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RANKED! FourFourTwo's 50 most memorable Euros goals

Marco van Basten
(Image credit: Future)

What makes a memorable goal? It's entirely subjective. 

We argued for hours on this one. We considered the views of a wide range of experienced FourFourTwo writers, stretching across many generations of football fans. It took hours to compile. 

For the list of the greatest Euros goals of all time though, we didn't just want to pick 50 screamers from outside the areas - we wanted to bring in an entire spectrum of what could possibly make a goal memorable. Shock value. Was it funny? Was it special, unique, vital in the context of a game?

Individual genius was considered; unbelievable teamwork, too. In the end, we whittled it down to this half-century, from 60 years of strikes from the tournament. 

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50. Viktor Ponedelnik, USSR v Yugoslavia, 1960

The goal that won the first European Nations Cup (as it was then known) was a decent enough header by the prolific Ponedelnik but was mainly down to a goalkeeping gaffe. Having spilled an innocuous-looking shot for the Soviets’ equaliser, Blagoda Vidinic went walkabout, leaving himself in no-man’s land for Ponedelnik’s equaliser. The calamitous keeper never played international football again.

49. Cristiano Ronaldo, PORTUGAL v Hungary, 2016

History will neglect to mention how Portugal were heading out of Euro 2016 without a point after falling behind three times to Hungary in the final group game. Thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo grabbing them by the scruff of the neck to inspire them to a draw, they went onto claim their first-ever international silverware: and Ronaldo's sweet no-look-flick-finish from that balmy afternoon remains one of their best moments from those four weeks in France.  

48. Angelo Domenghini, ITALY v Yugoslavia, 1968

Euro 68 was a tale of two finals – but only thanks to Italy’s tricky right-winger, who forced a replay with a late equaliser in the first game. Known more for his subtle skills, Domenghini showed absolutely none for this goal, hammering a free-kick through the wall to set up the replay.

47. Jordi Alba, SPAIN v Italy, 2012

The goal that summed up Italy’s ‘death by a thousand cuts’ in the final. Typifying Spain’s own version of Total Football, their left-back showed the pace of a winger, lungs of a midfielder and finishing prowess of a forward to round off another devastating team move.

46. Antonio Cassano, ITALY v Bulgaria, 2004

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Another tournament, another Italian conspiracy theory. With draws against Sweden and Denmark under their belts, the Azzurri knew that a comfortable win against Bulgaria, who had been well beaten by the Scandinavians, would probably be enough to put them into the quarter-finals. But they made hard work of it until Cassano’s smart finish in the last minute looked to have put them through, only for Mattias Jonson’s late equaliser against the Danes against Sweden to put them both through. “Fix!” cried Italy. Well, they would.

45. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, SWEDEN v Greece, 2008

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That this is the least memorable of Zlatan’s three goals in our Top 50 tells you just how good the other two were. This mere 20-yarder, arrowed into the top corner with the outside of his right foot, gave Sweden victory in their opening game.

44. Andy Carroll, ENGLAND v Sweden, 2012

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One of two fine goals for England in the game – Danny Welbeck’s improvised flick being the other – what was bread-and-butter for Carroll would be almost impossible for any other striker. A pinpoint cross by Steven Gerrard was made even better by Wor Andy, who lost his marker and rose like a salmon to head England into the lead.

43. Dimitri Payet, FRANCE v Romania, 2016

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France typically do well on home soil: just ask the cast of 1998. With the Euros in France in 2016, West Ham United talisman Dimitri Payet got the tournament off to a flyer with a rocket from outside the box that never stopped rising. An outstanding way to welcome the Euros to Paris. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d05koTZWMt4

42. Michael Laudrup, DENMARK v Spain, 1988

One of the few players loved by fans of both Real Madrid and Barcelona, the silky playmaker was popular with neither at this moment, feigning to shoot with his right then stroking the ball past future team-mate Andoni Zubizarreta from the edge of the box with his left.

