UEFA.com takes in comebacks, upsets and virtuoso performances with a look back at ten of the most memorable matches in the history of UEFA European Championship qualifying.
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From Marco van Basten's famous volley to Antonín Panenka's impudent penalty, UEFA European Championship final tournaments have been full of moments never to be forgotten. However, just getting that far is rarely a simple process – UEFA.com looks back at ten of the most memorable qualifiers.
Yugoslavia 5-1 France (24/04/68)
With the tie locked at 1-1 after the first leg of this last-eight play-off, a nervy night beckoned in Belgrade. That was until Ilija Petković, Vahidin Musemić and Dragan Džajić all found the net inside 14 minutes to put Yugoslavia in the driving seat. Petković added a fourth just after the half hour, and though Fleury Di Nallo pulled one back almost immediately, Musemić rounded off a memorable night 11 minutes from time. "I could not have dreamed of a better debut," said Petković. "This was one of the greatest matches in the history of Yugoslavian football."
Spain 12-1 Malta (21/12/83)
Spain required an improbable 11-goal margin of victory to reach the 1984 finals in France; for a side who had only found the net 12 times in their previous seven matches, it looked an insurmountable task. Indeed they had only a 3-1 lead at half-time, yet somehow mustered a further nine efforts after the break, Juan Antonio Señor with the decisive strike two minutes from time. Malta goalkeeper John Bonello had said prior to the game that "Spain couldn't even score 11 goals against a team of children".
Yugoslavia 3-2 Bulgaria (21/12/83)
The final game in preliminary round Group 4; a draw would have sent Wales – whose campaign was already over – through, while both Yugoslavia and Bulgaria required victory to progress. With honours even, Bulgaria threw men forward late on, only for Radoslav Zdravkov to spurn a splendid opportunity. Ljubomir Radanović then pounced at the other end – cue bedlam in Split. "It was a really crazy match," said Radanović. "When I saw ball in the net, it was fantastic a fantastic moment and we celebrated like never before."
Bulgaria 3-2 Germany (07/06/95)
Upset by Bulgaria in the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals less than a year earlier, Berti Vogts's side were seeking revenge in Sofia. Two to the good before the break through captain Jürgen Klinsmann and Thomas Strunz, Germany appeared on course for a serene win. The hosts, however, were in front just 25 minutes later courtesy of two goals from the talismanic Hristo Stoichkov and one from Emil Kostadinov. "An unbelievable win," said Bulgaria coach Dimitar Penev after the game. "Everyone gave his best and now we must enjoy the win."
Northern Ireland 5-3 Austria (15/11/95)
Qualifying Group 6 was wide open entering the final round of fixtures. As it turned out, Austria would have needed just a point in Belfast to reach the play-offs due to Portugal's 3-0 pasting of the Republic of Ireland the same night. The visitors had no such success, trailing 3-0, 4-1 and 5-2 at various junctures in a comprehensive defeat. "There is a wind of change blowing through Northern Irish football and I believe we are heading for brighter days," said manager Bryan Hamilton afterwards.
Italy 4-0 Wales (06/09/03)
"Born offside" according to Sir Alex Ferguson, Filippo Inzaghi was at his very best here; predatory, instinctive and lethal, the Italy forward struck a 12-minute hat-trick – to this day, the joint-fifth fastest in EURO qualification history – to lift the Azzurri ahead of their visitors at the summit of qualifying Group 9 with two matches remaining. Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni said: "We have great champions in attack who don't need many opportunities to score goals and Inzaghi is one of them. He was exceptional today."
Turkey 5-0 Moldova (11/10/06)
Inzaghi's treble may have been quick, but Hakan Şükür's triptych of goals in this game was faster – taking just ten minutes. He even added another for good measure after the interval – after Tuncay Şanlı had got in on the act – to rubber-stamp an emphatic win for Fatih Terim's team. They would go from strength to strength, qualifying with ease before making it to the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-finals in dramatic fashion. "I am 35 but even the teenagers in the squad have given me their backing," said Hakan, who had not scored for his country in more than two years.
England 2-3 Croatia (21/11/07)
Steve McClaren's hosts required only a point to proceed as Group E runners-up, yet were 2-0 down inside 15 minutes, Niko Kranjčar and Ivica Olić on target. England – buoyed by the introduction of David Beckham from the bench – rallied and were level midway through the second period. However, substitute Mladen Petrić netted with 13 minutes left to ensure Slaven Bilić's side's qualification. "This is my most precious victory in charge and I will talk about it for a long, long time," said Bilić.
Portugal 4-4 Cyprus (03/09/10)
Not exactly the low-key opening qualifier Portugal might have been expecting. Behind on two occasions – inside 11 minutes – and twice in front themselves in the second half, the home team were eventually denied all three points in Guimaraes when Cyprus's Andreas Avraam stooped to head past goalkeeper Eduardo in the 89th minute. "We made mistake after mistake – it's hard to say what happened," said Portugal captain Ricardo Carvalho.
Scotland 2-3 Spain (12/10/10)
Up against the world and European champions, Scotland could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel when they found themselves 2-0 down, David Villa opening the scoring with a penalty that took him level with Raúl González's record of 44 goals for Spain. However, Craig Levein's troops rallied and clambered level, only for Fernando Llorente to claim the winner three minutes after coming on. "I never thought about us drawing the game, not even when they made it 2-2," said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque.