THE HISTORY OF THE EUROS PART 2
Euro 1988: Valery Lobanovsky's last stand for Soviet Union
The story of the 1988 European Championship is one tinged in vibrant orange, with Marco van Basten's audacious volley at its centrepiece.
The AC Milan striker's goal from the narrowest of angles helped earn the Netherlands a 2-0 victory over USSR in the Munich final and the country's first major title.
However, with the Soviets missing a penalty late in the game, it is often forgotten how close they came to piercing the orange bubble.
Though the final signified a new chapter in Dutch football, the class of 1988 succeeding where the 1970s crop had fallen short of silverware, it also ended a golden period for the Russian game as the fall of communism began to divide its nations.
It is worth remembering that the runners-up - led by legendary coach Valery Lobanovsky - beat the Dutch 1-0 in their opening game of the tournament in the former West Germany.
Born: 1939 Kiev, Soviet Union, died 2002
Managed Dynamo Kiev in two stints and won Uefa Cup Winners' Cup twice, the Uefa Super Cup and 20-plus domestic titles
Coached USSR team on three occasions and led them to 1988 Euros final
Regarded as one of the first coaches to introduce science in football in 1970s. Also renowned for playing a pressing game replicated throughout world
They then went on to top their group, beating England along the way, and swept aside a strong Italian team 2-0 in the semi-finals, before coming up against the likes of Van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman in the final.
But the fact it needed Van Basten's special goal to beat the Russian team showed the depth of talent which ran through a side that included eight players from club side Dynamo Kiev.
It was no coincidence, given that Lobanovsky was still in charge at Dynamo, one of the strongest club sides in Europe.
He led them to the Cup Winners' Cup in 1986, having won the same competition nine years earlier.
"It was the best chance for the Soviet Union to win a trophy," former Dynamo and Soviet defender Sergei Baltacha told BBC Sport.
"At that time we were a good team, most of our players were from Kiev and we dominated Europe. We knew we would do well."
Baltacha, who came on as a substitute in the 1988 final, cites a golden generation of Dynamo players that included the now Ukraine boss Oleg Blokhin, Vasily Rats, Alexei Mikhailichenko and Igor Belanov as the reason why the team made such an impact at international level.
But the 54-year-old, father of Britain's number one woman tennis player Elena Baltacha, also believes the strength of the Soviet domestic league played its part in developing such a talented group.
"At that time, the Russian championship was very strong, because it had six different republics," he added. "All 16 sides were very strong.
"It's why the Russian national team was very good. Every game was like the Champions League. It was why European games were quite easy because every week you were playing at the top level anyway.
"After the Soviet break-up, there are only a few countries left at the top level: Russia and Ukraine. The rest, like Georgia, are not playing in the World Cup a lot. Big damage happened to USSR football after that."
Once the Soviet Union began to splinter, so did the strength of the national team. Many players had already headed west, with Baltacha joining Ipswich after the 1988 European Championship.
By the 1990 World Cup, Lobanovsky was shorn of his most talented Dynamo players and USSR finished bottom of their group. At the 1992 Euros, the country competed as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Through no fault of his own, Lobanovsky's powers at international level were fading. A shame for a man who had transferred his culture of excellence to the national team, says Baltacha.
"Lobanovsky was everything for Dynamo Kiev and Russian football," he explained.
"Ukraine cannot reach that level now. At that time a lot of people knew the city of Kiev because of Dynamo and because of Lobanovsky and the players that played for him.
"He was the best coach I've ever seen. He was a coach who brought a scientific background to football in the early 1970s and, when I joined Kiev in 1976, we had a background of doctors and scientists, the kind of thing that not even now many countries have.
"He was very tactical, too. We played the kind of pressing game like Barcelona do now. It was a new era for football. As a person he was very demanding and was an example for us because he was a top professional."
After a stint in the middle east, Lobanovsky returned to Kiev where he oversaw the development of former AC Milan and Chelsea striker Andrei Shevchenko and led Dynamo to the 1999 Champions League semi-finals. In 2001, he then managed the Ukraine team for another year.
Following his death from a stroke in 2002, Dynamo named their stadium after Lobanovsky, but Baltacha says the club does not hold the same standing in Ukrainian football now he has passed away.
