Belgium, dark horses for victory in the 1972 European Championships were defeated by a defiant German XI. The Germans themselves had just disposed of arch rivals England by three goals to one in the Quarter Finals, and progressed knowing that they were rank outsiders for the semi final.
Belgium, with their home fans behind them, were instantly pegged back by a dominant German side. Hero and legend Gerd Muller converted a header in the 24th minute to silence the 50,000 Belgium fans and put the favorites under pressure. Thanks to the pace of Franz Beckenbaur, the Belgium’s were under extremely pressure which eventually tolled when Muller rushed through to score past Piot again. Although Germany’s strong defense was eventually breached in the 83rd minute, but Polleunis goal proved nothing more than a constellation.
Into the final the German’s went, and another brace from the player of the tournament Gerd Muller, coupled with a goal in between for Wimmer gave the German’s glory in the shape of their first even European Championship victory. It would not be their last.
Quite possibly one of the greatest matches in the history of the European Championships. Many at the time considered West Germany vs Yugoslavia as a potential final before the draw was made, as they were both front runners to claim glory. The potential prize was a match against Czechoslovakia and a second successive European Championships final.
In their pursuit of glory, however, things started disastrously for Germany. Dragan Džajić and the Slaviša Žungul ripped West Germany to shreds early on, and the champions were desperately clinging on. With half an hour gone, Germany couldn’t be in a much worse position. Goals from Popivoda and Džajić put Germany under huge pressure to stage a seemingly impossible comeback. One moment of genius from the German manager turned the game completely on its head.
Again Muller was the hero, although this time the legendary Gerd was replaced by the uncapped Dieter. The subsistute was brought on to change the game with a goal, and almost instantly provided one. Heinz Flohe’s goal on 52 minutes could have proved a mere constellation had it not been for Muller, who equalised on the 82 minute off a corner.
The match seemed destined for penalties, as after 15 minutes Yugoslavia, who were previously dominating the German’s, desperately held on. That was until Muller struck again on the 115 minute mark, from a clever pass from team mate Erich Beer. With the opposition flooding forward looking for the equaliser, the Germans counter attacked to devastating effect. Muller reacted quickly when the ball flew off the post to complete his hattrick and send the Yugoslavians home.
However, it was simply not to be in the final with the Germans losing to Czechoslovakia on penalties after a 2-2 draw, another thriller.
To many, this would have been just another semi final, between two strong teams vying for glory. But it was so much more than that. West Germany were desperate to claim back their trophy on home soil, whilst the Dutch knew that to humiliate the Germans on their own turf would be one of the most horrendous embarrassments in their footballing history. A rivalry made derby-like by the animosity between the two nation since the atrocities of the Second World War, the replay of the 1974 World Cup was pronounced as the final itself. It proved to be so.
Germany, buoyed on by their strong home support, got off on the front foot. In the first half it seemed that their ineptitude in the penalty area would prove their undoing. However, they had the perfect opportunity when Jurgen Klinsmann fell under challenge from Franck Rijhaard. Lothar Mattheus made no mistake from the spot, and the pressure fell into the hands of the Dutch.
At this point Ronald Koeman was starting to become more influential, blazing long range efforts over the bar. After Van Basten was adjudged to be fouled in the penalty area, Koeman had the perfect opportunity to equalize, which he swept home with aplomb.
With just two minutes to go, the most heavily anticipated semi final of modern times seemed destined for extra time and the lottery of the golden goal. That was until Marco Van Basten displayed his true class. Jan Wouters, with yards of space, slipped the ball through to the Ajax man who swept the ball home. From the jaws of defeat Holland had claimed semi victory. The final was indeed the final itself, as the Netherlands swept aside the Soviet Union with ease to claim their maiden triumph.
Another tournament, another thrilling semi final, and yet more runners up medals for the Germans. In Solna they met the same Sweden side that had humiliated England, thanks to Tomas Brolin. The hosts were not expected to get too far in the tournament, but as so often occurs the immense support spurned them on to reach their first major final. The Germans, as ever, were resilient.
Germany knew that an early goal would be needed to silence the Swedish choir, and they got it in magnificent style. When Eriksson was bundled over on the edge of the area, Thomas Hassler wipped home one of the goals of the tournament, to leave the Swedish goalkeeper a mere spectator.
From then on Germany dominated and doubled their lead through Karl-Heinz Riedle. As ever Tomas Brolin pulled Sweden back from the dead with a penalty, but when Riedle restored the two goal advantage German fans could start to buy tickets for the final, even if Andersson did pull back what proved to be a mere constellation.
It seemed, then, to be a forgone conclusion, Germany would meet Denmark, who hadn’t even qualified, and in typical German style would prove ruthless. The Danes 2-0 victory was one of the upsets of the century, and will still haunt German fans and players alike to this very day.
This match seemed almost as much of a forgone conclusion as Germany’s encounter with the Danes just four years earlier. England were as strong as ever, and on the cusp of reaching their first European Championship final on home soil. All that stood between them and the opportunity of redemption after decades of underachievement were an average looking German side. I think we all know what happens next…
When Tony Adams flicked header from a corner reached Alan Shearer, we all knew what was to come, even if just 3 minutes had elapsed. Shearer coolly headed home, and the Old Wembley went into the raptures. England, who had been dominant even before the goal, could start to dream.
However, Germany had not read the script, and dug deep to claim an equalizer just a quarter of an hour later. After some wonderful build up play Moller and Helmer linked up to find Kuntz, who beat David Seaman to put the Germans back on level terms. Both sides endured near misses in the second period of extra time, with Kuntz header disallowed for a fowl, and Gascoine contriving to miss a last gasp opportunity to put England through.
The match then proceeded to penalties. Nowadays, Germany win penalty shootouts even before the first one is kicked, there is such a fear of them. England, however, had claimed victory on penalties against Spain just days before. The strength of both teams was shown, as after 10 penalties the scores were level at 5-5. When Southgate saw his penalty saved, Moller had the perfect chance to snatch victory; and did.
Germany progressed to the final and Olivier Bierhoff’s golden goal proved enough to give Germany their first European triumph for 16 long years, at the expense of Czech Republic
What a romantic semi final this would prove to be. Germany had been waiting some 12 years to make another semi final, despite claiming World Cup glory during this period. Turkey, on the other hand, were just about every fans second team. They had upset the odds time and time again in tournament, specializing in dramatic late goals. There was to be a dramatic late winner here, but not for the Turks.
After Colin Kazim Richards’ shot cannoned back off the crossbar, Ugar slotted the ball beyond the onrushing Jens Lehmann to give the better side the lead. The ultimate cupset was well and truly on the cards. That was until Bastian Schweinstieger tucked home from a Lukas Podolski shot come cross before the half hour mark.
Turkey dictated the tempo and created the vast majority of the chances, but with 11 minutes to go the Germans looked to have snatched victory from the brink. Rustu horribly misjudged a cross from Phillip Lahm, leaving Miroslav Klose the perfect opportunity to tuck home the winner. But Turkey – in Chelsea style – just wouldn’t let go and seemed to have forced extra time when Semih stunned the German fans.
It then seemed destiny that Turkey should grab a late winner, but they were given a taste of their own medicine, the most poisonous remedy imaginable. Captain Lahm and Hitzlesperger played a one-two on the edge of the penalty area, giving the Bayern Munich man the opportunity to let fly and knock the determined – and better – Turkey side out of the tournament. When given the chance to claim their first triumph for 12 years, Loew’s side fell to a superior Spanish side, courtesy of Liverpool’s Fernando Torres’ goal in the first half.