Top Five European Championship Goals
We've seen some stunning goals already in Euro 2016 and over the years previous tournament's have been packed with a host of absolute screamers. So just who has notched some of the competition's hottest strikes? Here at FREEbets.org.uk we run through our fantastic five of European Championship goals.
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Italy 2004
Back in Euro 2004, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not quite the superstar he is today. Still plying his trade with Ajax, the maverick striker hadn't quite established his reputation as one of the World's best and most egocentric strikers but he was to capture the attention of the watching World with a staggering goal at this competition. After an uninspiring draw against Denmark in their opening game, the Italians were bidding to get their campaign well and truly underway in the clash with Sweden. Franscesco Totti had been banned for three games after spitting at Christian Poulsen in the opening game and his absence meant a spot in the starting line-up for young starlet Antonio Cassano. The Roma striker rewarded his manager's decision as he opened the scoring in the first half. The Italians had the best of the game but they were unable to finish Sweden off as the score remained 1-0 heading in to the final 10 minutes. So step forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the game drawing to its conclusion, finally Sweden began to exert some pressure on the Italian backline. Sweden won a corner with little over five minutes remaining and when Italy could not clear Kim Kallstrom's set piece, the ball dropped inside the six yard box. As legendary Italian 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon came to claim the ball, so did Ibrahimovic as he jumped in the air with his back to goal before twisting his body and backheeling the ball goalwards. Christian Vieri was on the line and attempted to head the ball clear but it was to no avail as it looped over his head. A stunning show of athleticism by Zlatan with a goal that proved crucial in Sweden reaching the knockout stages at Italy's expense.
4. Davor Suker v Denmark 1996
Euro 96 in England saw Croatia make their tournament debut as independent nation. Following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, Croatia started their campaign well with a 1-0 win over Turkey in Nottingham. Next up was a clash with the reigning champions Denmark at Hillsborough and the talented Croatia side were 2-0 up going in to the dying stages. Such a result was staggering especially given the fact they were playing the side who had won the tournament four years previous, however the best was yet to come. Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel had gone forward for a corner but after the Croats broke free, he was forced to race back into his goal. A long pass from the right fell at the feet of striker Davor Suker as Croatia looked to deal a final blow on the counter attack. Suker controlled the ball in his stride and pushed in to the penalty area but before defender Jes Hogh could get back to close him down, he executed a magnificent chip over the head of Schmeichel. A stunning goal that served as the cherry on the cake for Croatia's shock victory.
3. Maniche v Netherlands 2004
Portugal were the tournament's hosts in 2004 and having recovered from their opening group game defeat to Greece, Luis Felipe Scolari's men looked capable of going all the way. The Semi-Finals saw them take on the Netherlands in Lisbon and a first half header from Cristiano Ronaldo saw them take the lead. It was just shy of the hour mark however when the games illuminating moment came. Cristiano Ronaldo took a short corner which he passed to Porto midfielder Maniche. Taking one touch, Maniche opened his body up before unleashing a blistering shot from the corner of the penalty area that absolutely flew past Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar. A stunning strike that put Portugal 2-0 up in a game they ended up emerging victorious and progressing to the final against Greece. Though they ultimately suffered heartbreak in the final, the Portuguese could at least console themselves with the small fact they were the scorers of the tournament's finest strike.
2. Ronnie Whelan v USSR 1988
In their opening game of Euro 1988, the Republic of Ireland had shocked England with a 1-0 victory. Their second encounter would come against the much-fancied USSR and with a number of players missing, the Irish were expected to struggle. That was simply not the case however and Ireland followed up their win over England with a display that was probably even more impressive. The USSR team was largely made up of players from the Dynamo Kiev team that had won the 1986 Cup Winners' Cup and despite Ireland missing the likes of Liam Brady, Paul McGrath and Mark Lawrenson they started strongly and were rewarded for their efforts late in the first half. On the far touchline Ireland had a thrown in and whilst this hardly sounds the origins of an all-time great goal, that is exactly what was to come. Long before the days of Rory Delap, Mick McCarthy launched a throw in of what can only be described as of super-human strength. Despite the attempts of the Soviet player standing directly in front of him, McCarthy's throw sailed right to the edge of the opposition's penalty area where it was met by Ronnie Whelan. Whelan met the ball with an acrobatic bicycle kick, meaning it didn't even touch the floor between McCarthy's throw and hitting the back of the Soviet net. Whilst Whelan has been derided for hitting the ball with his shin, it's still an absolute wonder strike finding the very top corner and well worthy of it's placed amongst the best goals this tournament has ever seen.
1. Marco van Basten v USSR 1988
The definitive classic and a strike considered by many to be one of the very best goals of all time. The USSR had already beaten the Dutch in the group stage of this tournament but as the two sides met in the final, the Dutch were already 1-0 up. Ruud Gullit's header just after the half an hour mark saw the Netherlands take control of the final but it was not until the second half in which the game was wrapped up and it was done so in some style. Marco van Basten had already enjoyed a fine tournament after scoring hat-trick against England and the winning goal against Germany in the semi-final, but it was his strike in the final that has become so iconic. In the 54th minute of the game, Arnold Muhren had the ball out on the left hand side of the pitch as he pushed forward. He appeared to overhit a cross in to the penalty area as it sailed away from goal. However Van Basten had other ideas as from an improbable angle he unleashed a quite stunning volley back in to the far corner of Rinat Dasayev's goal. To have the concentration in watching the ball drop over your shoulder was one thing but to have the confidence and then ability to score such a goal was truly a thing of beauty. The goal has become so iconic that it is the benchmark to which any other volley is described these days and played no small part in Van Basten being crowned the World's best player that year. Spare a thought for the Soviet keeper Dasayev however who conceded just four goals in the competition with two of them being the wonder strikes from Ronnie Whelan and Marco van Basten.
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