Millions dream of it, but only 173 players have won the final of the UEFA European Championship. Their stories are very different: for example, Pietro Anastasi was just over twenty years old when he gave Italy success in front of his audience in 1968, while Arnold Mullerhad was 37 when he triumphed with holland two decades later.
In the 1976 final, Czechoslovakian Antonin Panenka held out for 120 minutes to turn the most famous penalty in history. Oliver Bierhoff scored two goals in 26 minutes to win the title with Germany. What unites them, however, is the unique flavor of a triumph at EURO.
That’s how they remember that moment.
THE FIRST: Viktor Ponedelnik (USSR, 1960)
Author of the goal of the overtime victory in the first final
I like to remember that final: by beating Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union became the first European champion team ever. No one can forget these moments of glory, both the audience and the fans and the players. As far as I’m concerned, my goal in the 113th minute was the most important goal of my career. I’ve scored a lot with my club and with the national team, but there are very special matches and goals and that was mine.
THE HOUSE CAMPIONCINO: Luis Suarez (Spain, 1964)
“Luisito” leads Spain to victory against the USSR
I remember the atmosphere in particular, because the Santiago Bernabéu was full. The fans identified with us, maybe because we were a very young team and we wanted to do something nice. This calmed us down and loosened the pressure. Even if we were wrong, and because we were young the risk was high, the fans accepted it. We played well. The Soviet Union was strong, but I think we deserved it. Other national teams I played in were stronger than the one in 1964, but they didn’t win anything.
FREDDEZZA OF THE DISCHETTO: Antonin Panenka (Czechoslovakia, 1976)
The rigor you don’t expect sinks West Germany
In training I practiced on penalties: with the goalkeeper we bet a chocolate bar or a beer. He was very strong, so it cost me a lot. One day, before I went to sleep, I began to think of a way to beat him. If I had delayed the shot, kicking with a ball, the goalkeeper would have dived and could not get up. I tried it in training and it worked more and more: I finally started winning bets. I started to pull like that in friendlies, then in the league, and finally at the European Championship.
THE MINA VAGANT: Horst Hrubesch (West Germany, 1980)
Holder only at the last moment, decides the final with two goals
Before the final, my place was in danger. I had played three games without scoring and if Jupp Derwall hadn’t picked me, I wouldn’t have had anything to say. I scored the first goal, but in the second half Belgium deserved the equaliser in the 75th minute: in extra time we would not have made it. It was very hot and I remember that because of the tiredness it was difficult to even raise the cup. Karl Heinz Rummenigge’s second goal, on a corner kick, was crucial.
THE MAGO: Marco van Basten (Netherlands, 1988)
Perhaps the most beautiful goal in the history of EURO
I saw Arnold Muller’s cross and thought, “OK, I can stop it and try to get past the defenders, or risk and shoot.” You have to be lucky and at that moment I had it. It was a great feeling. At 2-0 we started to think we could win, but when I scored I didn’t realisure what I had done. You can see it from my reaction: it’s like you’re asking me, “What’s going on?”
FROM THE BENTHE To THE GLORIA: David Trezeguet (France, 2000)
One of France’s two substitutes decides the final against Italy
The equaliser in the 94th minute [di Sylvain Wiltord] increased our desire to win and we risked. It all started with a nice action from Robert Pirès: his cross was quite difficult, but I hit the ball as it came down. It took all the strength I had: it had been a difficult tournament for me, because I wanted to play more. I was happy for my companions, then for my family and then for me. Our dream, to win the World Cup and then the European Championships, became a reality.
The OUTSIDER: Theodoros Zagorakis (Greece, 2004)
Captain triumphs at home to Portugal
After our goal it was difficult for Portugal to overcome 11 men who defended with so much passion. We struggled with our teeth: instead of getting tired we ran more, we wanted the cup even more. We were under pressure, especially in the finale, but we never panicked. When the referee whistled the end, it was as if they had turned off the light… It’s another gray area of my memory. I had an idiotic smile for I don’t know how many minutes. Those were incredible moments.
“The 173 players do not include the five Italians who played the first final in 1968, before the blue victory in the repeat final.