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Most controversial Euro Cup moments

Tue 14 September 2021 | 4:30

Historically, Euro Cup has had its fair share of gripping, intense, and memorable moments, however, just like any other football tournament, it also had a lot of questionable, controversial, and outrageous moments. Read on to find out more about the most controversial Euro Cup moments.

The UEFA European Football Championship or informally the Euros, is the primary association football tournament organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

The tournament determines the continental champion of Europe and it has been held every four years since 1960, except for 2020, when it was suspended until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe, but kept the name Euro 2020.

At first the tournament was called the European Nations' Cup, changing to the current name in 1968. Euro Cup tournament is regarded as the most popular football tournament next to the World Cup in terms of international reputation.

Most controversial Euro Cup moments:

This major tournament is not free from significant controversies and scandals. Here are some of the

most controversial Euro Cup moments

:

Spain boycott first tournament

The very first time that Nations competed for the European Championships was in 1960, where teams played on a home and away basis until the semi-finals when a host nation was selected to embed the rest of the competition.

Spain, with what would be later regarded as their all-time best team, had the services of the likes of Paco Gento, Laszlo Kubala, Luis Suarez and one of the greatest Spanish players ever and two times Ballon d’Or winner Alferdo di Stefano. The Spanish side sealed their place in the last eight with a remarkable 7-2 victory over

Poland

.

However, just two days before moving to Soviet Union, Spain's famous ruling dictator General Franco made one of the most controversial Euro Cup moments.

He wasn't pleased with the idea of

Spain

travelling to the Soviet Union to participate in their quarter-final clash and the country withdrew.

Finally Soviets went on to lift the Euro Cup trophy in France and all Spain players felt robbed off a chance to indent their football history and it was by no one but their own ruler in what became one of

the most controversial moments in European Championship

.

Ronald Koeman celebration

One of the

top controversial European Championship moments

was made by current

Barcelona

manager,

Ronald Koeman

.

The semi-final match of Euro 1988 was between the two nations that were not only rivals based on previous strikes in the sporting field.

The Dutch were overjoyed after coming from behind to pull off a famous 2-1 victory over keen rivals and tournament hosts, West Germany.

Following the match, the Dutch defender Ronald Koeman, who scored the first goal of his team from penalty spot, swapped shirts with German rival Olaf Thon and then pretended to wipe his backside in front of many furious German supporters.

After his unsportsmanlike behavior matters took an unpleasant turn, even Koeman's father was hatred with the toilet joke. However, the Dutch defender was unapologetic with the deeds as he displayed no regret when questioned about the action during his interviews on the matter a few days later.

Koeman avoided a potential forbid creating a diplomatic incident. They won the 1988 Euro Cup trophy and the PSV player played his part in the 2-0 win over the Soviets in the final match.

England’s host privilege

Euro 1996 was the first time that the Euros was held with 16 instead of eight teams. One of the

top five most controversial clashes at the European Championships

was during the quarterfinal clash between Spain and hosts England.

Host nations have mostly advantaged from a contentious call or two but

England

really abused from their host privilege during their Euro 96 quarter-final meeting against Spain at Wembley stadium. There are a couple of disputable moments that favored the hosts.

Spain forward, Julio Salinas had a phenomenal goal prevented despite forward was obviously onside, while Jose Luis Caminero was denied a strong penalty shoot.

Kiko also had the ball in the net for the Spanish side but again the linesman’s flag was lifted. At least on that case, there had been some uncertainty as to whether the forward had been offside.

Hosts England overcame in a penalty shootout and Salinas expressed his disgust afterwards, “We not only played against 11 players and 70,000 fans but also three officials. It was impossible to win.”

England faced Germany in the semifinal match and this time penalty shootouts weren’t pleasant for hosts and they lost to eventual champions.

Euro 2004

Another time that referee stood for the hosts was in the final minute of England's epic Euro 2004 quarter-final clash with Portugal.

England defender Sol Campbell managed to put the ball into the net after

David Beckham

's free-kick had caused chaos which would have given the English side a memorable 3-2 win.

However, Swiss referee Urs Meier made one of the

most controversial Euro Cup moments

. He declined the goal ruling Sol Campbell had fouled goalkeeper Ricardo.

The Portuguese shot stopper would be his side hero as he was the player to score Portugal's decisive penalty in the shoot-out to see his team into the semi-final match.

