With newspapers, magazines and websites offering up thousands of words these past few months in anticipation of the European Championships, BTLM is somewhat late to the party with our first post related to the competition days after it got underway. Put it down to apathy. We’re no fans of the enlarged format and we’re also Scottish, which means we’re down on most things – especially a weak-looking competition Scotland is still not good enough to qualify for.
Through gritted teeth we endeavoured to get into the spirit of things and read up on the players we can expect to see over the coming month. A perusal of the squads didn’t lift our enthusiasm levels much, especially the squads of the nations we would identify as traditionally Eastern European. In quality terms there’s thin pickings to be had. Croatia have Modric and Rakitic; elsewhere there’s Cech, Lewandowski, Hamsik, the two decent Ukrainian wingers and not a lot else. We barely recognised anyone from the Hungarian and Romanian squads.
The generational slump in quality among these nations is a shame because the east has such an illustrious history in this competition – much more so than in the World Cup in fact. Thanks to the sterling efforts of the Soviets, Czechs and Yugoslavs; eastern nations served up three Euro winners and six further runners-up between 1960 and 1996.
So it felt apt to produce one of our Eleven fantasy teams comprising the Eastern European players who have made the greatest impact on past final tournaments. We turned to Jonathan O’Brien, a Dublin-based journalist who is in the process of writing a history of this very competition. Here’s the selection he came up with for us and below is more information on these players and the ones who just missed out and had to make do with a place on the bench.
Disagree with these choices? Let us know who would have made your line up. You can find Jonathan on Twitter and his ‘History of the European Championships 1960-2016: Euro Summits’ book will be published in the autumn.
1) Lev Yashin (Appeared at the 1960 & 1964 Finals) Soviet Union 78 caps.
Goalkeeper. Europe’s most famous net-minder and the inspiration behind Soviet success in the inaugural 1960 championship.
2) Ján Pivarník (1976) Czechoslovakia 39 caps, 1 goal
Right-back. Instrumental in Czechoslovakia’s 1976 success and contributed an exceptional individual performance in the Final.
3) Anatoliy Demyanenko (1988) Soviet Union 80 caps, 6 goals
Left-back. An influential member of the powerful Soviet squad that reached the Final of Euro ’88
4) Luka Modrić (2008, 2012) Croatia 90 caps, 10 goals
Deep-lying playmaker. The only contemporary player in this selection and one good enough to have been at home in the great Yugoslav teams of the 60s, 70s and early 90s.
5) Anton Ondruš (1976) Czechoslovakia 58 caps, 9 goals
Central defence. Defensive powerhouse underpinning the Czech’s 1976 win and scorer of two goals in the semi-final defeat of the Dutch.
6) Albert Shesternyov (1964, 1968) Soviet Union 90 caps
Central defence. One of the best defenders in the world during the 1960s and a star performer for the Soviets during the 1964 and 1968 Finals.
7) Karel Poborský (1996, 2000, 2004) Czech Republic 118 caps, 8 goals
Attacking right midfield. Impressed at three Euro tournaments but remembered best for his penetrative attacking play and audacious lobbed goal that took the Czechs to the Final of Euro ’96.
8) Pavel Nedvěd (1996, 2000, 2004) Czech Republic 91 caps, 18 goals
Left central midfield. A leader and creative hub for the Czechs in three successive Euro tournaments.
9) Savo Milošević (2000) Yugoslavia, Serbia 102 caps, 37 goals
Centre forward. Appeared in just a single tournament but was one of its stars. His five goals at Euro 2000 saw him finish as joint top scorer
10) Alexei Mikhailichenko (1988, 1992) Soviet Union, CIS, Ukraine 43 caps, 9 goals
Attacking midfield. An important member of the memorable 1988 Soviet squad and still an effective contributor four years later.
11) Dragan Džajić (1968, 1976) Yugoslavia 85 caps, 23 goals
Left wing. A masterful dribbling genius, Džajić provided much of the creative thrust behind Yugoslavia’s strong 1968 campaign. Although by now nearing the end of his career, the winger was involved in the 1976 finals too.
Subs: Rinat Dasaev (1988), Karol Dobiáš (1976), Murtaz Khurtsilava (1972), Aleksandr Zavarov (1988), Zdeněk Nehoda (1976), Hristo Stoichkov (1996), Milan Baroš (2004, 2008, 2012).