Sports

Top 10 Euro moments of all time

Just like the Stanley Cup playoffs or the Grey Cup, Euro has been marked by magical moments of genius over the years.

Here is a list of the top ten Euro moments:

1) Danish delight They don't write Hollywood scripts better than this. After failing to qualify for Euro '92 in Sweden, the Danish national team decided to forget about its troubles and go on vacation. Two weeks before the start of Euro, UEFA banned Yugoslavia (one of the favourites) from competing at the tournament over security reasons stemming from the outbreak of civil war in the Balkans.

The Danes were forced to cut their beach vacation short and were recalled by UEFA to take Yugoslavia's place. Danish expectations were low. Denmark crashed out of Euro '88 with three first-round losses, and veteran Michael Laudrup, one of the most talented players of his era, refused to play in Sweden. Another first-round exit looked to be a certainty.

However, somebody forget to tell Denmark. After dismissing the reigning Euro champions (the Netherlands) in the semifinals, the Danes found themselves up against two-time Euro champions Germany in the final. It looked bleak, but once again, Denmark deviated from the script, by posting an improbable 2-0 win over the Germans. After authoring one of the most shocking upsets in Euro history, Denmark hoisted the Henri Delaunay Trophy amidst wild celebrations in Gothenburg.

2) Marco van Basten's volley The scene: Munich's Olympic Stadium. After dispatching the Germans on their own turf in the semifinals, the Netherlands found itself up against a tough Soviet Union squad in the final of Euro '88. The Dutch took a 1-0 lead at the 32nd minute thanks to a Ruud Gullit header, but the game was far from over as the Soviets hung tough, trying to contain the creative Dutchmen. It took a truly inspired moment of brilliance from striker Marco van Basten to seal the result in the 54th minute.

Defender Adri van Tiggelen intercepted an errant Soviet pass and ran forward before feeding Arnold Mühren wide on the left. Mühren instantly punted a high-cross deep into the Soviet penalty area that found a wide-open van Basten. The Dutch striker, however, was in no position to score, as he was eight metres out from the Soviet goal and five from the right-hand goal line.

It appeared van Basten had no other option except to pass to Gullit who was waiting expectantly in the middle. Instead, from an impossibly tight angle, van Basten hit an audacious volley over the head of Soviet goalkeeper Rinat Dasaev that slammed into the back of the net just inside the far post. It was a piece of pure individual artistry, worthy of a player who was voted European Player of the Year on three occasions.

3) Trezeguet's golden goal It's the final of Euro 2000 and Italy is seconds away from victory. Sitting on a precarious 1-0 lead over reigning World Cup-champions France, the Azzurri are pacing the sidelines, waiting in anguished anticipation for the referee to blow the final whistle.

But the French refuse to die, much to the consternation of the Italians. Deep into injury time, forward Sylvain Wiltord breaks free on the left of the penalty area and slots a low, driving shot past Italian goalkeeper Francesco Toldo to tie the score. With the Italians absolutely devastated at the remarkable turn of events, the two teams head into extra time to settle the matter.

After both sides exchange early scoring chances, it is the mercurial Robert Pires who takes maters into his own hands. The speedy winger makes a penetrating run down the left-hand side of the penalty box. After leaving Italian defender Allessandro Nesta for dead, Pires expertly pulls the ball back into the middle for striker David Trezeguet, who thunders a first-time shot into the roof of the net in the 103rd minute. Thanks to Trezeguet's "golden goal," Les Bleus become the first reigning World Champions to win Euro.

4) Gazza's Scottish stunner A month before the start of Euro '96, Paul Gascoigne was villain #1 in England. The English team escaped to Hong Kong to train in peace and quiet, away from all the hoopla back home over the upcoming Euro festivities on English soil. One night, Gascoigne and his teammates hit the town to soak up the local night-life.

Cue the hysteria. Photos of Gascoigne and his teammates participating in a "dentist's chair" drinking ritual are splashed all over the front pages of the English tabloids the next day. All of England is outraged over the players' public drunkenness. Scathing editorials take the players to task for losing focus so close to the start of Euro.

Fast-forward a month to England's first-round match at Wembley Stadium against Scotland. With England sitting on a 1-0 lead, Darren Anderton feeds a pass to Gascoigne, who effortlessly flips the ball over Scottish defender Colin Hendry with his left foot and collects it with his right before volleying a low, cracker of a shot past goalkeeper Andrew Goram. Pure bedlam ensues as Wembley Stadium roars its approval. "Gazza" celebrates the brilliant goal by lying on his back as teammates poured water down his throat in an obvious imitation of the infamous "dentist's chair" photo.

5) Platini's free kick fires Les Bleus to victory It was the greatest performance by a single player in the history of Euro. French playmaker Michel Platini, widely regarded as the greatest player of his era, scored eight goals – including two hat tricks – in four games to lead France to the finals of Euro '84 in Paris. Dubbed "Il Franchese" (The Frenchman) by the Italian media, Platini dominated the tournament with his stylish and elegant play, ripping past defenders and scoring the most beautiful goals anyone has ever seen.