"People stopped believing in his philosophy," Baltacha said. "That's a shame. People used to learn how to play football from Lobanovsky."
Few knew that once Van Basten struck, it would have such a significant impact on Russian and Ukrainian football.
Euro 1992: Denmark's fairytale
To those who think this year's European Championship is Spain's to lose, here is a tale from a past tournament that might make you re-assess.
Twenty years ago, Denmark were given just over a week's notice to get a squad prepared for the Euro '92. Less than a month later, the underdogs were champions.
Their surprise inclusion came after Yugoslavia, in a state of civil war, were not allowed to participate in the tournament.
Euro '92 Facts:
Format: Two groups of four. Two best teams qualify for quarter-finals.
Stand-out match: Semi-final - Netherlands 2-2 a.e.t (4-5 pens) Denmark
The Danes had missed out on qualification having finished as runners-up to Yugoslavia, but they now found themselves thrown into the eight-team tournament and placed in a group featuring hosts Sweden, England and France.
Kim Vilfort proved to be one of the unlikely heroes for Denmark during the fortnight and he told BBC Sport that his team-mates were better prepared than some had initially thought.
"There were those who didn't believe we would be included, but we were aware of small talk that this could be the situation," said the 49-year-old former midfielder.
"Then we got the news. There was no discussion. Denmark had to participate in the tournament. It wasn't possible to say 'no' because it would not have helped the relationship between Uefa and the Danish Football Association.
"But we had a good team. We'd beaten Yugoslavia in the group stages and had been scheduled to play the CIS [team of former Soviet Union states] the week before the start of the competition."
With the minds of the players hastily focused, it was time for the tournament and Vilfort reckons Denmark were in a no-lose situation.
"We couldn't fail because there were no expectations. If we lost 5-0 three times then that would not have mattered," he continued.
But the story unfolded like this: A 0-0 draw against England, followed by defeat by Sweden. Going into the crunch match against France, the Danes still had a chance of qualification.
Kim Vilfort factfile:
Date of birth: 15 Nov 1962
Teams: Skovlunde IF, BK Frem, Lille and Brondby
Danish league titles: 7
Danish player of the year: 1991
National team: 1983-96, 77 caps
Vilfort said of the France game: "We played without nerves because we thought we'd be going home."
Coach Richard Moller Nielsen's men won the match 2-1, with goals from Henrik Larsen and Lars Elstrup.
Vilfort himself missed the match against France as he was visiting his seven-year-old daughter Line, who was fighting leukaemia. Sadly, she lost her battle after the tournament.
Heavyweights England and France were now out of the tournament, but next up for Danes were holders Netherlands, who were outstanding favourites to brush aside their opponents.
However, the Danes battled valiantly and it was 2-2 after 90 minutes, with Larsen grabbing two more goals. A scoreless extra-time followed, so penalties loomed.
The Netherlands hero of 1988, Marco van Basten, had his saved by Peter Schmeichel. It was the only spot-kick failure and defender Kim Christofte eventually sealed Denmark's berth in the final.
Vilfort described the contest as "one of the best matches for the national team" he had played, but admitted his defensive-minded side then had "some luck in the final" against Germany.
The world champions had beaten the hosts 3-2 in a thrilling semi-final having qualified from Group B along with the Dutch.
They dominated the opening quarter of the final and Schmeichel, who had signed for Manchester United the previous year, was again the hero for the Danes, saving from Karl-Heinz Riedle, Stefan Reuter and Guido Buchwald.
The next chance fell to Denmark, and to John Jensen.
The Brondby central midfielder had only scored one goal in his first 48 internationals, but grabbed his second with a spectacular strike from the right-hand corner of the area.
England's Euro 1992
0-0 v Denmark
0-0 v France
1-2 v Sweden
England finish bottom of Group A and fail to qualify
It rocked Germany. With 11 minutes remaining, the emotion turned to shock.
Vilfort surged to the edge of the area, eluded the challenge of two defenders before drilling in Denmark's second goal via the foot of the post.
His team-mates piled on top of the midfielder and the fairytale was complete.
Vilfort pointed to the strong bond in the squad as to why they had triumphed against expectations.
