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The Six Greatest Partnerships In The History Of The Euros

The Six Greatest Partnerships In The History Of The Euros
By Balls Team Updated

Cast your minds back to Ireland's miserable mid-tournament wobble in Bordeaux. Shane Long was asked to play up front all on his own-io against the sexy Belgians. We bombed long and hopeful high balls in on top of him all day. He slaved away to little effect achieving little against the composed and unhurried Belgian rearguard.

He functions better with a partner, as the arrival of Daryl Murphy alongside him for the Italy and France game proved. Two men working in tandem can produce wonderful magic as John Giles will tell you, before going on to expound on why he and Billy Bremner made such glorious music together.

Sharing a mutual appreciation for quality pairings, we’ve teamed up with Four Star Pizza – who are offering customers a double deal throughout the Euros – to bring you six of the finest duos in European championship history.

Shearer & Sheringham, 1996

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JTOUq0REjI

A tournament which attracts more and more nostalgia from the Britishers, not least because they appear to be drifting further and further away from major championship glory.

Since '66, England have twice reached semi-finals, in Italia 90 and Euro 96. The German prowess from the penalty spot was responsible for them going no further on each occasion.

While they reached the last four in Italy without the benefit of home advantage, in Euro 96, they were even more dominant in the fateful semi-final.

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After a dispiriting draw with the Swiss, England took wing, dispatching the Scots 2-0 and then dismantling Holland 4-1 in the final group game. The latter was easily the finest England performance for years.

By 1996, Shearer was hitting his absolute peak. He remains the finest example of the traditional England centre-forward, the very best that that genre has to offer.

He smacked in goals in every match, bar the Spain 0-0 draw in the quarter-final.

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Shearer, the goalscoring machine, was joined up front by the slinky provider Teddy Sherringham, a dutiful second striker and magnificently creative foil. The pair complimented each other beautifully.

Together, they gutted a Dutch team whom the English nation had previously associated with beautiful football.

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Iniesta & Xavi, 2008-2012

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf9bFzvYm-Q

The most important men in the most dominant team of the past fifty years.

In 2008, aided by the great Marcos Senna, who has been shamefully overlooked in the years since, they were hugely influential in helping Spain overcome the historic underachievers label in winning the competition in Austria.

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Senna departed with Aragones after 2008 and thereafter Xavi and Iniesta hogged even more of the limelight. They were the two indispensable figures in Spain's rise from great team to historically significant team.

Iniesta, the more advanced of the duo, struck the winner as Spain beat Holland in the World Cup Final in South Africa. Two years later, amid whispers of slippage, they produced one of their most complete performances gutting Italy 4-0 to win Euro 2012.

Jack Charlton & Mick Byrne, 1988

There is no momentous event in Irish life that couldn't be made sweeter by the sight of Mick Byrne celebrating with the man who made it happen.

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It is believed by many historians that when news seeped through that the British government wanted a truce, a youthful Mick Byrne was on hand to give Michael Collins a well deserved smacker on the cheek.

When Ireland grabbed an early and decisive lead against England in Stuttgart in '88, Jack Charlton cracked his skull off the top of the dugout.

Mick Byrne naturally leapt about like a madman. Over the years, the sight of the diminutive Byrne swinging around the stooping Charlton has provided the world with many memorable sporting images.

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Laurent Blanc & Fabian Barthez, 2000

Larry White and Fabian Barthez backboned the French rearguard during their most glorious era at the turn of the century.

Every win at a major tournament was followed by a special ceremonial kiss, in which the beanpole Blanc would plant a smacker on Barthez's hairless dome.

In their dotage, with the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 already won, they would move onto Manchester United where both did their reputations a world of harm, Barthez more so, since it was understood that Blanc was at the geriatric stage when he signed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cam2WHvITS0

Traianos Dellas & Machalis Kapsis, 2004

Greece's improbable run to the European championship in 2004 was built, as Giovanni Trapattoni never tired of reminding us, on direct football and an indomitable defence.

At the heart of that defence were Traianos Dellas and Michalis Kapsis. Greece conceded no goals in the knockout rounds, as they demolished first France in the quarters, then everyone's favourites Czech Republic in the semi-finals, and finally the nervy hosts Portugal in the final.

The Greek victory has struggled to win acclaim in the eyes of posterity on account of the fact that their names all sound so similar to ignorant western ears.

They need to return to your Platos, your Aristotles, your Socrates (though, of course, he was a Brazilian)...

Lillian Thuram & Bixente Lizarazu, 2000

The role of full-back has a longstanding reputation as being the most unglamorous position in football. Jamie Carragher implied as much when he asserted that 'no one wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville'.

The French team of the late 90s/early 2000s had a pair of famed full-backs. Thuram and Lizarazu were unusual in being two of the most high-profile players on their team.

Both were admired for non-footballing reasons.

Thuram for his principled campaigning on the issue of race in football, most notably his refusal to sign for Lazio in protest at the notoriously racist and right-wing element among their support.

Lizarazu because his name was fun to say.

Read more: Why Euro 92 Was The Best European Championships Ever

Read more: KNEEJERK: Our Controversial Columnist Knows Exactly Who Is To Blame For Galway Loss


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