Football is a game that is often taken to the mystical level. This is evident from players being venerated as gods and stadiums being viewed as holy places to visit at least once in a lifetime. As with any other sport or facet of life, superstition plays a huge role in football.
The world game is being followed so keenly that the result of any fixture in the present is related with that of the past and conclusions are drawn. While few jinxes resurface from time to time, few are left undisturbed.
Let us take a look at the curses associated with teams at the European Championships as old as time itself, and if they stood the test of time.
Broken: Germany against Italy
Before Euro 2016, Germany had failed to beat the Azzuri in eight attempts in the finals of a major tournament.
Facing Italy in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, Germany’s berth in the semi-finals was at stake. Mesut Ozil put Germany ahead before Jerome Boateng’s bizarre handball gave away a penalty and Leonardo Bonucci levelled things from the spot kick.
After the game finished 1-1 following extra time, it went on to penalties. It was an eventful and bizarrely unflattering shootout featuring 18 penalties, with the likes of Zaza, Pelle, Bonucci and Darmian missing for Italy while Ozil, Muller and Schweinsteiger failed to convert for Germany.
Jonas Hector stepped up to seal Germany’s victory and end their jinx against old rivals in major tournaments. And thus this so-called jinx was broken. And the ghost of 2006 was laid to rest.
Unbroken: Spain’s white jersey
Heading to Euro 2016, Spain had lost their previous four matches at a major tournament while wearing white. This hoodoo began with their 2-1 defeat to Italy at the 1994 World Cup. It was followed by losses to Nigeria at the 1998 World Cup, Portugal at Euro 2004 and Netherlands two years ago at the 2014 World Cup.
Having ensured qualification for the knockout stages after victories in the first two matches, Spain faced Croatia in their final fixture of the group stages of Euro 2016. Spain took an early lead after Alvaro Morata’s strike found the back of the net.
However, Croatia netted twice later in the game and Spain lost their fifth consecutive match at major tournaments in their white jersey.
Finishing second to Croatia in the group meant that they would face Italy in their Round of 16 fixture. Spain once again sported their white jersey while Italy wore the traditional blue. In the battle between the two heavyweights, Italy triumphed with goals from Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle, as Spain’s jinx with the white shirt continued.
Broken: France against Germany
The hosts France took on Germany in the recently concluded semi-final of Euro 2016. Until this fixture, France had failed to get the better of Germany in competitive matches since 1958.
In what was a battle between two potential title contenders, Germany failed to make an impact, missing numerous chances despite enjoying most of the possession. Antoine Griezmann converted a penalty caused by a Schweinsteiger handball, while later in the game a goalkeeping blunder from Manuel Neuer helped France double the lead.
France thus ended a 58-year-old curse as they defeated World Champions Germany to enter the finals of Euro 2016. They now stand on the verge of making history.
Unbroken: England’s Euro openers
Before Euro 2016, England had participated in seven European championships since 1968. However, they failed to seal a victory in the opening fixture of these tournaments, drawing three and losing four.
After a splendid qualifying campaign, England faced Russia in their opening match of Euro 2016 looking to get the monkey off their backs. England had a positive start, taking the lead in the 73rd minute after Eric Dier’s free kick found the back of the net.
Despite holding on to the lead up until the 90th minute, before an equaliser from Vasili Berezutski in stoppage time broke England’s hopes of sealing their first opening match victory in seven European Championships. The wait for a victory in a European Championship opener continues for the Three Lions.
Broken: Italy against Spain
Italy’s last victory against Spain in a competitive match came 22 years ago, at the 1994 World Cup. In three other encounters before Euro 2016, Spain won on penalties at Euro 2008, drew in the group stages of Euro 2012 and won 4-0 in the finals of Euro 2012, etching their dominance over Italy at major tournaments.
After being humiliated by Spain in the Euro 2012 final, the Azzuri faced the daunting prospect of facing the flamboyant La Roja in the Round of 16 fixture of Euro 2016. Both teams came into this fixture following losses in their final group match.
Italy, more organized and aggressive, deservedly took the lead after Chiellini put them ahead in the 33rd minute. The stubborn Italian defence sustained the Spanish pressure in the second half, before a late volley from Pelle sealed their victory and the 22-year long wait for a victory against Spain in a competitive match came to an end, thus ending the jinx.