"Ten of the players we had in the squad either played for or had previously played for Brondby. A year before the Euros, Brondby had got to the semi-finals of the Uefa Cup - that was a big thing for a Danish club.
"Quite a few members of the squad had also been played for the Under 21s and the Olympic team, who had qualified for South Korea in 1988.
"We had fantastic spirit. The team wanted to win and that's a very good thing when you're at the highest level. When we were under pressure against Germany, it was the spirit that helped us.
"We didn't have the best players, but we had the best team."
Euro 1996: When football came home
The slogan for Euro '96 was "when football comes home" and, for one glorious month, it felt like it actually had.
Ultimately, England failed to triumph on their own turf but that did not stop the tournament from being a magical experience for their players and fans, leaving a lingering feel-good factor that has been sorely lacking for them in most major finals since.
What made it so special, apart from the fact the sun was shining and England were winning, for a while at least?
"It was not only that we reached the semi-finals, it was that we had a lot of fun along the way, and I think the whole country did too," Alan Shearer told BBC Sport.
"It was great to be playing all our games at Wembley and the atmosphere kept getting better the further we went."
There was something exceptional about that England side too. Shearer describes it as the best he played in during his eight-year international career and they had a team spirit to match.
Veteran commentator Barry Davies, who covered the tournament for the BBC, said: "What started that off was a rather defensive siege mentality after a couple of off-field incidents and drinking sessions. They took a lot of stick from the press and I think that gave them a feeling of 'we will show you'."
Show us they did, to a summer soundtrack supplied by the Lightning Seeds, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, who together sang England's official song 'Three Lions'.
There were memorable lobbed goals by Davor Suker and Karel Poborsky, who helped make sure that surprise packages Croatia and the Czech Republic - who lost to Germany in the final - made a splash in their first appearances on this stage.
Scotland were the only other home nation to qualify for the finals and they came agonisingly close to making the last eight.
After a 0-0 draw with the Dutch and losing to THAT Paul Gascoigne goal for England, Craig Brown's side beat Switzerland 1-0 thanks to Ally McCoist's goal but but still finished third in Group A on goals scored, thanks to Patrick Kluivert's late consolation for the Netherlands in their 4-1 hammering by England.
But it was England who really got the party started.
Terry Venables' side began slowly with a stuttering 1-1 draw against Switzerland, notable only for Shearer's first international goal in 12 games. He ended up with five for the tournament, enough to win the golden boot as top scorer.
Things quickly got better for England. Lots better.
After Paul Gascoigne's spectacular solo strike - and 'dentist's chair' celebration - helped to sink Scotland 2-0, the Netherlands were demolished 4-1 in what was arguably England's best result at a major finals since they beat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final.
The iconic imagery kept coming in the quarter-finals too. Yes, England had to scrap to earn a shoot-out win over Spain but there was the sight of Stuart Pearce's fist-pumping celebration after despatching his penalty that helped send them through.
Then came the semi-finals, Germany and the end of the dream - but only after a truly epic encounter.
Davies, who was at Wembley commentating, said: "That was particularly special.
"If somebody told me you are going up to heaven and you can take one game with you, I think I would take that England game. I'd try to get the result changed when I got up there, though.
"It was a night where a lot of the things I believed in about commentary worked. If you go back to the original recording it was six or seven minutes before kick-off when Des Lynam handed over to me from the studio.
"I didn't really say very much in that time because the crowd were singing constantly. I just dotted a few I's and crossed a few T's. It was a huge atmosphere and of course England were incredibly unlucky in the end."
A Shearer header gave England the lead after three minutes but Germany quickly levelled through Stefan Kuntz and, try as they might, England could not find a winner.
Teddy Sheringham had a shot cleared off the line, Shearer sent another header wide and Darren Anderton hit the post in extra-time but the chance you will probably remember best of all came when Gascoigne lunged to try to turn in Shearer's cross, but missed it by a matter of millimetres.
"When I was doing England matches, there were two goals which weren't scored, which should have been," Davies added.
"The first was Gary Lineker versus Argentina at the 1986 World Cup which would have made it 2-2 in the quarter-finals. It was one of those 'oh no' moments, not that I said it in the commentary, but I thought it to myself.
"It was the same with Gascoigne when the ball rolled across the box in extra-time. By then the game had become almost unreal. It was golden goal then, so it would have won it."
