The European Championships in Poland and Ukraine are fast approaching and are due to start this Friday and as preparation for the tournament, I will look back at some of the more shocking moments of the past twenty years of the tournament, from 1992 in Sweden right up until four years ago when Austria and Switzerland hosted the event.
Denmark reign supreme in 1992
The main shock of the 1992 tournament wasn't just the fact that Denmark won the tournament in Sweden, it was more the fact that just a couple of weeks prior to the tournament kicking off in Scandinavia, Yugoslavia were excluded, allowing the non-qualifiers led by Manchester United's shot-stopper Peter Schmeichel to be thrown into the mix in Group A. Firstly, Denmark were unlucky not to qualify from their group, headed by Yugoslavia, as they owned a near-perfect record in a group containing Northern Ireland, Austria and the Faroe Islands.
Denmark started the tournament as everyone expected - not that well. Given their lack of preparation, the Danes were forgiven for going into the final crunch Group A match with France with just the one point picked up in a drab 0-0 encounter with England in Malmo. A Tomas Brolin goal ensured they wouldn't get any points off the hosts, Sweden. Everything was going the Danish's way on the final matchday of the group, England were being held by Sweden whilst Denmark had pulled ahead early on thanks to a Henrik Larsen goal. Jean-Pierre Papin soon equalised for the 1984 Euro winners, France and with Brolin's winner it looked as though France were heading through.
However, a goal twelve minutes from time via Lars Elstrup ensured that the Danes had pulled off a huge shock in eliminating both France and England thus qualifying for the semi-final where they would meet the holders Holland who had pipped both Germany and Scotland to top spot. Sweden were out at the hands of Germany and a late, late Frank Rijkaard equaliser sent the favoured Dutch into extra time with the wildcard entry of the tournament. Denmark could always feel confident with the big Peter Schmeichel in between the sticks for them and the 1988 hero Marco van Basten turned villain as he missed the only penalty of the shootout which meant Denmark would be at their first major tournament final - against the then two-time Euro winners, Germany.
The Germans were hugely confident but just 19 minutes into the final at Gothenburg, John Jensen scored a piledriver which lives on as one of the greatest and most important goal in European Championships history. Kim Vilfort added a second 10 minutes from time to seal a historic 2-0 win for Denmark and what remains their one and only major trophy. Germany will be looking to exorcise some of those demons from the final loss this time round where they face Denmark in Group B.
England's impressive 1996 campaign
At any tournament, the host can pull off a shock and in 1996 England were still reeling from a disappointing tenure under Graham Taylor in which they were eliminated from the group stages in Sweden in '92 and failed to qualify for the World Cup some two years later which was staged in America. This time, no qualification was needed and being drawn alongside Scotland, Holland and Switzerland, things were going to be tough for Terry Venables. An indifferent 1-1 draw at Wembley with the proclaimed whipping boys of Group A, Switzerland - the tournament started off on a sour note. Scotland were next though and the old enemy were disposed of by an Alan Shearer opener and THAT Paul Gascoigne volley.
The deft flick over the brick wall of a defender and Scottish captain, Colin Hendry before the former Tottenham midfielder blasted a volley which rippled the back of the Wembley net, securing the 2-0 victory. Ranking second in surprising moments remains the performance against Holland where both Shearer and Sheringham netted twice in one of England's finest displays since 1966, a mere thirty years since that 4-2 win over West Germany at Wembley Stadium.
The most shocking moment of that 1996 campaign was a certain penalty shootout by England over Spain (something further off the probability scale of Scotland winning Euro 2012.) David Seaman was England's hero that day, saving twice in the 4-2 penalty win and he stood alongside Stuart Pearce who exorcised some demons of his 1990 shootout miss against West Germany in the World Cup and that infamous celebration. The campaign sadly ended abruptly in all too familiar circumstances as England were dumped out of the tournament on penalties thanks to, surprise surprise, Germany with Gareth Southgate's tame penalty being England's last action in a tounament on home soil.
Phil Neville's foul and that win over Germany (2000)
England were fresh off the back of two shootout losses against Germany and Argentina in consecutive tournaments, there weren't any shootouts which eliminated England from the Euros in 2000 which was hosted by Holland and Belgium. Unfortunately for England, Phil Neville's hacking down of an onrushing Romanian foward late on in their final group game against Romania. The scores were tied at 2-2, a score which would've seen England through to the quarter finals, but Ionel Ganea duly converted to send England crashing out of a third successive tournament due to a penalty.
England's high point of the campaign was even shocking enough to make this list as after a far from impressive 3-2 loss against Portugal in the opener which saw a 2-0 lead overturned thanks in part to that soaring strike from Luis Figo. However, inbetween these poor performances came one swift rotation of Alan Shearer's head and England had finally secured a win over Germany in Chareloi.
