Paris:Brief summaries of previous Euro finals ahead of Sunday's Euro 2008 final between three-time champions Germany and 1964 winners Spain:
The Soviet Union claimed their one and only football title in the inaugural edition of the tournament which involved just four teams. The Soviets made the final on the back of a 3-0 win over Czechoslovakia while Yugoslavia emerged victorious in a nine goal thriller with hosts France which remains the highest scoring match in the tournament's history. However, the Soviets managed to keep a hold on the Yugoslav attack in the final and emerged 2-1 winners in extra-time.
The Soviet Union returned to defend their title in Spain - but only after Spanish leader General Franco relented at allowing them into the country as he had refused to allow the Spanish to play in the 1960 edition because the Soviets were competing - but were to succumb to the hosts, who have struggled ever since to replicate their success. The Spanish had just made the final with a 2-1 win in extra-time over Hungary while the Soviets despatched Denmark 3-0. Spain went 1-0 up early on only for their opponents to peg them back at 1-1 but with six minutes remaining the hosts sealed their iconic status in Spain as Marcellino headed home the winner.
Italy rebounded from a desperate 1966 World Cup finals campaign to beat Yugoslavia in a replay after an initial final where they had been outplayed by the Yugoslavs in a 1-1 draw. However, the Italians pulled themselves together and a few days later beat their opponents 2-0. Italy had been very fortunate to make the final itself as it had literally gone down to a flip of the coin after their semi-final with the Soviet Union ended 0-0 after extra-time. The referee opted to flip a coin and the Italians called correctly. Yugoslavia had made it to the final courtesy of a 1-0 win over world champions England, Alan Mullery earning the dubious distinction of becoming the first Englishman to be sent-off.
The advent of the great West Germany side of Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd 'Das Bomber' Muller as they cruised to a 3-0 final victory over the Soviet Union, which remains the biggest winning margin in the final in the tournament's history. with Muller scoring two of them. The Germans had dispensed with hosts Belgium in the semi-finals, Muller scoring twice, while the Soviets had beaten Hungary 1-0. The Germans were to go and confirm their status as the best team with victory in the 1974 World Cup final.
Czechoslovakia added their name to the roll call of champions and dethroned West Germany in the first penalty shootout. The Czechs had taken a 2-0 lead over the Germans, but with typical resilience and bloodymindedness they came back to tie it at 2-2 and when extra-time failed to break the deadlock it was down to the shootout. A ray of light opened up for the Czechs as Uli Hoeness missed with his spot kick and up stepped Antonin Panenka who coolly slotted it high and straight down the middle into the net to secure the Czechs' victory. The Germans had also had to come back from 2-0 down in the semi-final with hosts Yugoslavia to eventually win 4-2 after extra-time, Dieter Muller showing that the surname was synonymous with goalscoring as he grabbed a hat-trick. The Czechs overcame the Dutch, who in an ill tempered match had two players sent-off.
For the first time the tournament was enlarged to eight teams and produced a surprise finalist in Belgium, who were to lose 2-1 to West Germany in a tight match. Belgium had topped their group of four which included hosts Italy and England while the Germans - inspired by midfield dynamo Bernd Schuster - saw off old foes the Dutch and avenged their defeat by the Czechs four years earlier. Two goals from the unlikely figure of Horst Hrubesch - who was only in the side because of an injury to Klaus Fischer - saw off the Belgians, whose sole reply was from the penalty spot.
France's much vaunted cavalier style football sampled success at last and at home ta boot after the bitter disappointment of losing to West Germany in the 1982 World Cup semi-finals. And they did it in some style, though, as usual did not do much for their fans' blood pressure especially in the semi-final against Portugal. The Portuguese forced extra-time and then to the shock of the home crowd took the lead eight minutes into extra-time. However, the French came back to level at 2-2 and then two of the 'Magic Carpet' quartet of French midfielders Jean Tigana and Michel Platini combined to conjure up the third and decisive goal in the final minute. Platini was to end the tournament as leading scorer adding his ninth of the competition in the final against Spain. While France had a player sent-off in Yvon Le Roux, Bruno Bellone grabbed a second for the French to give them a deserved victory and was to be the only one that the hugely talented side were to accrue as they were to be denied by the West Germans again in the 1986 World Cup semi-finals.
