Top 10 Weird and Bizarre Moments from the UEFA Euro Championships

Tags: #Football ,   #Soccer ,   #UEFA EURO ,   #EURO2020

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2021-06-10 13:37:59

While the FIFA World Cup is the biggest association football tournament, European Championships are not far behind. During its 60 year history, this competition produced some fantastic moments and many tragic defeats that shook nations. However, we would rather focus on something much more interesting – those weird and bizarre moments. Unfortunately, many are long forgotten, so we had to dig deep to uncover some of them. While the focus here is on UEFA EURO final tournaments, we'll also mention some events from the qualifying, as they are just too good to be missed!

10. The Unluckiest Team Ever

It was too early to celebrate for Scotland!

The Scottish national football team was probably the best in the world in the 19th century, but in the last 100 years, they aren't exactly successful. Don't get us wrong, as we're still talking about a team that played at eight FIFA World Cups and three European Championships, including UEFA EURO 2020. However, it sounds insane that Scotts never reached the second round!

The team was really unlucky, as, for example, in the 1974 FIFA World Cup, they were eliminated while not losing a game, earning two draws and one win. At the EURO 1996, they went home because of a single goal, but by scoring only once in three games, they probably didn't deserve any better. Still, their combined awful record at EURO and FIFA World Cup is statistically almost impossible, as no other national team can compare to it. Yet for the side that last played at the EURO in 1996, getting back on the big stage in 2021 should already be a massive success, despite failing to progress.

9. The Most Stupid Riot in the UEFA EURO History

The Netherlands was so lucky not to receive severe punishment for the incident

Soccer is a game of passion, but unfortunately, the rush of blood sometimes leads to trouble on and off the field. While there's no excuse for violence, when it happens, we must assume that it was triggered by the importance of the game or because the sides have a bad history. However, what's the excuse for the home fans to get violent in a pointless game, especially as your team is winning by 8-0?

That's what happened with the Netherlands in 1987, as they hosted Cyprus. Even before the game, Oranje had already qualified for the UEFA EURO 1988, but the celebration turned into violence. At some point, Cyprus goalie Andreas Charitou suffered an injury as he was hit by fireworks, and the game was promptly annulled. Luckily for the Netherlands, that only meant that they had to replay the match behind closed doors. Again, the home team won, this time by 4-0. The Netherlands became the European champions the following year, so this bizarre incident is pretty much forgotten.

8. The Curious Case of Portugal and Greece

Greece triumph is the biggest surprise in the history of UEFA EURO

The EURO 2004 was such a strange event, with Greece becoming champions. Despite being 150:1 underdogs, Greeks somehow managed to pull off the biggest upset in the tournament's history. By playing highly defensive and destructive football, they shocked the world after beating hosts Portugal in the tournament's first game, 2-1.

However, what happened is that the same teams played the final game of the tournament, which hasn't occurred before or since. Once more, Greeks frustrated the Portuguese, winning the game by a single goal from a header, as they did with all other opponents in the knockout stage! Winning twice against the same side in the tournament is extra hard, especially if facing the hosts!

7. Bad Guy Serves His Revenge

What would happen if Spain lost this final?

During the qualifiers for the 1960 European Championships, the Soviet Union and Spain were drawn to play against each other, with the winner progressing to the finals. However, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco pressured his team to withdraw, so they were eliminated after refusing to travel to the Soviet Union. One of the stories says that Franco was afraid that Spanish supporters would even cheer for the Soviet Union to protest against his repression and hatred toward socialism. However, the Soviets progressed and won the title, even mocking Franco and his stupid decision.

Nevertheless, Franco got his revenge at the UEFA EURO 1964. This time, Spain hosted the event and faced the Soviet Union in the final. This time, he did the right thing by letting his team play and even went to the game. Luckily for Franco, the home team won after a late goal by Marcelino. Sometimes, it's the bad guy who laughs last!

6. When the Same Final Happened Twice in a Row

What Germans did in 1996, French perfectly copied four years later

The UEFA EURO 1996 in England was a brilliant event, which featured a dramatic final match. First, the inspired Czechs took the lead after being gifted a penalty, but Germans served poetic justice by scoring an equalizer. Then, as the game went into extra time, the substitute Oliver Bierhoff scored the golden goal, making Germans the UEFA EURO champions.

Incredibly, four years later, the same thing happened in the final. Like Czechs, Italy also took the lead after an hour of play, but the same as Germans, the French equalized, taking the game into extra time. Finally, the substitute David Trezeguet scored a golden goal, making Les Bleus champions. Same as Bierhoff, his winning goal also was a header! We're still happy that FIFA sent the golden goal rule into the trash can, as it made the teams play defensively.