It was left to penalties to decide the winner, and an all too familiar ending from England's point of view.
Shearer, David Platt, Pearce (again), Gascoigne and Sheringham were successful from the spot but Germany also scored with their first five efforts.
That meant sudden death and, after Gareth Southgate's tame effort was saved by Andreas Kopke, Andreas Muller stepped up to fire Germany into the final.
"It was such an exciting match and it had such a sad conclusion," added Davies, who has covered 10 World Cups, seven European Championships, and countless England internationals during a broadcasting career that will also take in the hockey tournament at this summer's Olympics.
"I can honestly say that when Gareth walked up to take his penalty I did not fancy him at all. There was something wrong with his body language and you just get a feeling. It was horrible to lose like that, after coming all that way."
The Queen remembers her roots and can hardly contain her delight as Germany lift the Euro 96 trophy:
Euro 2000: The French Revolution
Euro 2000 was awash with orange, but ultimately the tournament was all about Les Bleus.
The streets and stadiums of the Netherlands, co-hosts along with Belgium, were dominated by the brightly adorned hordes of the Dutch Oranje Army, but on the pitch Roger Lemerre's France were dominant.
Having won the World Cup on their own turf two years previously, the French came into Euro 2000 with a single aim: to set a football precedent by adding the Henri Delaunay Trophy to their global crown. They did not disappoint.
Former Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea midfielder Emmanuel Petit, a prominent member of the French squad at the turn of the millennium, told BBC Sport: "Euro 2000 was a big target for us because it meant we could print our name on football history.
The tournament was the 11th European Championship.
It was the first to be co-hosted (between the Netherlands and Belgium).
The 31 games produced 85 goals at an average of 2.74 goals-per-game.
Yugoslavia featured in both highest scoring games, losing 4-3 to Spain in the group stage and 6-1 to Netherlands in the quarters.
Two players top-scored with five goals: Patrick Kluivert (Netherlands) and Savo Milosevic (Yugoslavia).
France's Zinedine Zidane was named player of the tournament.
Team of the tournament: Toldo, Cannavaro, Maldini (all Italy), Blanc, Thuram, Vieira, Zidane (all France), Figo (Portugal), Davids, Kluivert (both Netherlands), Totti (Italy).
Four sets of brothers featured in the finals: Phil and Gary Neville (England), Patrick and Daniel Andersson (Sweden), Frank and Ronald de Boer (Netherlands), Emile and Mbo Mpenza (Belgium).
"Winning the World Cup is a huge achievement, but when you can complete the double you can put your name in the football hall of fame. We wanted to make history."
France's Euro 2000 squad was stronger and more experienced all-round than their World Cup-winning one, built around Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly and Didier Deschamps and the excellence of a peaking Zinedine Zidane.
In 1998, it was widely accepted Aime Jacquet succeeded without a world-class striker at his disposal, but two years later Lemerre had four to choose from - Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet, Christophe Dugarry and Nicolas Anelka.
"We had unity. We were all connected. We had knowledge from the players in terms of movement and how to adapt in different situations. There was solidarity between us," explains Petit.
"If you look at the first XI at that time, I suppose eight of those players were the best in the world in their position. But it was all about the team, not individual players.
"One of the most important things was the players in the squad played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, so we got used to the pressure and the expectations - it gave us the strength mentally to reach our targets.
"Everything was in place at the right time to give us a chance to win the World Cup and then Euro 2000."
On home soil in 1998, France hoped for success, but in 2000 it was expected. This was something the squad had to shoulder and, as Petit explains, ultimately turned to their advantage.
"We had a strong pressure on our shoulders but it was also a good pressure," he said.
"All the French people wanted to make history so we felt their wind at our backs. We were given their love, which is one of the strongest things they can do for us."
Euro 2000 was a tournament that deserved a quality winner.
ENGLAND AT EURO 2000:
England are drawn in Group A along with Germany, Portugal and Romania.
Paul Scholes and Steve McManaman put them 2-0 up in 18 minutes in their opening fixture against Portugal, but Luis Figo, Joao Pinto and Nuno Gomes consign England to defeat.
Alan Shearer raises hopes as his second-half goal is enough to beat Germany.
