The opener – XI, Bart Goor

In 2000, Belgium and Netherlands became the first countries to organize a European Championship in tandem. And Belgium had the privilege to play the opening game. 2-1 with Sweden, on 10th of June looked like the ‘Red Devils’ can progress trough. In front of nearly 47 thousand people, at Brussels, Bart Goor was the man to bring the first drop of happiness for the home fans in the 43rd minute, when he scored for 1-0. But despite Belgium’s win, they did not qualify for the group stage after they lost both remaining matches against Italy and Turkey. Both 0-2! So, if we can’t make up a great story about Belgium’s achievement, let’s just talk about the one minute hero.

Born on 9th of April 1973, Bart Goor first appeared for the national side in 1999, at 26 years and in that same year he scored his first goal in an incredible friendly encounter against Netherlands, played on 4th of September an ended 5-5! From then and until 2008, Bart gathered 78 matches for Belgium and netted 13 goals. After playing from 1991 to 1996 at Geel and from 1996 to 1997 at Genk, Goor attracted the attention of Anderlecht, which signed him in 1997. The midfielder had here two spells (1997-2001 and 2005-2008), playing a total of 228 first league matches and scoring with 42 occasions. At Anderlecht he also won many trophies, including four league titles (2000, 2001, 2006, 2007), one Cup (2008) and four Super Cups (2000, 2001, 2006, 2007).

Between the two periods he experience two departures abroad. First, in Germany at Hertha Berlin, from 2001 to 2004, and after, one season at Feyenoord Rotterdam. No trophy was won with neither team, but his performances here were strong and he became a key man for each team. Despite all this, in Netherlands he did not play more than a year. His 34 games and 7 goals scored in the first league for Feyenoord weren’t enough when he got into a dispute with the technical stuff members. So, he left to play again for Anderlecht.

In 2008 he renounced playing for Belgium and a few months after he even left Anderlecht. He was 35 but a new challenge was on its way: Germinal Beerschot. Naturally, he did not win trophies here, but he could share his experience to younger players. This happen until 2011, when he ended the contract here, but continued playing even though he reached 37 years. Goor moved to Westerlo and appeared in seven league games of the season, in which he also scored once. With a few days before EURO 2012’s begin, the player is nearly 38 but continues to play for the squad.

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The opener – X, Alan Shearer

England hosted in 1996, the first ever European Championship at which 16 teams participated. And logically, the organizers opened the party. It happen on the 8th of June, the same date as it will start in 2012. England faced Switzerland, on Wembley and this was the chance of Alan Shearer which put in the first goal of the tournament, in the 23th minute, against Switzerland. Until the final blow, the visitors came from behind and equalized thanks to a penalty well taken by Turkylimaz with seven minutes remaining in the game. It was the third consecutive 1-1 in the opening match of EURO after the ones in 1988 and 1992. For Shearer this remains a thick performance as he is better known for the seven goals scored at European Championships: five in that edition and two at EURO 2000, including one against Romania. Unfortunately, his achievement didn’t prove to be very important for his team, because England didn’t pass the semifinals in 1996 and not even the group stage in 2000. Still, those seven goals remain the second best performance for a player in the history of EURO, after the nine pieces put in by Platini in 1984. Besides those, Shearer scored 23 more goals for the national team from 1992 to 2000, when he retired. He was only 30 by than, but decided to leave international football and concentrate only on the career from Newcastle. In eight years he gathered 63 matches for England and from the 30 goals scored, 21 were in official games. Most curious is that Alan managed to score 18 goals (!) only on Wembley Stadium.

OK, at international level he hadn’t too many performances, but he surely remained in the hearts of England’s fans and mostly in the hearts of the supporters from Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United. Born on 13th of August 1970, Sheared starting playing professionally for Southampton in 1988 and after four years, in 1992, he joined Blackburn. His performances for ‘The Saints’ were quite low, only 23 goals in 118 league games, but the officials of Blackburn looked like knowing what they are doing. And they did, because after four seasons with Alan Shearer in the team, they had many satisfactions. With 130 goals scored in 171 games, in all competitions for Rovers, Shearer helped the squad to win in 1995 the Premier League title. The third title won in the history and the first from 1914! Only in the 1994-1995 Premier League season, Shearer put in 34 goals in 42 encounters! That trophy remain the only one achieved with Blackburn, but his good performance from EURO 1996, were he became top scorer with 5 goals, brought him a transfer to his favorite team since childhood, Newcastle United. And the board from Blackburn was glad because of his departure. Shearer’s performances were outstanding there, but the 15 million pound that Newcastle paid for him was a record at that time and assured a big part of Rovers’ budget for the following season.

