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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