Many facts about the men’s European Championships are well-known, like that it started in 1960 and Cristiano Ronaldo is the all-time top-scorer with 14 goals. However, you may not be aware of the individual Golden Boot winners in each edition since the European Nations Cup as it was initially known started 60 years ago with Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, France and Yugoslavia.
The inaugural Golden Boot was shared between the Soviet pair of Viktor Ponedelnik and Valentin Ivanov, Yugoslav duo Dražan Jerković and Milan Galić and Frenchman François Heutte. Ponedelnik claimed a share of the award in the best possible fashion, netting an extra-time winner in the final after Milan Galić had given Yugoslavia the lead.
Four years later, the award was shared between a trio with the Hungarian pair Dezső Novák and Ferenc Bene both netted twice alongside Spaniard Chus Pereda. Novák and Bene shared three goals to earn Hungary the consolation of winning the third-place play-off against Denmark but Pereda upstaged them both by scoring the opener in the final as Spain denied the Soviets consecutive titles.
The third edition finally saw the first outright winner with the honour going to Yugoslavia’s Dragan Džajić, a small consolation after his side’s final defeat to Italy. A tricky winger, Džajić was seen by many to be one of the finest exponents of wing-play of his generation and his late goal against world champions England had seen Yugoslavia reach their first Euros final. He scored again in the final second goal but a late Italy goal forced a replay they scarcely deserved and the Italians ran out comfortable 2-0 winners in the rematch.
Džajić earned another consolation later that year with third-place in the 1968 Ballon d’Or standings behind Manchester United duo George Best and Bobby Charlton. The young star had seemingly started a trend as the following five editions of the famous tournament all saw sole Golden Boot winners.
In 1972, predatory German forward Gerd Muller, who had netted 10 goals at the World Cup two years previously, making him the competition’s all-time top-scorer, was on a one-man mission. The marksman netted a brace against Belgium as Germany reached the final on their European Championships debut and repeated the feat as they brushed the Soviet Union aside 3-0.
His compatriot and namesame Dieter claimed the award in the next edition, also scoring four times although Germany failed to defend their title, losing to Czechoslovakia in the final. In a dramatic semi-final, Muller’s strike eight minutes from time saw xxx’s men claw back a two-goal deficit to force extra-time where the FC Koln forward pounced twice more for a 4-2 triumph.
Germany were aiming to become the first country to win consecutive European Championships but again they fell 2-0 down before Muller reduced the deficit but they had to wait until the 89th minute before Bernd Holzenbein struck to again take it to the extra period.
With no further goals, penalties was required for the first time in a major tournament final and Muller either didn’t volunteer for a penalty or in the event was not able to as, after Uli Hoeness missed, Antonin Panenka chipped the ball down the middle past Sepp Maier to seal a surprise Czech victory and coin a phrase still used today.
A hat-trick of German Golden Boot winners was sealed in 1980 as Klaus Aloffs netted three times in the first Championships to feature eight teams and a group stage. All of Aloffs’ goals came in one match when he scored his first and only hat-trick for the national team in a 3-2 win against the Netherlands.
The 1984 tournament saw a record which still stands to this day courtesy of Michel Platini as the flamboyant Frenchman claimed the Golden Boot with nine goals. He made an impact in the opening game by netting a late winner against Denmark to get the hosts off to the perfect start. From there he took off with successive hat-tricks in contrasting encounters against Belgium and Yugoslavia.
Platini firstly led a five-goal thrashing of Belgium, impressively slamming home at the near post before completing the rout with a late penalty and header. A second treble in three days followed in a 3-2 win over Yugoslavia as he produced an impressive second-half performance to seal France’s place in the last four.
Les Bleus had fallen behind but just before the hour, their talisman slid home Jean-Marc Ferreri’s cross to equalise and become the first player to score five times at a single Championships, before putting his side ahead minutes later with a brilliant header. His best goal was saved until last as he curled home a wonderful free-kick and despite a Yugoslavia rally, the hosts held on.