With Newcastle Alan didn’t win anything, but helped the squad to finish second in the league (1997) and to play two FA Cup finals (1998 and 1999), both lost. Despite all this he continued playing for Newcastle until 2006. That meant 10 seasons, 404 goals and 206 goals! In all competition! So, it resulted an average of 40 games and 20 goals per year! At the end of those seasons he even touch the title of the all time top scorer of Premier League, with a total of 260 goals and this without playing at giants like Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal London or even Chelsea London. We talked about Shearer as a team member, but we didn’t say anything yet about his individual performances. And believe me we have to tell a lot! Besides the top scorer title from EURO 1996 and the one from all the history of Premier League, the striker won some more goal scoring trophies. He was top scorer of Premier League in three occasions (1995, 1996, 1997), twice in the UEFA Cup (2004 and 2005 – the last, with 11 goals!). Shearer also holds some records regarding Newcastle as he is all time top scorer of the club in all competitions (206 goals) and all time top scorer in the European Cups (30 goals). Those weren’t all, but surely remain the most important. After retirement, Alan came out of football, with only a short break between April and May 2009 when he experience his first and last experience as a coach. And where else could he have tried this if not at Newcastle? Unfortunately, a single victory in eight games and five defeats didn’t convince anyone that he deserves another chance.

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The opener – IX, Jan Eriksson

After Muller, Rummenigge, Platini or Mancini, the name of Jan Eriksson will look very strange for you, because I’m sure that few heard of this Swedish footballer. Strangely, his numbers at the national team resemble very good with the ones of the former hero, Roberto Mancini. If the Italian played 36 games for Italy and scored four times, Eriksson appeared in 35 encounters for Sweden and scored also four times! The difference is that Jan played for the side from North during four years (1990-1994) and more important, he was a defender, not an attacking player! He didn’t made it to any World Cup game, but he was one of the main players of from the EURO 1992, competition which they have hosted and reached for the semifinals, the best result for Sweden at a continental tournament. Started on 10th of June 1992, Rasunda Stadium, in front of nearly 30 thousand people, the first match of the Cup gathered the organizers and France. The opener came in the 24th minute from the booth of Eriksson. Papin also scored and the game ended in a tie.

Still, Sweden would have won the group after two victories: in front of Denmark, 1-0 and in front of England 2-1. In this last game Eriksson also scored, equalizing to one in the second half, after David Platt brought the British in advantage with only four minutes wasted in the game. So, Sweden reached the semi-finals, but stopped there, after a 2-3 loss against the future finalist, Germany.

Sundsvall, on 24th of August 1967 was the birth date of Jan, which means in 1994, when he last played for Sweden, he was only 27. So, at the national side he hadn’t quite a career, but neither did he had at the clubs he played at. His most important results resume to a spell of two seasons (1992-1994), at Kaiserslautern, in Germany. In rest, he only played in Sweden (Sundsvall, AIK Solna, Norrkoping and Helsingborgs), six matches in Switzerland for Servette Geneve, one (!) in England for Sunderland and a full season in MLS at Tampa Bay Mutiny. Many teams, few matches and no trophies! This is how we can resume Eriksson’s career and these also may be the main reasons why few of you know him. Still, he remains with the memory of the opener from EURO 1992, with the one of the equalizer against England and with the semi-final in which his country played.

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The opener – VIII, Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini is now famous because he brought the title, after 44 years, for Manchester City, as a manager. And before training in England he made a solid name by winning with Inter Milan seven internal trophies in Italy, between 2004 and 2008. But Mancini was also a famous footballer, even though many remember him as a very inefficient striker for the national football team. From 1984 to 1994 he appeared in 36 matches of Italy, thing which didn’t help him too much, as he only scored four goals! Nothing unusual, you say? Well, you have to consider that he played as a striker! Long time passed even until his first achievement, four years to be precise, because it came in 1988. But what a goal that was! On 10th of June 1988, at Dusseldorf, the European Championship was starting and the hosts, RFG, were confronting Italy. The hosts open the score in the 52nd minute, thanks to Mancini. His goal came only three minutes before Brehme’s. It ended 1-1 and at the final, both squads progressed into the semifinals, with five points each. But nobody qualified further. Italy was eliminated by SSSR and so the Cup dreams were over.

The striker with only one goal hit again in the qualifying campaign for the World Cup 1994. Three goals, against Malta and Estonia don’t seem very important, but that campaign was the start for Italy on the road for the trophy, which they would eventually lose, against Brazil, at shootout. 1994 was also the year in which Mancini signed his last appearance for the national team. A modest international career, marked only by a few goals, but this isn’t the only Mancini. I mean, the ‘other Mancini’ is the man that made history at club level. Never mind as a coach, but as a player! Roberto played at Sampdoria from 1982 to 1997. After a starter season at Bologna, he signed with the Genovese team and never left it for 15 years! 566 matches and 168 goals could have been nothing if we consider that he won with Sampdoria seven titles. In fact we can say he caught all the trophies that Doria ever won: one league title (1991), four cups (1985, 1988, 1989, 1994), one Italian Super Cup (1991) and one Cup Winners’ Cup (1990)! Also, he played in the only European Champions’ Cup final in which the Genovese ever appeared: in 1992. After 1994, for three years, nothing else happen at the club, but his personal performances were very good as Lazio decided to buy him in 1997.

Born 27th of November 1964, Mancini was nearly 33 by then and he looked unconvincing for a squad that was very near the top. Despite all this, he played here three seasons, in 136 games and scored only 24 pieces. But he won another bunch of trophies: six! Another Italian title (2000), again the Italian Cup (1998, 2000), a new Italian Super Cup (1998) and one more UEFA Cup Winners Cup (1999), but it wasn’t all, because he got also a bonus: the UEFA Super cup, in the same 1999. After, it come a transfer to England, at Leicester City. He lasted here only a few weeks, in which he entered in four games. And all because Bologna made him an offer to start his coaching career, that he didn’t want to refuse. This career started hesitating, but increased surprisingly well at Inter and reached its maturity at Manchester City. Even though he played a very short while in England he had the time to fell in love with British football and so the contract with the ‘Citizens’ came as a real treasure.

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The opener – VII, Michel Platini

It’s a very big dilemma whoever was the biggest footballer of all time when talking about France: Michel Platini or Zinedine Zidane? For me, “Zizou” is The King of football, but many think that the actual president of UEFA was one of the best and surely the most important French player. Platini is, without a doubt, also the man that influenced decisively the European Championship from 1984, which France eventually won. The first international title of his country came because Platini scored nine goals in five matches, a record that remained to our days. In fact, his nine goals from than still mean that he is the player with the most goals scored at European Championships! And he played at a single tournament! A tournament that begun on 12 June 1984 with the victory of France, on home soil, against Denmark, 1-0 with a goal scored in the 78th minute, of course, by Platini. The first of the competition!

After this match, Platini became better and better and scored two hat-tricks in the group stage, one against Belgium and one against Yugoslavia, and two goals, one each in the semi-final against Portugal and in the last act in front of Spain. He scored in all the matches and so the fans from Marseille, Paris, Nantes and Saint Etienne could witness live his masterpieces. So, first international trophy for France, the top-scorer title for the midfielder and also best man of the competition. Impressive! But Michel had than 29 years and was in top form. Even though he participated at three World Cups (1978, 1982, 1986) he reached the best performance at the last one, at 31 years old. That meant France finished 3rd in the competition, a great performance by that time. Born on 21st of June 1955 at Joeuf, Platini played at the national team 11 years, from 1978 to 1987, in 72 matches and scored 41 goals. After his retirement he coached his national team four years (1988-1992) but hadn’t the same success as a player.

And speaking of the player career we shouldn’t omit that the midfielder also had great achievements at club level. Platini only appeared at three clubs, starting Nancy, between 1972 and 1979. Here he won a promotion in 1975, after relegating only a season before, and, what’s more significant, he won the Coupe of France in 1978, the only major title of the squad, apart from the League Cup achieved in 2006. The total of seven seasons spent here meant the longest period of time spent at only one club. 213 matches played and 127 goals are quite numbers for a youngster that is only 24. So, the transfer to Saint Etienne came, one of the most popular teams from the Hexagon. Platini remained in the city from southern France for three seasons, in which he completed his CV with a Ligue 1 title, in 1981, but missed two French Cups in the last act: one in 1981 and one in 1982. Totally, he reached at Saint Etienne 145 matches, 82 goals and 27 years. It looked like is the moment to make the step at a powerful club outside his native country.

