Brilliant goals, record-breaking scores and even a game stopped by an owl. Here are ten moments that made the UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying campaign memorable.
Healy walks on water
David Healy's superb chipped winner on a rain-soaked pitch against Denmark on Saturday was as good as any during qualifying and a fitting way to break Davor Šuker's record of 12 goals scored in a UEFA European Championship qualifying campaign. "If we didn't know it already, that goal in those conditions showed that King David truly does walk on water," wrote the Belfast Telegraph. There were other milestones: Estonia's Martin Reim passed Lothar Matthäus as the most capped European player with his 151st international appearance on 22 August while Hakan Şükür and Jan Koller both reached 50 goals for their countries.
Scotland the brave
James McFadden's wonder goal at the Parc des Princes on 13 September sent Scotland to the top of Group B with three games remaining. Gathering the ball from Craig Gordon's long kick, McFadden looked up, saw Mickaël Landreau off his line and unleashed a 30-metre screamer into the top corner. Although ultimately it failed to bring qualification from a group containing both FIFA World Cup finalists, the Tartan Army will always cherish the memories of that night in Paris and the best Scotland goal since Archie Gemmill's solo effort against the Netherlands at the 1978 FIFA World Cup.
France's journey from hell
In a campaign where France gained revenge for their World Cup final defeat by Italy and Thierry Henry overtook Michel Platini as his country's leading scorer, one moment sticks in the mind above all others – the landing at Torshavn airport last month. "I didn't think we'd arrive in one piece," admitted Henry. Les Bleus took off at 11.45 on 12 October for their qualifier against the Faroe Islands but did not arrive until 13.37 the next day. On the way they had to land in Aberdeen because of a technical problem, before dense fog and freezing rain forced their flight to be re-routed to Bergen. As the plane finally approached the runway in Torshavn it tilted to one side, the left wing almost touching the ground. Henry and Co recovered in time to defeat the Faroese 6-0 a few hours later.
Happy days for Luxembourg
When Fons Leweck headed Luxembourg's added-time winner against Belarus on 13 October, it ended a run of 55 competitive matches without a victory that had stretched back 12 years. "When I saw that Daniel [Da Mota] wanted to play the ball square, I made my move to the far post," Leweck said. "
I managed to reach the ball and slip it through the keeper's fingers and into the net. Magic."
Armenia's campaign will be remembered with sadness following the death of coach Ian Porterfield in September. His widow Glenda described best the affection his adopted country held for him when he insisted on returning to Yerevan for the 1-1 draw with Portugal in August, despite receiving treatment for cancer in London at that time. "Just over two weeks [before his death], we flew to Armenia for the Portugal game," she said. "The stadium was packed to see all the Portuguese stars like Ronaldo, Deco and the rest, but when Ian walked out, they all stood up and shouted his name. It was very moving."
Champions show their mettle
Defending champions Greece would qualify with two games to spare, but after losing 4-1 to Turkey in Athens in March their fans had reason to fear missing out on a second successive major tournament. Showing the resolve that led them to victory in Lisbon in 2004, though, Otto Rehhagel's side dug deep. Victory in Malta steadied the ship, a draw in Oslo put Greece back in control, then came the crowning moment: Ioannis Amanatidis's winner in Istanbul last month. Greece had qualified in their rivals' own backyard.
Goals, goals, goals
There were memorable goals scored by every team: Nihat Kahveci's winner for Turkey in Oslo, Euzebiusz Smolarek's brace that confirmed Poland's first ticket to a European Championship, Dorin Goian's strike against the Netherlands that took Romania through. England's disappointing campaign, though, would be summed up by one they conceded, Paul Robinson completely missing Gary Neville's backpass as he attempted to launch the ball upfield against Croatia in Zagreb. The ball rolled into the empty net, Croatia won 2-0 and England never truly recovered.
Germany flex their muscle
Joachim Löw had a tough act to follow in replacing Jürgen Klinsmann as Germany coach, but the transition could not have been smoother. Germany set out their stall with a 13-0 demolition of San Marino in September 2006 – a UEFA European Championship record – and never took their foot off the gas, finishing as the continent's highest scorers with 35 goals.
Owl stopped play
Finland's campaign confounded many, not least the nation's ornithologists. Playing Belgium in June they were struggling to get a grip on the game when a large owl, known as a Huuhkaja in Finland, swooped down into the stadium. Depending where you are in the world owls signify anything from misfortune to prosperity and for the home side it turned out to be the latter. After a delay of several minutes the owl settled behind the Finland goal and soon after Jonatan Johansson scored at the other end to help set up a 2-0 triumph. Huuhkaja has since been adopted as the team's mascot and nickname.
The Republic of Ireland's 1-0 win against Wales is already little more than a footnote in the UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying story but the first soccer game at Croke Park was a monumental moment in Irish sporting history. The Gaelic Athletic Association, set up to foster Ireland's traditional sports in 1884 amid the rise of soccer and other so-called "foreign games", had never previously allowed soccer to be played at its fabled and now state-of-the-art headquarters. On a day when Stephen Ireland scored the winning goal, though, Ireland was able to put the past behind it. England too ushered in a new era with the re-opening of Wembley. Unfortunately for home supporters, the abiding memory will be the crushing defeat by Croatia that cost a place at UEFA EURO 2008™.
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