41. Henrik Larsson, SWEDEN v Bulgaria, 2004

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A goal so old-fashioned in its simplicity, yet so perfectly executed you could watch it over and over again. Erik Edman’s sweeping left-wing cross was met by Larsson at full stretch at the far post, a top-drawer header into the top locker – albeit against a frankly rubbish Bulgaria side.

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40. Wayne Rooney, ENGLAND v Croatia, 2004

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“Is there nothing he can’t do?” asked John Motson as an 18-year-old Rooney fired England into the knockout stages of Euro 2004. The player of the tournament until he was injured early in the quarter-finals, this was the best of Rooney’s four goals, a right-footed rifle to make it 2-1.

39. Eder, PORTUGAL v France, 2016

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The Euro 2016 final was dragging on and looked destined for penalties. France, who had lit the tournament up from minute one, were looking leggy, while Portugal were battling away hard having lost the iconic Ronaldo to injury in the first half. And then Eder comes out with this thunderbolt to settle the match. Utterly against the run of play and the bookies' suggestions, the Swansea striker shocked the continent and became a national treasure overnight. 

38. Michael Ballack, GERMANY v Austria, 2008

After defeat to Croatia, Germany’s qualification hopes were hanging in the balance as they faced the co-hosts in Vienna. But cometh the hour, cometh the (talis)man, and Ballack blasted a free-kick into the top corner just after half-time, not for the first time putting his team on course for the final.

37. Stuart Pearce, ENGLAND v Spain, 1996

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Who can forget Psycho’s fist-pumping release as he smashed home his penalty in the first knockout round of 1996? The disappointment of losing on penalties in 1990 was washed away by the tough-tackling Nottingham Forest left-back as he guided the ball home, with the Three Lions advancing to set up a semi-final encounter with Germany, where Pearce would again score in the shootout.

36. Luis Figo, PORTUGAL v England, 2000

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It would take something special to get Portugal back in the game after England had raced into a 2-0 lead in this group opener, and it came from the right foot of Figo in his pomp. Look closely and you'll notice the ball takes a tiny deflection off the instep of Tony Adams, but David Seaman was getting nowhere near the Portuguese's pure strike, which flew into the top corner, anyway.

35. Wesley Sneijder, NETHERLANDS v France, 2008

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The stand-out goal of the Oranje’s 4-1 demolition of Raymond Domenech’s embarrassing France side, Sneijder cutting back onto his right foot to hammer a 25-yarder into the roof of the net, making it nine points out of nine in Group C. What’s Dutch for ‘don’t peak too soon’?

34. Xherdan Shaqiri, SWITZERLAND vs Poland, 2016

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Sometimes, all you need is that squint of genius; that glimmer of the otherworldly to break through the ice. Switzerland were in search of an equaliser against the Poles; when the clock ticked over to read eight minutes left to play, Xherdan Shaqiri swivels and twirled to bury one of the most memorable overhead kicks of the tournament's history. It wasn't enough to send the Swiss through - they lost on penalties - but nothing could take away from that moment. 

33. Semih Senturk, TURKEY v Croatia, 2008

One of the most dramatic matches in European Championship history played out in Vienna in 2008, with Turkey edging out Croatia on penalties to book their place in the last four. Ivan Klasnic's goal in the 119th minute looked to have won it for Slaven Bilic's side, but Senturk smashed a shot into the top corner of the net in the final minute of stoppage time in extra time to break Croatian hearts and send the game to a shootout. 

32. Zinedine Zidane, FRANCE v England, 2004

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In truth, England should have been out of sight and France down to ten men as this opening group game entered its dying moments, with Zidane hitherto completely overshadowed by a brilliant young striker by the name of Wayne Rooney. But Zizou had the final word, dispatching a curling, dipping free-kick past a wrong-footed David James from 25 yards after Emile Heskey’s clumsy foul. Then, after James had upended Thiery Henry trying to get to Steven Gerrard’s suicidal backpass, Zidane stepped up again. After being sick - literally - with nerves, his perfectly-placed penalty won the game for the holders.