In a dramatic semi-final, Platini saw his side trail in normal time and extra time against Portugal but when his country needed him the most he did not disappoint, coolly slotting home in the 119th minute to send France to their first major final.
The xxx man would not be found wanting in the showpiece against Spain either as his free-kick squirmed through the grasp of Luis Arconada to give France the lead with Bruno Bellone’s last-minute goal, the first by a French striker at the tournament, confirming victory.
In 1988, Marco Van Basten became the first Dutch player to win the award and capped a brilliant tournament with arguably the best goal ever scored at the championships. Having started in the worst possible fashion by losing to the Soviet Union, the Netherlands striker kick-started his own and his country’s tournament with a hat-trick against England.
Starting after having come off the bench in the opener, van Basten gave his side the lead after dancing past Tony Adams and slotting past Peter Shilton. Bryan Robson equalised for England but the Netherlands regained the lead with van Basten firing home before completing his hat-trick when he flicked home from a corner.
A win against the Republic of Ireland followed to secure a place in the last-four against hosts Germany and with the scores level at 1-1, the Oranje’s main man avenged their 1974 World Cup final defeat by converting Jan Wouter’s pass two minutes from time.
A rematch of their group stage encounter against the Soviet Union faced them in the final but this time van Basten would have a key part to play. Ruud Guillt had given the Netherlands the lead but they still would have wanted a two-goal cushion when Arnold Muhren floated a cross beyond the far post in the 54th minute to find their main man.
The obvious option would be for van Basten to take a touch and cross it back in but he unleashed a stunning looping volley over Rinat Dasaev and into the far top corner to crown a maiden major trophy for the Netherlands in style.
In 1992 the Golden Boot was again shared between three players with the Netherlands’ Dennis Bergkamp, Denmark Henrik Larsen, Germany’s Karl Heinz-Riedle and Sweden Tomas Brolin scoring three goals apiece. The latter shone in the group stage with winners against Denmark and England with Bergkamp also netting twice in victories over Scotland and Germany.
Riedle and Larsen both scored solitary goals in the group stages, the German scoring the opener against Scotland and Larsen doing the same against France. The semi-finals pitted Brolin against Riedle and the German came out on top with his late double sealing a place in the final after Brolin had pulled one back for the Swedes. Larsen also scored twice in a last-four encounter, either side of a Bergkamp strike as Denmark met the Netherlands, with a late Frank Rijkaard goal forcing extra-time and eventually penalties which Denmark won 5-4.
It was back to the sole winner for Euro ‘96 as Alan Shearer topped the charts but could not take hosts England all the way to the final. His 12-game international drought ended in the opening half-hour of the tournament as he slammed Terry Venables’ men into the lead against Switzerland but had to settle for a point after Kübilay Türkyilmaz’s late penalty.
Shearer’s next goal however led to an England win, and a vital one at that, over Scotland. He gave them a second-half lead by heading in a pinpoint Gary Neville cross to become the first Englishman to score more than once at a European Championships.
The Blackburn striker’s best performance came in the final group game against the Netherlands as he again gave England the lead, this time with a typically emphatic penalty before doubling his tally by slamming home from a Teddy Sheringham lay-off.
His final goal of the tournament saw England make the perfect start in their semi-final against Germany as he headed home from a corner after just three minutes but agonisingly England would lose on penalties. In Euro 2000, held in Belgium and the Netherlands and the Golden Boot was a joint affair too with Netherlands’ Patrick Kluivert and Yugoslavia’s Savo Milosevic both matched Shearer’s total.
Kluivert struck twice in the group stage, the opener in a comfortable win against Denmark before an early equaliser against France which they twice trailed but came back to win. In contrast, Milosevic started in imperious fashion with his second-half double helped Yugoslavia earn a remarkable point against Slovenia having trailed 3-0.
