Twenty-eight years ago today, Marco van Basten scored perhaps the greatest goal of all time when he thundered home a volley for the Netherlands as they defeated the USSR in the final of Euro ‘88. Xherdan Shaqiri paid fitting tribute to the Dutch legend by scoring the greatest European Championship goal since then as Switzerland exited the competition 5-4 on penalties.
Nine minutes stood between the Alpine nation and Euro 2016 elimination when the 24-year-old produced a moment of genius that will be replayed all over the world for years to come.
The Swiss had fruitlessly attacked Poland’s sometimes rugged but ultimately effective defence for 81 minutes and looked set to exit at the last-16 stage due to Jakub Blaszczykowski’s strike shortly before the break.
Haris Seferovic had sent an effort against the face of the bar, while Lukasz Fabianski had performed heroics to turn away a Ricardo Rodriguez free kick. The former Arsenal goalkeeper was, however, powerless to prevent the Stoke attacker scoring what will surely be crowned the goal of the tournament.
There appeared to be little on for him as the ball floated towards the edge of the area, yet he quickly adjusted his body to deal with a ball that was in a seemingly impossible position high above his left shoulder. With an act of gymnastics that defied physics given the stalky No.23’s physique, he sprung into the air and hooked the ball into the net via the goalkeeper’s left-hand post, generating a remarkable amount of power in the process.
It was entirely out of character with what had been produced by both teams previously. Save Kuba’s composed finish – his fifth decisive contribution to Poland’s last six European Championship goals stretching back to 2012 – it had been a game littered with missed chances.
Come the end of 90 minutes, the teams had mustered a joint tally of 39 shots, five more than in any other match in the competition.
The best of these were typically Polish, with Arkadiusz Milik guilty of missing a string of opportunities. With barely two minutes on the clock, he had swept high over the top as he failed to profit from a fluffed clearance from Yann Sommer, who had in turn been played into trouble by Johan Djourou. It was to set the tone for another afternoon of profligacy from the Ajax striker.
Of course, Switzerland were little better until Shaqiri lit up Saint-Etienne’s Stade Geoffroy-Guichard with a goal that would have been his country’s most important ever had Granit Xhaka not hopelessly misfired from the penalty spot after a barren period of extra time.
But regardless of the final result, it is Shaqiri’s moment of genius that will go down in history – just like Van Basten’s wonder-strike 28 years ago.