31. Vasyl Rats, SOVIET UNION v Netherlands, 1988

Having shot to fame by scoring an absolute screamer against France at Mexico 86, Rats proved it was no fluke with this angled first-time strike to beat Holland in his side's group opener, when Marco van Basten was on the bench. Rats – who nearly got in the way of the Dutchman’s volley in the final – wished he’d stayed there.

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30. David Trezeguet, FRANCE v Italy, 2000

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As if Sylvain Wiltord’s injury-time equaliser wasn’t dramatic enough, fellow sub Trezeguet fired a 103rd-minute golden goal into the roof of the net with his wrong foot following a run and cross by another replacement, Robert Pires. The shirt-off celebration was just as memorable, as the exhausted Italians sank to the turf.

29. Ray Wilkins, ENGLAND v Belgium, 1980

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The first eight-team tournament was a story of ‘what ifs’ for England, but it got off to a flyer. Cruelly nicknamed ‘The Crab’, Ray Wilkins proved he was anything but a sideways-only mover, cleverly flicking the ball over the advancing Belgian defence to beat the offside trap, waiting for it to drop, then lobbing it calmly into the top corner. Classy.

28. Ally McCoist, SCOTLAND v Switzerland, 1996

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The Rangers legend’s 19th and final international goal was one to remember – for both good reasons and bad. After Scotland drew with the Netherlands and lost to England, McCoist’s rasping first-half drive against Switzerland and England’s 4-0 lead against the Dutch put Craig Brown’s men within touching distance of an unlikely place in the knockout stage, only for Patrick Kluivert to grab a crucial late goal at Wembley and send the Scots packing on goal difference. Ouch.

27. Ronnie Whelan, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND v Soviet Union, 1988

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Anything Ray Houghton could do, Whelan could do better. Much, much better – even if, on second glance, the Liverpool midfielder’s acrobatic volley against the Soviet Union, from Mick McCarthy’s long throw, looks like a bit of a shinner. The second-best volley of Euro 88 gave the Irish their second lead of the tournament; this time, though, they couldn’t hang on.

26. Jakub Blaszczykowski, POLAND v Russia, 2012

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There’s nothing like a screamer from the hosts to ignite the party, and who can forget this one from Poland’s barely-pronounceable captain? After a sweeping, length-of-the-pitch move, Blaszczykowski cut in from the right wing and lashed a 20-yarder into the far corner with his left foot, making it two points from two games for the Poles.

25. Franky Vercauteren, BELGIUM v Denmark, 1984

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If popular lager companies did looping, left-footed volleys, The Little Prince’s would be right up there. It put Belgium 2-0 ahead in this group clash but, unfortunately for them, Preben Elkjaer’s solo effort in the 84th minute completed an equally-memorable comeback and the Danes went through at their opponents’ expense.

24. Gerd Muller, WEST GERMANY v USSR, 1972

It’s fair to say Euro 72 was short on worldies but Muller’s second in the final proved he was more than just a poacher (although he was a pretty darn good one), Der Bomber starting and finishing a flowing team move to put the seal on West Germany’s win. The Soviets were sick of the sight of him, Muller having put four past them in a friendly just three weeks earlier.

23. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, SWEDEN v Italy, 2004

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A keen martial artist, the man who simply became simply known Zlatan required all of his kung-fu skills to score this late equaliser against Italy in the group stage, beating Gigi Buffon to the ball after a Sweden corner and, with his back to goal, sending an impossible flick over Christian Vieiri on the goalline.

22. Dragan Dzajic, YUGOSLAVIA v Netherlands, 1976

Dubbed “the magic Dragan” by the English media after his winner had knocked the world champions out of the Euros eight years early, Dzajic – the former Yugoslavia’s greatest ever player – scored an even better goal in this third-place play-off, clipping a free-kick into the top corner with his wand-like left foot. The keeper knows where the ball's going but is still powerless to stop it.

21. Ray Houghton, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND v England, 1988

Republic of Ireland didn’t get past the group stage and this wasn’t even their best goal of Euro 88, but the looping header will go down in folklore. It came just six minutes into their first game at a major tournament, against much-fancied England, where most of their players plied their trade and for whom their manager, Jack Charlton, won a World Cup. The noise said it all.

