With the domestic club season now at an end, attention will soon turn to Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
Spain will be looking to retain the title they won back in 2008 while England under new manager Roy Hodgson will be desperate to reprise the role of underdogs exploited so well by Denmark and Greece in the past.
Along with the World Cup, the European Championships represents one of the biggest tournaments in the world game, and has given us some pretty special moments in the past.
So with little under two weeks to go until this summer's tournament kicks off, GMF brings you some of the best moments from its history to whet your appetite.
Remembered as one of the finest goals to have ever graced the European Championships, even the inventor of total football and then Netherlands manager Rinus Michels was left flabbergasted.
In the final against USSR and 1-0 up thanks to a Ruud Gulilt goal, Van Basten received a deep cross from Arnold Mühren, lined up and unleashed a ferocious volley from an impossibly tight angle that hit the back of the net. The Netherlands won their first and only Euro crown and Van Basten ended up the tournament’s leading scorer.
England fans will remember the summer of 1996 for two things; football returning home and Paul Gascoigne’s remarkable goal against Scotland.
Responding to Gary McAllister’s penalty miss that kept the scoreline at 1-0 to England, Gascoigne took the game by the scruff of the neck, looping the ball over Colin Hendry’s head before volleying past Andy Goram to start hysteric celebrations from the Wembley crowd.
How does a team that doesn’t even qualify for the 92 edition wind up lifting the trophy? That was the story twenty years ago as Denmark sprung one of the greatest shocks in international football’s history.
Taking their place in the tournament as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Danes stunned the world by defeating Germany 2-0 in the final to claim their only ever international tournament success.
Italy win by coin toss (no video available)
Italy must have known it was their year to win the European Championships as they claimed victory over the Soviet Union by virtue of a coin toss.
After 120 minutes of action in Naples in the pair’s semi-final showdown in 1968 neither could land a decisive blow, and ultimately the game was decided by the toss of a coin. Italy called it right and went on to claim victory in the final.
Any player stepping up to take a spot-kick in a penalty shoot-out requires bottle, but to take the penalty that will could help secure glory for your country in the European Championship final requires something special.
With that in mind Antonin Panenka must be from a different planet as back in the ‘76 final he lined up to take the crucial penalty for Czechoslovakia against West Germany, and applied a Coup de Grace by dinking the ball into the net past the flailing Sepp Maierr who had expected him to hammer it home.
In one moment, six years of agony was let go by Stuart Pearce. His penalty miss against West Germany in the 1990 World Cup had haunted the Nottingham Forest full-back but he would get the chance to make amends on home soil in the 1996 European Championships.
In England’s quarter-final shoot-out with Spain, Pearce stepped forward once more to take a penalty, but this time he found the back of the net and unleashed a furious celebration to finally put the memories of Italia ’90 to bed.
France secured their first major international title back in 1984 on home soil as Michel Platini bagged an incredible nine goals to become the tournament’s leading scorer.
But none of his nine strikes in ’84, including his goal in the final against Spain, was as important as his semi-final winner in the very last minute of extra time against Portugal with the scoreline poised at 2-2 and a penalty shoot-out looming.
Another memorable moment from Euro 96 and having knocked England out in the semi-finals, Germany were aiming to be crowned champions once more against the Czech Republic.
The game was level at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes, but in extra time Olivier Bierhoff struck to score the first ever golden goal and secure his place in the football history books.
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