On this day in 2000: Yugoslavia's stunning comeback leaves Slovenia startled

Yugoslavia were trailing 3-0 and down to ten men with 30 minutes left, but recovered to earn a point.

Zlatko Zahovic delivered a fantastic performance. (Image Credit: Twitter)
By Arnab Mukherji | Jun 13, 2021 | 4 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Yugoslavia seemed in deep trouble in their Group C opener against Slovenia, trailing 3-0 with nearly 30 minutes left on the clock. While there were very slim chances of a comeback according to experts and fans, it seemed even bleaker following Sinisa Mihajlovic’s sending off. However, the game of football delivered an exciting turnaround when least expected with Yugoslavia drawing level within the space of seven minutes. Tournament debutants Slovenia were 150-1 outsiders at the beginning of the 2000 edition of the Euros. Two goals from Zlatko Zahovic and Miran Pavlin’s header had calmed the nerves, with Mihajlovic’s sending off making it a merry evening.

However, substitute Savo Milosevic capitalised on their lack of awareness when least expected, scoring twice either side of Ljubinko Drulovic’s left-footed strike. Yogoslavia romped home with an unexpected point on this day (13th June, 2000), leaving Slovenia exceedingly crestfallen. However, what cannot be denied is the latter’s incredible performance in the majority of the game, which made a win nothing short of a formality according to the majority.

Srecko Katanec’s men hit the stride early

Slovenia manager Srecko Katanec inspired his players to hit their stride in unfamiliar surroundings, with Zahovic’s 23rd minute opener an indication of the confidence in the gameplay. The striker converted a header following an inviting ball towards the penalty spot from Ales Ceh who found space to run into on the left. Pavlin dominated the battle in midfield following the opener into the bottom corner, with some extremely neat passing. Zahovic nearly converted a second following a beautiful move from Pavlin, Ceh and Saso Udovic, which ended in a corner after goalkeeper Ivica Kralj’s shrewd decision to race from his line.

Yogoslavia introduced 35-year-old Dragan Stojkovic in order to bring some composure in the game and get back on level terms. He may well have scored two minutes before half-time in case of an accurate cross.

However, Slovenia doubled the advantage within a few minutes after the Yugoslavia No9 had taken up his position, as Pavlin headed in Zahovic’s free-kick. Mihajlovic who had been introduced by Yogoslavia manager Vujadin Boskov early in the second half, soon found himself booked for dissent. He was clearly affected mentally by the yellow card, as evident from a poor pass across the edge of his own area which resulted in Zahovic’s second goal and overall Slovenia’s third. Mihajlovic lost his head completely at this stage, reacting in a rash manner which earned him a second yellow card and overall a sending off. Yogoslavia were down to ten men, and nearly out of the game.

Yugoslavia’s incredible fightback

Djukic raised the hopes of the fans at the far post, scoring the team’s opening goal of the campaign. Milosevic soon made it 2-2 converting after the ball bounced down to him off the bar. The Slovenia defenders seemed down on confidence and rattled by the sudden two goals, which gifted the edge mentally to the Yugoslavia attackers. The same reflected on the game after just three minutes as the scoreline read 3-3 after Drulovic managed to outwit Ceh, delivering the perfect ball for Milosevic to score the equaliser from close range. It could well have ended in a 4-3 win for Yugoslavia if not for a fantastic goal-line clearance by Ivan Dudic to deny Zeljko Milinovic the opportunity to end up as a national hero. Zahovic was named as the Man of the Match, marking the conclusion of an exciting encounter between two top teams.

France’s ultimate triumph

1998 FIFA World Cup winners France emerged victorious at Euro 2000, riding their luck in the final against Italy with Zinedine Zidane delivering a fantastic performance. Italy took an early lead following a fine goal from Marco Delvecchio. However, Sylvain Wiltord beat Francesco Toldo in added time to score the equaliser followed by David Trezeguet smashing home the ‘golden goal’ winner 13 minutes into extra time. “I hit the ball as it dropped. It went in and we became the first team to win the European Championship after winning the World Cup. It was a great thing for our country,” said Trezeguet as quoted by UEFA.

Roger Lemerre had been the assistant to Aime Jacquet when France won the 1998 World Cup. However, he became the first manager of Les Bleus to win a major tournament on foreign soil. Lemerre had previously been in charge of the French army team ten years before becoming a part of the civilian setup. He went on to achieve a unique continental double in 2004 by guiding Tunisia to glory at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Current France manager and former defensive midfielder Didier Deschamps was the winning captain. “A team needs a great general. I hope he will stay on for a long time,” said Lemerre, indicating his appreciation and admiration for the footballer.

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