Euro 1980

England left the Euro 1980 ashamed not because Ron Greenwood's squad could not reach the knockout stage, but because of their furious fans.

Euro 1980 held in Italy and the increase to eight nation-team competition was presented. That competition was the last that contains a third-place play-off, and the first Euro with group stage.

England under manager Ron Greenwood did not qualify for the knockout stage despite having a capable team. They were one of the favorites to lift the Euro trophy but knockout in early stage of the game.

English supporters were involved in various intense strikes with police before their opening match against Belgium and caused one of the most controversial Euro Cup moments.

During the game, meanwhile, the awful manner of the Three Lions fans forced a five-minute break of play. UEFA hit the FA with an £8,000 fine for the crowd disturbances.

Racism

Netherlands were considered one of the favorites for Euro 96, Guus Hiddink was able to call up on several members of the amazing Ajax side which had won the Champions League the year before.

However, their campaign ended in utter confusion among statements of a racial sort within the camp, with an infamous photograph displaying the colored members of Netherland's team dining together at their own table appearing to confirm claims of clear detachment.

This caused one of the most controversial moments in European Championship. The likes of Youri Mulder have subsequently explained that the inner quarrel had more to do with rates of pay than ethnicity.

Then there was the fact that

Edgar Davids

had aware Hiddink after the victory over Switzerland, for which he had been overlooked, that the coach had his head “too deep in the arse of” captain Danny Blind. In that light, the Netherlands’ tame egress at the hands of France in the quarter finals is no longer all that surprising.

Controversial substitution

Euro 1992 was not a pleasant memory for England team and their fans; they were drawing 1-1 in a must-win clash in their final group game, against Sweden, with just over an hour of the game gone.

With the hosts only having just equalized, England coach Graham Taylor felt that a substitute was needed if he was to swing the game back in his side’s favor.

Infamously, Taylor opted to take off Gary Lineker, who was just one goal shy of Bobby Charlton’s England national team all-time top scorer record and making his final appearance for his country, with Alan Smith and made one of the top controversial European Championship moments.

Lineker, as mild-mannered as they come, was visibly disgusted, refusing to even look at his manager.

Taylor, meanwhile, remained stone-faced but he would come to remorse his intention - and how. Sweden scored with eight minutes remaining and went on to win the game and condemned England to an early exit.

While the former

Watford

coach was infamously branded a "turnip" by the British tabloid press, a tag which he would never shake.

Euro 92

Believe it or not, there was a time when football players did not make a meal of the slightest gesture of strike, as so memorably underlined by Stuart Pearce at Euro 92.

The England full-back player was having a straight exchange of words with Jocelyn Angloma when Basile Boli seemingly came out of nowhere and left a bloody bruise on England's Stuart Pearce when he head-butted him in the face.

The Nottingham Forest defender hit the deck but then quickly picked himself back up, wiped away the blood from his cheekbone and, realizing that the offense had gone unnoticed by the match officials, promptly got on with the game.

Pearce almost decided a differently uneventful encounter in England’s favor, too, but his lightening of a free-kick came crashing back off the crossbar. Had he scored, it would have been one of the tournament’s best goals.

Euro 2008

Trailing 1-0 in injury time at the end of their Euro 2008 group stage match against Poland, co-hosts Austria were staring exclusion in the face.

However, with just under 93 minutes on the clock, the English referee, Howard Webb, pointed to the penalty spot having deemed Marcin Wasilewski faulty of pulling Sebastian Prodl’s shirt.

This last minute penalty decision by Howard Webb has been one of the

most controversial moments in Euro Cup history

.

Ivica Vastic converted to maintain a draw which kept Austria’s hopes alive yet all but eliminated their opponents.

Poland was wrathful by the penalty decision, with Coach Leo Beenhakker claiming, "I've never had a problem in 43 years of being in football but this is something I cannot understand. It's impossible to accept. Maybe he wants to show he is a big boy and has the guts to do it, I don't know.”

Polish protests didn’t end there, with even the country’s president electing to weigh in, but eventually there was little that even he could do about it after the fact and Poland's discouraged players bowed out on a low note, losing their final group match against Croatia 1-0.

The decision even made the Polish prime minister confess he wanted to kill referee Howard Webb.

Euro 2004

Nobody does it better than the Italians, when it comes to crying foul. Actually, the Azzurri are never slow to put forward a conspiracy theory after elimination from a major international tournament.

