Cris Freddi looks back at the highs and lows of the European Championship. Guess which category England appear most in
1960: USSR 2, Yugoslavia 1 aet (Paris)
The Soviets were a little lucky to reach the last four, the Fascist government having withdrawn Spain from the quarter-final, but once there they were generally in charge, conceding only one goal in the two matches while wearing down the Czechs (3-0) and the skilful Yugoslavs, their big centre-forward Viktor Pondelnik scoring the winner in extra time. Yugoslavia consoled themselves by winning the Olympic title later that year. To no-one’s surprise, then or now, none of the British countries entered.
Player of the tournament: Lev Yashin, prominent in match reports and beaten only once by a deflection from his captain Igor Netto.
Cock-up of the tournament: Anything by the French defence. Leading 4-2 with a quarter of an hour to go in the semi-final with Yugoslavia, they concede three in three minutes.
1964: Spain 2, USSR 1 (Madrid)
The worst so far? Oh yeah, pretty much. Denmark were there after beating Malta, Albania and (in a play-off) Luxembourg, Spain after recalling their overseas stars to beat Northern Ireland 2-1 on aggregate. The USSR were more physical than ever, Hungary were crap. Nevertheless the final, in front of the biggest crowd in the competition’s history, was decided by a goal fit to win any match: Marcelino’s clever stooping header. Note that Spain had no qualms about playing the Soviets this time: Franco handed over the trophy in person. Meanwhile England, deigning to enter at last, lost 5-2 to France in Alf Ramsey’s first match as manager.
Player of the tournament: Probably Yashin again, or Luis Suárez, but a poor crop that year.
Cock-up of the tournament: The Soviet management for fielding an extra defender in the final, handing the initiative to Suárez in the second half.
1968: Italy 1, Yugoslavia 1 aet Replay Italy 2, Yugoslavia 0 (Rome)
The second-worst yet. Two negative semi-finals (Norman Hunter crippling Yugoslavia’s Osim, Alan Mullery sent off) and a host country that had all the luck, winning the semi on the toss of a coin, able to bring in fresh players for the final replay while Yugoslavia had to make do with a tired squad. Still, any team that can call up Mazzola and Riva as replacements is surely the best in the competition, and the 2-0 win in the replay was clear-cut (though note that Riva’s goal’s only just been judged legitimate by TV replays!). England, who’d beaten the holders Spain home and away, won the 3rd-place final against the USSR.
Player of the tournament: Dragan Dzajic, the best left-winger in Europe, who scored both of Yugoslavia’s goals.
Cock-up of the tournament: The Yugoslav wall that allowed Angelo Domenghini’s free-kick to equalize with only ten minutes left in the final, plus the decision to decide drawn matches on the toss of a coin.
1972: W. Germany 3, USSR 0 (Brussels)
West Germany first, the rest nowhere. Belgium outclassed in the semi (2-1 doesn’t begin to tell the story), the USSR even more so in the final. Although their captain Khurtsilava hit the woodwork twice, so did the Germans, hot favourites and probably the most exciting team ever to win the title. Their greatest players were all involved in the first goal: Beckenbauer bringing the ball out of defence, Netzer hitting the bar, Müller putting in the eventual rebound. Before that, they’d overrun England in the quarter-final.
Player of the tournament: Günter Netzer, for adding class and arrogance to a slightly functional team – though Beckenbauer and Müller ran him close. They took the first three places in the European Footballer of the Year poll.
Cock-up of the tournament: Lajos Kü’s penalty miss which cost Hungary a place in the final. Mind you, they were crap again.
1976: Czechoslovakia 2, W. Germany 2 aet (Czechoslovakia 5-4 pens) (Belgrade)
Easily the best of the four team tournaments, every match going to extra time and causing drama to the very end (the first competition of its stature to be decided on penalties). The holders conjured the kind of comeback they’ve been dining out on since 1954, twice recovering from 2-0 down, first v Yugoslavia thanks to sub Dieter Müller’s hat-trick on his debut, then Hölzenbein’s last-minute header in the final – only for Uli Hoeness to miss the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Yugoslavia fell away badly, Holland missed Cruyff and had Van Hanegem sent off, but the Czechs were worthy enough winners, having put out the USSR of Blokhin & co and improving no end since losing their first qualifying match 3-0 at Wembley.
