Euro Moments: First ever finals match throws up a nine-goal thriller
Entertainment was aplenty when France and Yugoslavia met in the inaugural 1960 match
The Soviet Union take on Czech Republic during the 1960 European Nations’ Cup. The Soviets would go on to win the first ever tournament in France. Photo: Getty Images
If a bookie had been crazy enough to offer odds on the first ever game at a European Championship tournament finals producing more than the present day betting staple of 2.5 goals, there would surely have been a great many more takers than spectators who actually showed up at the Parc des Princes on July 6th, 1960 to see France take on Yugoslavia.
There were 26,370 at the game, well short of the 40,000 capacity, a sign that like the various nations that had decided against entering, many Parisians were unsure about this newly created tournament.
The Yugoslavs had beaten Austria 9-4 over two legs to reach this stage of the competition while the host had beaten Portugal 6-3. It took 11 minutes for the fun to start when the pair of them came up against each other.
Milan Galic got the opener with Jean Vincent levelling things up for the locals within a minute or so. That was how it stood at the break after which François Huette and Maryan Wisnieski both hit the target to give the French a commanding lead.
Ante Žanetic quickly pulled one back to make it 3-2 but when Huette got his second with just over an hour played, it seemed that the hosts might finally be edging into a winning position.
With 15 minutes to go, though, Tomislav Knež tightened things up again and the French then crumbled with the finish line in sight, allowing Drazan Jerkovic to score twice and in a minute or so and give Yugoslavia a 5-4 lead that they held onto through the closing stages.
The Yugoslavs would be beaten in the final by the Soviets but Jerkovic went on to succeed France’s Just Fontaine as holder of the World Cup’s Golden Boot two years later and, like the Moroccan born striker, he would eventually manage his country too.
Many, though, were left to wonder how that first tournament would have turned out had Fontaine been fit to play. The then 26 year-old had scored 13 goals in six games at the 1958 World Cup (the whole Golden Boot thing hadn’t actually been thought up yet so after he returned home a local newspaper presented him with an air rifle in recognition of the achievement) and, having won the title with Reims that season, he had been the joint top scorer in the European Championship qualifying despite only having played in two of the five games it took France to get there.
He missed the last, the visit to Vienna, due to a broken leg, one of two such injuries he would suffer in 1960, a run of bad luck that would prematurely end his international career. By then he had scored 21 goals in 10 just competitive games.