Euro 2000

Group C

Spain 4 - Yugoslavia 3

Spain: Cañizares; Salgado (Munitis 46'), Paco (Urzaiz 65'), Abelardo, Sergi; Mendieta, Guardiola, Iván Helguera, Fran (Etxeberria 22'); Raúl, Alfonso. 4-4-2.
Yugoslavia: Kralj; Komljenovic, Djukic, Mihailovic, Djorovic (Stankovic 12'); Jugovic (Govedarica 46'), Jokanovic, Stojkovic (Saveljic 70'), Drulovic; Mijatovic, Milosevic. 4-4-2.

0-1. 30. Milosevic. Header after cross from Drulovic on left.
1-1. 39. Alfonso. First time shot after Raúl brought ball through defence.
2-1. 50.Govedarica. Bent shot past keeper from edge of area after Drulovic pass.
2-2. 51. Munitis. Took cross from Etxeberria and shot in off post.
2-3. 75. Komljenovic. Placed ball past keeper after Mihailovic free kick.
3-3. 92. Mendieta (penalty). After referee awarded foul on Abelardo in area.
4-3. 94. Alfonso. Left foot shot after Urzaiz headed back Guardiola's centre.

Unbelievable, incredible, fantastic. I'm sorry, I don't have enough words in English to describe it. Only now, two days later, have my hands stopped trembling enough to sit down and write (well, that may be due as well to the quantities of Rioja that my friend Goran Arsic and I have consumed in the last 48 hours). It is being described as the best match of the last 100 years, and as far as Spain is concerned it must be (with the possible exception of the 12-1 against Malta to qualify for the finals in December 1983). Coming back from behind three times, and still losing with the 90 minutes up, we scored twice in injury time to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and go through to the quarter finals as group champions.

The reaction of the radio commentators in Spain will go down in history. None of your impartial British cold blood here, 'oh well done chaps, and bad luck Yugoslavia'. On one, the excited reporter shouted goal to the tune of the Spanish national anthem 'gol gol, go go gol, go go go go go go go go gol, gol, gol, gol, go go go go go gol etc., etc. (you know how it goes). On another, the commentator declared that 'God exists, and he is Spanish!'. All of Spain, and even in Cataluña (usually anti-Spanish), people danced on into the night. In four minutes 'la selección' went from being a second rate bunch of no-hopers to the best side ever to have worn the red and blue colours of our country.

Nobody expected this ninety five minutes earlier. The general atmosphere was pessimistic, with the team needing to beat an improving Yugoslavia to be sure of playing the quarter finals. Camacho was missing his team captain Hierro, nursing a recurrent injury, and Abelardo and Paco played in the centre of defence, with Sergi coming in for Aranzábal at left back to give more speed on the left hand side. The manager decided to rest Etxeberria, moving Mendieta to his natural position on the right and bringing back Fran on the left, with the on-form Iván Helguera replacing Valerón in midfield. Once again my Balkans advisor from Croatia Goran Arsic came with me to give his comments on Yugoslavia, although with four of the starting line up (Djorovic, Djukic, Jokanovic and Milosevic) playing in Spain and old friends such as Jugovic and Mijatovic also in the side, this was not like the unknown Slovenia.

Celta's Djorovic only lasted 12 minutes before he had to go off, and Fran only lasted ten minutes longer after getting caught by an elbow from his Coruña team mate Jokanovic. Etxeberria came on for him, with Mendieta switching to the left. On the half hour mark Zaragoza's top striker Savo Milosevic scored his fourth of the tournament, but eight minutes later Alfonso levelled the scores with an opportunist goal. At half time Camacho decided to go for broke, and brought on Munitis for Michel Salgado. That created confusion with the BBC commentators, who noted that a left sided forward was coming on for the right back. What they didn't know was that the versatile Mendieta started his career as right back, and he fell back to that position to allow Munitis to play on the left. And within six minutes the diminutive Racing Santander forward had made his mark, scoring our side's second goal, but not before Yugoslavia's own second half substitute Govedarica had put them back in the lead. Just after the hour mark Yugoslavia were reduced to ten men for the third match in a row after Jokanovic picked up a second yellow card, and Camacho decided to take off another defender, Paco, putting on centre forward Urzaiz, with Helguera dropping back to defensive duties. However as Goran pointed out, the East Europeans are at their most dangerous with a man less, and Komljenovic took advantage of a gap in the defence to give Yugoslavia the lead for the third time.

It was now time for the French referee Giles Veissière to step in. Maybe he didn't like the idea of France playing Yugoslavia in the next round, or he could have had a small wager on Spain reaching the next round. Whatever the case, he and the fourth man found five minutes of injury time, and as a corner came over from the right, Abelardo fell backwards in the goalmouth. Camera angles didn't really allow us to analyse the play afterwards, but I suppose it was academic; the referee pointed to the spot, and Mendieta stepped up to place it past Kralj. Our hearts were in our mouths as the players celebrated the goal for what seemed an age. Afterwards it transpired that Camacho had told them that a goal would be enough, and they thought it was all over. It was two minutes later however, as Alfonso's desperate shot left Kralj stranded, and Spain were through, incredibly as group leaders. Even Camacho jumped up hugging Guardiola and punching the air as the players, trainer staff and probably a couple of tea ladies as well piled on top of the goal scorer in scenes of madness.

After the match there was an ugly scene as a Yugoslavian thug charged towards the referee. In an earlier incident Milosevic (and Guardiola) had neutralised the 'supporter', but this time the Yugoslavian players appeared to stand aside, (probably hoping for him to reach his target), and it was left to Alfonso to step in bravely to push him aside. Both Milosevic and Alfonso were rewarded by UEFA afterwards with fair play awards for their actions. As it was the hooligan could have saved himself a probable fine and ejection from the country, as Norway could do no more than draw 0-0 with Slovenia, and Yugoslavia go through as second in the group. The faces of the Norwegian supporters were a picture as the news sank in that they were not going any further in the competition, but having only scored one goal in three matches they really didn't deserve to do so. Later in the day world champions France lost to Holland which means that we play them in Bruges in a few days time. Watch out 'les bleus', the Spanish fury is on its way!