Five greatest European Championship finals - Denmark fairy tale, heartbreak for Italy

To celebrate this Sunday’s Euro 2020 final, Planet Sport has dug out the history books and compiled the five greatest European Championship finals.

England will be looking to win their first major trophy since 1966 when they take on Italy at Wembley.

It promises to be a historic occasion but it will have to be an absolute cracker if the game is to join this illustrious list.

Here are the five greatest finals in Euros history.

5 - Denmark 2-0 Germany (Euro 1992)

Denmark's Euro 1992 victory is beyond the stuff of Hollywood. Their route to the Henri Delaunay trophy is without doubt one of the greatest stories ever told in soccer.

The Danes failed to book their spot in the tournament after finishing second to Yugoslavia in their qualifying group. Tragically though, the Yugoslavians were forced to pull out as violence raged across the country.

With a week to go until the start of the tournament, UEFA had to make a decision. Fortunately for Denmark, the governing body decided to give them the vacant spot.

Despite the lack of preparation time, the Danes progressed to the semis after a dramatic win over France in their final group game.

Denmark goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel
Denmark goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel

Next up were the defending European champions, Netherlands. But despite the size of the challenge, Richard Moller Nielsen's men held their opponents to a 2-2 draw before beating them on penalties.

Their next challenge though, was even greater.

The only thing standing between them and European glory were the Germans. Fresh from a World Cup victory and high in spirit following the country's unification, few gave Denmark a prayer.

Unsurpisingly, the opening quarter of an hour went as expected - complete German domination. New Manchester United signing Peter Schmeichel had to be at his best as Karl-Heinz Riedle, Stefan Reuter and Guido Buchwald threatened in the early stages.

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The next opportunity though, fell to Denmark's John Jensen. Unlike the Germans, Jensen showed a clinical edge as his strike from distance flew into the back of the net.

The world champions tried everything to turn things around but the soccer gods were simply not on their side that day.

Instead, with 11 minutes to go, Kim Vilfort scored a second for the Danes as dreams of European glory quickly turned into reality.

There was no late comeback from Germany as the Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg turned into a sea of emotion. Some were crying tears of joy, others tears of sadness. But all of them were aware that they just witnessed a once in a lifetime event.

4 - Netherlands 2-0 Soviet Union (Euro 1988)

After losing two World Cup finals in the 1970s, many in the Netherlands gave up hope of ever capturing a major international honour.

However, as the 80s came into view, a new generation of exciting talent took to the stage. Names such as Frank Rijkaard, Ronald Koeman, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten began to make their presence felt.

It's fair to say that initially, this new generation presented false hope after failing to qualify for successive World Cups and the 1984 Euros.

But as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.

Netherlands qualified for Euro 1988 and powered their way to the final. In their wake stood a Soviet Union side which stagnated throughout the 1980s but was once again making waves on the international scene.

The final was an absolute classic as the battle of East vs West played out at the Olympiastadion in Munich.

Gullit opened the scoring in the 32nd minute after heading past the Soviet captain, Rinat Dasayev.

The Netherlands took their lead into half-time but it wasn't long before that advantage was extended.

Marco van Basten scores in the 1988 Euro final
Marco van Basten scores in the 1988 Euro final

Ten minutes after the restart, Van Basten came up with one of the all-time great European Championship goals.

Adri van Tiggelen stole possession from Olexandr Zavarov before feeding Arnold Muhren down the left flank. Muhren, who was playing in his last international game, delivered a long cross into the area - at first it seemed a little too long.

Despite the cross going around eight metres from goal and six from the goal line, Van Basten was able to volley the ball over Dasayev and into the back of the net. The ball didn't even touch the floor as the Netherlands forward wrapped his right foot over the strike to put his side 2-0 up.

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The Soviet Union - to their credit - weren't about to throw in the towel. The remainder of the second half saw Valeriy Lobanovskyi's side chase a comeback.

Their best chance of getting back in the contest arrived when referee Michel Vautrot awarded the Soviets a penalty following Hans van Breukelen's challenge on Sergei Gotsmanov. However, the Dutch goalkeeper made amends, saving Igor Belanov's spot-kick to keep his clean sheet intact.

That was as close as the Soviet Union came to getting back in the game as the Netherlands finally delivered on their promise and lifted their first major international trophy.

3 - Czechoslovakia 2-2 West Germany (Euro 1976)

Only one European Championship final has ever been determined via a penalty shootout. It is also the only penalty shootout which Germany have lost in a major tournament. No surprise then that it has made our list.

Coming into this game as the reigning world and European champions, Germany were regarded as the favourites ahead of the final in Belgrade.

Despite that, Helmut Schon's side were rocked in the opening 25 minutes as Czechoslovakia took an unprecedented 2-0 lead.

The first blow arrived in the eighth minute when Jan Svehlik capitalised on some sloppy play. Germany lost the ball in their own penalty area as the high press of Czechoslovakia allowed them to flood the box with red shirts and eventually bag the opener.

Jan Svehlik of Czechoslovakia
Jan Svehlik of Czechoslovakia

Not long later, the Czechs had a free-kick down the left. The ball was crossed into the area and Franz Beckenbauer headed it clear.

Unfortunately for the German captain, the ball landed at the feet of Karol Dobias whose sweet strike from 18 yards got the better of Sepp Maier.

Just like that, the score was 2-0.

But in typical German fashion, the reigning and defending champions fought back.

Just three minute later, a quick counter saw Germany move down the left flank. A cross from the wing found the feet of the unmarked Dieter Muller who brilliantly volleyed his shot past Ivo Viktor.

Czechoslovakia steadied the ship and fought off the German threat until the dying moments of the game.

Dieter Mueller and Erich Ete Beer
Dieter Mueller and Erich Ete Beer

Just as the match was about to approach stoppage time, the world champions got themselves a corner. The ball was swung into the box and Bernd Holzenbein got his head on the end of the delivery and directed the ball into the net.

Neither team was able to break the deadlock in the 30 minutes of extra time which meant the final headed to its first ever penalty shootout.

The first seven spot-kicks were all successfully converted. The eighth was not. Germany's Uli Hoeness was the man who crumbled under the pressure and sent his strike well over the bar.

Antonin Panenka was next. The midfielder stepped up and produced arguably one of the most memorable penalties of all time. As Meier dived to his left, Panenka dinked the ball into the middle of the net to seal the win for Czechoslovakia - and write his name into history.

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2 - Spain 4-0 Italy (Euro 2012)

When Spain and Italy faced off in a Euro 2012 group stage clash, fans were treated to a characteristically tight 1-1 draw. When both nations got to the final, many expected the game to pan out in similar fashion.

Instead, Spain served up one of the greatest displays ever seen in a European Championship showpiece.

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Throughout the tournament, the Spaniards received criticism for their defensive, some would say negative, style of soccer. But then again, Italy weren't exactly pulling up trees in the goalscoring department either.

Despite the criticisms, Vicente del Bosque's side took an early lead through David Silva. Andres Iniesta was able to find Cesc Fabregas with a wonderful through-ball as the midfielder powered forward and delivered a sweet cross for Silva. The former Man City man didn't disappoint as he sent his header past the reach of Gianluigi Buffon.

With 20 minutes on the clock, the Italians were dealt another major blow. Giorgio Chiellini had been struggling with a thigh injury throughout the tournament and in the end, he had to be replaced.

With Italy's stalwart defender out of the picture, Spain turned up the heat. Just before the break, a spectacular through-ball from Xavi allowed Jordi Alba to go one-on-one with Buffon.

Spain's Jordi Alba
Spain's Jordi Alba

The Barcelona man didn't disappoint as he coolly finished to give the Spaniards a 2-0 advantage.