The club was Juventus and here, Platini spent the last five years of his career, which were, without a doubt, the most successful. Apart from the performances with the national squad, Michel won alongside the lads from Turin won seven titles and lost only one final, the European Champions’ Cup one from 1983. But he did rise this trophy above his head two years later. Before this he won an Italian Cup (1983), a Serie A title (1984, with the second in 1986), a Cup Winners’ Cup and a European Super Cup (both in 1984). The last achievement came in 1985: an Intercontinental Cup. Another international game in 1987 for France and after the retirement, those four years in charge of France and starting with 1992, a long period of a quiet life. To be more precise 15 years, until 2007, when he became UEFA president.

What I forget to tell you regarding his career in Italy is that he was so good in playing at Juve and in the national team at the same time, that between 1983 and 1985 he won three Golden Balls in a row! Johan Cruyff reached the same performance nearly a decade before, but Platini was the first man to win three such trophies in the row and his accomplishment stood still until 2011. It remained there even after this year, but the only difference is that he was equalized by Lionel Messi, who also rise over his head three Golden Balls. Michel can find a consolation in the fact that he is and probably will remain for a very long time, the only European to do so.

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136 years of hope, two moments of glory

For a Portuguese team, to be founded in 1876 it looks sensational, especially when your name is not Porto, Benfica or Sporting. And it is the case of Academica Coimbra, a club that saw the day light 136 years ago! A group of students from the University of Coimbra were the brains behind the squad which is known, even in our days as a ‘students’ club. The black and white colors define them from the beginning and so does the claim of their supporters which say that their team is the fourth beloved from Portugal after the three giants. It’s hard to tell that, but the team from the town with 100 thousand souls, located in the north part of Portugal, has two interesting stories to expose.

Even though Academica didn’t manage to win a league title, in their trophy rooms are standing two Portuguese Cups. The first achieved in 1939, whit the occasion of the first edition of the trophy. A sensational 4-3 win over Benfica brought them glory at that time. After that, played three more finals, in 1951, 1967 and 1969, from which two against Benfica and the one in the middle against Setubal, but never won the Cup. In fact in 1967 they were also so close to win the league, but at the end they finished only second, having 40 points, with three behind the same Benfica. In the last years nobody heard anything notably from Coimbra as they always finished in the second half of the Portuguese League. Only the Cup semifinal reached in 2011 raised the dust which covered the badge of the club based in 1876. So, no wonder that Coimbra qualified for the same competition’s final this year. Well, as a second thought it might look a bit surprisingly, as they finished only 13 in the League, after they struggled an important part of the season in the relegation zone.

The fact that they had reached the last act of the Cup couldn’t be more precious than now as they also did win the trophy after beating Sporting Lisbon, 1-0. An enormous victory, after 72 years from the first achievement and after 136 years from the birth. The encounter played on Estadio Nacional Oeiras, a suburb of Lisbon, was decided by Marinho’s goal, a 1.66 meter 29 old winger who started professional football, ten years ago at… Sporting Lisbon! He left quickly the club and now tried to pay them something back. But this isn’t the first time when Marinho beat Sporting. In 2008, while at C.D. Fatima, third tier team, he scored twice against ‘The Lions’ in a shocking 2-1 win in an away League Cup match. With a 4-4 on aggregate, Fatima didn’t make it in the superior stage, but remained with the satisfaction of putting out FC Porto in the previous round.

I am also sure that Estadio Nacional Oeiras doesn’t sound very familiar for you. But this pitch is the traditional host of the Portuguese Cup Final, with this edition being the 52nd of the history. The pitch was built in 1939, opened in 1944 and can host more than 37.000 people. Although that in Portugal are many bigger and modern stadiums, the officials denied often the possibility to move the last act of the tournament on another ground. And most likely Coimbra fans will remember the day of 20th of May 2012 as a very special one. For them this day will be probably the most important from the history of the stadium even though here took place a memorable match, the European Champions Cup final from 1967, won by Celtic, 2-1, in front of Inter Milan.

