5 great Euros memories

5 great Euros memories
Simon Wooldridge
by Simon Wooldridge Last updated:

It's upon us again, The Euros – 3 years seems to have come around very quickly! Euro 2024 started on June 14 with the hosts, Germany, giving Scotland a bit of a walloping. 

No doubt we can once again look forward to some unforgettable moments as the tournament unfolds. After the World Cup, the Euros is the second-biggest international football tournament, taking place every four years – barring global health panic interruptions of course.

In the 2020 competition, played in 2021 due to COVID, England took on Italy in the Final at Wembley and, surprise, surprise, England lost on penalties. 3 years on and millions of football fans across the UK and Europe are hoping to see their country reach the final. Holders Italy are looking to triumph again and join Germany and Spain as 3-time winners.

Since 1960, there have been 16 UEFA European Championships, each packed with memorable highlights. 

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As we settle into the 2024 incarnation of the competition we thought we might revisit some of the great moments in Euros history, from Gazza's magical goal against Scotland in 1996 to England’s road to the final last time out: 

1. That van Basten goal in the 1988 final

1988 was a special year in the world of Dutchman Marco van Basten. Already regarded as one of the world’s most promising young footballers, the 23-year-old stamped his authority on the Euros that year with a hat trick against England, a semi-final winning goal against Germany, and an incredible volley against the Soviet Union in the final.

Netherlands were full of confidence going into the final after seeing off hosts Germany in the semi-final. 

Fast forward to the second half of the final and the Netherlands were 1-0 up. In the 54th minute, van Basten scored one of the greatest goals in Euros history. Veteran Arnold Mühren crossed from the left – the ball flighted perfectly for a tiring van Basten positioned near the far edge of the penalty area. Rather than taking it down, van Basten took a risk, unleashing an Exocet of a shot, striking the ball sweetly on the volley with his right foot. It rocketed across the goal, over goalkeeper Rinat Dasayev into the top far corner of the net. Dasayev stood no chance. This wonder goal gave the Netherlands a 2-0 lead, which was the eventual scoreline, helping them secure their first major international trophy. A truly defining moment in Dutch football lore.

2. Underdogs Denmark winning in 1992

The 'underdogs' tag may have been downplaying Denmark’s chances at the 1992 European Championship. Why? Simple, because they didn’t qualify for the competition in the first place. However, after Yugoslavia were banned by UEFA due to the Civil War, Denmark were granted entry less than two weeks before the tournament started.

Although the Danish players weren't exactly prepared for the tournament, they were scheduled to play a friendly against CIS, the short-lived replacement for the Soviet Union, a week before it began – so the Danes weren't completely in summer holiday mode. What followed became arguably the strangest tournament victory in any sport.

Denmark was blessed with players like Brian Laudrup and Peter Schmeichel, who led the team throughout. In the group stage, Denmark didn’t play anything like champions, drawing with England, losing to Sweden, but beating France – enough for them to advance. 

In the semi-final, Schmeichel made a crucial save against Marco van Basten. The final score was 2-2, but Denmark won 5-4 on penalties. 

June 26 came around – the day of the final between Denmark and favourites Germany. Once again, Schmeichel was excellent, famously saving a shot from Stefan Reuter, spreading himself wide in a one-on-one. There was also a flying save from a Jurgen Klinsmann header, not to mention many more excellent stops. Thanks to goals from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort, Denmark went on to beat Germany 2-0, marking the most unexpected of triumphs and one of football’s greatest underdog stories. 


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3. Gazza’s magical goal against Scotland in 1996

Euro 96 saw, arguably, one of England’s greatest ever goals by one of its greatest ever footballers, Paul Gascoigne. During his career, Gascoigne's off-field behaviour, including his struggles with addiction and gambling, often put him in the wrong spotlight, but no one could argue his prowess as a player. Gascoigne isn’t the only player to struggle with gambling addictions, however. Find out more about footballers who have been known to have a flutter here

As usual, the media was piling the pressure on England after an uninspiring opening game draw with Switzerland. Widely-circulated paparazzi shots of England footballers enjoying one too many drinks in an Essex nightclub didn't help. 

After the false start against Switzerland, England coach Terry Venables made some tactical changes, bringing in a back three formation. Come England’s match against Scotland, the plan still wasn’t going as hoped. Half-time and the score was 0-0. For many, it seemed like Scotland was the team on top.

The second half saw Venables go to plan C, bringing Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp in the hope of delivering more crosses. In the 53rd moment, the Three Lions scored, with Shearer nodding a Gary Neville cross in at the back post. Then came Gazza’s moment of genius.