Still, in fairness to them, their knockout at Euro 2004 was so unfortunate that their disappointment was quite understandable. Their exit in the group stage is known one of the

most controversial Euro Cup moments

.

Going into the final round of games in Group C,

Italy

knew that a win over whipping boys Bulgaria would all but insure them a place in the knockout stages.

That was, of course, unless qualification rivals

Denmark

and Sweden played out a draw higher than 1-1 ... What happened next? Italy defeated Bulgaria and, well, their Scandinavian rivals drew 2-2, thus guaranteeing them both a place in the last eight on goal difference.

With Sweden’s equalizer from Mattias Jonson having comfortably arrived with just over a minute of normal time to go and bookmakers afterwards telling that unusually high amounts of money had been placed on a 2-2 score line.

Italy were apoplectic, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon charging Denmark and Sweden of match-fixing. Although, UEFA ruled that none Nordic nation had any instance to answer.

Euro 2000

France followed up their 1998 World Cup victory to become World and European champions during the Euro 2000 tournament, co-hosted, for the first time by Netherlands and Belgium.

However, this victory contains controversial support during the semi-final clash against Portugal which is one of the top five most controversial clashes at the European Championships.

Three minutes away from going to penalty shootouts, French forward David Trezeguet hit a strike, which Portugal's goalkeeper Vitor Baia saved and it dropped into the direction of Sylvain Wiltord.

The Arsenal forward’s rebound crashed exact into Abel Xavier’s hand as he intended to clear the ball off the line, and referee Guenter Benko granted Les Bleus a corner.

However, on the opinion of his assistant, the Austrian referee then pointed to the penalty spot, much to the wrath of Portugal’s players.

France star,

Zinedine Zidane

was finally permitted to take the resulting penalty, which he interred to send the reigning world champions into the Euro final, but the Zizou's Golden Goal only served as the catalyst for more anarchy, as Portugal went on to scold the referee to such an limit that Nuno Gomes was indicated a red card after the full-time whistle.

The Portuguese were slated for their actions but Abel Xavier felt that they had been the victim of a major injustice, “My conscience is clear. If you try to block the ball, you cannot do that without your hand supporting you on the ground. But the linesman decided that I intended to handle the ball. It's unbelievable that he gave a penalty and it decided the game in a bad way because we didn't deserve to lose.”

The Portuguese defender, Abel Xavier, protested so hard that he got banned for six months.

Coin flipping

One of the most controversial Euro Cup moments happened in 1968 where the final tournament was held in Italy and hosts managed to win the Euro Cup trophy for the first time.

Aside from officially calling the tournament “European Championship”, previously “European Nations’ Cup”, the fairest method to acclaim a winner through a toss coin happened for the first and only time in history of Euro. It was Italy against the Soviet Union in the semifinals of Euro 1968.

The strange moment of revealing the winner team happened in a separate where the Azzuri leader Giacinto Facchetti and his opponent number Albert Shesternev, went along by the referee and two supervisors from the two countries to proceed on the coin toss.

The Italian side called tails and as the coin flips in the air and landed on the referee's hand-a tail was shown and a winner has been acclaimed, so Italy had a better fortune and went through.

A shocking result

In 1992, the format of the tournament allowed winners of the seven groups to join the hosts in the competition.

Denmark had missed out on qualification, however, Yugoslavia, in a case of civil war, was banned from participating in the tournament.

It gave the Denmark team luck to qualify and they shocked the football fans around the world by defeating the unified

Germany

and lifting their first and only major trophy.

Decades after the unique disqualification, Former Yugoslavia star Slavisa Jokanovic has admitted that, the team that Yugoslavia sent for the Euro 1992 were much better than eventual champions Denmark.

“We could have done something big with the players we still had but a month earlier that the team had been even stronger. It was a very ugly time,” Jokanovic recalled.

If you'd have walked into a bookmakers and placed a bet on Denmark to win Euro 1992, the bookmaker would have probably mock you but eventually Denmark managed to become champions and made one of the most controversial moments in European Championship.

Euro 2016

In 2016, the European Championship final tournament was contested by 24 teams for the first time, having been developed from the 16-team structure used since 1996.

During the qualifying rounds of the tournament, the clash between Serbia and Albania was forcedly dropped due to several on and off the field events that intimidated the Albania national team.

The match was assumed to be at Partizan Stadium, in Belgrade, Serbia.