Player of the tournament: Not Beckenbauer, who won his 100th cap in the final and was European Footballer of the Year again, but Anton Ondrus, Czechoslovakia’s big sweeper and captain in all but name.
Cock-up of the tournament: Hoeness’ penalty miss (he wasn’t capped again) – though Clive Thomas’ decision which allowed the Czechs to take the lead against Holland looked typical of him.
1980: W. Germany 2, Belgium 1 (Rome)
The first of the eight-team affairs wasn’t much of an advert for enlargement. Too many sub-standard teams (Greece, Spain, Holland, England after Trevor Francis’ Achilles), some nondescript matches. Belgium reached the final after winning only one of their three group matches, and even the Germans were largely anonymous but did at least produce the two tastiest blonds of the tournament: Rummenigge and the young playmaker Bernd Schuster, who might have changed the results of the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals if he hadn’t ruled himself out of the team. Horst Hrubesch’s two goals in the final were his first in international football.
Player of the tournament: Schuster.
Cock-up of the tournament: Jean-Marie Pfaff coming out for a corner and not getting there, allowing Hrubesch to head the winner in the last minute of the final – with an honourable mention to Keegan coming back into his own penalty area, where his marker Tardelli scored the goal that stopped England reaching the final.
1984: France 2, Spain 0 (Paris)
The best of the lot. Tactical innovation (the five-man midfield), class players proving it (Völler, Chalana, the French and Danish midfields), exciting finishes (Spain knocking out the holders with a last-minute goal then beating Denmark on penalties, that France v Portugal semi-final). The French, lucky to be playing at home, grateful for Arkonada’s boob in the final, nevertheless deserved it all: they won every one of their twelve matches in the calendar year.
Player of the tournament: Jean-Amadou Tigana. What, not Platini and his record nine goals? Well, the rest of the midfield gave him a base from which to go forward, Tigana was the best of them, and his run made Platini’s winner in the semi.
Cock up of the tournament: Platini’s other bit of assistance: Luis Arkonada’s gruesome fumble of his free-kick when the final was still goalless. One captain’s gift to another.
1988: Holland 2, USSR 0 (Munich)
Not 1984 but not far off. Völler’s comeback lifted the hosts above mere consistency, the emergence of the young Italians and Big Jack’s Ireland added spice, but the right two teams reached the final, which featured more world class players than any other. Although Holland deserved to win, it emphasised the importance of luck in these things: after losing their group match to the USSR, they were thankful that England twice hit the woodwork at 0-0 and that a freak goal sent them through at the Republic’s expense with eight minutes left.
Player of the tournament: Inevitably, Marco van Basten, for scoring the first hat-trick against England since 1959, the late winner in the semi, and above all that astonishing volley over Dasayev in the final.
Cock-up of the tournament: Igor Belanov’s penalty miss which stopped the USSR gett-ing back into the final, and the daft booking that kept Oleg Kuznetsov out of the match.
1992: Denmark 2, Germany 0 (Gothenburg)
No very great quality over all (France disappointing after a recent unbeaten run, Sweden wobbly at the back, Graham Taylor picking Batty, Daley, Keown and Carlton Palmer) but an almost corny fairytale ending, unfancied Denmark winning the thing after replacing war-torn Yugoslavia at the eleventh hour. They cut it a bit fine, losing to the hosts, beating France with 12 minutes left, putting out the holders on penalties, but their name was probably always on the pot: John Jensen’s opening thunderbolt was only his second goal in 48 internationals. You could say that England, more dismal than ever, drew with the European champions, but you don’t.
Player of the tournament: Thomas Hässler, for his midfield touch and those spanking free-kicks against the CIS and Sweden.
Cock up of the tournament: Sorry, can’t think beyond Graham Taylor’s input, culminating in the Lineker substitution.
From WSC 113 July 1996. What was happening this month