Throughout Euro 2016 we are 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.
Catch up on previous chapters here: Yugoslavia’s thrilling fightback against France in 1960; England’s victory against the Netherlands at Euro ’96; Germany’s close shave against Turkey at Euro 2008; Denmark’s improbable victory against the Netherlands in ’92; The helter-skelter tie between Yugoslavia and Slovenia at Euro 2000; Denmark’s rousing comeback against Belgium at Euro ’84; and the classic between Czech Republic and the Netherlands at Euro 2004.
WEST GERMANY – YUGOSLAVIA 4:2 (0:2, 2:2, 2:2)
Scorers: 0:1 Popivoda 19, 0:2 Džajić 32, 1:2 Flohe 65, 2:2 Dieter Müller 82, 3:2 Dieter Müller 115, 4:2 Dieter Müller 119
17.06.1976 (20.15) Belgrade, Marakana, Att: 50,652
FRG: Maier; Vogts, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer (c), Dietz; Wimmer, Bonhof, Beer, (Dieter Müller 79), Danner (Flohe HT); Hoeness, Hölzenbein
YUG: Petrović, Buljan, Katalinski, Mužinić, Šurjak; Oblak (Vladić 106), Žungul, Jerković; Aćimović (c) (Peruzović 106); Popivoda, Džajić
Referee: Alfred Delcourt (Belgium)
Memories of Euro ‘76 centre around a single magical moment: Antonin Panenka’s sublime penalty that won the tournament for Czechoslovakia and ensured his name will live on forever. Yet while an iconic sequence, it often steals the headlines from a tournament which had been truly special. In just four matches there had been 19 goals, in addition to those in the decisive shootout. Every match had gone to extra-time, demonstrating not just the balanced nature of the competition and the commitment to attacking play, but also each team’s incredible fighting spirit.
The first of the semi-finals – Czechoslovakia edging out the Netherlands – had been a memorable affair but the second was even better. Yugoslavia and West Germany had a long footballing history together. They were repeatedly drawn to face off in the World Cup, and it was the Yugoslavs who had denied the Germans in 1968 – the only time they have failed to qualify for a major tournament – while the Plavi went on to the final. This time a match which pitted hosts against holders was hotly anticipated.
The opening was electric. The Yugoslavs, cheered on by a vast home crowd, were in superb form in the early stages and it was no great surprise when they went in front after 20 minutes. A clever ball over the German defence from Jan Oblak sent Danilo Popivoda away, but he had plenty to do as the ball dropped from the sky. The presence of Franz Beckenbauer in hot pursuit would have been enough to put off most attackers but Popivoda controlled the ball superbly, kept his composure and then nudged a shot past the advancing Sepp Maier.
The West German goalkeeper was soon called upon again to claw a deflected cross over the bar as the home side continued to pour men forward. Slaviša Žungul swung in a dangerous cross, but Maier’s handling wasn’t so certain; instead he fumbled to Dragan Džajić who was able to volley the ball into an empty net. With Yugoslavia in complete control, Die Mannschaft only managed to spark a single significant moment of menace as Uli Hoeness had a shot blocked on the line. In the ensuing scramble the ball was fired over the bar.
At half-time manager Helmut Schön made a change, taking off Dietmar Danner and putting on Heinz Flohe to boost the West German attack. Yet Yugoslavia could soon have been out of sight as a terrific chance fell to Jurica Jerković; the goal gaping, he dragged his shot wide of the far post and with it offered a way back into the game for the visitors.
That moment looked doubly significant when West Germany pulled one back, a shot from the edge of the area from Flohe which might have been going wide until it struck Herbert Wimmer in the area and wrong-footed Ognjen Petrović. Sensing the need to add further impetus Schön sent on Dieter Müller in place of Wimmer and that change too had a rapid effect. When Rainer Bonhof swung in a corner it appeared that the Yugoslav defence had forgotten to mark the substitute Müller. Left entirely alone just yards from goal Müller could hardly fail to draw the teams level with a powerful header. Had it not been for Petrović keeping out a thumping shot from Hoeness, the West Germans would have won it inside the 90 minutes.
Instead, extra-time was required. Unsurprisingly, given the intensity of their performance in the first half, the Yugoslavs looked increasingly drained as the match wore on. By extra-time it was one-way traffic as the West Germans pressed forward, Bonhof coming closest with a fierce drive which Petrović coped well with.
In the second half of added time it was Dieter Müller again who came to the fore, putting his side in front with a piece of penalty-box poaching that his namesake Gerd would have been proud of. In the final minute Bonhof, outstanding throughout, crashed a shot off the post which bounced back straight to Müller who, having only been on the pitch for 40 minutes, completed a dramatic hat-trick to carry his side into the final. It was desperately harsh on the Yugoslavs who had started so well and, through Aćimović, Džajić and Oblak, had shown so much quality of their own.