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Top 5 European Championship Goals

Posted on 31/05 by Joe Gann

Top 5 European Championship Goals
Top 5 European Championship Goals

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As the countdown to this summer’s Euros continues, we take a look at some of the best strikes from the competition over the years.

Ronnie Whelan - Republic of Ireland v USSR
UEFA Euro 88
Group B – 15 June 1988
Niedersachsenstadion, Hanover

Back in 1988, Eire manager Jack Charlton was developing a reputation for his effectively direct tactics. Never was this better illustrated than in the build-up to Ronnie Whelan’s spectacular strike against the USSR.

Mick McCarthy propelled a herculean 30-yard throw, bypassing nine Soviet defenders in an outlandish show of efficiency. This USSR team contained such talent as Oleg Kusnetsov, Oleg Protasov, Vasilly Rats, Alexander Zavarov, Alexi Mikhylichenko and, of course, the magnificent Igor Belanov, but they were all rendered helpless by the slickness of the Irish approach.

Waiting on the edge of the 18-yard box was Liverpool midfielder Whelan, who unleashed an exocet of a volley that arced away from Soviet keeper Rinat Dasayev and into the top corner. Dasayev was voted the world’s best goalkeeper that year, and this was one of only shots to beat him.

The athleticism of Whelan’s effort saw him make contact with the ball as both hips were parallel to the ground at waist height – an extraordinary position to be in to generate such pace and accuracy.

Ireland’s first goal in a major tournament was Ray Houghton’s headed winner against England, and here in the second group match, Whelan provided a piece of magic that was every bit as memorable.

Marco Van Basten – The Netherlands v USSR
UEFA Euro 88
Euro ’88 Final – 25 June 1988
Olympiastadion, Munich

Leading 1-0 courtesy of a first-half bullet-header from Ruud Gullit, the Netherlands were on course for a long-awaited first title, when prolific hitman Marco Van Basten produced one the most iconic moments in the tournament’s history.

A high-hanging cross from Arnold Muhren on the left dropped to the AC Milan striker – eight metres from goal and only five or six metres from the right hand goal-line – who was being shepherded by a Soviet defender.

The only option that seemed open to Van Basten was to hold the ball up and wait for Dutch reinforcements to make their way into the box. However, the marksman had no thoughts of an act as mundane as ball control on his mind, so he delivered an audacious, top-spin volley back across Soviet stopper Rinat Dasayev – dropping over the head of the stunned keeper and nestling in the far corner.

It was a jaw-dropping piece of skill, made all the more special by the importance of the occasion. That goal helped seal a 2-0 victory and a first major international trophy for the Netherlands, and it also shed the unwelcome tag of ‘nearly men’ following the heartbreak of the ’74 and ’78 World Cup finals.

Ronald De Boer - France v Netherlands
UEFA Euro 2000
Group D – 21 June 2000
Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam

Both sides had already qualified for the Quarter Final stage prior to this Group D encounter, meaning the result was fairly inconsequential.

With the France manager Roger Lemerre fielding an experimental side, a full-strength Netherlands outfit were favourites to win and, as a result, secure ‘home’ advantage in Rotterdam for their match against Yugoslavia. (The Netherlands were co-hosting the event alongside neighbours Belgium.)

With the inexperienced French side leading 2-1, the Netherlands were awarded a free kick 25 yards from their opponents’ goal, but this was not within the range of what would generally be considered a legitimate goal-scoring opportunity.

Nevertheless, up stepped Frank De Boer, who unleashed a venomous left-footed thunderbolt that swerved and dipped its way past a hapless Bernard Lama and into goal. It would seem optimistic in the extreme to score from that kind of distance, but De Boer backed himself and his confidence was rewarded with an unforgettable effort.

The Netherlands went on to obliterate Yugoslavia in the following game, before bowing out of the competition in a Semi Final penalty shootout.

Davor Suker – Croatia v Denmark
UEFA Euro 96
Group D – 16 June 1996
Hillsborough, Sheffield

Croatia had already won their opening game in a tough group that included reigning Champions Denmark, Portugal and Turkey, and the 3-0 nil win here assured their progress into the Quarter Finals.

Gathering a long pass from former Derby County man Aljosa Asanovic, Suker had the freedom of the Danish half of the field to run into, before the looming figure of Peter Schmeichel emerged at the edge of the penalty area.

Faced with the world’s best goalkeeper bearing down on him, Suker’s solution was to execute a chip of such perfection that the great Dane was left to look back over his head before collapsing on the turf a beaten man.

It was a sumptuous finish and a fine way for the Croatians to seal their passage into the knockout stages.

Watch Suker's sublime chip here

John Jensen – Denmark v Germany
UEFA Euro 92
Euro’92 Final – 26 June 1992
Ullevi, Gothenburg

The Denmark squad arrived in Sweden ’92 with just one week of preparation behind them: it was only 11 days before the start of the competition that the Danes were officially announced as replacements for the disqualified Yugoslavian team.

In one of the most remarkable stories in the history of the European Championships, Richard Moller Nielsen’s men defied all logic to progress to the final in Gothenburg, where they defeated the mighty Germans – who were competing as a reunited nation for the first time in a major tournament.

John Jensen’s goal on the stroke of half-time gave the under-siege Denmark team something to cling onto as they repelled wave after wave of German attacks in a frenetic final in Gothenburg.

Running on to a pull back from Flemming Povlsen, Jensen smashed an unerring drive past goalkeeper Bodo Illgner, who barely had time to react as the ball screamed beyond him into the net, to give the Danes a half-time lead. It was just the second goal that the midfielder had managed in 48 games for his country, but the timing could not have been better.

The boost of that goal gave the Danes a platform for the second half – they managed to keep their opponents at bay until the 78th minute when Kim Vilfort slotted past Illgner to secure the astonishing victory.

Five truly astonishing goals!

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