Spain aims for a third straight major tournament title on Sunday when it plays Italy in the European Championship final, an unprecedented feat for a World Cup winner. In 13 previous Euro finals, no defending champion has retained the trophy. The match at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, pairing the past two World Cup winners, promises to continue a tradition of tense finals that have delivered late drama, shock results and unforgettable winning goals:
THE 'PANENKA' PENALTY
1976 - Czechoslovakia 2, West Germany 2 (Czechoslovakia won 5-3 on penalties)
Before Spain, only West Germany had a chance to win a third straight title, though it was missing its feared goalscorer Gerd Mueller. After captain Franz Beckenbauer lifted the 1972 European Championship trophy and the 1974 World Cup at home in Munich, a great German side was denied a hat trick by perhaps the most famous penalty of all.
Czechoslovakia led 2-0 after 25 minutes in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and was ahead until Bernd Hoelzenbein's 89th-minute equalizer. For the first time at a major tournament, a penalty shootout would be decisive. The teams had earlier declined the option of a replay. When Uli Hoeness missed West Germany's fourth spot-kick, Antonin Panenka stepped up for the Czechs' fifth. The mustached midfielder took a long, fast run at the ball - then floated a delicate chip shot down the middle of the goal as Sepp Maier, the German goalkeeper, dived helplessly to his left. A football legend was born.
1988 - Netherlands 2, Soviet Union 0
The Dutch finally won a major tournament in a style befitting the team labeled the best never to win a World Cup. Coached again by Rinus Michels, who guided the original 'Total Football' team to the 1974 World Cup final, the 'Oranje' started badly, losing 1-0 to the Soviet Union in the first group match. Michels then replaced misfiring forward John Bosman with Marco van Basten, whose goals beat England in a key group match and hosts West Germany in the semifinals. The rematch with the Soviets was settled by a powerful header from captain Ruud Gullit, sporting his iconic dreadlocks hairdo, and a spectacular volley from Van Basten which truly buried the Dutch demons.
1992 - Denmark 2, Germany 0
In 1992, a newly unified Germany national team arrived in Sweden as world champions, barely in need of reinforcements from its neighbor to the east. Denmark did not even qualify, finishing behind Yugoslavia in its group. Yet, 10 days before kickoff, the warring Yugoslav republics were placed under United Nations sanctions and FIFA exiled Yugoslavia from world football. UEFA called in the Danes - from the beach, according to legend - who promptly failed to score in two group games. Denmark then beat France, eliminated the defending champion Netherlands on penalties before stunning the Germans in the final. Goals from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort sealed arguably the most unlikely win of any major football final.
2000 - France 2, Italy 1 (golden goal in extra time)
Advocates of the 'golden goal' method to settle matches could point to this thriller and wonder why it was ever abandoned. Two years after winning the World Cup on home turf, France arrived in Belgium and the Netherlands with Zinedine Zidane and a host of stars in their prime. Yet Italy led when Marco Delvecchio scored in the 55th minute in Rotterdam. France survived, just, as substitute Alessandro Del Piero missed when twice clear on goal, then revived in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Substitute Sylvain Wiltord leveled to send the game into sudden-death extra time. After 13 tense minutes another substitute, David Trezeguet, fired a rising left-foot shot into the net, and France had back-to-back titles.
2008 - Spain 1, Germany 0
A Spanish victory that was more significant for lifting the weight of history off the team's shoulders, than being a historically good performance. Yet the ruthlessness of Spain's game - rapid-fire short passes, keeping tight control of the ball - showed how it would stifle opponents for years to follow. For decades, Spain had arrived at tournaments with a talented team that usually went home early. A quarterfinals win over Italy in a penalty shootout convinced Spain's players this could be their time. It was. Fernando Torres slipped a 33rd-minute shot over goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, and Germany barely had enough of the ball to start a rally. Spain had its first trophy since the 1964 European Championship - and another followed at the 2010 World Cup.