What many didn’t know was that England’s management was preparing to substitute Gascoigne. Fortunately, Gazza had enough time to score that iconic goal in the 79th minute. He received a lobbed pass from Darren Anderton, before running up the field to flick the ball over defender Colin Hendry with his left foot, and then volleyed it past goalkeeper Andy Goram, ironically a club team mate, with his right. That incredible goal secured a 2-0 win for England at Wembley. 

Gazza celebrated with the famous "dentist's chair" gesture, referencing an infamous, pre-tournament, drink-soaked night. England eventually topped their group, reaching the semi-finals, but then lost to Germany on penalties. Despite the disappointment, Gazza’s goal not only remains a standout moment in England's Euro 1996 campaign but in England’s entire footballing history.


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4. Underdogs at it again – Greece winning in 2004

In 2004, Greece stunned the footballing world by winning the Euros. To say Greece were unfancied going into the tournament is a huge understatement. Widely expected to go out in the group stages, Greece, instead defeated three top-seeded sides.

Greece’s triumph would not have been possible without German coach, Otto Rehhagel, whose strategies blew teams away, including Portugal in their opener (2-1) and France in the last eight. This followed a draw against Spain and a loss to Russia in their last group stage game. It was enough to proceed, though.

Against the mighty France, boasting legends like Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry, Greece were able to frustrate, lead, and defend with discipline, resulting in a 1-0 win. The semi-final saw Greece meet the Czech Republic, with many expecting a Czech win. However, in the 105th minute, Traianos Dellas' "silver goal" (now a defunct concept) proved decisive, giving Greece a 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic to reach the final where they would face Portugal once again.

A repeat of the tournament’s opening match, Portugal were out to avenge that defeat, and many expected them to do just that, despite the Greek’s impressive display up to this point. However, attacking players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo may have been able to dominate possession, but Greece’s strong defending and goalkeeping once again kept Portugal at bay.

The score remained 0-0 until the 57th minute when Greece won a corner kick. Taken by defender Angelos Basinas, another Angelos (Charisteas), managed to rise above the Portuguese defence and head home. This secured Greece’s 1-0 victory, sparking wild celebrations and one of the most surprising wins in Euros history.


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5. England reaching the 2020 final in 2021...

Euro 2020, played in 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, saw England reach their first European Championship final, after fluctuating performances in previous campaigns. The tournament started brightly with a 1-0 win over Croatia, the last team to beat England in a major tournament. Raheem Sterling’s first major tournament goal saw England get revenge for that earlier defeat.

The next two group stage games were against Scotland and the Czech Republic. Nothing separated England and Scotland at Wembley with the game ending in a 0-0 draw, nothing like the classic meeting of 1996. Against the Czech Republic, England got back to winning ways, with Sterling providing another winning goal to set up a much anticipated clash against arch rivals Germany in the last 16.

England vs Germany – the BIG one. These two teams have given us memorable, incredible, and agonising games over the years. And this was no different. Sterling scored his third goal of the tournament, followed by skipper Harry Kane stooping low to head the ball past German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer into the bottom right corner of the net. England won 2-0.

The quarter-final saw England trounce Ukraine 4-0, with the team riding the crest of a wave, full of confidence. 2 goals from Harry Kane, plus Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson strikes saw England reach the semi-final against Denmark.

In front of 60,000 fans, England were playing for a spot in their first major final in 55 years. It didn’t all go to plan, as future Brentford squad player Mikkel Damsgaard scored a brilliant free kick, leaving England 1-0 down. But, an error from Simon Kjaer, forced by Sterling, saw the ball turn into Denmark’s net before half-time. The second half was tense, but no goals were scored; that was until extra time when Kane scored a penalty rebound against Kasper Schmeichel. 

Hopes were as high as they had ever been for England fans going into the Euro 2020 final against Italy. These hopes flew even higher when Luke Shaw scored in only the second minute. It wasn’t until the 67th minute that Italy's increased pressure paid off when they equalised through Lenoardo Bonucci. And the score remained 1-1 after 90 minutes and through extra time. Once again, England were in a penalty shoot out (their seventh in major tournaments). And, once again, they couldn’t get over the line, eventually losing 3-2, Italy walking away as European Champions once again.


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Final Thoughts

Since 1960, the Euros have given us unforgettable moments, many of which are fondly remembered, with others that many fans would rather forget. But that's football!

And as we watch the opening games of Euro 2024, the stage is set for another chapter to unfold in this, the beautiful game.

Simon Wooldridge
by Simon Wooldridge Last updated:

Simon’s long-term fascination with slots started with teasing 40p worth of change from the skilful spinning of 10p coins into a fruit machine in the last century. This has grown recently to a solid appreciation for the often dazzling artistry, imagination and mechanics of modern online slots.