For a whole host of reasons Euro 2020 is shaping up to be the most unique iteration of the European Championships.
There’s just over one week to go until Turkey and Italy go head-to-head in the showpiece opener at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Ahead of the tournament, GIVEMESPORT have looked back at the 25 greatest moments since the tournament’s inception back in 1960.
The international festival of football has thrown up an eclectic mix of romantic footballing tales, David vs Goliath triumphs, gut-wrenching heartbreaks and otherworldly strikes of sublime ingenuity over the years.
And in order to whet your appetite for the upcoming tournament, GIVEMESPORT are on hand to guide you on a nostalgic journey through history and reacquaint you with 25 of the tournament’s most memorable moments.
Let’s take a look:
25. Ibrahimovic dares to Zlatan
The seemingly indefatigable martial artist at his most spontaneous. Trailing from a deft first-half header from Antonio Cassano, Sweden went in search of an equaliser and eventually levelled things up through Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s genius.
Ibrahimovic was the sharpest to reach a loose ball following a scramble inside the area, and he converted with his back to goal by somehow looping a backheeled volley into the corner despite the presence of Christian Vieiri on the line.
24. Italy win semi-final via coin toss
Before the advent of penalty shoot outs, Italy secured their place in the final of the 1968 Euros after captain Giacinto Facchetti correctly called tails in a coin toss to determine the winner of their clash against the Soviet Union.
The game had ended 0-0 and Italy went on to clinch the trophy with a 2-0 win over Yugoslavia.
23. Fernando Torres chips Spain into golden era
Spain dominated the international football world between 2008 and 2012, winning all three available major trophies in the space of just four years. The first of their triumphs arrived against Germany in Austria, with Fernando Torres scoring the deftest of dinks past Jens Lehman to secure a hard-fought 1-0 win.
22. Ruthless Spain’s hat-trick
In 2012 Spain secured their third straight major championship with a 4-0 win over Italy, consolidating their status as one of the most dominant sides in the history of international football.
Goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata secured the emphatic win.
The lasting influence of Spain’s golden generation can be seen in the modern tactical sphere from elite managers through to grassroots level.
21. Xherdan Shaqiri takes flight
Have you ever seen a goal quite like this? Switzerland found themselves 1-0 down against Poland in the last-16 of Euro 2016 and were staring exit in the face as the game ticked into the final ten minutes.
Vladimir Petkovic’s side pushed and probed for an equaliser and they got their reward in the 82nd minute through a simply outrageous overhead kick from Xherdan Shaqiri.
The ball popped up in the air just outside the penalty area and, with his back to goal, Shaqiri used his notoriously muscular legs to spring into the stratosphere. He hung in mid-air for a split second of solitude, snapped into life with a ferocious swipe of the left boot and planted the ball into the corner to send the Swiss fans behind the goal into raptures.
Big moments call for big players.
20. Zidane Zidane is fashionably late
As the game ticked towards its conclusion, England appeared to be heading for a perfect start to Euro 2004 in their Group B opener against France. Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side led from the 38th minute after Frank Lampard headed home an archetypal free-kick from David Beckham, but a late show from Zinedine Zidane stole the three points in two minutes of stunning drama.
In the 91st minute Zidane whipped a delicious free-kick beyond a statuesque David James.
Just two minutes later, he scored from the penalty spot after James brought Thierry Henry down in the penalty area.
19. Andrea Pirlo’s Panenka
One of football’s most effortlessly composed and classy operators at his most nonchalant. Italy and England played out a 0-0 draw in the quarter-final at Euro 2012 and penalties would once again determine the Three Lions’ fate at a major tournament.
With Italy 2-1 down in the shootout, the pressure was on Pirlo to keep the Azzurri in touching distance. Joe Hart was animated in a bid to throw Pirlo off, but the midfielder stepped up and executed a sumptuous Panenka penalty as England’s number one launched himself to the right.
England missed their next two kicks and Italy eventually progressed to the final.
18. Manuel Amoros loses his head
Not exactly a “great” moment by definition but it’s certainly a memorable incident which deserves recalling here.
Manuel Amoros completely lost it after being brought down by Jesper Olsen and headbutted the Denmark international right under the referee’s nose.
Amoros received an early bath and a three-match ban for his moment of madness.
17. Davor Suker lobs Peter Schmeichel
With Denmark chasing an equaliser against Croatia at Euro 96, Peter Schmeichel ventured forward to support the attack.
But Denmark lost possession in pursuit of a late goal and Croatia broke forward.
Schmeichel had ample time to resume his position between the sticks, but the stopper didn’t quite recalibrate in time and was well off his line as Davor Suker bore down on goal.
