Rewind, Euro 2000: Spain's incredible comeback against Yugoslavia to book spot in quarter-finals

Needing to win, Spain were heading out as they entered added time 3-2 down; then came an incredible comeback.

Spain came back from the dead to book their place in the Euro 2000 quarter-finals. (Image Credit: Twitter)
By Arnab Mukherji | Jun 21, 2021 | 4 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Spain was certainly one of the favourites going into Euro 2020, considering the presence of some of the best in the business. Manager Luis Enrique was supremely confident about the prowess of players like Ferran Torres and Alvaro Morata, opting not to include a single Real Madrid player in the squad. It is certainly a bold move when the likes of Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal fail to secure a spot in the team designed by a manager. However, plans have not exactly worked out as expected for Spain so far, with the team recording two draws in as many matches against Sweden and Poland. Goals have been at a premium, with the opening goal of the campaign so far scored in the previous match against Poland.

Bearing this in mind, let’s take a look at the incredible comeback pulled off by Spain in a memorable Group C encounter against Yugoslavia to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2000. The team came back from the dead to book their place in the knockouts which seemed unlikely at one stage.

Spain needed a win at any cost going into the match. However, they entered added time 3-2 down despite facing off against a side that had been reduced to ten men. Slavisa Jokanovic’s 63rd-minute dismissal had cost Yugoslavia a player in a crucial encounter. Fortunately, it had not cost them big till added time. Things changed when Spain earned a penalty after Abelardo went down in a packed box, with Gaizka Mendieta scoring from the resulting spot-kick. The scoreline read 3-3, with fans on the edge of their seats. However, what followed after that made them jump in excitement and happiness as Alfonso Perez maintained his composure amidst a knockdown to score his second goal of the game, enabling Spain to pull off a 4-3 triumph against the odds.

“There was basically no midfield. “They struck us and we hit back; we didn’t sit in the corner hiding, hoping for the storm to blow over. It was bam bam bam, all-out attack. When I scored [to make it 3-3], it took me a second to realise what the score was. I knew I had to pick up the ball and get it back to the centre circle. We had that winning mentality,” recalls Gaizka Mendieta as quoted by UEFA’s official website.

The Spanish contingent at the Jan Breydelstadion celebrated wildly, with Yugoslavia able to celebrate as well having qualified for the quarter-finals following the news, over the loudspeaker of Norway’s goalless draw with Slovenia 200km away, in Arnhem. The result left Yugoslavia level on points with Norway. Vujadin Boskov’s side advanced to a clash against the Netherlands due to a superior head-to-head record.

Yugoslavia’s sensational performance deserves appreciation

However, Yugoslavia’s performance cannot be discounted despite surrendering the initiative in the last few minutes. They were extremely impressive early on with Sinisa Mihajlovic making his presence felt with a stunning display. In-form Savo Milosevic further troubled the Spanish team, with a fine performance. Jose Antonio Camacho’s players did attempt their best, with Mendieta twice foiled by goalkeeper Ivica Kralj. However, they fell behind on the half-hour mark courtesy a stunning goal by Milosevic, who headed in his fourth goal of the tournament. Vladimir Jugovic released Ljubinko Drulovic, with the winger’s cross providing the perfect support.

Spain drew level eight minutes later, as Raul Gonzalez guided the ball along into the penalty area, with Alfonso taking advantage of a petrified Yugoslavia defence to score the equalizer. Substitute Joseba Exteberria further volleyed past the post, enabling Spain to end a breathtaking first half firmly on the front foot. Yugoslavia made a comeback in this scenario with half-time substitute Dejan Govedarica latching on to Drulovic’s pass, to fire in the equaliser. Spain responded immediately with another replacement, Pedro Munitis smashing an excellent 18-metre shot past Krajl. Jokanovic received his marching orders after a second yellow card soon after. While one would have expected Yugoslavia to go on to the backfoot in such a scenario, they went ahead a third time with 15 minutes left as Slobodan Komljenovic’s brilliant strike seemed decisive.

Interestingly, Manchester City and former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola was named as the man of the match.

Yugoslavia: Kralj; Komljenovic, Djukic, Mihajlovic, Djorovic (J. Stankovic 12), Stojkovic (c) (Saveljic 68), Jugovic (Govedarica 46), Jokanovic, Drulovic; Mijatovic, Milosevic. Substitutes: Korac, Cicovic, Dudic, Bunjevcevic, D. Stankovic, Kovacevic, Nadj. Coach: Vujadin Boskov.

Spain: Canizares; Michel Salgado (Munitis 46), Abelardo (c), Paco (Urzaiz 64), Sergi Barjuan; Mendieta, Guardiola, Ivan Helguera, Fran (Etxeberria 22); Raul Gonzalez, Alfonso Perez. Substitutes: Casillas, Molina, Gerard, Velasco, Hierro, Aranzabal, Valeron, Engonga. Coach: Jose Antonio Camacho.

Belgium and the Netherlands co-hosted Euro 2000 between 10 June and 2 July 2000. Each nation provided four venues. Brussels’ Roi Baudouin Stadium staged the opener, with Bruges’ Jan Breydel Stadium, Liege’s Stade Marcel Dufrasne and Charleroi’s Stade du Pays de Charleroi also holding games.

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