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Five of the best opening games in Euros history

Euro 2024 gets underway this evening as the curtain is lifted on this summer’s major tournament in Germany.

Ahead of the opening fixture between the host nation and Scotland, we’ve picked out five of the most memorable opening fixtures in European Championship history.

France 4-5 Yugoslavia (1960)

The first-ever European Championship game certainly left a lot to live up to. Then a four-team tournament, France and Yugoslavia met in a semi-final classic at the Parc des Princes.

Milan Galić fired Yugoslavia ahead against the host nation on 11 minutes, but France hit back to level less than 60 seconds later and soon took control of the game. With 15 minutes to go, Les Bleus led 4-2 and looked on course for the final, only for Yugoslavia to come back in extraordinary fashion.

Tomislav Knez pulled one back, before two goals in a minute from Dražan Jerković sent Yugoslavia through.

Czechoslovakia 3-1 Netherlands, AET (1976)

There was no messing about in the 1976 edition of the European Championship. Back then, just four teams contested the crown with the opening fixture a semi-final showdown between Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands.

The Dutch were a brilliant outfit who had reached the World Cup final two years earlier, with the great Johan Cruyff captaining the Oranje at Euro ’76. A tight contest saw Czechoslovakia defender Anton Ondruš score at either end to send the tie into extra time, where late goals from Zdeněk Nehoda and František Veselý sent Václav Ježek’s side – who had not even qualified for the aforementioned World Cup – into the decider.

In the final, Czechoslovakia did the unthinkable, beating the Germans on penalties. Antonín Panenka’s famous chipped spot-kick was decisive, in a technique still named after him.

Portugal 1-2 Greece (2004)

Greece pulled off a huge shock in the opening fixture of Euro 2004, stunning the heavily-fancied host nation.

Georgios Karagounis capitalised on a Paulo Ferreira mistake to open the scoring with a 25-yard strike, before Angelos Basinas doubled the lead from the penalty spot after Cristiano Ronaldo fouled Giourkas Seitaridis. Ronaldo headed home a late response for Portugal, though it was not enough as the Greeks held out.

Otto Rehhagel’s unfancied Greece team progressed all the way to the final, where Portugal awaited in a rematch. Once again it was Greece who emerged triumphant, in an astonishing underdog tale.

Read – Euro 2004 – Charisteas completes Greek miracle in Lisbon

France 2-1 Romania (2016)

France survived some opening night nerves to beat Romania courtesy of Dimitri Payet’s stunning strike late on.

Les Bleus looked to be heading towards a disappointing draw at the Stade de France, as a resolute Romania frustrated France.

Olivier Giroud had headed home an opener for the hosts from Payet’s cross but Romania responded through Bogdan Stancu’s spot-kick. As time ticked towards full-time, West Ham midfielder Payet produced a spectacular strike in the 89th-minute to snatch the points.

Turkey 0-3 Italy (2020)

Turkey were tipped as a potential dark horse heading in Euro 2020. Italy, meanwhile, were on a 27-game unbeaten run since failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

The stage was set for a cracker, but proved to be a one-sided affair. The Azzurri produce a purring performance under Roberto Mancini, swatting aside Turkey in front of their home fans with ease.

Italy registered 24 attempts in an attacking performance full of verve, with an own goal from Merih Demiral opening the scoring, before further efforts from Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne sealed an impressive win. Confidence on the up, Italy went on to be crowned European champions, beating England on penalties in the final.

Read – Euro 2024: Our writers’ predictions for the tournament

See more – Euro 2024: Five under-the-radar players to watch this summer

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