He backed this up with the winner against Norway before another early strike, heading in a Ljubinko Drulović cross put Yugoslavia ahead against Spain and despite a late Spain comeback, he would play in the knockout rounds. Here they met Kluivert’s men and they had no answer to the Dutch forward who netted two first-half goals before completing his hat-trick by volleying in Bolo Zenden’s cross shortly after half-time with Milosevic’s fifth goal of the tournament a small consolation from a 6-1 thrashing.
Portugal 2004 saw a surprise winner in Greece and also in the Golden Boot stakes as Czech Republic striker Milan Baros scored five times. His first goal helped the Czechs recover from conceding in first-half stoppage time against Latvia, equalising with just over 15 minutes left before Marek Heinz grabbed the winner. The second game saw Baros’ goal again restore parity as he lashed home a stunning half-volley from the edge of the area as Karel Brückner’s men came back from 2-0 down with Vladimir Smicer scoring a late winner.
Baros’ third strike continued his and his team’s perfect record when he slotted home after Oliver Kahn had saved his initial shot to claim maximum points against Germany. He then produced his best performance of the tournament with a quickfire double against Denmark to fire the Czechs into the semi-final, firstly coolly lifting the ball over Thomas Sorenson before firing home from a Pavel Nevded pass.
At Euro 2008 Spain ended their wait for a major title and David Villa claimed the Golden Boot with his four strikes. Three of them came in the opening game against Russia as he became only the seventh player in finals history to score a European Championships hat-trick.
His first goal came after good work from Fernando Torres who rounded Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and unselfishly allowed Villa an easy finish. Spain and Villa’s second came when he fired past Akinfeev after excellent work from Andres Inestia and he completed his first international hat-trick as he beat Roman Shirokov before sweeping home.
A fourth and final goal of the tournament came in the following game and proved to be a vital one as he ran clear to slot past Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Iasksson for an injury-time winner. History repeated itself four years later as Spain retained their title and Fernando Torres finished as top scorer, courtesy of playing less minutes than Germany’s Mario Gomez.
Both players scored three times and claimed one assist but the Spaniard played 189 minutes compared to Gomez’s 282 as the tie-break started in 2008 was used for the first time. Torres’ first goals came in his second game against the Republic of Ireland as he opened the scoring by slamming high past Shay Given at his near post before slotting home after being sent clear in the second half.
His third and final goal came in the dying stages of the final and saw him become the first player to score in two championship finals while an even later assist for Chelsea team-mate Juan Mata saw him claim the Golden Boot with the assist matching Gomez’s tally.
The last edition of the European Championships in 2016 did not require a tie-breaker to decide the Golden Boot as home star Antoine Griezmann scored six times for France. He actually only netted once in the group stage but it was an important win, heading in an Adil Rami cross in the 90th minute to effectively give France three points against Albania.
His tally was doubled in the round of 16 against the Republic of Ireland as he helped them recover from conceding early with two quickfire second half strikes. Firstly he nodded home from a Bacary Sagna cross and four minutes later completed the turnaround, slamming past Darren Randolph from Oliver Giroud’s knockdown.
Facing surprise quarter-finalists Iceland, the Atletico Madrid forward grabbed his fourth goal by calmly chipping goalkeeper Hannes Halldórsson as France ran out convincing 5-2 winners. In the last four Griezmann fired the hosts into the showpiece with a goal in each half against Germany, firstly sending Manuel Neuer the wrong way to convert his first penalty of the tournament before prodding home after Neuer could only parry across.
Griezmann’s tally of six goals is the closest anyone has come to surpassing Platini’s record nine goals, and it is unlikely his countryman’s record will be beaten this year with Czech Republic’s Patrik Schick the highest goalscorer left in the competition at the quarter-final stage with four goals; Cristiano Ronaldo (5), Emil Forsberg (4) and Karim Benzema (4) have all been eliminated.
By: Sam Harris / @sam_harris96
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Peter Robinson – EMPICS – PA Images / Neal Simpson – EMPICS – PA Images / Alessandro Sabattini / Getty