On this day in the Euros, June 13: The six-goal war
Gary Parkinson recalls a belting Balkan battle in Belgium
In June 1991, Yugoslavia and Slovenia fought a Ten-Day War. Nine years later, they shared a six-goal thriller.
Slovenia had only been FIFA-recognised for eight years, and Euro 2000 was their finals debut. But any idea that Screcko Katanec’s 150-1 outsiders were tourists was knocked sideways when Zlatko Zahovic, who’d scored nine in qualifying, headed the 23rd-minute opener.
Slovenia’s neat passing football perturbed Yugoslavia boss Vujadin Boskov so much that he introduced 35-year-old legend Dragan Stojkovic after barely half an hour, although it would be a later substitute who saved his bacon.
With just seven minutes of the second half gone, Boskov replaced Juventus striker Darko Kovakevic with Savo Milosevic, who had endured a somewhat mixed time at Aston Villa. But he was barely settling in when Miran Pavlin headed in Zahovic’s free-kick to make it 2-0 in the 52nd minute.
Then came a five-minute plot-loss from Sinisa Mihajlovic. A fascinatingly complicated character, 31-year-old Mihajlovic was a silky sweeper and set-piece specialist who could start an argument with the Dalai Lama. On 56 minutes he was booked for dissent. On 57 minutes his idiotic outside-of-the-foot pass across defence was intercepted by Zahovic, who gleefully made it 3-0. And on the hour, he decided to push Saso Udovic in the chest, duly collecting his second yellow.
Game over? Not a bit of it. With 67 minutes gone, Milosevic forced home on the line; three minutes later Ljublinko Drujlovic was left unmarked to pick his spot from 12 yards; and another three minutes after that, Drujlovic drove in from the right flank and found Milosevic to finish from close range again.
It was a pulsating game; pity only 16,478 were in Charleroi to watch it. There were around twice as many in the same stadium three days later to see England beat Germany 1-0, easily the highpoint of a Three Lions campaign which also featured two 3-2 losses and idiots throwing plastic seating around Charleroi’s public squares.
As for the boys from the Balkans: Yugoslavia somehow managed to lose a group game to Spain despite being 3-2 up in the 93rd minute, but went through anyway because Slovenia held Norway to 0-0. Slovenia were swiftly followed home by Yugoslavia after a 6-1 shellacking by the Netherlands in the knockouts: on this occasion, Milosevic’s 92nd-minute goal proved a touch too late for a comeback.
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Gary Parkinson is a freelance writer, editor, trainer, muso, singer, actor and coach. He spent 14 years at FourFourTwo as the Global Digital Editor and continues to regularly contribute to the magazine and website, including major features on Euro 96, Subbuteo, Robert Maxwell and the inside story of Liverpool's 1990 title win. He is also a Bolton Wanderers fan.