Six of the best European Championship semi-finals ever

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Spain and France delivered a classic contest in the semi-finals of Euro 2024 this week, with La Roja coming from behind to book their place in the decider.

It was an enthralling game between two top teams and hopes are high that the Netherlands and England can produce another action-packed semi-final this evening.

Following a breathless showdown between Spain and France, we look back on the best European Championship semi-finals of all time.

Here are some of the best last-four ties the competition has seen.

France 4-5 Yugoslavia (1960)

The first-ever European Championship game delivered a nine-goal thriller between France and Yugoslavia in 1960. Then a four-team tournament, it was a semi-final showdown in the opener that saw France cancel out Milan Galić’s early opener for Yugoslavia to, seemingly, take control of the game.

Jean Vincent equalised within 60 seconds before François Heutte fired the French in front two minutes before half-time. A goal from Maryan Wisniewski and second strike from Heutte saw France leading 4-2 with 15 minutes to go, only for Yugoslavia to mount an improbable comeback. Tomislav Knez pulled one back before a quick-fire double from Dražan Jerković completed a remarkable turnaround.

Yugoslavia 2-4 West Germany (1976)

West Germany were heading towards elimination in 1976 as Yugoslavia led heading into the closing stages of their semi-final in Belgrade. The Yugoslavians had taken a 2-0 lead into half-time before Heinz Flohe offered a response for the Germans, but it appeared too little too late as the holders trailed with just minutes to go.

Helmut Schön then made one of the most incredible substitutions ever, as the uncapped Dieter Müller was introduced on 79 minutes. Three minutes later, Müller marked his international debut with the equaliser to force extra-time, before scoring twice more in the added period to complete his hat-trick and send West Germany into the final.

Müller scored again in the final defeat to Czechoslovakia to end as the tournament’s top scorer. The forward made just 12 appearances for West Germany, scoring nine times, with four of those coming at Euro 1976.

France 3-2 Portugal, aet (1984)

Michel Platini’s magical performances sent France on their way to success at Euro ’84, including a last-gasp winner to settle a thrilling tie with Portugal in the last four.

Platini had scored seven goals in three group games, including back-to-back hat-tricks against Belgium and Yugoslavia, before firing France into the final against Portugal.

Rui Jordão headed in an equaliser for Portugal after François Domergue’s opening goal for host nation France, before the former fired Portugal in front in the added period.

Les Bleus bounced back to level with an equaliser from Domergue, before Platini snatched a place in the final with a 119th-minute winner from close range.

France, and the peerless Platini, beat Spain in the final to be crowned European champions for the first time on home soil.

Iconic Performances: Peak Platini hits three in rout of Belgium at Euro ’84

West Germany 1-2 Netherlands (1988)

The Netherlands exorcised their demons of the 1974 World Cup final defeat to West Germany after beating their arch-rivals at Euro ’88.

Lothar Matthäus’ 55th-minute penalty looked set to inflict more misery on the Dutch, until Ronald Koeman levelled with a spot-kick of their own. As the semi-final looked certain to head into extra-time, Marco van Basten continued his stunning tournament with a late winner to delight the Dutch in Hamburg.

Van Basten scored again to seal a 2-0 win over the Soviet Union in the final with a goal that remains arguably the greatest the European Championship has seen.

You know the one.

Italy 0-0 Netherlands, Italy win 3-1 on penalties (2000)

It might be sporting sacrilege to include a goalless draw on this list but Italy’s win over the Netherlands in Euro 2000 was unforgettable drama.

Italy did what, well, Italy do to dump out a Dutch team who were co-hosts and arguably the most entertaining team in the tournament. The Netherlands had smashed six past Yugoslavia in the quarter-finals and headed into this tie as favourites, only for the Azzurri to produce a disciplined defensive performance to suffocate their hosts.

The Dutch were up against ten men for over an hour after Gianluca Zambrotta’s first-half red card, but failed to make their advantage count despite golden opportunities. Twice the Dutch missed from the penalty spot in normal time, as Frank de Boer and Patrick Kluivert spurned spot-kicks, before missing three times in the shootout to crash out.

Germany 3-2 Turkey (2008)

Philipp Lahm scored a last-minute winner as Germany edged an end-to-end semi-final tie with tournament dark horses Turkey in 2008.

Turkey had taken the tournament by storm to reach the last four with incredible powers of recovery shown in clashes with the Czech Republic and Croatia, before taking Germany to the wire in an unforgettable semi-final.

Uğur Boral fired the Crescent-Stars in front, only for Bastian Schweinsteiger to offer an almost instant response. Miroslav Klose looked to have sent Germany through on 79 minutes, though Semih Senturk levelled as Turkey left it late once again.

However, Germany dished out a taste of Turkey’s own medicine with a last-gasp winner from Lahm deciding an epic.

Read – Euro 2004 – Charisteas completes Greek miracle in Lisbon

See more – Euro ’92: The brothers Laudrup and a very Danish fairy tale

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