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Five of the best European Championship teams of all time

Euro 2024 is up and running and each of the teams involved will be aiming to etch their name into the European Championship’s illustrious history.

Past editions of the European Championship have featured some unforgettable players and teams and we’ve decided to celebrate five of the latter.

Here are five of the best European Championship teams of all time.

West Germany (1972)

West Germany won the European Championship for the first time in 1972 with Gerd Muller the devastating difference.

The format of the tournament contained a qualification group that saw Muller score six times in six group games before a two-legged quarter-final against England saw Helmut Schon’s team record a 3-1 win at Wembley.

That win, over a Three Lions team containing World Cup winners Bobby Moore, Alan Ball, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, earned West Germany a place in the final four-team tournament.

Muller scored twice in the 2-1 semi-final win over host nation Belgium and another brace as the Soviet Union were thrashed 3-0 in the final. ‘Der Bomber’ later scored the winner as West Germany won the World Cup on home soil two years later.

France (1984)

Michel Platini fired France to a first-ever international title as Les Bleus hosted the European Championship in 1984.

Platini’s performances remain arguably the greatest individual tournament in the competition’s history, as the midfielder scored nine times in five games to inspire the French. After netting the only goal in a 1-0 opening win over Denmark, Platini recorded back-to-back hat-tricks against Belgium and Yugoslavia in the group stage.

He scored a 119th-minute extra-time winner against Portugal in the semi-final and opened the scoring in the 2-0 final win over Spain with his ninth of the tournament.

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He was not alone in starring for the French, however, whose ‘Magic Square’ midfield of Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse, Luis Fernandez and Platini dominated opposition teams. The latter, however, was the shining light for Les Bleus and won the second of three consecutive Ballon d’Or awards for his role in the host’s success.

Iconic Performances: Peak Platini hits three in rout of Belgium at Euro ’84

Netherlands (1988)

Total Football had not been enough for the Dutch to win a major tournament in the 1970s, with the scars of back-to-back World Cup final defeats still prominent when an exciting side made the short trip to West Germany for Euro ’88.

Marco van Basten was the brilliant spearhead of Rinus Michels’ side, with AC Milan teammate Ruud Gullit majestic and the soon-to-join them Frank Rijkaard elegant in Oranje. Ronald Koeman added to a world-class quartet of talent for the Netherlands, who lost their opener to the Soviet Union before bouncing back in style.

A 3-2 win over England, courtesy of Van Basten’s hat-trick, kickstarted their tournament before Ireland were beaten 1-0 to reach the last four. In the semi-final, the Dutch exorcised their 1974 World Cup final demons with a comeback win against their German hosts, as Van Basten’s 88th-minute winner sealed a place in the final.

A rematch with the Soviet Union awaited and it was the Oranje who came out on top, courtesy of a once-in-a-lifetime goal from Van Basten – an audacious execution from a seemingly impossible angle and the best goal in European Championship history.

France (2000)

France made it back-to-back major tournament wins with success at Euro 2000. Having won the World Cup on home soil two years earlier, Les Bleus reached an even higher level in a tournament stacked with star-studded sides.

France were formidable with the maturing Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry integral, while Lilian Thuram underlined his reputation as one of world football’s finest with a place in the Team of the Tournament.

It was Zinedine Zidane, however, who led the charge. Zidane had been the face of the country’s World Cup success with a final brace against Brazil but this was his zenith in a French shirt.

A run of exquisite performances, that included a fantastic free-kick against Spain in the quarter-finals and a Golden Goal-winner against Portugal from the penalty spot in the last four, saw Zizou deservedly claim the Player of the Tournament award.

In a tournament full of elite teams France came out on top, with David Trezeguet’s Golden Goal winner sealing success against Italy in the final.

Euro 2000 – Zidane’s zenith as France reign supreme

Spain (2012)

Spain’s Golden Generation dominated international football as the noughties became the 2010s. Once one of football’s great underachievers, La Roja ended their drought with success at Euro 2008 before adding the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship in a hat-trick of titles.

Their 2012 vintage were superb, even in the absence of injured record scorer David Villa. In six games the Spanish conceded just one goal, suffocating teams with their dominance of possession as tiki-taka took the souls of opposition sides.

For the most part, Vincente Del Bosque’s side went without a recognised forward as midfielders reigned supreme. The final was as one-sided an occasion as witnessed in a UEFA final, as Spain stunned Italy with a 4-0 win in Kyiv.

Read – Remembering the Spain team that thrashed Italy to win Euro 2012

See more – Wayne Rooney at Euro 2004: A precocious phenomenon

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