How ironic, then, that it was a sloppy free-kick from Platini that Spanish goalkeeper Luis Arconada failed to handle that sealed victory for the French in the final. With 55 minutes gone, Bernard Lacombe was fouled just outside the Spanish penalty area, setting up a glorious chance for Platini to break the deadlock. However, his free-kick was not one of his better efforts, sweeping low round the Spanish wall and right at Arconada.

As the Spanish goalkeeper dropped down to collect the shot, he pulled the ball into his body but let it squirt out and over the line. Platini's ninth goal in five games made it 1-0 for the French, and although Bruno Bellone scored late to pad the lead, it was Platini's strike that won the final for Les Bleus on home soil.

6) Panenka's cheeky chip shot Audacious. That's the only way to describe Antonin Panenka's game-winning penalty shot in the final of Euro '76 in Belgrade. With Czechoslovakia sitting on a 2-1 lead over Franz Beckenbauer and West Germany, Bernd Hölzenbein headed a cross from the left in at the near post in the 89th minute to tie the score for the defending Euro champions. Extra time followed, but the tie could not be broken, leading to the first penalty shoot-out to decide a major final between national teams.

Tensions and nerves ran high but the first seven shooters scored, with Rainer Bonhof's strike off a post being the most dramatic of the goals. Down 4-3 in the shoot-out, up stepped Uli Hoeness for West Germany. Deciding to go for power over finesse, Hoeness blasted the ball high over the crossbar.

Next up was Antonin Panenka who had the chance to win it for the Czechs. He calmly walked up to the spot, with his nation's hopes resting squarely on his shoulders and the pressure unbearable. With so much riding on the shot, most expected him to blast away like Hoeness. What followed was truly awe-inspiring: Panenka coolly chipped the ball down middle as German goalkeeper Sepp Maier dove wildly to his left, anticipating a blistering shot from the Czech. With barely any steam behind it, the ball just whispered over the goal-line to secure a 5-3 win in the shoot-out for the Czechs and sink the Germans' hopes of repeating.

7) Magic 'Dragan' burns the English As the reigning World Cup champions, England was the odds-on-favourite to win the European Nations Cup in Italy. English expectations ran high after they effortlessly made their way to the semifinals, booking a date against Yugoslavia in Florence.

The game was a tight, physical affair, with 49 free-kicks and plenty of ugly fouls. The cool English resolve melted away as the game progressed, as England was unable to unlock the pesky and crafty Yugoslav defence. With the bland, colourless contest seemingly bound for extra-time, a moment of pure genius from Dragan Dzajic in the 86th minute sent the World Champions crashing out of the tournament.

With the ball glued to his foot, the speedy winger blew by three English defenders before being stopped by a fourth. Undeterred, Dzajic continued on his run, ghosting past English captain Bobby Moore. All alone deep in the penalty area, he chested down a high cross from teammate Ilija Petkovic, played it to his foot and hammered the game-winner past legendary English goalkeeper Gordon Banks and into the back of the net.

8) The first champions The Soviet Union won the inaugural tournament in 1960 in France, then known as the European Nations Cup, by dismissing Yugoslavia 2-1 in extra-time.

Yugoslavia took a 1-0 lead in the 43rd minute on a goal by Milan Galic. Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin, considered by many the greatest ever to play the position, kept his team in the game, making one astounding save after another. The Soviets tied it four minutes into the second half on a goal from Slava Metreveli, before Victor Ponedelnik's header in the 113th minute clinched the victory for the Soviets on a rainy day in Paris.

After the game, the Soviets hoisted the Henri Delaunay Trophy, (named after the founder of the tournament) over their heads, as they were crowned the first champions of Europe.

9) Sweet Spanish redemption Cold War politics marred the 1960 European Nations Cup. After beating Hungary, the Soviet Union was drawn to face Spain in the quarter-finals. However, Spanish dictator General Franco barred the Soviets from entering his country to play the away half of the two-legged match, forcing Spain to forfeit the match. The Soviets went on to win the tournament.

Four years later in the finals in Spain, the two sides met before over 125,000 fans jammed into Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium. Spain took a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute on a goal by Jesus Pereda, only to see the Soviets equalize two minutes later on a strike from Galimzian Khusainov.

It stayed 1-1 until the 84th minute when striker Marcelino headed in the decisive goal for the Spanish, allowing the country to gain revenge on the Soviets. To this day, the 1964 European Nations Cup is the only major tournament the Spanish national team has ever won.

10) The birth of the Libero By 1972, the European Nations Cup was renamed the European Championship, but the real headlines at that year's tournament in Belgium were made by the man they called "Der Kaiser".

Legendary German defender Franz Beckenbauer played his first international tournament as an attacking sweeper (known in soccer parlance as a libero), having previously developed the position with German club Bayern Munich. Beckenbauer introduced the world to the new position (a defender who plays alone in front of the back four as the first line of defence, who also spearheads the attack by carrying the ball forward) in Belgium. By doing so, he forever changed the face of game by paving the way for future defenders to develop into two-way players who could attack as well as defend.

Beckenbauer's unstoppable, penetrating runs up field, combined with a pair of goals from striker Gerd Muller, led the Germans to a convincing 3-0 win over the Soviets in the final. More importantly, however, Beckenbauer's gift to the soccer world lives on today in the inspiring play of such notable defenders as Roberto Carlos, Michel Salgado and Paolo Maldini, all of whom owe a debt of gratitude to "Der Kaiser".