The 1976 UEFA European Championship will be forever remembered for Antonín Panenka's outrageous chipped penalty which sealed the title for Czechoslovakia against holders West Germany. That spot kick, perhaps the most famous in UEFA competition history, may never have come about if not for Zdeněk Nehoda. The FK Dukla Praha forward scored the winner in the last four against the Netherlands, and made no mistake with his penalty in the final. He reflects on the Czechs' run to glory.
What were your expectations going into the competition?
Zdeněk Nehoda: We departed for Belgrade with the idea that we had nothing to lose, knowing that we would be up against the Netherlands, Germany and Yugoslavia. Those teams were much stronger than us and were the favourites.
We left home knowing we only had things to gain, but we had hope. We had put together an excellent team led by good trainers who chose good tactics. Furthermore, our players were in excellent shape and this was reflected in the results, starting with the 3-1 semi-final win.
On to the final. What do you remember of that night in Belgrade?
Nehoda: The final was peculiar. We were 2-0 up and then we almost lost the title when in the last minute Bernd Hölzenbein equalised with a lucky goal. Extra time was a waiting game and when the penalty shoot-out came around we were back to the position in which we had come to the European Championships; we had nothing to lose. We were exhausted and helped out when Uli Hoeness fired over; Panenka completed the job with that superb penalty.
Can you compare the team of 1976 with the Czech Republic side that reached the final at EURO '96?
Nehoda: It is not really possible to compare teams from different eras. Something similar did occur in 1996 in England as our team went there and were nobody's favourites. Surprisingly, following mediocre results in the group, they started to play very well and again there were some outstanding individual performances, which helped us advance all the way to the final. We lost the championship to Germany due to bad luck.
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