A Shearer penalty and Michael Owen goal give England 2-1 lead over Romania after Cristian Chivu's opener, but Dorinel Munteanu's goal and Ionel Ganea's last-minute penalty send the Romanians through and Kevin Keegan's team out.
Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland all failed to qualify
Major international football events very rarely live up to the hype - but this delivered in full, as attacking philosophies largely came to the fore in a flurry of goals and entertainment.
There were poor teams but very few poor games.
England and Germany were two of the worst on show. The former, led by Kevin Keegan, registered a rare victory over the latter in a dour encounter in Charleroi, but both deservedly failed to make it beyond the group stages.
Portugal beat both en route to a semi-final exit at the hands of the French and were rightly applauded for their attacking intent, as were Yugoslavia, whose accompanying defensive frailty was ruthlessly exposed by arguably the tournament's real flair side, the Netherlands, in a blistering six-goal display in the quarters.
The Dutch side and their fervent support lit up the event, and they were the only side to beat an admittedly weakened France in the competition, but their seemingly relentless journey to the final was halted by a semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat to Dino Zoff's methodical Italy, who then came within a whisker of ensuring pragmatism ultimately won out over flair.
However, it would be wrong to vilify the Italians, whose defensive organisation demonstrated a different kind of admirable beauty and heroism, especially in the semi-final, when they successfully repelled the potent attack of the home nation with 10 men for effectively 90 minutes including extra-time following the dismissal of Gianluca Zambrotta after 34 minutes.
The football in the final was not quite as brilliant as much of what had gone before, but it was certainly breathless and the conclusion was pure drama.
With 90 minutes played, Italy looked set for glory thanks to Marco Delvecchio's 55th-minute finish, but France would not be denied and substitute Sylvain Wiltord struck to send the game to extra-time, during which David Trezeguet rifled in a golden goal to ensure France's place in football history.
"I thought we were going to lose that game," admits Petit, who was forced to miss the match through illness.
"Our experience helped us a lot. When you're losing 1-0 to the Italians you know they are going to close up the game and it is end of story. But because we were used to playing under such big pressure and some of the players at that time were playing in Italy as well, we were able to keep our nerve.
"I think the Italians dropped off a little bit. They thought they were winning the tournament, but obviously the game is not done until the whistle is made."
When the whistle was decisively blown in Rotterdam, it heralded the right result as a glittering golden goal provided a fitting finale for one of the most colourful tournaments in living memory.
Euro 2004: When Otto Rehhagel's Greece were crowned kings
Wayne Rooney's emergence as a world star may have captured England's imagination at Euro 2004 - but Lisbon was transformed into the court of "King Otto".
If Denmark's players coming off the beach as late entrants to win Euro 92 was a surprise, then a Greece side that had never won a match at a major tournament cutting a swathe through the superpowers to prevail in Portugal registered an even greater shock.
And at the head of it all, as the arch-strategist plotting this most unlikely course to success, was coach Otto Rehhagel, now 73 and a German guaranteed his place among the Gods of Greeks sport forever.
All about Otto:
Greece's coach Rehhagel was born in Essen, Germany, in August 1938
He played in the very first Bundesliga fixture and was an uncompromising defender
As a player and manager he has participated in more than 1,000 Bundesliga matches
First managerial role at Kickers Offenbach in 1974 - his team lost a game 12-0 against Borussia Dortmund
Had 14 years in charge of Werder Bremen (1981-95)
Took over as Greece coach in 2001 and qualified for Euro 2004 ahead of Spain and Ukraine
Guided Greece, 100-1 outsiders, to a stunning victory
Turned down German national job after Euro 2004
Was named Greek of the Year in 2004 - first foreigner to take the honour
Rehhagel's long career in the Bundesliga had shaped the philosophy of a Greek team that saw qualification for Euro 2004 as a triumph in itself even before that glorious Portuguese summer unfolded.
The purists sniffed that if this Greek team turned up to play in your back garden you would be knocked down in the rush to close the curtains. This mattered not - particularly to Rehhagel and his players - as the fierce defensive discipline, supreme fitness levels, organisation and a self-belief that grew from the moment they beat hosts Portugal 2-1 in their opening game took them to one of their country's greatest sporting moments.
