European Championship Unlikey Heroes XI


Think football is predictable? Think again! There have been countless surprises in the European Championships over the past four decades, and as a result some players coming from nowhere to star.

As we count down the days to Euro 2012 we find a team of unlikely heroes from past tournaments. Enjoy!

Ricardo
(Portugal)

Like most keepers, Ricardo has a few screws loose. First he ripped off his goalie gloves to save Darius Vassell's penalty in 2004, and then stepped up to slam home (impressively it must be added) the winner to send Portugal to the semi-finals.

Gary Neville
(England)

A 21-year-old Gaz Nev had only made 10 apperances for England before putting in a solid tournament performance in 1996, including getting an assist for an Alan Shearer goal against Scotland. He went on to make the right-back slot his own for a decade.

Traianos Dellas
(Greece)

Part of the Greek squad that shocked Europe and took the crown in 2004, Dellas' performances were so good he earned a big money move to Roma after the tournament. Sadly he couldn't replicate them in the Italian capital.

Torben Piechnik
(Denmark)

A young lad who was part of a Denmark squad who were preparing for a summer on the beach before a wildcard entry in 1992. He didn't start a game until the semi-final where he excelled and started in the final. A subsequent move to Liverpool was (ahem) no picnic, though.

Stuart Pearce
(England)

At 34, Pearce was not first choice for England by 1996, but thanks to Graeme Le Saux's broken leg, he was selected and was a rock at left-back as England made the semi-final. He laid to rest the ghosts of 1990 with a thumping penalty against Spain and his rallying cry celebration became the (rather scary) face of the tournament.

John Jensen
(Denmark)

A relative unknown before Euro 1992, Jensen spent most of the tournament blasting the ball over the bar, but got it spot on in the final against Germany, lashing home from outside the box. A move to Arsenal ensued and cult hero status among the Danes was forever secured.

Marcos Senna
(Spain)

A very un-Spanish player was Senna and an unglamourous defensive midfielder for Villarreal, but he played a vital role as Spain won their first international trophy in 2008. He was the older head among a glittering young generation and is widely regarded as one of the reasons they won.

Theo Zagorakis
(Greece)

Yes, THAT Theo Zagorakis who spent the 90s playing for Leicester City captained Greece to Euro 2004 glory from the comfort of central midfield. Embodying everything about that hard-to-beat, close-knit Greek side, 33-year-old Zagorakis revived a flagging career.

Antonin Panenka
(Czechoslovakia)

To all of those footballers who now chip the ball down the middle from the penalty spot; this is the man you have to thank. Panenka tried the audacious chip IN THE 1976 FINAL against Germany. It worked and won the Czechs the trophy. Brave!

Thomas Brolin
(Sweden)

Not exactly an unknown before the 1992 tournament, having moved to Parma for £1.2m two years earlier, Brolin really made a name for himself on home soil, ending up top scorer and scoring a brilliant goal against England. Four years later he moved to Leeds, ate a lot and retired two years later after playing for Crystal Palace. Eek.

Dieter Mueller
(Germany)

Muller came from nowhere to claim top scorer at the 1976 tournament, where he made a hat-trick scoring debut off the bench in the semi-final with Yugoslavia. Another goal in the final wasn't enough to stop a penalty defeat to Czechoslovakia, though.