that summer, never mind a player) there was little doubt about the outcome.
Platini’s free-kick was not one of his best, slipping through Luis Arconada’s hands, yet the goalkeeper could do nothing when Bruno Bellone made sure late on, chipping in after a through ball from player of the championship Jean Tigana. “We were superior to everybody,” Platini remembered.
Marco van Basten was at his inspirational best in Munich, producing a goal to rival Panenka’s penalty as the competition’s most memorable. His gravity-defying header teed up Ruud Gullit for the breakthrough before an exhibition of poise and class that has resounded ever since, lashing in a stunning volley from the acutest of angles.
“The excitement about the goal, I did not really understand it,” said Van Basten. “You can also see that in my reaction. I am asking: ‘What is happening?'” It rubber-stamped a 2-0 triumph and the Oranje’s long-awaited first major title.
Richard Møller Nielsen was planning to install a new kitchen when, two weeks before the tournament kicked off, he got the call to prepare Denmark for EURO ’92 after Yugoslavia were barred. One win in four games sufficed to take them to the final and a fairy-tale ending in Gothenburg.
The rarest of goals from John Jensen put them ahead and Kim Vilfort completed one of the greatest surprises in national-team football. In between, an inspired Peter Schmeichel kept out everything Germany threw at him – all but Møller Nielsen’s kitchen sink.
“Take Oliver Bierhoff with you,” Germany coach Berti Vogts’s wife had told him on a Venetian gondola before EURO ’96. “He will repay you.” So it transpired. Bierhoff came on with injury-ravaged Germany 21 minutes from a surprise Wembley final defeat after Patrik Berger’s penalty near the the hour. He wasted no time, equalising to send the contest to extra time before somehow squeezing in a 95th-minute winner – the first golden goal.
“He was a typical centre-forward: not the best technically but he deserved it so much,” team-mate Matthias Sammer said. “We all gained from it, but he deserved it.”
Italy were seconds from glory, leading through Marco Delvecchio’s second-half strike, until Sylvain Wiltord’s last-gasp effort prompted extra time. David Trezeguet did the rest in Rotterdam after Robert Pirès had tricked his way down the left before pulling the ball back for his fellow substitute to crash a first-time shot into the roof of the net.
“All my strength was in that shot – it had been a difficult championship,” Trezeguet said of his golden goal. “France became the first team to win the European Championship after winning the World Cup. It was a great thing for our country.”
The 80-1 pre-tournament outsiders pulled off a shock in Lisbon to rival Denmark in 1992. As in previous matches that summer, a no-nonsense defence marshalled by Traianos Dellas, a combative midfield headed by eventual player of the tournament Theodoros Zagorakis, and an opportunist striker in the shape of Angelos Charisteas broke Portugal’s hearts.
“When the referee ended the match, it was as if the lights went out – another blank spot in my memory. The constant smile of an idiot on my face for I don’t know how many minutes,” said Zagorakis. “Unbelievable moments.”
Spain brought to a close 44 years of hurt as Fernando Torres’s first-half goal in Vienna sparked a period of global dominance. The Spanish had not been beyond the quarter-finals at any championship in 24 years, yet Luis Aragonés’s men chose to use that history as an inspiration rather than a burden.
After a strong opening from Germany, seeking a fourth title themselves, Spain were the more dangerous outfit. It took just one goal – in the 33rd minute, courtesy of Torres’s pace, perseverance and unerring finish – to end their long wait. “We’ve won this tournament in style,” said Aragonés.
Against a flagging Italy team whose thrilling knockout campaign looked to have caught up with them, Spain were in control from the moment David Silva made the breakthrough with a rare header on 14 minutes in Kyiv. A barnstorming second with half-time approaching from the indefatigable Jordi Alba, his first international goal, left the Azzurri with a mountain to climb.
The sight of Thiago Motta, their third substitute, being carried off on a stretcher extinguished all hope, causing Italy to play the last 28 minutes with ten men – and Spanish replacements Torres and Juan Mata fully capitalised.
Les Bleus were expected to crown their home tournament by lifting the trophy against a Portugal side that failed to win a game in the group stage and lost their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo to injury minutes into the Stade de France showpiece.
Fernando Santos’s men showed their resolve when they needed it most, though, forcing extra time and then prising a goal through substitute Éder’s raking 109th-minute strike. “Ronaldo told me I would score the winning goal,” said the match winner. “He gave me strength and positive energy.” And a first major trophy to boot.