The Croatia forward capitalised on Schmeichel’s positioning with an opportunistic chip over his head, sealing a 3-1 win in the process.
16. Abel Xavier receives nine-month ban
Following an intense 1-1 draw between Portugal and France in the semi-final at Euro 2000, a handball from Abel Xavier gave Zidane the opportunity to win the game from the penalty spot in extra time.
Xavier blocked Wiltord’s goalbound effort with his left arm just as the winger looked to have scored from the tightest of angles.
Though he was clearly guilty of handling the ball, Xavier couldn’t contain his fury at the decision and ended up being given a nine month ban from Uefa competitions (later reduced to six months on appeal) after handling officials and spitting at a linesman.
15. Eder exorcises demons of Portugal’s past
Twelve years after losing the Euro 2004 final against Greece on home soil there was some poetic justice for Portugal against France in Saint-Denis.
Roles were reversed and Portugal went into the final against the hosts as clear underdogs, but they managed to record a true smash and grab win against Didier Deschamps’ hugely fancied French team.
With the game at a stalemate and seemingly heading for penalties, Eder, a little-known Portuguese striker, shrugged off the challenge of Laurent Koscielny and slammed home from 25 yards out.
The Stade De France was stunned and Cristiano Ronaldo was almost reduced to tears on the sideline.
14. Oliver Bierhoff strikes gold first
Oliver Bierhoff – first ever time a major tournament was decided by a golden goal at Euro 1996
The Euro 96 final at Wembley went to extra-time following a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes and was eventually decided by a golden goal.
It was the first time in history that a major international final had been decided by this rule, with Oliver Bierhoff’s deflected strike squirming through the hands of Petr Kouba to seal the win.
What the goal lacked in cosmetic beauty it made up for in historical significance.
13. Karel Poborsky scoops to fame
Karel Poborsky is the proud owner of an outrageously intuitive finish that deserves a place in any compilation of all-time great goals.
The Czech winger scored a scoop chip from just inside the area against Portugal at Euro 96, looping the ball towards the sky with sufficient arc to allow gravity to bring it back down into the goal in the nick of time.
His strike secured a 1-0 win at Villa Park and booked a semi-final clash with Germany, which they ultimately lost 2-1.
12. David Trezeguet sinks Italy
Sylvain Wiltord’s last-minute equaliser against Italy snatched France a lifeline from the jaws of defeat.
The 93rd minute effort took the game into extra-time and David Trezeguet decided the tournament with a zinger of a volley off his left boot in the 103rd minute, rattling the net decisively from just in front of the penalty spot to win Euro 2000 with a golden goal.
11. Hal Robson-Kanu channels his inner Johan Cruyff
Wales’ route to the semi-final of Euro 2016 was arguably the story of the tournament. They were pitted against Belgium, the highest-ranked team at the Euros, in the quarter-final and were expected to be on the receiving end of a humbling defeat.
However, Ashley Williams cancelled out Radja Nainggolan’s stunning opener to give Wales hope of pulling off a borderline miraculous upset.
In the 55th minute, Wales overturned the deficit through a moment of Johan Cruyff-esque forward play from Hal Robson-Kanu.
The forward wasn’t even contracted to a club having been released by Reading but turned the Belgium defenders inside out with the conviction of a seasoned, prolific Champions League goal scorer.
One pivot inside the area took three Belgium players out of the game and he finished with aplomb beyond Thibaut Courtois. Lift off.
10. Mario Balotelli comes of age
Football’s most captivating enigma at his scintillating best. Mario Balotelli never reached the heights he was capable of, but he provided a world-class performance befitting of the level of clamour surrounding his development in Italy’s 2-1 semi-final win over Germany.
An instinctive header from the then Manchester City maverick gave Italy the lead after 20 minutes. And 16 minutes later he was at it again. A long ball over the top from Ricardo Montolivo sent Balotelli through on goal and, with Philip Lahm desperately scrambling back to recover, he crashed the ball into the top right corner with laser-like precision to leave Manuel Neuer grasping at fresh air in Warsaw.
Balotelli celebrated how he knows best: in his own, remarkably unique style.
He removed his shirt before tensing his entire upper body in what came to be known as the Hulk celebration. Chiselled.
9. The Viking Thunder clap
While not a ‘moment’ as such, this ranking wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the Icelandic supporters whose unique zeal in the stands provided an infectious subplot for the neutrals at Euro 2016.
With a population of just over 350,000, Iceland were the epitome of an underdog and their iconic Viking Thunder Clap only added to their universal appeal.
Iceland fans performed the ritual in the stands regularly throughout the tournament, and the players joined in with the supporters after sealing a famous 2-1 victory over England in the last-16.