Another deserved winner in The Netherlands as they beat the Soviet Union 2-0 - having lost 1-0 to them in the group stage - and in the process spectators witnessed one of the greatest goals of all time, a stunning volley by Marco van Basten which had Soviet 'keeper Rinat Dasaev stumbling in shock at the effort. Hans van Breukelen got the Dutch out of jail late on with a penalty save. The Dutch like their French predecessors of 1984 were never to add another title, despite boasting players of the quality of van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. On the way the Dutch had laid a few ghosts of their past especially in downing the hosts West Germany in the semi-finals, van Basten grabbing a late winner, to add to the hat-trick he scored against the English - whose woeful campaign had started with a 1-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland coached by 1966 World Cup winner Jack Charlton - in the group stage.
Jokes about the best way of preparing for winning the European title was by lying on a beach and being given only a few days notice were not saved for the Germans but in the unlikely shape of Denmark. The Danes earned a late invitation to the European fest because Yugoslavia were barred because of the outbreak of war in the Balkans. 'I should have been putting in a new kitchen but then we were called away to play in Sweden,' recalled Danish coach Richard Moller-Nielsen. 'The kitchen is finished now. I had a professional decorator do it.' And well he could have afforded to as the Danes - whose major creative force Michael Laudrup opted not to play though his brother Brian did - saw off the holders The Netherlands in the semi-final, Peter Schmeichel saving a van Basten penalty in the shootout and then disposed of a now unified Germany 2-0 in the final - solid midfielder John Jensen earning himself a lucrative if unexpected move to Arsenal on the back of scoring in the final, something he was not to do very often for the Gunners.
Hosts England almost ended 30 years of a drought in the trophy department but went out on penalties to Germany in the semi-finals, Gareth Southgate becoming the latest Englishman who bottled it in the shootout - the list was to get longer two years later in their World Cup loss to Argentina. Germany were to go on and beat the surprise packages of the tournament The Czech Republic 2-1 in the final thanks to a brace from Oliver Bierhoff, who was also to go down in history as the first man to score a golden goal winner in the competition's history. The tournament was also notable not so much for a rather jaded series of performances by France but the emergence of the golden generation of Zinedine Zidane, Bixente Lizarazu and several others who would be crowned world champions two years later in Paris.
The golden generation were to experience another high as they added the Euro title to the World Cup in a final of high drama against Italy. Italy looked to be in the driving seat when Marco Delvecchio scored in the second-half but just as the Italians were preparing themselves for the trophy ceremony Sylvain Wiltord popped up to level and from there on in there was only going to be one winner with David Trezeguet settling the match with a golden goal in extra-time. France were worthy winners with Zidane a fresher figure than he had been four years previously - he hadn't been helped then by playing virtually non stop for a whole year as his then side Bordeaux went from the Intertoto Cup to the UEFA Cup final and he also had been involved in a car crash - whilst there was a slightly sour cloud thrown over the tournament with the Portuguese histrionics at the end of their semi-final with France having gone ballistic over a controversial penalty award, their coming from 2-0 down to beat England 3-2 would have a been a far happier memory for their fans. Needless to say Zidane composed himself and slotted the penalty away. 'He has definitely come from God,' commented former Scotland coach Andy Roxburgh on the UEFA website. There are many in France who would agree.
If the Danes had seemed the unlikeliest of winners in 1992 then Greece surely trumped them under the astute stewardship of German coach Otto Rehhagel. Right from the start they announced their potential as they beat hosts Portugal 2-1 in the opening match and they were never to be stopped after that as they became the most formidable Greek outfit to travel abroad since Helen launched a thousand ships to get her back from Troy. While Zidane had just about managed to get France through to the second round after a nervewracking late penalty saw the French come from 1-0 down to beat England 2-1, there was nothing he could do against the Greeks as they eliminated the holders. French coach Jacques Santini had hardly helped morale by bizarrely announcing prior to the tournament that he would not be renewing his contract. Greece then put paid in the semi-finals to the flamboyant talents of the Czech Republic, scoring a late silver goal in extra-time. Portugal were given the chance to avenge their opening defeat by the Greeks in the final but once again Greece stunned them as Angelos Charisteas' header settled the issue and left Luis Figo and his own 'golden generation' without a senior trophy to their name.