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20. Oliver Bierhoff, GERMANY v Czech Republic, 1996

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Golden goals. Remember those? Course you do. In two of the three Euros for which they counted, a golden goal decided the final. The first came courtesy of late-bloomer Bierhoff, who had only made his international debut four months earlier at the age of 28. Having levelled for Germany in normal time courtesy of a trademark header, the supersub made history with a scrappy effort, which went in via a deflection as well as a weak parry from the keeper. They all count.

19. Alfonso, SPAIN v Yugoslavia, 2000

A dramatic end to perhaps the greatest game in Euros history. Three times Yugoslavia had led; three times Spain equalised, Gaizka Mendieta’s nerveless penalty making it 3-3 deep into second-half stoppage time. But there was a final twist, Alfonso firing into the bottom corner after Spain lumped a free-kick forward in the dying seconds. Norway, who’d beaten the Spanish in their opener, were out.

18. Ladislav Jurkemik, CZECHOSLOVAKIA v Italy, 1980

A defender not known for his scoring prowess, Jurkemik converted Czechoslovakia’s penultimate penalty in the 1976 Final shootout before Antonin Panenka’s famous winning spotkick. The two combined for this strike in the third-place play-off four years later, the latter cutting his corner back to the former, who hammered it first time into the top corner from at least 25 yards out.

17. Hal Robson-Kanu, WALES v Belgium, 2016

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“They started like a house on fire; for the first five minutes, they could have scored a couple,” Aaron Ramsey said of the Belgian side that were penning Wales back in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016. “But something happened in that moment – it was as if we were free to go and express ourselves. I don’t know... there was no pressure then.”

With seemingly no pressure on them, Wales pulled off one of their biggest wins ever - and at its heart came a moment of brilliance from club-less Hal Robson-Kanu, who turned two Belgian defenders inside out with a Cruyff-like chop before burying the ball past Thibault Courtois. 

16. Pietro Anastasi, ITALY v Yugoslavia, 1968

Pity Yugoslavia. Twice beaten finalists in the first three tournaments, they would later suffer the indignity of being kicked out of Euro 92 only for their replacements Denmark to win the whole bloomin’ thing. On this occasion, they were forced to contest a replayed final two days later, for which they made only one change; the Italians, meanwhile, were able to bring in Gigi Riva, Sandro Mazzola and three other pairs of fresh legs. But it was Anastasi who stole the show, with a quite brilliant control, swivel and volley combo.

15. Davor Suker, CROATIA v Denmark, 1996

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Not many strikers made a mug out of Peter Schmeichel in his prime, but then not many strikers had the all-round goalscoring ability of Suker. With the giant Dane bearing down at tight angle, the Croat took the aerial route, chipping an inch-perfect back-spinner into the far corner to complete a 3-0 win. It was Suker's second of the game and he would score another fine goal in the quarter-final against Germany.

14. Mario Balotelli, ITALY v Germany, 2012

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Why always him? Because amid the madness and inconsistency, Super Mario is capable of goals – and celebrations – like this. What seemed like route-one stuff actually came about from Balotelli’s clever movement, enabling Riccardo Montolivio to pick out the errant striker, whose excellent first touch, thunderous first-time volley and muscle-flexing pose stick long in the memory.

13. Marcelino Martinez, SPAIN v USSR, 1964

Known simply as Marcelino, and one of Real Zaragoza’s Los Magnificos, the striker belied his lack of height with a brilliant diving header as he retreated to meet Jesus Pereda’s right-wing cross. The goal gave Spain victory in a politically charged final against the Soviets, with General Franco watching on inside a packed Bernabeu.

11 & 12. Michel Platini, FRANCE v Yugoslavia, 1984

Amid his fall from grace as would-be king of the (football) world, it’s easy to forget that Michel Francois Platini is one of Europe’s greatest footballers of all time. Indeed, no player has ever dominated a Euros – in fact, any major tournament – quite like the Frenchman did on home soil in 1984. He scored nine goals in five games, including two hat-tricks and a dramatic semi-final winner against Portugal. But his best both came in the group match against Yugoslavia, a textbook diving header and trademark free-kick proving that Platini was not only a great goalscorer but a scorer of great goals – all kinds of goals.