8. Ronnie Whelan’s stunning shinner
Ireland gave a brilliant account of themselves during Jack Charlton’s first major tournament in charge, with Ronnie Whelan securing a 1-1 draw against an excellent USSR side in the group stage.
A long throw-in from Mick McCarthy reached Whelan on the edge of the area, and he slammed the ball into the top corner with a left-footed volley.
He may have shinned it slightly but it was still an incredible strike and remains an outstanding moment in the history of Irish football.
7. Michel Platini’s last-gasp winner
The 1984 semi-final between France and Portugal reached a dramatic crescendo late on as Michel Platini completed his hat-trick in the 119th minute to send the hosts into the final.
A direct run from Jean Tigana carved open the defence and his square pass squirmed its way to Platini, who made absolutely no mistake from six yards out despite the presence of three Portuguese defenders and a scrambling goalkeeper.
6. The Great Dane denies Marco van Basten
Denmark defied the odds to win Euro 1992 and they owed a great debt to Peter Schmeichel’s heroics throughout the tournament.
The Danes faced the Netherlands in the semi-final and the two teams went into a penalty shootout after playing out a 2-2 draw.
Schmeichel made himself the hero by denying the great Marco van Basten as Denmark held their nerve to score all five penalties, taking their penultimate step en route to an unlikely success.
5. Ricardo the mind manipulator
A penalty nightmare for England at a major tournament which arrived under truly unprecedented circumstances.
The shootout between Portugal and the Three Lions was tied at 5-5 when Darius Vassell stepped up to the spot. As the forward made his way from the touchline, Portugal goalkeeper Ricardo decided to remove his gloves in a clear attempt to unsettle Vassell.
His Jedi mind trick clearly had the desired effect as he turned a meek effort around the post with his bare hands.
But he wasn’t done there. Vassell’s miss handed Portugal the opportunity to advance by scoring the next penalty and Ricardo took the responsibility himself, slamming the ball beyond David James to fire his country into the semi-final.
The stopper later admitted that he’d improvised due to a lack of knowledge on where Vassell was likely to place his spot kick.
4. What’s the opposite of a Greek tragedy?
Greek’s Euro 2004 campaign is up there with the greatest against-all-odds sporting triumphs.
Having scraped their way to the final, plucky underdogs Greece went head-to-head with hosts Portugal for a shot at winning the 2004 tournament.
Greece had already recorded one shock victory against Portugal in the opening fixture, and both sides came full circle to close the tournament just over three weeks after they got it underway.
Despite boasting a markedly superior roster of players, Portugal succumbed to Greece once again as Angelos Charisteas headed home Angelis Basinas’ 57th-minute corner, which incidentally was their first of the game, to secure a 1-0 win in the final and conclude a simply astonishing story.
3. Paul Gascoigne in the “dentist chair”
Paul Gascoigne scored one of the greatest goals in England’s history in the Wembley sunshine at Euro 96 and cemented his place in the history books with an equally iconic celebration.
A collection of England players, including Gascoigne, Teddy Sheringham and Darren Anderton, made tabloid headlines for their infamously hedonistic pre-tournament voyage to Hong Kong.
The players were pictured topless and drowned in booze at a nightclub in Hong Kong, one which was notorious for its “dentist chair”. Visiting bar dwellers were reported to have spirits poured into their mouths in the fabled chair, including the England players in question.
After lobbing the ball over a bewildered Scotland defender and volleying home England’s second goal during a 2-0 win over Scotland, Gascoigne recreated the dentist’s chair scene on the pitch, with players squirting water into his open mouth as he lay flat on his back.
His tongue-in-cheek celebration only endeared himself further to an already besotted home audience. Typical Gazza at his most effervescent.
2. The birth of the Panenka
The cojones on Antonin Panenka. Czechoslovakia and West Germany played out a 2-2 draw in the 1976 final and couldn’t be separated after extra-time. The Czechs scored all four of their opening penalties in the resulting shootout before Ulrich Hoeneß blasted the German’s fourth penalty well over the crossbar.
Up stepped Panenka with the opportunity to win the competition. A long, darting runup which started outside the penalty area culminated with the deftest of chips down the centre of the goal, sending Sepp Maier the wrong way to clinch the trophy in devilish fashion.
And so a phenomenon was born.
1. A Dutch delight from Marco Van Basten
Marco van Basten scored a goal worthy of winning a tournament in the 1988 final. You’ve seen this one before: a lofted ball to the back post falls to van Basten in a harmless looking position.
The angle was completely against him, the percentage chance of scoring sub-zero.
But that mattered not to van Basten, who timed his volley immaculately to loop the ball back over Rinat Dasayev, leaving manager Rinus Michels visibly stunned, and score the second in Holland’s 2-0 win over the Soviet Union.
A stark contender for the best goal of all-time.