The Legends of Euro
The European Championship has seen great performances since its inception in 1960. Some great players have left an indelible mark in this tournament and have become part of football folklore. Here is a look at the legends of Euro.
The European Championship has seen great performances since its inception in 1960. Some great players have left an indelible mark in this tournament and have become part of football folklore. Here is a look at the legends of Euro. (All AFP Images)
<b>Lev Yashin (USSR)(1960):</b> Lev Yashin's goalkeeping in the inaugural European Championship in 1960 was instrumental in winning USSR the title. His ability to frustrate the opposition's efforts to find the back of the net is legendary. The custodian touted by many as the best ever conceded only two goals through the tournament which including the qualifying rounds. Yashin (L) was also part of the USSR squad that finished runners-up behind Spain four years later.
<b>Gerd Muller (West Germany)(1972):</b> Gerd Muller (L) was the one man army in West Germany's strikeforce in 1972 as no team had an answer to him. He was on a goal scoring spree and the Russians had every reason to be wary of him as a threat in the final. Muller, who still holds the record for the highest goals for Germany (68 in 62 matches), smashed seven goals in qualifying and four in the main tournament - two each in the semis and final - to set up West Germany's victory.
<b>Antonín Panenka (Czechoslovakia)(1976):</b> He makes the list not only because he scored the winning penalty that handed Czechoslovakia the title but also the way he hit it. The Czech debuted what is now famous as the Panenka penalty in the 1976 tournament. No one knows till today how Panenka had the courage to take a penalty in the way that he did. He feigned that he was going to hit on the side of the goalkeeper but chipped the ball straight in the middle after the keeper had dived. Of course, it is quite a common practice now.
<b>Michel Platini (France)(1984):</b> The Frenchman (R) was the captain who led his team to success on home soil. But above that he was also the top scorer and the player of the tournament at the 1984 tournament. The nine goals that he scored in that single edition of the championship is still the record for most goals overall in the tournament's history. Of the nine goals, he got two "perfect" hat-tricks (one header and one goal with each foot) in the group stage and also found the net in the semi-final and final.
<b>Marco van Basten (Netherlands)(1988):</b> The former Dutch striker scored a total of five goals, including a hat trick against England, the winner in the semi-final against West Germany, and a fantastic volley in the final against the Soviet Union. He was the tournament's top scorer. In the final against USSR, van Basten set up Ruud Gullit for the opener and then hit a tremendous volley from a difficult angle to set up a 2-0 win for the Dutch to give them their first major title. He was also the European footballer of the year in 1988.
<b>Henrik Larsen (Denmark)(1992):</b> Larsen (on the ground, behind) provided the offensive spark in a defense dominated team. He went on to score three goals at Euro 92, including both goals in the crucial 2-2 semi-final draw against the Netherlands. He also converted his kick in the ensuing penalty shootout, and played full time when he and the Danish national team won the final against Germany.
<b>Matthias Sammer (Germany)(1996):</b> Matthias Sammer (L) scored the quarter-final winner against Croatia and evoked memories of Franz Beckenbauer with his performances at EURO '96. After reunification Germany initially struggled to match the exploits of their former western section, but that changed at this competition. Having moved through the semi-finals, they came from behind to edge out hosts England on penalties and then defeated the Czech Republic with a golden goal. Playing in a libero role first filled by Franz Beckenbauer, former East Germany international Matthias Sammer was inspirational throughout as his nation won the title for the third time.
<b>Zinedine Zidane (France)(2000):</b> Zidane proved his World Cup heroics were no flash in the pan scoring two crucial goals in the European competition. He scored in the quarters against Spain and then the golden goal in the semi-final against Portugal. For his consistency in the midfield and ability to create chances out of nowhere he was adjudged the Player of the Tournament.
<b>Thierry Henry (France)(2000):</b> If Zindane was the creative influence in the midfield then Thierry Henry (in white) was the striking force in France's team that won the 2000 championship. He scored three goals in the tournament and was his country's top scorer. His equaliser in the semi-final against Portugal was instrumental in earning France a place in the final. Henry was voted man-of-the-match in three games including the final against Italy which France won in extra time.
<b>Theodoros Zagorakis (Greece)(2004):</b> After Denmark's triumph in 1992, 2004 saw another underdog take the coveted prize when Greece outwitted other biggies to win the title. The mainstay of their campaign was Zagorakis, their captain. His prowess as a defensive midfielder was the key in keeping the opposition at bay. In the 1-0 win over Portugal in the final he ensured that Luis Figo and company never got a clear shot on goal. By stifling their opponents, Greece used defence as the best form of attack and it eventually won them their first European Championship. He was nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year and the European Player of the Year in 2004.