The Soviet Union were the first winners of what was to become the UEFA European Championship in 1960, coming from behind against Yugoslavia in Paris to prevail 2-1 in extra time. Viktor Ponedelnik, aged 23, scored the winner seven minutes from the end but even half a century on, after a long career in journalism, the memory remained fresh.
Scoring the winner...
I always enjoy remembering that final. Having beaten Yugoslavia, the Soviet national team became the first ever European champions. No one can forget such moments of glory, be it the public, football fans or the players themselves. As for myself, the 113th-minute winner was the most important of my whole career.
True, there were plenty of goals scored for my clubs and for the national team, but there are matches and goals which are really special, a high point of a player's sporting life. That was the star moment of my life. For that goal I must give credit to a superb cross by our left winger Mikhail Meshki from Georgia. But the Soviet Union is no more and Georgia is a foreign country now.
The USSR's strongest side...
Going through the whole history of the Soviet national team, I reckon it's a general belief of football experts that the strongest side was the one at the [FIFA] World Cup in Chile in 1962. Despite the fact that we were defeated by the hosts in the quarter-finals, the international press and experts regarded us very highly.
Unfortunately a disaster befell our great goalkeeper Lev Yashin. Twice during the tournament he suffered concussion and subsequently he could not play to the best of his ability. If things had gone differently we'd have played Brazil in the final, that's for sure.
Having Lev Yashin in goal...
I was lucky and honoured to play alongside this goalkeeper, the greatest of them all. He remains in our memory not just as the number one goalie, but first and foremost as a great human being. He has a good family. When veterans get together we always invite his wife Valentina to join us, and we remember him together. He's got children and grandchildren too, so the Yashin name lives on.
Captain Igor Netto…
Igor Netto was a fantastic player who led the Soviet national team to their biggest victories at the 1956 Olympics and the 1960 European championship. He was a genuine captain, a leader capable of igniting everybody at the toughest moments and of creating a cohesive unit. He also performed some of the coach's responsibilities, directing the play on the pitch – our coach, Gavril Kachalin, always delegated that role to Netto.
In everyday life he was a shy and modest man, but he always had his say and argued his point to the end. It was not by chance that our national team's greatest moments are tied to his name.
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