England's Portuguese odyssey ended with a quarter-final defeat on penalties to Portugal after a tense 2-2 draw, the task of Sven-Goran Eriksson's team made even tougher by the loss of their 18-year-old talisman Rooney, then still an Everton striker, with a broken foot midway through the first half.
On the field, Rooney was the shining star of Euro 2004 but the coaching honours went to Rehhagel. A stern figure who brooked no argument on or off the pitch, he delivered a masterclass in how to marshal limited resources.
After emerging from their group by following up their win over Portugal with a 1-1 draw against Spain and a 2-1 defeat by Russia, the surprises really started when defending champions France - complete with Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry - were beaten in the last eight by Angelos Charisteas's powerful second-half header.
It was a performance that was a template for Greek glory. Frustrate, lead, defend with discipline and win.
The highly fancied Czech Republic suffered a similar fate in the semi-final when they lost to Traianos Dellas's "silver goal" in extra time in Porto.
Even then, the legions following the host nation and 63,000 inside Lisbon's Stadium of Light believed Sunday, 4 July was to be their own day of destiny.
Not a bit of it.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo and company went the same way as Greece's previous opponents as Charisteas headed the winner after 57 minutes. And even the most frantic finale in front of passionate home support could not break the resistance in-built by Rehhagel.
In keeping with the tournament, Portugal's fans were wonderfully gracious in defeat. There was not a trace of bitterness or ill-feeling as they accepted their status as victims of an astonishing story and accepted their fate with great dignity.
It was a tale of a triumph for the underdog, for Greece as a country and their players. Their captain was a Leicester City reject, Theo Zagorakis, who seemed almost in a dream as he lifted the trophy and was later named player of Euro 2004.
"We proved once again that the Greek soul is, and always will be, our strength," he said. "It is the greatest gift God ever gave us. We have given the Greek people more than joy with the moment. It will be our pride forever."
And in the scorers of those key goals, Dellas and Charisteas, they had players who were unable to command regular football at club level with AS Roma and Werder Bremen. The manner in which they were inspired by Rehhagel was another of the veteran's triumphs.
Holding it all together was goalkeeper and George Clooney lookalike Antonios Nikopolidis, a reliable last line on the rare occasions the Greek defence was breached.
Charisteas announced at the Stadium of Light: "I call on Greeks everywhere to rejoice and celebrate."
And his countrymen took him at his word as the team returned to be greeted by 100,000 supporters inside the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, home of the first modern Olympics in 1896.
Tens of thousands greeted Rehhagel and his heroes as they made the 25-mile journey from the airport to the arena after the players taxied through an archway of water formed by fire engines.
Euro 2004: Fast facts:
Staged in Portugal from 12 June-4 July
16 teams contested 31 matches, with 77 goals scored at an average of 2.48 per match
Milan Baros of Czech Republic top scored with five goals
Greece's Theo Zagorakis named player of the tournament
England defeated on penalties by Portugal in QF
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland failed to qualify
At the head of it all was "The King" - greeted by chants of "God is German" for the footballing gift that had been bestowed on their country.
The final word must go to Rehhagel, who said: "This was an unusual achievement for Greek football and especially for European football. The opponent was technically better than us but we took advantage of our chances. We should have made it 2-0.
"The Greeks have made football history. It's a sensation. There are always surprises. Remember North Korea beat Italy in the 1966 World Cup in England. This time we are the surprise."
And it remains one of the biggest surprises in football history.
Euro 2008: When Spain came good and Turkey thrilled
Spain supporters used to have a phrase that roughly translated as "we just come here to drink and do not care about the score". That changed at Euro 2008.
It was the tournament when Spain finally cast aside their reputation as perennial under-achievers at international level, starting a journey that would see them crowned world champions two years later, and one which shows no sign of ending.
As the hours ticked down to the final on a sunny Sunday in Vienna, many around the Ernst Happel Stadium thought that the mental strength of a rejuvenated German side astutely coached by Joachim Loew would see them overcome Luis Aragones' Spain.
Euro 2008 fast facts:
7-29 June in Switzerland & Austria
31 matches, 77 goals
Spain's David Villa was the top scorer with four goals
Spain defeated Germany 1-0 in the final
Far from it. This was the period when Fernando Torres' star shone and his finish in the final epitomised the confidence, speed and composure that had been emblematic of his team's progress through the tournament.