We saw that despite having such a long history, Academica got few achievements and also few notable players appeared during the years in front of the fans from Coimbra. If we would make a short famous players list, we’d surely start with Sergio Conceicao and Fernando Couto, two important players for the national side of Portugal. The first with 58 matches and 12 goals, from which 9 official and Couto with 110 games and eight goals. Conceicao didn’t play but only for the junior sides, a normal thing as he was born in Coimbra. A legend of the club is Rusell Latapy, one of the famous Trinidad & Tobago footballers who made it with his national team at the World Cup from 2006. Between 1990 and 1994 he played 127 games at Coimbra and scored 32 goals. Last, but not least notable name that appeared here one season is the one of the goalkeeper Henrique Hilario, between 1995-1996. The 36 old man, by now, is playing since 2006 at Chelsea, but made only 20 appearances in six seasons. Still, he won the Champions’ League medal in 2012.

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The opener – VI, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

Maybe his name hasn’t the resonance that Gerd Muller’s has for German soccer, but is clear that Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had a key role in the UEFA EURO 1980 campaign. The first ever tournament with eight teams at the start, begun on 11th of June 1980 with a match between RFG and Czechoslovakia. In fact, an encounter at which took part the previous two European Champions. The Germans stood better in their boots and beat 1-0. Thanks to the goal scored by Rummenigge in the 57th minute, his national side won the necessary confidence that help them to eventually finish top in group A, a group that had, besides those two, Netherlands and Greece. So, this way, RFG obtained the right to play in the final against Belgium. Rumenigge didn’t scored any other goal in the group stage and neither he did in the final, but his team mates assured a 2-1 win against the opponents which brought the nation the second European Championship trophy. This way, RFG became the first ever nation to do so.

This was the first and only goal that Karl-Heinz ever scored at an European Championship, but this is nothing else than a strange fact, because football lovers surely know his goal appetite and in numbers, he did scored 45 goals for Germany in 95 matches, between 1976 and 1986. From those, 31 (!) where official goals: 9 at three World Cups, 9 in the EURO’s preliminaries and 12 in the World Cup’s qualifications. Apart of the title from 1980, the striker didn’t win anything else alongside the national side, but did have a lot of success with Bayern Munich, team at which he played between 1974 and 1984. Here he won two Champions’ Cups (1975 and 1976), one Intercontinental Cup (1976), two national leagues (1980 and 1981) and two German Cups (1982 and 1984). All, thanks to more than 310 matches and more than 162 goals. But how did he reach this fame?

Born on 25th of September 1955 in Lippstadt, a small town of only 67 thousand inhabitants, near Dortmund, Rummenigge was spotted by Bayerns’ scouts in 1974 and was immediately transferred and stayed there until 1984 when a transfer to Inter came. The best part of his career was mentioned before and that was also the essential, because the player had less success in Italy, where he didn’t win a single achievement. Even though the squad from Milan paid for him 5.7 million euro an enormous sum for that time, he dealt with many injuries and so in three seasons only played 64 matches and put in 24 goals. In 1987 he left and went on playing for two more seasons. This time in Switzerland, at Servette Geneva. No trophy here either, but at least he became top scorer of the championship, with 24 goals, at the end of 1988-1989 season. His last. Those were good memories for him, from the times when he did also was the best scorer from Germany in 1980, 1981 and 1984 with 26, 29 and 26 goals respectively.

And if you knew all of what I exposed above there still are some chances to be surprised now, because few people remember that Karl-Heinz also has a brother footballer, which was in fact a very good footballer. Michael is nine years younger, played also as a striker, but never made more than two appearances for the senior national side. One in 1983 and one in 1986. And this is a bit strange because Michael Rummenigge played football at a very high level, between 1983 and 1994 at Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, before joining Urrawa Red Diamonds from Japan. He gathered more than 300 matches in the Bundesliga and scored 80 goals in the Championship, helping especially Bayern to win trophies. Between 1985 and 1987 he won three consecutive titles of champion, equalizing his brother this way. And with three Cups and two Super Cups he almost past him, if it wasn’t for two European Finals lost. The first in the 1987 Champions Cup with Bayern, against Porto and the second in 1993, in the UEFA Cup, when he was playing at Dortmund.

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