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Euro look-backs: Czech-mate at Euro ’76

May 17, 2016

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Cheap trick or tricky chip? Antonin Panenka scores his cheeky penalty in the final’s shoot-out against mighty West Germany to crown the Eastern Bloc’s Czechoslovakia unexpected European champions

Regular visitors to this blog (is is too presumptuous to assume there are some out there? Erm…), yes well, anyway… regular visitors to this blog may have noticed there’s been something of a fall-off in posts on its main page this year thanks to the focus on the long-term review effort’s that The Great 2016 007 DVD-athon. Well, that’s going to change this spring/ summer. The main page is going to be staging a fight back. Indeed, out of nowhere – Leicester City-like, if you will – it’s going to shoot up the league table and cannily fox its way back into the spotlight as, in anticipation of next month’s Euro 206 football tournament, it takes a look back one-after-another at the soccer European Championships of yore.

For sure, the Euros, as they’re often affectionately referred to, are traditionally smaller affairs than their big brothers, the World Cups – and are of less import. Yet, that also seems to have ensured they’ve often been quirkier, more surprising and – dare one say – sometimes more entertaining too. So, to kick-off then, let’s begin by looking back at the first of them to probably properly enter the European football followers’ collective consciousness, Euro ’76. Euro ’76? Really? That’s a bit random, isn’t it? Well, actually, yes maybe it was, but if you want to know why we’re starting here, then you need to read on…

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When, where and who?

June 16-20 1976/ Yugoslavia/ Participants were Czechslsovakia,
Netherlands, West Germany and Yugoslavia (hosts)

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The champs

Czechoslovakia

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The runners-up

West Germany

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Umbrella antics: Czech skipper Anton Ondruš meets Dutch captain Johan Cruyff – over whom
is held a brolly by Welsh referee Clive Thomas – ahead of the wet and ill-tempered semi-final

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The final

Czechoslovakia 2 : 2 West Germany

(Czechoslovakia won 5 : 3 on penalties)

Goals: Švehlík 8 mins (1 : 0); D. Müller 28 mins (1 : 1);
Dobiaš 25 mins (2 : 1); Hölzenbein 89 mins (2 : 2)

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The semi-finals

Czechoslovakia 3 : 1 Netherlands

Goals: Ondruš 19 mins (1 : 0); Ondruš 77 mins (o.g.) (1 : 1);
Nehoda 114 mins (2 : 1); Veselý 118 mins (3 : 1)

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West Germany 4 : 2 Yugoslavia

Goals: Popivoda 19 mins (0 : 1); Džajić 30 mins (0 : 2); Flohe 64 mins (1 : 2);
D. Müller 82 mins (2 : 2); 115 mins (3: 2); 119 mins (4 : 2)

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The low-down

This was the last ever European Championships to feature only four teams; it merely comprised two semi-finals, a play-off for third and fourth place and the final. That meant that, following the qualifying group matches, four quarter-finals had taken place, but these were home-and-away two legged affairs that were held during the regular season before the tournament proper took place in the then unified Yugoslavia. Moreover, as this was the last Euros to feature less than eight teams, it was also the last for which the hosts themselves had to qualify. Which today may seem a bizarre notion, but there you go.

Obviously with only four places up for grabs, qualification had been very tough; none of the Home Nations made it through (England being at the height of their hapless qualifying form of the ’70s), yet mighty Wales almost made it through the quarters – only to be denied by the hosts. At the tournament itself, both finalists of the World Cup of two years previous were there then; West Germany – with their captain fantastic Franz Beckenbauer, but without talismanic striker Gerd Müller – and the groovy Netherlands – with arguably the best player in the world at that time, Johan Cruyff. Somewhat disappointingly, though, the Dutch didn’t at all hit their dizzying heights of World Cup ’74, failing to get through their sodden semi against the Czechs, in which two Dutchmen were sent off and – according to (yes) Welsh referee Clive Thomas – Cruyff unsportingly ‘tried to run the game’ in his place.

The final was more up to the mark, though, as the Czechs faced the World Champions, West Germany. And quite stunningly, the undeniable underdogs only went and won it. Leading 2-1 until the 89th minute, the plucky Czechs – then hailing from behind the Iron Curtain, of course – eventually claimed victory via a penalty shoot-out. Nowadays, that may not seem an extraordinary event, but this was the first major tournament match ever decided in such a way and the first – and last! – ever to be lost by a German national team. And yet, the real stunner was the penalty that won the whole thing; a chipped beauty from marvellously moustachioed midfielder Antonin Panenka – pretty much the first penalty anyone had ever seen scored with this technique, hence it becoming christened ‘The Panenka’.

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Shirt stories: Ondruš goes with a relaxed, hippie look as he shows off the trophy back home (l), while half the triumphant Czech team pose – inexplicably – in exchanged German shirts after the final (r)

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The most valuable player

Antonin Panenka

Honourable mentions: Franz Beckenbauer,
Dieter Müller and Anton Ondruš

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The top scorer

Dieter Müller ~ 4 goals

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The turkeys

Netherlands

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The unforgettable moment

Panenka’s perfectly chipped penalty. Like, obviously.

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The abiding memory

The poor Dutch performance may be recalled by some (although many from the Netherlands whose memories go back that far probably would like to forget it), yet the thing that practically everyone would remember was undoubtedly the (West) Germans losing it on penalties and the unfancied team from Eastern Europe snatching it from them. In fact, it kicked-off a Euro pedigree for the funky Czechs – as the Czech Republic, they’d go on to be finalists again in 1996 (against the Germans once more) and semi-finalists in 2004. You might say then, something of a Czech-ered history. I thank you.

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