Zidane's late double over England in 2004
Zinedine Zidane is renowned the world over as one of the best footballers to have ever walked the planet. When Frank Lampard put England into a first half lead, it looked as though England would cruise into an easy win and even when David Beckham missed from the spot, England were still on course for a win in their opening Euro 2004 group game. However, when Zidane converted a free kick which looked as though it was manufactured by a wizard, England still hadn't lost all hope of securing something in Lisbon.
David James then tripped Thierry Henry in the penalty area only moments later and in the third minute of injury time the French wizard and French captain had overturned the English lead almost single-handedly.
Germany's poor run (2000, 2004)
When Oliver Bierhoff netted a golden goal at Wembley in 1996, it seemed the golden shining light in German international football had vacated the country after a group stage exit in Holland and Belgium, they were grouped with Holland, underdogs Latvia and their final opponents Czech Republic. A 1-1 draw was excusable against Holland who were amongst the favourites but a stale 0-0 encounter with Latvia followed by a 2-1 loss to the in-form Czech Republic who would exit in the final four. Germany would never re-kindle the golden era until the next tournament thanks to their own 2006 World Cup hosted in their back garden.
Greece's 2004 triumph
Along with Bulgaria and Latvia, Greece were probably the last nation avid football fans would back to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy in the 2004 tournament hosted in Portugal. Greece were grouped with European powerhouses Spain and Portugal along with Russia who would beat Otto Rehhagel's side in the final group stage match. With that said and the two group favourites to come, Greece surely would be eliminated, right?
They shocked the world with their 2-1 win over Portugal in the opener and thanks to a superb strike from Giorgios Karagounis and an Angelos Charisteas goal against Spain salvaged a point for Greece as they faced the favoured France in the quarter finals. Still, the underdogs reigned supreme in this final eight encounter through, you guessed it, that man Angelos Charisteas in a 1-0 win. The pattern continued against Czech Republic in the semi-finals as Traianos Dellas netted a silver goal winner in extra time whilst a carbon copy header from Charisteas in the final against Portugal confirmed Greece's etching on the European Championship trophy.
Italy beaten at their own game (2004)
In the group stages of the 2004 tournament, Italy were seemingly hoodwinked out of qualification for the knockout stages in Portugal in the European Championships. Italy were held by both Scandinavian sides in Group C - Sweden and Denmark and in preparation for their final group match against Bulgaria they needed a win to progress. Antonio Cassano's 94th minute winner seemingly forged a path into the quarter final and only a 2-2 scoreline between Denmark and Sweden would send both teams through at the expense of the 2000 finalists. A late leveller from Matias Jonsson was suspicious to say the least as they carved out a 2-2 draw but at the same time made the quarter finals. Scandinavia had beaten Italy at their own game - match fixing.
The Wally with a Brolly (2008)
Steve McClaren's short tenure as the England manager will always be remembered for that cold and wet November night at Wembley stadium where Croatia would face England in the final qualifying match where a draw would seal England's qualification due to Russia's seemingly easy task away at Andorra. Due to draws at home to Macedonia and away at Israel, England had gotten themselves into this mess, the impossible task of getting Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard to play well together was well known.
It was the height of England's golden era and at the epicentre of that was a failure to qualify for a tournament. A Scott Carson error followed by another goal for Croatia before the break this summond the return of David Beckham who got England back on the straight and narrow with the score levelled at 2-2. A late goal from Mladen Petric saw England's qualification for Austria/Switzerland vanished, gone forever. Thanks McClaren.
1992 - Tomas Brolin's winner ensuring Gary Lineker wouldn't break Sir Bobby Charlton's goalscoring record as he ended his international career on a low with Sweden's win over England.
1996, 2000 - Oliver Bierhoff and David Trezeguet both netted winners in extra time in golden goal fashion to win the European00 Championships for their sides.
2004 - The young and still fluorishing Wayne Rooney burst onto the international scene with four goals from as many games as he dismantled both Switzerland and Croatia in the groups but his tournament ended at the quarter final stage.
2008 - The final tournament in Austria and Switzerland was a quirky one. It seemed as though nobody wanted to lift the trophy. Croatia threw away a late extra time lead and then lost on penalties whilst the extremely damp weather conditions took control of some games, even disrupting viewing of one of the greatest tournament games in recent history where Germany beat Turkey 3-2 in the semi-final. Holland looked hot favourites to win the tournament, right up until the last eight where they were beaten by Andrei Arshavin's Russia after extra time which left Spain, without a trophy since 1964, to lift their second European Championship.