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10. John Jensen, DENMARK v Germany, 1992

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Largely off the back of this goal, Jensen was signed by Arsenal to replace Leeds-bound David Rocastle, but the Gunners soon realised what all of Denmark already knew: his goal – let alone a wonderstrike – was a collector’s item. “Shoooooot!” came the increasingly ironic calls from the North Bank, and shoot Jensen did, but only once in four seasons at Highbury did he find the net.

If the story surrounding Jensen’s goal was amusing, Denmark’s clincher carried far more poignancy. A stalwart of the ‘Danish Dynamite’ team that dazzled at Euro 84 and Mexico 86, the aforementioned Vilfort was a far more frequent scorer. But the midfielder had other things on his mind during the tournament, leaving the Denmark camp several times – including to miss the group game against France – to visit his seven-year-old daughter, who had leukaemia.

9. Alan Shearer, ENGLAND v Netherlands, 1996

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If Gazza’s goal against Scotland was, well, typical Gazza, then Alan Shearer's second goal against the Dutch was typical of the way most England fans view Euro 96. Glorious football, beautiful sunshine, Wembley having never looked so good and an unashamed patriotism that would normally be a source of retrospective embarrassment.

EURO 96: THE COMPLETE HISTORY The Dutch demolition, England’s greatest performance

Rose-tinted spectacles? Almost certainly. Terry Venables’ team were neither that good throughout the tournament, nor that good for the whole game against a Guus Hiddink Holland outfit that were in disarray. But when they were good, they were very very good. And for 11 minutes of their final Group A game, they were out of this world.

“That goal was perfect,” Teddy Sheringham told FourFourTwo. “We overloaded and found the extra man. That’s what you look for in a team with Macca, Darren [Anderton], Gazza, Alan. It was an attacking formation that wanted to interact, to pass and move. That was the beauty.”

8. Maniche, PORTUGAL v Netherlands, 2004

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Picking up Cristiano Ronaldo’s quickly-taken short corner, Maniche had only one things on his mind: “I could have crossed the ball but I opted to shoot. Seeing as [Edwin] Van der Sar is a tall goalkeeper, I knew that the only spot where he did not have a chance was the top corner and fortunately it went in.”

But as he unleashed the ball from the left-hand corner of the box, even a perfectly-hit shot into the very top corner wouldn’t have been enough on its own to beat the long-levered Dutch keeper. It’s the bend, like a fast bowler achieving late swing, that beats Van der Sar, who comically tries to blame his defenders for not closing down Maniche quickly enough.

He dedicated what turned out to be the winner to Portugal’s fans, “who were cheering us on prior to the game, from our team’s headquarters to the stadium.”

“I have scored great goals,” he continued, “but this is probably one of the best I have netter for the national team.” Make that the best.

7. Tomas Brolin, SWEDEN v England, 1992

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Picking up the ball in the inside left channel, the fleet-footed No.11 played not one but two one-twos, first with Klas Ingesson, then with strike partner Martin Dahlin, prompting Barry Davies’ memorable BBC commentary. “Brolin. Dahlin. Broliiiiin... Brilliant!”

“That goal was a very important goal for us and the tournament,” said Brolin, who would score again in defeat to Germany in the semi-finals. “It was important, because if we won against England we would be pretty much done. All other results did then not matter.”

“At the time the most important thing was to score and for us to win, but later I did understand how big it was and it would become a classic goal that would repeated on television many times.”

Although things would get worse for Graham Taylor’s England - who subsequently failed to qualify for USA 94, in hindsight there was no shame in losing to a Sweden team who went on to finish third in the States - and to a goal from a player who would again be one of the players of the tournament.

6. Angelos Charisteas, GREECE v Portugal, 2004

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By the time the 150/1 shots arrived at the final, nobody should have been surprised by anything, not even a winning goal by this most unremarkable of targetmen.

