Spain and Yugoslavia had always been two great footballing nations who had somehow punched below their weight. Spain had won the Euro in 1964, but had since not been overly successful in spite of important clubs and great expectations. In fact, the 2000 Champions League final had been a purely Spanish affair between Real Madrid and Valencia, with Barcelona also making it to the semi-final.In 2000 they had qualified in awesome style in spite of being in a rather easy group (Israel, Austria, Cyprus and San Marino).
Yugoslavia had in 1992 had the best team in Europe, but had been refused entry to the Euro 1992 because of UN sanctions, and could only see in regret that their replacement, Denmark, had gone on to win the tournament. When the country split, one of the new countries, Croatia, had done well in the 1996 European Championships. In 2000 the remainder of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) qualified for their first European Championship since the civil war. They had won their group against Ireland and Croatia, and had an experienced side of players who had made it to the last-16 in the 1998 World Cup.
Both teams had drawn one another in the first round, together with Norway and Slovenia. Spain had started by sensationally losing 0-1 to Norway, but had then come back to defeat Slovenia 1-2. Yugoslavia had tied Slovenia 3-3 in their opening match and defeated Norway 0-1. This meant that Spain needed a victory to progress, while Yugoslavia could tie, although Norway not winning against Slovenia could put both teams through.
It proved to be one of the most exciting matches of European Championship history.
Yugoslavia had an ageing but very experienced side with an intimate knowledge of Spanish football, since many of the player were or had at some point been playing for Spanish clubs. To mention some: Miroslav Djukic was a prominent Valencia defender, Jovan Stankovic led the midfield at Mallorcaand Savo Milosevic was the striker of Real Zaragoza. Predrag Mijatovic, from Fiorentina, had throughout the 1990s had an extraordinary career in Valencia and then Real Madrid, leading the latter to the 1998 Champions League trophy.
In the 30th minute, after initial Spanish dominance it was in fact Milosevic who brought the Yugoslavs ahead. It happened after an elegant pass on midfield by captain Dragan Stojkovic, who left FC Porto's Ljubinko Robovic with space on the Spanish right side to cross into the area, where Milosevic did not forgive the header.
But Spain continued its pressure and it was only eight minutes before Real Madrid's star, Raul, made a good run on the Yugoslav defense. The Real Betis striker picked up the ball and shipped the ball past the PSV Eindhoven keeper Ivica Krajl.
The first half was all in all intense, with dramatic duels and a Yugoslav side that played all its cards, in particular physically, to disturb the Spanish game. The French referee, Gilles Veissere was having a difficult time keeping the players and spectators adrenaline under control. It did not improve in the second half.
Both coaches made changes in halftime, and it was Boskov who initially benefitted: the RKC Waalwijk midfielder Dejan Govedarica had come on for Vladimir Jugovic, and after five minutes he scored on a strong shot from the edge of the Spanish area with no chance for the Valencia keeper Santiago Canizares.
But again Spain struck back, and again it was a substitute. Racing Santander striker Pedro Munitis had come on for Michel Salgado in Camacho's attempt to strengthen the offensive, and it soon bore fruit when Munitis's curling shot from the edge of the area became an equalizer for Spain.
Tension grew, and in the 60th minute the French referee gave the Deportivo la Coruna player Slavica Jokanovic his second yellow card. This infuriated the Yugoslav players and fans, and amid chaotic scenes a fan even came on the pitch trying to attack the referee. But the decision remained and things now looked more difficult for Yugoslavia down to 10 men against a Spanish team that would now increase its pressure. But the Yugoslavs had been in this situation before: they had come back from 0-3 against Slovenia and had won against Norway being only ten men on the pitch. So perhaps it surprised only the Spaniard when Slobodan Komljenovic, who plied his trade in Kaiserslautern in Germany, brought Yugoslavia ahead 3-2 inside the Spanish area when the Spanish defense proved unable to get the ball away in a scramble.
Everything seemed to be going against a Spanish side that had again entered the tournament as favourites and had scored an impressive 42 goals in qualification. It was now everything forward for the Spaniards against an experienced Yugoslav defense with a deadly counter-attack.
The referee unsurprisingly added a lot of time due to the incidences with spectators and many duels during the first half, but according to the Yugoslavs it was too much. It was four minutes into stoppage time when Govedarica brought down the Barcelona defender Abelardo, and the referee immediately awarded Spain a penalty. It was not a big penalty, but Valencia's midfield-general, Gaizka Mendieta, was cool and scored the equalizer.
In the other match in the group Norway and Slovenia had tied 0-0, and the result of this match would put Norway and Yugoslavia through.
It seemed to be impossible and everything was thrown forward by the Spaniards. In the dying seconds (96th minute) Barcelona's Pep Guardiola just kicked the ball into the area, where Atheltic Bilbao's Ismael Urzaiz headed it towards Alfonso at the edge of the area. Without time, and barely without thinking, Alfonso just kicked first time, and the ball went through two Yugoslav defenders and into goal.
Spain erupted in wild celebrations while the Yugoslavs complained bitterly. The match ended right there, and the referee had to be escorted by police as angry Yugoslav fans tried to attack him. Hit by a coin, the referee went out bleeding.
But Yugoslavia were not out. The real losers of this match were Norway, who were out of the tournament. Yugoslavia progressed to the next round where they were trashed 6-1 by the Netherlands. A Spanish side full of hope lost to the later champions of France.
Nevertheless both teams had given fans one of the most memorable and dramatic matches of Euro history.
Brugges, 21st June 2000,
Jan Breydel Stadion
Referee: Gilles Veissiere, France
Yugoslavia: Ivica Krajl; Slobodan Komljenovic, Miroslav Djukic, Sinisa Mihaijlovic, Goran Djorovic (Jovan Stakovic, 12), Dragan Stojkovic (c) (Nisa Saveljic, 68), Vladimir Jugovic (Dejan Govedarica, 46), Slavica Jokanovic (RC, 63), Ljubinko Drulovic, Predrag Mijatovic, Savo Milosevic. Coach: Jujadin Boskov
Spain: Santiago Canizares; Michel Salgado (Pedro Munitis, 46), Abelardo (c), Paco (Izmail Urzaiz, 64), Sergi, Gaizka Mendita, Pep Guardiola, Ivan Helguera, Fran (Joseba Etxeberria, 22), Raul, Alfonso. Coach: Jose Antonio Camacho
1-0 Milosevic (30)
1-1 Alfonso (38)
2-1 Govedarica (50)
2-2 Munitis (51)
3-2 Komljenovic (75)
3-3 Mendieta (94) (pen)
3-4 Alfonso (96)