The impossible becomes possible in the final stages of the UEFA European Championships. Here’s the proof.
1988 group stage: England – Republic of Ireland 0-1
“Everyone was telling us how to go to Ireland,” Ray Houghton said, referring to his national team’s debut in the finals that didn’t follow the script everyone expected. After just six minutes, Houghton took the lead for Jack Charlton’s line-up, stoically resisting England’s next siege, thanks in part to the hero of the evening, goalkeeper Pat Bonner.
Group Stage 1992: Sweden – England 2-1
“That goal is always shown in Sweden and wherever I go people ask me about that goal,” admitted Thomas Brolin, speaking of the goal that sent England home in 1992. England took the lead after four minutes but the hosts did not give up and found the winning goal in the 82nd minute after Jan Eriksson’s equaliser.
1992 Final: Germany – Denmark
Denmark had not qualified for EURO ’92 and had been re-taken just two weeks before kick-off due to the exclusion of Yugoslavia. A month later the Danes were incredibly European champions thanks to goals in the final by John Jensen and Kim Vilfort. “We couldn’t fail because there were no expectations on us,” Vilfort said.
Group stage 1996: Czech Republic – Italy 2-1
Defeated by Germany in the opening game, the Czechs are kissed by the goddess blindfolded by the second game. Enrico Chiesa erases Pavel Daid’s early lead but Luigi Apolloni’s ejection before the half-hour brings the race in favour of the Czechs. Radek Bejbl scored the decisive goal and paved his team’s path to the final. “So many things have happened that I have enjoyed all the way through,” recalled Karel Poborsky.
Group Stage 2004: Latvia – Germany 0-0
Latvia came back from a 2-1 defeat to the Czechs in their first Euro opener but against Germany they had a perfect defensive contest and also came close to victory with a cavalcade by M.S. Verpakovskis before half-time. Coach Aleksandrs Starkovs called it a “historic achievement,” proudly adding: “We have shown the strength of our team spirit.”
2004 Final: Portugal – Greece 0-1
“Our opponents were technically stronger than us but we took advantage of the opportunities that happened,” Otto Rehhagel said after his team silenced the Lisbon crowd. Angelos Charisteas’ header was enough to defeat the hosts and favourites to win – among them a young Cristiano Ronaldo. “The Greeks made history today,” added ‘Rehhakles’.
Round of 16 2016: England – Iceland 1-2
Ragnar Sigurdsson finds the equaliser less than 120 seconds from Wayne Rooney’s 4th-minute penalty lead. Kolbeinn Sigtonsson scored the winning goal in the first half and in the second half Iceland played a careful game that gave an unbeatable victory to the small European nation on their debut in the competition. “They thought it was going to be a walk,” said the author of the decisive goal, Sigurdsson. Evidently England were wrong.