In every football clash, there is a hero that stands out. This particular player either brought the win for their team or created an impact to European football. The European Championships produced some of the most iconic players of all time and greatest names in football. Here are some of the most iconic legends and finals here of every European Championship.
EURO 1960: Victor Ponedelnik (Soviet Union)
The first ever European Championship, formerly known as the European Nations’ Cup, were held in 1960, though the format was very different to today. The Soviet Union won the inaugural title, beating Yugoslavia 2-1 in extra-time thanks to a 113th-minute goal from Victor Ponedelnik at the Parc des Prince. Final score: Soviet Union 2-1 Yugoslavia
Ponedelnik’s goal and his name went down in Soviet soccer folklore much like Geoff Hurst’s hat trick in England’s 1966 World Cup victory. Like England, the Soviet Union and Russia have yet to win a second international trophy. After his first goal, the crowd went silent; but when the game ended, the crowd stormed the barbed-wire fence that was supposed to keep the volatile fans away from the pitch.
EURO 1964: Jesus Maria Pereda (Spain)
From 17 teams who entered the inaugural year, with the likes of England, West Germany and Italy all missing, the tournament had grown to 29 countries. Soviet Union once again made it to the finals against Spain. Spain clinched the victory on home soil, and prevents the USSR winning back-to-back titles. Final score: Spain 2-1 Soviet Union
Jesus Maria Pereda scored in both the semi-final against Hungary and the final against the Soviet Union. During the finals, Pereda opened the goal for the home team before Khusainov equalized the game after 2 minutes. In the decisive match he also assisted Marcelino in the 2–1 winning goal as the national team won the tournament on home soil.
EURO 1968: Luigi Riva (Italy)
Aside from officially calling the tournament “European Championship”, formerly “European Nations’ Cup”, the fairest way to declare a semifinals winner through a toss coin happened for the first and only time in history of Euro. Two days later, Luigi Riva and Pietro Anastasi scored in a 2-0 win for the Azzurri. Final score: Italy 2-0 Yugoslavia (R).
After recovering from a leg injury, Riva returned to the starting line-up and scored the opening goal in the twelfth minute that boost the team and later Anastasi that sealed the win for the Azzurri. Riva was named to the Team of the Tournament for his performance during the match. Riva was considered to be one of the best players of his generation, as well as one of the greatest strikers of all time.
EURO 1972: Gerd Muller (Germany)
Another significant format made happened in the 1972 edition of the Euro, with 32 teams qualified and eight groups each sending a winner into the quarter-finals to determine the final four. The Soviet Union made it to another thrilling final, but the Germans emerged in the finals and thrashed the USSR to claim their maiden title. Final score: West Germany 3-0 Soviet Union.
Gerd Muller won the 1972 edition of the European Championship with his renowned clinical finishing, especially in and around the six-yard box. He is regarded as one of the greatest players and goalscorers of all time. During that year’s tournament, Muller was the top scorer with four goals (including two in the final) and winning the Championship with the West German team.