12 of the most iconic moments in European Championship history

  • Kat Lucas

There will be no European Championships this summer after UEFA decided to postpone the tournament by a year. 

It’s feared the coronavirus pandemic is so severe that the entire summer needs to be left clear to allow the domestic leagues to complete their fixtures. 

So it will be no beer gardens or late nights watching the world’s best nations battle it out – and it is *absolutely not* coming home this June. 

All is not lost, however, as we’d like to take the opportunity to reminisce about past competitions.

And at least we don’t have to sit through another year of the Nations League… 

Gazza’s ‘dentist chair’ celebration 

Paul Gascoigne’s finish against Scotland was outrageous enough without the celebration, when he lay on his back as his teammates squirted water into his mouth to recreate the notorious ‘dentist’s chair’ drinking game he had been pictured playing during a trip to Hong Kong before Euro 96. The media were unable to lambast him for long as he lit up the tournament and guided England to the last four. 

Andrea Pirlo showing England no mercy

Pirlo once said: ‘Football is played with your mind, your feet are just the tools’. And the Italian was all about the mind games in the shootout against England at Euro 2012. The coolest man around opted for a cheeky Panenka at the pivotal moment. Incidentally, it was Euro 1976 that gifted us the Panenka in the first place, courtesy of Antonín Panenka’s imaginative spot-kick against Germany. 


Greece winning Euro 2004

It boggles the mind to this day. To this day, Greece are the standard-setters for small nations who dare to dream. They beat host country Portugal 1-0 in the final thanks to a goal from Angelos Charisteas and left Cristiano Ronaldo in tears. 

Cristiano Ronaldo getting injured in the final – and then being attacked by moths 

And speaking of the great man, he hasn’t had too much luck in finals. The then-Real Madrid forward played the role more of a director general in the 2016 final after spraining his left knee ligaments in a challenge with Dimitri Payet after just 25 minutes. To make matters worse, as he lay sprawling on the pitch, he was ambushed by moths, who proved a massive problem in the game due to the lights being left on in the stadium the night before. 

Mario Balotelli’s celebration after his brace vs Germany 

Balotelli put in one of his best international performances and dominated Die Mannschaft. The Italian’s second goal nearly broke the net. The photos of him in a ‘Hulk’ pose with his shirt off is one of the iconic images from Euro 2012. 

One of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s great finishes 

Words don’t really do justice to Zlatan’s goal for Sweden against Italy in 2004. Watch it for yourself: 

Italy beating the USSR on a coin toss 

There have been plenty of arguments about the fairest way to settle the current season if the fixtures can’t be completed, but spare a thought for teams of old who could lose games on a coin toss. That’s exactly what happened to the USSR in 1968 after the match finished goalless after extra time. 

When Wayne Rooney burst onto the scene

The teenager had already risen to fame with Everton but it was still uncertain how he’d perform on the biggest stage at Euro 2004. The number nine sealed his first, a header, with a cartwheel, before scoring another three. Injury sadly curtailed his tournament prematurely. 

Zidane vs Portugal

Zidane’s biggest contribution was of course the penalty that knocked Portugal out – Abel Xavier earned himself a six-month ban, so furious were his protestations towards the referee about the handball. But we prefer to remember Zizou’s magical touches along the way. Enjoy: 

David Villa tearing Russia to shreds 

David Villa ripped Russia apart with a hat-trick in Spain’s 4-1 win, but it’s an even more remarkable moment with the benefit of hindsight now that we know it started off La Roja’s period of world dominance. Villa was just the eighth player to score a hat-trick in the history of the Euros. 

Gareth Southgate’s penalty 

No matter what Gareth Southgate achieves with England, his name will always be synonymous to some extent with his missed penalty 24 years ago and heartbreak for the Three Lions. His decision to mock that moment in a pizza advert soon after didn’t go down too well either, unsurprisingly. 

Manuel Amoros’ headbutt

Long before Zidane made it cool, his compatriot Manuel Amoros was headbutting Denmark’s Desper Olsen in 1984 after initially trying to throw the ball at his face. Inevitably, he pleaded his innocence to the referee after being sent off. 

We’re going to have to cherish these memories for a little while longer with no internationals this summer. 

Let’s hope Euro 2021 will be worth the wait.

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