This is it – after 50 matches, 22 flights home and over 100 goals, we’ve reached the UEFA Euro 2016 final. The FIFA World Cup champions Germany are OUT! The two-time defending champions Spain – OUT! The surprise packages, Wales & Iceland – painfully knocked OUT! Just two teams have remained, the 2004 hosts Portugal and their 2016 successors, France. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Antoine Griezmann (like the UEFA Champions League); Paul Pogba vs Joao Moutinho; Ricardo Carvalho vs Laurent Koscielny. Both unfavoured, both resilient. They started slow but picked up form and now they’re 90 minutes away from glory – or maybe 120 minutes in this tournament of late goals! With both sides having so much to lose and so much to prove, we have no doubts it will be one of the fieriest, most memorable European finals in history. But before we start our predicitions, guesses and analyses, we’re going to take a trip back in time to remember predecessors to this titanic encounter. Here they are – the top five most remarkable moments in the history of the European Championship final matches!
5. Euro 2012 – Fernando Torres is the Punisher Reborn!
Just 4 years earlier, Liverpool’s ferocious Fernando Torres had downed the heavy favourites Germany with a typical striker’s finish in the first-half. As one of the planet’s most feared forwards, everybody had expected him to be Spain’s biggest weapon – and he proved them all right with the winner in a difficult final. The 2012 Chelsea version however, was widely regarded as £50 million flop after his well-documented struggles at the English capital. With only 12 goals 67 appearances, he was not exactly living up the billing – which is why Del Bosque may have selected him, but he wasn’t exactly close to the starting XI. So when Spain were beating Italy 2-0 with just 15 minutes to go, it looked more like a honourable appearance for the squad’s fringe members. Or so, thought the Italians.
With just 6 minutes on the clock and Spain not ceding possession at all (they had 57% in the 2nd half), Torres turned from harmless flop brought on to see out the game to El Matador reborn! Picking up the ball from a Xavi assist, he slotted home past Buffon to make it 3-0 – an embarrasment; or so it seemed. Just 4 minutes later he became even more cruel, unselfishly passing it to Chelsea teammate (who was one of the heroes of their 2012 FA Cup & Champions League success) Juan Mata to slot into an empty net. At 4-0, Fernando Torres made future Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli’s tears flow in the most one-sided European final in history. The Spanish ‘donkey’ became a bull in the final once again!