When Slovakia 'won' the Euros

The team that won Euro 1976 had a very strong Slovak flavour

BY Raf Diallo 12:59 Tuesday 29 March 2016, 12:59 29 Mar 2016

Czechoslovakia soccer team players line up prior to the start of the final game of the European soccer Championships, on June 20, 1976 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Czechoslovakia defeated West Germany 5-3 on penalties to win the Championship. (Ap Photo/Carlo Fumagalli)

Back before the country was dissolved in 1992, Czechoslovakia had been one of the powers of European football.

That could be spread globally when you acknowledge the two World Cup finals they reached in 1934 and 1962 which they lost to Italy and Brazil respectively.

While their World Cup showings were inconsistent with a mix of quarter-final and first round finishes blending in with those two finals, it was the European Championships which saw them enjoy tangible success.

They finished third in the inaugural Euros of 1960 but did not qualify again for that tournament (which was nowhere near the 24-team behemoth of 2016) for the next 16 years.

But 1976 would be a special one for Czechoslovakia and particularly for the second part of that word.

The Slovak core of that side which traveled to Yugoslavia - opening up by beating a Netherlands side which had reached the two World Cup finals either side of 1976 in the semi-final and then taking on reigning world champions Germany in the final - was quite prominent.

The team which took on the Germans in the Belgrade decider contained eight Slovaks while the rest were Czechs. Although it was the Czech Antonin Panenka is the biggest highlight of that 2-2 result for his eponymous winning penalty in the shootout, success could not have been achieved without the Slovak contingent.

It's especially poignant for that portion of the old Czechoslovakia as the Czechs enjoyed huge football prominence in the 1990s and 2000s after the state's break-up while Slovakia did not qualify for a major tournament until 2010 when they enjoyed a good run to the World Cup last-16 by shocking Italy along the way.

But as the Slovaks take on Ireland in a pre-Euro 2016 friendly tonight, they are preparing for a first ever European Championship, 40 years on from when they played a huge part in winning it.

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