The 10 Greatest Matches In European Championship History: Yugoslavia v France, 1960

Throughout Euro 2016 we will be serialising Rob Fielder’s marvellously comprehensive book, The Complete History of the European Championship. The series will look at the 10 greatest matches in the tournament’s history, recalling the events around the games and many of the wonderful players who have graced the competition over the years. We begin with Yugoslavia’s thrilling fightback against France in the semi-final of the 1960 European Nations’ Cup…

YUGOSLAVIA – FRANCE 5:4 (1:2)
Scorers: 1:0 Galić 11, 1:1 Vincent 12, 1:2 Heutte 43, 1:3 Wiesnieski 53, 2:3 Žanetić 55, 2:4 Heutte 62, 3:4 Knez 75, 4:4 Jerković 78, 5:4 Jerković 79

06.07.1960 (20.00) Paris, Parc des Princes, Att, 26,370

YUG: Šoškić; Durković, Zebec (c), Jusufi; Žanetić, Perušić; Šekularac, Knez, Jerković, Galić, Kostić
FRA: Lamia; Wendling, Herbin, Rodzik; Marcel, Ferrier; Heutte, Muller, Wiesnieski (c), Stievenard, Vincent

Referee: Gaston Grandain (Belgium)

It was only fitting that the first match in European Championship finals history should feature France. Nobody had done more to push the cause of a continental tournament than the French with the likes of Henri Delaunay, the French vice-president of FIFA who died in 1955, his son Pierre, and Gabriele Hanot, of the newspaper L’Equipe, all leading figures in the creation of the competition.

Yet despite the role of Gallic endeavour in formulating the tournament, the finals hadn’t just been gifted to France. They had been required to battle their way through qualifying with all the other hopefuls and brushed aside the challenge of Greece in the first round before facing Austria in the quarter-finals. Now a shadow of the famous side of 1954, the Austrians were steamrollered in Paris and returned to Vienna with a 5-2 deficit to overcome. That never looked likely and instead it was France who again displayed their attacking brilliance to win 4-2 and ensure their place in the last four.

As hosts few were looking past Les Bleus as favourites. Their heroics at the 1958 World Cup demonstrated outstanding class, but success at that tournament had been founded squarely on their brilliance going forward. The masterful Raymond Kopa earned the Ballon d’Or that year for his playmaking from midfield and the chief beneficiary had been Just Fontaine, who took advantage of his colleague’s passing to score a record 13 goals at the World Cup.

Both men were missing through injury in 1960 while Roger Piantoni, the third spike in a fearsome attacking trident, was also absent. Moreover, captain Robert Jonquet was now, at 35, some way past his very best and Roger Marche, among the finest full-backs the game had ever seen, no longer merited selection. Despite that, qualification had illustrated a number of fine new players and the roar of the home crowd provided an immeasurable boost.

So much of Yugoslavia’s challenge was based around the mercurial talents of Dragoslav Šekularac. Lithe and inventive, the Red Star schemer had all the tricks required to unpick any defence but was a touch temperamental and prone to explosive outbursts. With Željko Perušić and Ante Žanetić supporting ably from midfield, this was a side with plenty of strength going forward and Milan Galić could expect to profit from their probing in attack. Such pedigree was evidenced by their continued success enjoyed at the Olympics, with Yugoslavia runners-up three times in a row and bidding to go one better shortly after the European Championship at the Rome games.

The crowds who turned out in Paris were richly rewarded with a tussle which had everything, most notably goals but also some superb play and late drama. Only 11 minutes of the match had been played when Milan Galić handed the Yugoslavs the lead. It was a stunning goal to open the tournament, a thumping right-foot shot from distance that gave Georges Lamia little hope. Yet the French were quick to respond and hit back directly from the kick-off as Jean Vincent curled an intended cross towards goal, the ball beating everyone, including Milutin Šoškić, to nestle in the bottom corner. Before the break the hosts were 2-1 up as Vladimir Durković failed to clear his lines and the French forward François Heutte smashed in from the edge of the area.

Early in the second half Les Bleus went further ahead. A neat cutback from Jean Vincent was the prompt and skipper Maryan Wiesnieski hammered in a powerful finish. With a two-goal cushion the French should have been cruising, but they were soon pegged back through Ante Žanetić, played in down the left flank and beating Lamia at his near post with a cross-shot from a challenging angle. Heutte then restored the two-goal advantage, the Yugoslavs protesting vehemently that he was in an offside position, but in this helter-skelter contest France weren’t destined to hold the lead for long.

The collapse began with 15 minutes remaining when Tomislav Knez volleyed home from Žanetić’s deep cross. The next goal, drawing the teams level, was harakiri from the French with Lamia collecting a high cross and throwing it straight back to the opposition. Bora Kostić aimed his shot straight at the keeper, but Lamia spilt it to Dražan Jerković who could hardly miss from a yard out.

One minute later and it was déjà vu. This time Lamia parried a shot from Knez to Jerković, who again took advantage to make it 5-4. In four minutes the French had gone from a two-goal advantage to trailing and with such a knock to their confidence it was no surprise they were unable to find a response. The hosts had conspired to throw away a telling lead and it was Yugoslavia who advanced to the final where they would face the Soviet Union.

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The 10 Greatest Matches In European Championship History: Yugoslavia v France, 1960
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