And yet everybody was surprised, even the Greeks. “We couldn’t believe it,” admitted midfielder Anglos Basinas. At least he could remember it. To captain Theo Zagorakis, who was voted Player of the Tournament, it was a complete blur. “When the referee ended the match, it was as if the lights went out… another blank spot in my memory… the constant smile of an idiot on my face for I don’t know how many minutes.”

It was Basinas who set up the 57th-minute winner from a right-wing corner its recipient described as “great”. In truth, Angelos Charisteas was being generous. Under little pressure from the players behind them, Portugal’s two central defenders, Ricardo Carvalho and Jorge Andrade, and keeper Ricardo all allow the big striker to get in front of them at the near post. Look closely and he doesn’t even need to jump, in the end having to stoop to head into an unguarded net.

5. Karel Poborsky, CZECH REPUBLIC v Portugal, 1996

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The Czechs’ outstanding player up to that point – even though Borussia Dortmund’s Patrick Berger had received nearly all the pre-tournament hype – Poborsky was largely anonymous until the 53rd minute (yes, even with that barnet), when he picked the ball up in the inside-left channel midway inside the Portugal half – notably a long way from his usual station on the right flank.

Typical of how direct his play in England had been to that point, Poborsky headed straight for goal, his now-familiar combination of searing pace and great footwork taking him between Paulo Sousa and Oceano, a ricochet off the latter wrong-footing Fernando Couto – a future teammate of Poborsky’s at Lazio – who had stepped out of the defensive line to try and avert the danger.

EURO 96 "I didn't mean to hit it so high, I thought it was going over!" Karel Poborsky on Euro 96, the goal that changed his life – and his brush with death

If that was the bit of luck that many great goals need, there was nothing fortunate about what happened next. With Oceano and Couto now in hot pursuit and centre-back Helder racing across to cover both, in a split second Poborsky decided there was only one route to goal, scooping the ball into the far corner of the goal from the left angle of D and penalty box.

In hindsight, Portugal keeper Victor Baia was much further off his line than was necessary, but it does make for amusing viewing as he belatedly sprints after the goal-bound ball. 

4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, SWEDEN v France, 2012

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France were still in a position to, and indeed would, qualify from Group D and were unbeaten in 23 games under Laurent Blanc - they weren’t exactly cannon fodder for Sweden. But as the French coach noted: “In their ranks, they have a player who can make the difference in a game.”

And how. Despite dominating a strangely lacklustre Les Bleus, Sweden would require something special to beat the impressive Hugo Lloris. It came in the 53rd minute. Seb Larsson burst down the right and cut back a cross to the edge of the box, where Ibrahimovic was waiting.

Showing all the agility you’d expect from somebody who practised martial arts in his youth, Ibrahimovic didn’t even flinch in the face of a despairing lunge by Philippe Mexes, throwing himself into the air and, falling back to meet the ball perfectly on his laces, hitting a majestic volley that dipped low past Lloris’s right hand into the very bottom corner, probably the only place he could have beaten the France captain.

But the final word should go to the Sweden supporters, who painted Kiev’s Olympic Stadium yellow, despite their team’s early exit. “We wanted to give our fans a present,” said Ibrahimovic. This one came wrapped in gold.

3. Paul Gascoigne, ENGLAND v Scotland, 1996

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“I could see Colin Hendry coming in,” Gascoigne told FourFourTwo. “So I flicked it over his head [with his left foot] and volleyed it [with his right]. You can’t teach kids that, it was pure instinct. I trained with Andy Goram every day, so I knew how to beat him. I knew I had to get over the ball and hit it low. God, the feeling when I scored was magnificent! It’s all coming back now. I’m so glad I scored that goal.”

Evidently. But before Gascoigne could express his clear joy and relief at doing something notable on the pitch instead of off it, came his party piece. Immediately after putting England 2-0 in front he spotted, and pointed to, a water bottle near the byline and lay prostrate on the Wembley turf. Led by Teddy Sheringham, one of Gascoigne’s cohorts in Hong Kong, several England players proceeded to re-enact the dentist’s chair. Poetry. “I timed that goal so well,” admitted the midfielder. “On the coach to Wembley I told the lads we should do the dentist chair celebration.”

