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Major international tournaments emphasise this more than anything, bringing in mass worldwide audiences even for games involving teams not on the radar of the average football supporters.
The European Championships have produced plenty of ties that tick this box and this week with the kick-off of Euro 2020 we’ll look back on some of those blockbuster matches. Today, there’s some barnstormers from Euro 2020, an early classic featuring France and Yugoslavia and a Portugal/France thriller from 1984.
France 4-5 Yugoslavia – Euro 1960
The first ever game played at a European Championships remains, to this day, 61 years later, the highest scoring fixture ever seen at the finals.
Back when just four teams contested the tournament, these two sides battled it out in the first semi-final and the Parc de Princes crowd in Paris were left disappointed but unquestionably entertained as the hosts bowed out at the first hurdle.
Both sides enjoyed fruitful spells in front of goal in qualifying, France notched 17 in their four qualifiers while Yugoslavia got nine, so the result in retrospect did not seem too surprising.
However, the manner of the Yugoslav victory makes it one of the most dramatic matches ever witnessed at the Euros.
Jean Vincent restored parity within seconds of Milan Galic’s excellent strike early on for Yugoslavia and Francois Heutte ensured France went in at half-time in front with a powerful strike of his own.
Just after the hour France would then find themselves 4-2 up in controversial fashion and cruising towards a place in the final against either the Soviet Union or Czechoslovakia, as Yugoslavia were furious that the fourth French goal was not ruled out for offside.
A crazy four minutes as the final quarter of an hour approached changed all that though.
Tomislav Knez replied making it 4-3 on 75 minutes before Drazan Jerkovic added a rapid fire double on 78 and 79 minutes, turning the score from 4-2 down to 5-4 in their favour in next to no time.
Yugoslavia against the odds made the final but succumbed to the Soviet Union as the two now defunct states played out the first ever final, a more sombre affair in comparison, a 2-1 victory earning the Soviets, and now modern-day Russia, their only ever major honour to date.
France 3-2 Portugal: Euro 1984
France features once more here, 24 years later, as hosts again, but this time in victorious fashion.
After making it through their group with a 100% record, France were rewarded with a semi-final versus Portugal, hardly a European heavyweight at the time, who’d scraped through their group thanks to a late winner in their final group game against Romania in Nantes.
It was going perfectly for France for large periods as they led through a Jean-Francois Domergue free kick but were left stunned when Rui Jordao’s header forced extra time with 15 minutes remaining.
An amazing volley eight minutes into extra time amazingly put Portugal ahead in the semi, Jordao firing home once more and putting the hosts on the brink of elimination at the same stage Yugoslavia knocked them out at their home championships 24 years earlier.
But with the final five minutes looming, defender Domergue found himself advanced high up the pitch once more and after a scramble on the edge of the box, the ball fell kindly and he blasted home the equaliser for France.
A mazy run by Jean Tigana down the right then enabled him to pull the ball back for Michel Platini to win it for France on 119 minutes, another dramatic late comeback but this time in favour of the French.
They would go on to play Spain in the final, a game they won by two goals to nil to earn their first ever piece of major silverware and lift the trophy named after compatriot Henri Delaunay.
Yugoslavia 3-3 Slovenia: Euro 2000
A very different kind of Yugoslavia took part in Euro 2000 compared to the one that would have played at Euro ‘92 had it not been for the civil war in the country.
Essentially, it was just Serbia and Montenegro and this tournament would be the last time they used the moniker of Yugoslavia before reverting simply to Serbia and Montenegro.
Another fascinating footnote about this match is that Slovenia were playing against their former selves as they were one of the members who split from the state in the early 1990s along with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Macedonia.
The game in Charleroi was nothing short of remarkable.
Slovenia found themselves 3-0 up before the hour and facing ten men, a double by star man Zlatko Zahovic and another added by Miran Pavlin was followed by a red card to Yugoslavia’s own star man Sinisa Mihajlovic.
But they had their not-so-secret weapon available on the bench, Savo Milosevic, who had just scored 21 goals with Zaragoza and fired them into the Champions League the previous season.
He came on as they fell down to ten men, and within seven minutes he pulled one back.
Ljubinko Drulovic made it 3-2 just three minutes later before Milosevic added another to level the tie.
An incredible six minute spell saw the side with a man advantage squander a three goal lead and the game would go on to finish 3-3.
You would be forgiven for thinking this was the most dramatic match at the tournament, whereas infact, it wasn’t even the most dramatic in this group and wasn’t the most dramatic involving Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia 3-4 Spain: Euro 2000
After their dramatic win in 1960 and dramatic draw in 2000, it’s only fitting to include a dramatic Yugoslav loss, also in 2000.
Eight days after their crazy match with Slovenia, Yugoslavia found themselves in a good position to qualify for the quarter finals, whilst a draw would have taken both them and Spain through.
Savo Milosevic made it four from three games with a first half header but it was cancelled out by Alfonso’s strike soon after.
Both half time substitutes scored for either side within 60 seconds of each other as Dejan Govedarica and Pedro Munitis goals made it 2-2 on 51 minutes.
A scrappy Sinisa Mihajlovic set piece led to Yugoslavia’s third as Slobodan Komljenovic swung out a leg and diverted it beyond Santiago Canizares with a quarter of an hour to go.
As things stood, Spain were heading out and Yugoslavia were topping the group convincingly ahead of the rest, until stoppage time came around.
A soft penalty awarded to Spain gave them a chance to leapfrog Norway in the standings on 94 minutes which was taken by Gaizka Mendieta.
A scoreline of 3-3 would have still kept Yugoslavia top but sent Spain through as Norway and Slovenia had finished 0-0.
However, Spain were not done there, a long ball into the area by Pep Guardiola no less, led to another scramble in the area before it finally popped out to Alfonso whose brilliant low left footed drive left Ivica Kralj motionless in the Yugoslav goal.
Two goals in the final minute of stoppage time had taken Spain from elimination to top of the group and gave us an iconic image of the Yugoslavia substitutes out on their feet in disbelief with hands on their head as Alfonso wheeled away in delirium for Spain.
Yugoslavia still progressed but only as runners-up and they met joint-hosts Holland in the quarters, losing 6-1, while Spain also lost to eventual winners France.
France 2-1 Italy: Euro 2000
Undoubtedly one of the most dramatic European Championship finals ever was played out in Rotterdam at Euro 2000 as France clinched their second European crown over fellow heavyweights Italy.
The reigning world champions were looking for a clean sweep after winning the 1998 World Cup on home soil but it was Italy who took the initiative and led through Marco Delvecchio’s goal on 55 minutes.
But Dino Zoff’s side buckled right at the end, conceding with almost the last kick of normal time, as Sylvain Wiltord rescued extra time for the French.
Golden Goal was in use and had already sealed France’s passage into the final as Zinedine Zidane’s 117th minute penalty against Portugal in the semis sent them through on the ruling.
It would come to their benefit once more in the final too as David Trezeguet’s volley flew past Francesco Toldo in the Azzurri goal to seal the title, 16 years on from their maiden success. Italy did take their revenge on Les Bleus on the grand stage in Berlin six years later, with Trezeguet turned from hero to villain as his missed penalty in the shoot-out helped Italy to a fourth World Cup crown.