The 2000 final was 103 minutes old when David Trezeguet secured a place among the UEFA European Championship immortals. Fellow substitute Robert Pirès was the instigator, tricking his way down the left before pulling the ball back for Trezeguet; leaning back, the striker swung his left foot to crash a first-time shot into the roof of the net. France had their hands on the trophy for a second time; Italy, who had led until the 90th minute, were crestfallen.
"The first thing that goes through your mind is your team-mates, because we were very united," the former Juventus forward recalled of that moment in Rotterdam. "We realised it was something very special, because we had won the European Championship right after the World Cup – only Spain have done that since. We were the first ones to do it. You think about your family, your friends. The goal was exceptional too. It is difficult to forget. It was the most important goal of my career."
France have struggled to return to those heights in this competition, failing to advance beyond the last eight at any of the subsequent three finals, but come summer 2016, the fans will hope to be thrilled once more as the UEFA European Championship – brainchild of sports newspaper L'Équipe and the first UEFA General Secretary Henri Delaunay – returns to France.
"This country has everything in order to celebrate the European Championship in an exceptional way," says Trezeguet, now 36 and still plying his trade in Argentina at CA Newell's Old Boys. "In terms of stadiums and spectators, they are ready. It's a country that has experienced football more intensely since 1998."
Trezeguet, of course, knows this better than most having witnessed first-hand the impact of the 1998 FIFA World Cup on the nation, its football supporters and the national team. "Maybe at the beginning the fans didn't show much enthusiasm for us winning it," he says. "But the further we went in the tournament, we proved our quality and showed real desire to win the title. I think we became one with the fans. Game after game we showed that we were very strong, very united, and the fans really appreciated that. As players, the first game against South Africa was key. We played in Marseille and played a very good game, winning 3-0.
"Then the final was a real final, and as an elite footballer you want to be part of that. Let's not forget that it was the Brazilian team with Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Bebeto. We won with an exceptional result [3-0]. Then we lifted the trophy. My first World Cup memory was from 1986 when Diego Maradona lifted the trophy. Twelve years later I was in the exact same situation – it was a shock but a positive shock, it was powerful."
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