History

Revisiting Chelsea players’ past Euro finals

The destination of the Henri Delaunay trophy will be decided on Sunday night at Wembley Stadium, as the European Championship concludes. We take a trip down memory lane to look back at how former Blues have got on with the continental trophy at stake.

Twenty-one years have passed since one of our players first got their hands on the Euro silverware – well, to be more specific, it was three members of our team at that time who were part of the triumphant France squad at Euro 2000.

Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps and Frank Leboeuf were part of the Les Bleus set-up that was heavily favoured to win the tournament held in the Netherlands and Belgium, having lifted the World Cup two years earlier on home soil.

Although Leboeuf was largely kept in reserve throughout the competition, Deschamps captained the side and Desailly was a vital member of their miserly backline, as they overcame difficult knockout ties against Spain and Portugal to book a meeting with Italy in the final.

Marco Delvecchio’s tidy finish in the 55th minute looked to have secured the trophy for the Azzurri, but a goal from Sylvain Wiltord deep into stoppage time took the final into extra time. There was only going to be one winner from there, as David Trezeguet blasted in an unstoppable Golden Goal to complete a World Cup and Euros double for the French.

That meant the trio of Desailly, Deschamps and Leboeuf were the first Chelsea players to get their hands on the Henri Delaunay trophy, an experience that eluded Michael Ballack when he became the next Blue to reach the final of the competition in 2008.

The experienced midfielder went into the tournament in Austria and Switzerland off the back of a mixed campaign at the Bridge; while Bally enjoyed arguably his best season for the club on a personal basis, we finished as runners-up in three competitions, including the Champions League.

Just as he had done for Chelsea, Ballack stepped up to the plate for Germany at key moments, starting with what was effectively a play-off match against Austria at the end of the group stage, when he rifled home the decisive goal from a free-kick.

The captain rose to the occasion again in the quarter-finals, as Germany came up against a Portugal side managed by Luiz Felipe Scolari, who had announced that he was on his way to Chelsea for the new season. Ballack headed home a set-piece to score the winner in a 3-2 thriller.

Germany then saw off Turkey in the semi-finals, but it was not to end in glory as they lost a tense final against Spain. To add insult to injury, Bally suffered a nasty cut to his eye in a fiery game in which the Germans came out second best, with the winning goal coming from the boot of Fernando Torres.

That leads us nicely onto Euro 2012, which was the last time anyone playing for Chelsea reached the final of the tournament. Torres, as you may well have guessed, was one of those players, and the other was Juan Mata.

Like our French trio earlier in the piece, Spain were coming into this tournament with silverware behind them – in fact, they were looking to complete a hat-trick, having won the Euros in 2008 and the World Cup two years later.

Although Mata was largely a bit-part player, Torres scored twice in the group-stage win over the Republic of Ireland, as Spain cruised through and then saw off France and Portugal in the first two knockout rounds. Italy would await in the final.

There was no stopping arguably the greatest international side in the history of the game, and it was an incredible occasion for Torres and Mata in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, as both men were on target late on to seal Spain’s 4-0 victory.

Torres came off the bench to become the first man to score in two European Championship finals, while it was also a Golden Boot-winning strike as it moved him into a tie with the other top scorers on three goals. He was level with Mario Gomez on the first tie-breaker, which was assists, so it came down to minutes played, of which Torres had 92 fewer.

It all could have been moot had he gone for goal himself in the 88th minute, but instead of shooting when one-on-one with the keeper, he laid the ball off to Mata for the simplest of finishes, thus securing the biggest winning margin in a European Championship final and giving his mate a memory he’ll never forget.

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