Although only 16 when he made his debut at hometown club NK Turbina Jablanica, Vahid Halilhodžić looked little more than a decent domestic striker until he came of age in the 1978 UEFA European Under-21 Championship a decade later. He had enjoyed moderate success after switching to FK Velez in 1971, but going into the U21 final against East Germany much of the Balkan state's hopes appeared to rest on the budding talents of Zlatko Krmpotić, Nenad Stojković and Blaž Slišković.
Nevertheless, Halilhodžić scored the only goal of the first leg in Halle with an instinctive strike shortly after half-time. The goal came two days after the forward's 26th birthday and he had more reason to celebrate in the second encounter in Mostar, notching up a quick-fire hat-trick as the home team raced into a 3-1 lead before the 15-minute mark.
The East Germans fought back, but Yugoslavia held on for a 5-4 aggregate win, giving man-of-the-match Halilhodžić the reward he deserved. "I will never forget those three goals," he later reflected after a career that saw him win the Yugoslav Cup in 1981 before a switch to FC Nantes Atlantique, with whom he won the French league title two years later. Capped 32 times at senior international level, he went on to gain more success as a coach.
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