5. The Curse of Being the Third Best in the World

Even brilliant Swedes couldn't stop the curse

As Europe is the most successful continent at the FIFA World Cup, teams from this confederation often win third place. However, it wasn't long before everyone noticed that something extraordinary was happening. Since the 1974 FIFA World Cup, whenever the European side won the third-place play-off, it failed to qualify for the next UEFA EURO!

It all started with Poland, who failed to reach the 1976 European Championship. Yet, the curse didn't stop even when the number of participants doubled, from four to eight. 

In 1982, Poland was again third in the world but failed to qualify for UEFA Euro 1984. In 1988, France missed the competition, despite winning the previous edition and finishing third at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico! In 1992, Italy was left out of EURO despite their success at the 1990 FIFA World Cup. Even when the tournament was expanded to 16 teams in 1996, that didn't help Sweden qualify after being third in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Then Croatia failed in 2000, and Turkey in 2004! Finally, after 32 years, Germany broke the trend in 2008! The same goes for Belgium, who won third place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup but still plays at EURO 2020.

4. The Luckiest Team Ever

Lucky, but also very good Italian side won EURO 1968

In international soccer, Italy is often the team that has lady luck on its side. Too many times in history, they barely made it from the group stages before somehow managing to win the competition. Still, nothing compares to what they did in 1968! As hosts, the Italians played against the Soviet Union in the semi-finals, but the match ended in a goalless draw. This meant that the coin toss decides the finalist, and as you guessed it, Italians won! 

In the finals, Italy barely survived by equalizing in the 80th minute against Yugoslavia, but when the game ended, there wasn't another coin toss. Instead, UEFA realized how stupid that would be, so two days later, the same teams played another match. This time, Italians won 2-0, and this strange episode finally ended. This was also the only replayed game in the history of the competition.

3. Slovenia's Epic Fail to Win Still Looks Impossible

Yugoslavian miracle against Slovenia will be so hard to match

In 2000, Slovenia played its first UEFA EURO, debuting against their former countryman from FR Yugoslavia. Even though they were massive underdogs, Slovenians played incredibly well, and by the 57th minute, they led by three goals to none. When Yugoslavian Siniša Mihajlović was red-carded only three minutes later, it looked like Slovenia would make them suffer even more!

However, despite this, Yugoslavia scored three goals in only 13 minutes and even had a chance to win! What happened in the heads of Slovenian players is hard to explain, but there's no doubt that this is the biggest meltdown in the history of UEFA EURO and probably in all major national football competitions! This failure ultimately meant that Slovenia crashed out, never to return again! As for Yugoslavia, they went into the second round but were also left out of EURO since including EURO 2020.

2. A Dozen That Shocked the World

Was Spanish victory fair and square?

In 1984, Spain and The Netherlands played in the same group, with only the winner qualifying for the tournament. Before the last round, teams were leveled on points, and when Oranje destroyed Malta 5-0, everyone assumed they will stay on top. That's because Spain needed to win by at least 11 goals to qualify, hard to believe for a team that scored only 12 in the previous seven matches. The Netherland fans started celebrating early, as though Spain led after 15 minutes, Malta equalized only ten minutes later. At the end of the half, it was only 3-1 to Spain, meaning they need to score a goal every five minutes to succeed!

However, Spaniards were even quicker, as, by the 84th minute, they've already netted nine, winning 12-1 and finishing first in the group! To this day, no one knows what really happened. A couple of Maltese players claimed that Spanish players used doping while their teammates were drugged. One explanation is that Maltese players were too tired, as they were seriously underprepared after playing against the Netherlands only four days earlier.

1. The Golden Substitute

Denmark made the best out of the gift they were given

The beginning of the 1990s in Europe was very turbulent, especially in Yugoslavia. However, despite lacking players from Croatia and Slovenia, the team still managed to qualify for the UEFA EURO 1992. Unfortunately, Yugoslavia was cruelly banned only a few days before the tournament, and as the second in their qualifying group, Denmark undeservedly took their place.

Despite being heavy underdogs, Denmark survived the group stages after scoring only two goals before shocking the Netherlands on penalties in the semi-finals and Germans in the finals. The Denmark triumph was astounding, as it came in the circumstances that hopefully won't ever repeat. It should be noted that their best player Michael Laudrup didn't even play in the tournament! There are many theories about why he was left out, but the favorite says that he refused to play because his team didn't qualify. To this day, this makes him one of the most respected foreign players in Serbia, which succeeded Yugoslavia.

As we can see, all these stories are so fascinating and unique that it's incredible that a lot of them are not known by many. That's why we find them much more interesting than the endless statistics and tales of championship-winning teams. There's no doubt that the future will bring us more of these wild stories as a remarkable UEFA EURO legacy grow.

How many of these tales have you already knew? Have we left out some other strange and unforgettable moments? Discuss it in our comments section!

Photo: Shai Pal/Unsplash


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