France 3-2 Portugal & the top five European Championship semi-finals of all time

With Spain, Germany, Italy and the Portuguese left standing at Euro 2012, assembles the definitive list of great last-four European encounters in the tournament's history
By Livio Caferoglu

And then there were four. After little over a fortnight of play in Poland and Ukraine, the semi-finalists have now been decided. First up sees Portugal handed the gruelling task of ending reigning champions Spain’s supremacy, while penalty kings Italy face perennial rivals Germany.

Three of the four sides have won a European crown before, with the Portuguese the odd men out, though having been 90 minutes away from winning a championship in 2004. But the cream has risen to the top, in what is arguably the strongest quartet that the tournament has ever seen.

With that in mind, grab a seat and allow to present to you our five greatest-ever European Championship semi-finals, beginning with the highest-scoring fixture in the competition's history!


Les Bleus sailed into the last four of the inaugural European Championship on the back of a series of high-scoring games. They thrashed Greece 7-1, before putting nine past Austria over two legs, but their match with Yugoslavia was immediately made all the more difficult without top scorer Just Fontaine (pictured), who was injured.

Nevertheless, a thriller was always on the cards, and so it proved as the contest continually swung back and forth. Milan Galic put the Balkans one up on 11 minutes, but Jean Vincent pulled a goal back moments later. Francois Heutte soon won the French the initiative back on the stroke of half-time.

It seemed that France would go from strength to strength when Maryan Wisnieski extended his team's lead further, but, little did they know, Yugoslavia were to defy all the odds. Ante Zanetic made it 3-2 on 55 minutes, before Heutte again netted to restore France's two-goal cushion, but the best was yet to come.

Three goals in five minutes, inspired by Drazan Jerkovic's pair at the death, along with Tomislav Knez's finish to instigate the goal-rush silenced the Parc des Princes crowd, and to this day it still remains the highest-scoring fixture that the competition has ever witnessed.

4. GERMANY 3-2 TURKEY, 2008

Turkey went into their semi-final encounter with Germany as massive underdogs. 2008 marked their debut in the last four of a European Championship, while Germany had already tasted success in the competition three times, but upon completion of the match, Fatih Terim's men will have cursed their luck.

The Crescent Stars took the lead through Ugur Boral's rebounded attempt on 20 minutes, but die Mannschaft equalised through Bastian Schweinsteiger's close-range effort. A classic European tie followed, with the Turks receiving widespread acclaim for their fearless display against such an international heavyweight.

But, as ever, underestimate the Germans at your peril. And Joachim Low's retook the lead when Miroslav Klose headed home against the run of play with only 10 minutes remaining. Semih Senturk eventually pulled one back for his side, but Philipp Lahm broke Turkish hearts deep in injury time to set up a final with Spain.

3. GERMANY 1-1 ENGLAND (6-5 on pens), 1996

A place in the final of Euro 96 was at stake for both of these nations, who have maintained an infamous rivalry since the 1966 World Cup final. Penalty heartbreak against Germany was in store for England in 1990 and, unfortunately for them, they suffered yet more disappointment six years later on home soil.

Just three minutes in, tournament top scorer Alan Shearer headed Terry Venables' side into an early lead, but not long later, lone striker Stefan Kuntz levelled the scores. Paul Gascoigne (pictured) then came a toe-poke away from sending the Three Lions into the final, as it stayed 1-1 until a penalty shoot-out.

Impressively, both nations kept their nerve and did not fluff a single penalty - that is, until sudden death, when Gareth Southgate saw his weak attempt easily saved by Andreas Kopke. The defeat marked the end of Venables' reign in charge of England, and Germany went on to secure a third European title.

2. NETHERLANDS 2-2 DENMARK (4-5 on pens), 1992

Denmark's superb show of grit and determination against Netherlands is even better when you consider that the Danes were merely emergency replacements in the tournament for war-torn Yugoslavia - and also missing, in Michael Laudrup, one of the best players the country has ever produced.

Henrik Larsen was the key cog for the Scandinavians, netting a double in the first half to put his team in the driving seat for a route into the final with Germany, despite Dennis Bergkamp's goal sandwiched in-between. However, Frank Rijkaard's 86th-minute equaliser sent the game into extra time.

In normal circumstances, such a meaningful goal would have dampened the spirits of most sides, but Denmark were a unique breed and did not give up until the final whistle, where they ultimately prevailed on penalties - thanks to Peter Schmeichel's exploits in keeping out Bryan Roy - and Euro 92 itself.

1. FRANCE 3-2 PORTUGAL, 1984

A worthy winner, the 1984 semi-final between France and Portugal is widely regarded as the most enthralling match in European Championship history. In a game that was expected to crown Les Bleus' status as Europe's finest in front of a home crowd, spectators were instead treated to an exhibition display of free-flowing football from start to finish.

The ball started rolling just 24 minutes in, when Jean-Francois Domergue hammered a left-footed free kick past Bento, but, with 10 minutes left, Rui Jordao sent the game into extra time against the run of play with his head. The forward then floated a volley home to make it 2-1, but French talisman Michel Platini's time was fast approaching.

He began by playing a role in the build-up to Domergue's second goal deep in extra time, before collecting Jean Tigana's low cross and then calmly guiding the ball into the back of the net with the last kick of the game to cap off a truly magnificent captain's display. His exploits eventually inspired France to a first-ever European title, and top spot on our list.

Follow Livio Caferoglu on