"From that day onwards everything changed in Spanish football," said former Chelsea, Barcelona and Spain defender Albert Ferrer.
"It had a massive effect - particularly the self-confidence. Before we did not have the answer as to why we had not won a major tournament for so long, since Euro 1964."
Ferrer, once of Chelsea, was in the side that lost at the quarter-final stage of the 1994 World Cup.
"For so long it had always been the same history, we always had the players but we had never won," he added. "Winning Euro 2008 was a great moment for former Spanish players who got to major tournaments but did not win them. At last someone gave us the happiness of that winning moment."
Spain were undefeated in all their games, scoring 12 goals and conceding three. By the end nobody was talking about Raul, controversially left out of the squad before the tournament. Instead the focus was firmly on a team that had shown that clever angles, adept utilisation of space and breathtaking speed of thought could conquer all.
None of the home nations managed to qualify for Euro 2008
Steve McClaren's England missed out after losing 3-2 to Croatia at a sodden Wembley in their final qualifying game
But Euro 2008 was about much more than the triumph of Spain.
It might have been miserable for the co-hosts, neither of whom qualified from their respective groups, while several heavily fancied teams such as France, thrashed 4-1 by the Dutch on their way to finishing bottom of Group C, performed dismally.
But it was a tournament full of late goals and surprise packages. No wonder people dubbed it Euro two-thousand-and-great (try saying it out loud with a Geordie accent).
No side provided more thrills and entertainment than Turkey, who scored a late winner against co-hosts Switzerland and twice in the last three minutes to stun the Czech Republic, as well as a last-gasp extra-time equaliser against Croatia before winning the subsequent penalty shoot-out 3-1.
They struck late in their semi-final against Germany but opposition full-back Phillip Lahm scored even later to prevent the match from going to extra-time, and with it extinguish Turkey's hopes of reaching their first major final.
Former Bury, Brighton and Sheffield United forward Colin Kazim-Richards played in every game for Turkey in the tournament.
"It was just unbelievable," said British-born Kazim-Richards, who now plays in Greece for Olympiakos.
"We were in camp for several weeks beforehand and during the tournament it can feel like you are in a hotel all the time. But I was just 21 and looking back, it was crazy. The atmosphere inside the grounds was electrifying and there was so much media coverage."
Once known as the 'Coca-Cola Kid' after Brighton funded their purchase of him with cash won by a Seagulls fan in a competition run by the drinks company, Kazim-Richards had moved to Turkish side Fenerbahce in June 2007, just days after making his debut for the national team in a friendly against Brazil.
The Coca Cola Kid:
Born in in Leytonstone, London in 1986
His mother is of Turkish descent and his father Antiguan
Played for Bury, Brighton and Sheffield United before moving to Turkish side Fenerbahce in 2007
Known as the 'Coca Cola Kid' after Brighton funded their purchase of him with money won in a competition run by the drinks company
Moved to Galatasaray in 2011 and is now at Greek side Olympiakos
Made his Turkey debut in 2007 and played in every game at Euro 2008
"In less than a year I had gone from Sheffield United to the semi-finals at Euro 2008," he said.
"Late in 2007 I was named in a provisional Turkey squad of 32 players. I thought I was in there to gain experience and as an encouragement to play well. When I made the 23-man cut it was like 'wow', especially given that players such as Hakan Sukur and Yildiray Basturk had been dropped."
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo asked Kazim-Richards to swap shirts at the end of their group match and the Leytonstone-born winger, who supports Arsenal, struck the woodwork twice against Germany in their memorable semi-final encounter in Basle.
"We scored off the second rebound, although I would have loved for that goal to be mine," added Kazim-Richards. "The first time my shot rattled the crossbar and came miles out, way out of the 18-yard box before it bounced.
"I think we deserved to beat Germany and I think we would definitely have given Spain a better test in the final."
Turkey will not get the opportunity to repeat their heroics this time around in Poland and Ukraine after losing a play-off tie against Croatia, but Kazim-Richards, who has 35 caps, is confident that his nation will be back in the big time soon.
"At Euro 2008 we exceeded people's expectations," he said. "And right now we have got another great bunch of young players coming through."