However, incidents such as chants of Serbia fans, ''Ubij, ubij, Šiptara'' rendered as “Kill the Albanians "happened, while objects and flares were being thrown in the pitch even before the match started. This rivalry is placed between top five most controversial clashes at the European Championships.

The points detraction to Serbia, forfeits, and order to play Serbia home matches without fans were left unchanged.

The 2016 Euro Cup had been insulted by serious clashes between the Russian and the English supporters.

In what appeared to be some very purposeful and ordered clashes, Russian hooligans showed no mercy in making their English counterparts notice who were the tougher of the two.

Some sources revealed that these events resulted in a number of supporters from both sides to be abandoned from the host country, France.

In a 1-1 draw between

Russia

and England, Russian fans went a little too ahead of the red line and attacked few English fans in the stadium at the end of the match to make one of the most controversial Euro Cup moments.

UEFA was forced to slam a suspended disqualification and a fine of 150000 Pounds on Russia with a caution that any longer disturbances made by the Russian fans will result in Russia being thrown out of the Euro 2016.

In the end of a group stage match between Croatia and Czech Republic which ended in 2-2 draw during the Euro 2016, nearly dozen of flares ended up on the pitch when members of crowd turned on each other to make one of the top controversial European Championship moments.

In an extra usual turn of affairs, a group of Croatian supporters in the ground attempted to interrupt the match when their team was leading by 2-1.

Their actions explained how deeply separated they had become from their own home team and in their bid to show their protest against the managers of Croatian football, Zdrakvo Mamic & Damir Vrbanovic, they began throwing fireworks on the pitch.

Some in Croatia criticized the disrupters for decreasing the spirit of the team which ended up drawing the match against Czech Republic which they at one stage were winning. However they advanced to knockout phase as the first team of their group.

Riot police in Poland had a very problematic day dealing with the rebels who run amuck the day of the match between Russia and Poland.

The match coincided with Russia’s National Day and nearly 5000 Russian supporters staged a walk in the face of polish fans.

Since Russia and Poland don’t like overly near relations, emotions ran high and blood flew on the roads and streets. Fans of both sides caused one of the most controversial moments in Euro Cup history.

Police had to jail almost 183 people to retain the peace. The match drew at 1-1 and the disturbance caused by violence made headlines instead.

Euro 1984

A headbutt is barely a big moment in a sporting tournament such as the European Championships, but it's surely one of the well-remembered events.

In the opening match of the 1984 European Championships, the French captain, Manuel Amoros, had a brain fade moment and made one of the most controversial Euro Cup moments. He headbutted the Denmark goalkeeper Jesper Olsen and was sent off.

However, the Blues won the match and had an incredible run in the tournament as well thanks to

Platini

. They won the Euro Cup trophy for the first time and kept the title in France.

Euro 2020

England locked horns with Denmark in the semi-final of the Euro 2020. In the first half of extra time, Sterling zipped through the Danish defense until Joakim Maehle in the box tackled him and the referee pointed to the penalty spot.

VAR showed that there was minimal contact during the tackle, also it did not encourage the referee to see the challenge for himself in the monitor. Experts like Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho questioned the decision and claimed that it was not a penalty.

Another controversial Euro Cup moments was during the initial moments of the semi-final game between Denmark and England, when fans were heard booing the Danish national anthem. Many fans commented on Twitter and criticized the behavior of the English fans calling it 'disgraceful'.

During a press conference,

Ronaldo

put aside two bottles of Coke and picked up a water bottle saying 'water'. It was clear that he wasn’t happy with the two bottles of Coke kept on the table. This made Coca-Cola stocks plummet in a matter of minutes. After this event, UEFA warned players of sanctions in case of such a behavior.

Italy were crowned the Euro 2020 champions after they picked up a 3-2 win on penalties against England in the finals.

Marcus Rashford

,

Jadon Sancho

, and Bukayo Saka missed their vital penalty spot-kicks against Italy. Multiple racial abuse remarks were directed to these players after the game. Many people on social media also continued to make similar remarks towards the English players.

The final controversial Euro Cup moment was when Christian Eriksen collapsed due to a cardiac arrest during the group stage game between Denmark and Finland.

After he was successfully hospitalized and was stable, UEFA forced Denmark to either play immediately and finish the 50 minutes left, or to come in the next day and complete the remaining minutes or forfeit the game completely. UEFA was slammed on social media for being insensitive towards this delicate situation.

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