In the second half, Italy did have chances but Iker Casillas was in no mood to concede. Instead, the night got even worse for Gli Azzuri as their substitute, Riccardo Montolivo, suffered a hamstring injury and was forced to leave the pitch.

Having used all three subs, the Italians were down to ten men for the final half an hour.

Mario Balotelli tackled by Spain's Sergio Ramos
Mario Balotelli tackled by Spain's Sergio Ramos

Speaking of substitutes, Fernando Torres came on the field and scored Spain's third as the defending European champions seemed destined to hang on to their crown.

In the 88th minute, Torres turned from scorer to provider as he set up Juan Mata for the game's final goal.

Spain had completed the biggest and most comprehensive victory in the history of European Championship finals.

1 - France 2-1 Italy (Euro 2000)

Euro 2000 is often regarded as the greatest tournament in the history of international soccer.

An unforgettable competition also provided an unforgettable final as France edged Italy with a golden goal in extra time.

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But before we talk about that, there's a lot more we have to mention.

Italy's coach, Dino Zoff, made a brave decision before the final by dropping Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi. In came Marco Delvecchio and Francesco Totti as Gli Azzuri looked to mastermind their first win over France since 1978.

The move certainly highlighted the incredible strength in depth possessed by the Italians.

France were also well stocked. Their bench, for instance, consisted of Sylvain Wiltord, David Trezeguet and Robert Pires. Not bad.

As the game got underway, it was the French side who fired the first warning shot. Straight from kick-off, Les Bleus sent a long ball towards Thierry Henry.

Italy's Luigi Di Biagio tries to keep up with France's Thierry Henry
Italy's Luigi Di Biagio tries to keep up with France's Thierry Henry

The Arsenal legend got the better of Fabio Cannavaro before sending a low ball towards a prowling Zinedine Zidane. Fortunately for the Italians, Paolo Maldini was able to clear the danger.

A minute later, the Italians fired their own warning shock. A long ball towards Delvecchio forced Fabien Barthez to come out of his net and shut down the opportunity.

Some start!

By the 20th minute, the hectic pace of the game had settled. The Italians sat back and allowed France to keep the ball in midfield.

The game was goalless at the break as the 50,000 fans inside Rotterdam's De Kuip stadium realised this could go down to the wire.

Shortly after the restart, it was Delvecchio who made the breakthrough. A sensational bit of skill from Totti was followed by a crisp cross from Gianluca Pessotto. The delivery was pinpoint as Delvecchio directed the ball past Barthez from close range.

The opener certainly seemed to justify Zoff's personnel changes ahead of kick-off.

Italy's Luigi Di Biagio and Francesco Totti run to congratulate teammate Marco Delvecchio
Italy's Luigi Di Biagio and Francesco Totti run to congratulate teammate Marco Delvecchio

After going in front, the Italians did what Italians normally do when they have a one-goal lead - they defended.

France were continuously frustrated as the door to the equaliser remained firmly shut.

The match was deep in stoppage time when France launched what seemed to be their final attempt to find a leveller.

As the ball was played into the area, Fabio Cannavaro tried to head it away and clear the danger. Instead, his sloppy clearance found the feet of substitute Wiltord who powered forward and struck the ball past Francesco Toldo. Game on.

Italy, who were less than a minute from winning their first European Championship since 1968, would now have to start again as the match entered extra time.

With the golden goal rule in place, the stakes couldn't be higher. One goal was all that it took to seal a place in the history books.

Fortunately for France, that's exactly what David Trezeguet did.

In the 104th minute, Robert Pires powered down the left wing, beating two men in the process. After skilfully getting the better of Alessandro Nesta, he produced a low cross towards Trezeguet who was perched around the penalty spot.

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As the ball arrived at his feet, the Juventus legend powered his strike into the top corner to win the Henri Delaunay trophy for his nation. To this day, his strike is one of the most iconic goals in the competition's history.

Now England will be looking to follow in France's footsteps and produce their own title-winning display against the Italians.

Read the full preview ahead of the game right here.