“That celebration was perfect,” agrees Sheringham. “It lifted the mood, all the doubts stopped. We could laugh about what had gone on. That’s the English mentality to laugh at ourselves and it was great to take the p**s out of it.”

Given Gazza’s subsequent battle with the bottle, the celebration now takes on a certain sadness, but the goal itself was a standalone moment of brilliance, if not the first he’d scored beneath the Twin Towers.

2. Antonin Panenka, CZECHOSLOVAKIA v West Germany, 1976

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It was against the world’s best goalkeeper, no less. “I don’t think Sepp Maier took it very well,” admitted Panenka, whose dink left the giant German looking up to his right, grasping at thin air. 

“He was, and perhaps still is, somewhat discomfited – I suspect he probably doesn't like the sound of my name too much. I never wished to make him look ridiculous, though. I am not aware of anyone who would be able to make fun of someone when the European Championship is at stake. On the contrary, I chose the penalty because I realised that it was the easiest and simplest way of scoring a goal.”

Simple? Panenka’s combination of technique and nerve led a French journalist watching in Belgrade to dub him “a poet”. If this was his moment, though, 1980 was his tournament. He was named Czechoslovakia Footballer of the Year off the back of his performances, which helped his team prove they were no one-hit wonders by finishing third. Faced with another great goalkeeper in the third-place play-off shootout, Panenka dispatched his penalty by more conventional means, sending Dino Zoff the wrong way as the hosts were eventually beaten 9-8. 

He bowed out of international football by scoring Czechoslovakia’s only two goals at the 1982 World Cup, where they failed to make it beyond the first group stage. Fittingly, both were penalties. But there can only be one Panenka.

1. Marco van Basten, NETHERLANDS v Soviet Union, 1988

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“My first dream as a young boy was to be a gymnast. I found out that I could play football pretty well. I think my gymnastic background helped a great deal with my agility when I took up football seriously.”

At no time was Marco van Basten’s gymnastic – and indeed balletic – ability in evidence more than when he scored the greatest goal in European Championship history.

Yet such a moment seemed a remote possibility when Van Basten, who had been injured in the build-up to the tournament, looked on from the bench as Holland faced the ‘CCCP’ in their opening game. “It was not a big problem for me to sit it out,” insisted the striker later. “I was not in good shape. I had no reason to think that I should be among the first XI. I was just watching and learning and waiting for the moment when I got my chance.”

After the Dutch lost 1-0 to their eventual final opponents, that chance came in the next game against England. Van Basten’s opportunistic hat-trick made him firmly first choice and after drawing a blank in the 1-0 victory against Republic of Ireland, he scored a smartly-taken winner in a tetchy semi-final against West Germany. And so to the final and that goal.

Marco van Basten

(Image credit: Getty)

“You cannot shoot from that angle,” said Ronald Koeman, as if it were somehow not too late for his teammate to change his mind and bring the ball down. “It really was too high,” agreed Frank Rijkaard. “He will do that another million times and still not score that goal,” laughed Ruud Gullit, who had given the Dutch a first-half lead with a powerful header from Van Basten’s centre.

And that’s what makes it such a great goal. It’s audacious, it’s impossible, it’s perfection... it’s the final for goodness sake! And yet, looking back, this was no fluke. Van Basten would win the first of three European Footballer of the Year awards off the back of his performances at Euro ’88, his third coming in 1992 when he scored an overhead kick in the Champions League that was almost this goal’s equal.

But was his strike against the Soviets the greatest volley ever? Better than Jamie Vardy’s against Liverpool in the 2015/16 season? Despite Claudio Ranieri’s comparisons, yes. Better, even, than Zinedine Zidane’s in the 2002 Champions League Final. “I don’t know,” said Van Basten. “It’s just a matter of taste, and it’s difficult to answer questions about taste.”

Oh Marco, you’re too modest.