It is a familiar time for football fans across Europe. Flags decorate bedroom windows, cars, and the faces of millions of hopeful fans, believing that this may be their year. It can only mean the beginning of another football tournament: UEFA Euro 2016.
The fifteenth European Championship, this year’s expanded event will see 24 teams compete for the trophy. As media interest builds, and expectations rise (or fall) accordingly, there will be little else dominating the minds of football supporters between 10 June and 10 July. Using the range of newspaper collections in Gale Artemis:Primary Sources, I revisit five highlights from Euros past.
- A nine-goal thriller in the first tournament (Euro 1960)The brainchild of French Football Federation Secretary Henry Delaunay back in 1927, the first European Championships finally came to fruition in 1960. Named the UEFA European Nations Cup, the tournament saw just four teams compete in France: Yugoslavia, the USSR, Czechoslovakia and France. The undoubted pinnacle came in the very first match, as Yugoslavia twice came from two goals down to defeat France 5-4. Six goals came in the second half, including three from Yugoslavia in just four frantic minutes. Refusing to lie down, Yugoslavia overcame the odds at 3-1 and 4-2 down to produce a stunning comeback. Such heroics were ultimately in vain though; they were beaten by the USSR after extra time in the final. The nine-goal haul remains a record for a single match at the Euros though – perhaps 2016 is the year for it to be broken…
- Michel Platini makes his mark (Euro 1984)By June 1984 and the advent of the seventh European Championships, Michel Platini was already a household name in world football. Approaching 29, the attacking midfielder had already won the coveted Ballon d’Or (in its days before it was a straight fight between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo), and had just won his first league title and European Cup with Juventus in Italy.
This appeared to be Le Roi’s springboard for international success; he carried this momentum into the 1984 tournament, scoring in each of France’s five matches. The highlight was an eighteen-minute hat-trick against Yugoslavia, even more remarkable given his hat-trick against Belgium just three days earlier. This helped Platini on his way to a record-breaking haul of nine European Championship goals, a record which still stands today despite the enlarged format of the tournament (it was not until 1996 that 16 teams competed). His goal in the final helped France overcome Spain to win their first major international trophy, capping an outstanding tournament for the Frenchman.
- Paul Gascoigne’s goal vs Scotland and the ‘dentist’s chair’ celebration (Euro 96)With England hosting the competition for the first time, expectations before the 1996 tournament could not have been greater. Yet things had fallen somewhat flat after a disappointing 1-1 draw with Switzerland in the opening match, a late penalty cancelling out Alan Shearer’s early header. The Swiss were perceived as the weakest team in a group which also featured the Netherlands, ratcheting up the pressure for England’s next match against Scotland. Having made the breakthrough thanks again to Shearer, England were holding on. Just as it seemed they were about to be pegged back again – David Seaman preserving England’s narrow lead with a penalty save – up stepped Gascoigne with a moment of brilliance. Receiving the ball from Darren Anderton on the inside left, he flicked the ball over the advancing defender and struck a crisp volley into the net. Cue wild celebrations, most notable for Gascoigne’s infamous ‘dentist’s chair’ celebration, in reference to an incident on a pre-tournament night out in Hong Kong. Gascoigne’s moment of magic may well have sparked England into life at the tournament; they wasted no time in comfortably defeating the Dutch in their next match.
- A shock win for Greece (Euro 2004)
Set against Leicester City’s recent Premier League triumph, Greece’s Euro 2004 conquest pales into insignificance. But at the time, they were undoubtedly rank outsiders for the competition; given odds of 150/1 by some bookmakers, their selection in a sweepstake was hardly likely to bring cries of delight. They had never even won a match at a major tournament going into the competition. That soon came to an end with the very first match though; the well-organised, tenacious Greeks proving too much for tournament hosts Portugal in Porto. And so the 2-1 victory set the tone for the remainder of the championships; they would go on to beat France and the Czech Republic on their way to the final, where a third consecutive 1-0 victory (also against Portugal) saw them crowned champions of Europe. It may not have been pretty, but it was certainly effective. Without any individual stars, it was dogged determination which saw Greece over the line, showing the importance of the collective over the individual. Five of their players were named in UEFA’s Team of the Tournament, including captain and Player of the Tournament Theodoros Zagorakis.
- Spain win their first major tournament in 44 years (Euro 2008)With the 1964 victory their only major tournament win in their history, Spain had become perennial underachievers at international tournaments. Not for the first time, big things were expected of them in 2008. Barcelona’s ‘tiki-taka’ style of play had reached its apotheosis domestically and their talent peppered the national side in the form of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and David Villa. Playing alongside a host of other leading players from Europe’s top clubs, the time had finally come for Spain to deliver on the international scene. The stage was promptly set with an impressive 4-1 triumph over Russia, Villa’s hat-trick giving his side a convincing win. Although they failed to win quite as comfortably until the semi-final defeat of Russia, it was the combination of close-knit possession football with the deadly strike duo of Villa and Fernando Torres which proved decisive. The tournament win heralded a period of dominance; La Roja would go on to win the next World Cup and European Championship.