Only three national sides have ever been in the enviable position of holding the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship at the same time.
It’s a remarkable feat which only West Germany, Spain, and France have ever managed to accomplish.
Die Nationalmannschaft of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland were the first to do so in the early 1970s with the Euros in Belgium, followed by the World Cup in 1974.
Then there was a good two decade wait for someone else to emulate a double-triumph.
Though achieved in the opposite order, France - like West Germany - were able to take the global competition in front of a home crowd, achieving their first ever World Cup title at the Stade de France for the last of the tournaments of the 20th Century.
Their second-ever continental championship after a 16-year interim was procured two years later at what The Guardian deemed to be one of the most outstanding international events in the history of the sport: Euro 2000.
Aside from the majesty of one Zinedine Zidane at the peak of his powers, the way this particular championship was achieved by France is likely not be surpassed in terms of the overall quality of the winning team, but also in infamy and its significance for romantic sentimentalists as the curtain-call for a long absent system that burned brightly then was ultimately feebly extinguished.
Sudden Death: The Golden Goal.
Divisive and decisive, the most brutally unsparing method of announcing a winner: with the result at draw at the end of the 90minutes, the game would proceed into extra time. The team to score first would be declared the victor.
It was applied in all FIFA tournaments from the 1993 World Youth Championship in Australia until the World Youth Championship 2004. More than 30 FIFA-sanctioned international matches would be decided with this method across the globe. the hope that this incentive would lead to more attacking football and, therefore subsequently, quicker concluded games. It didn’t.
Oliver Bierhoff scored the very first Golden Goal at a European Championship Finals, in 1996, allowing Germany to win the competition at the expense of the Czech Republic.
Four years later France were allowed to overturn going behind to Portugal in the semi-final fixture in the most controversial of circumstances.
A goal apiece from Nuno Gomes and Thierry Henry had sent the game into extra-time. The half-hour was almost up at the King Baudouin before linesman Igor Sramka helped to overrule an initial decision of a corner to France to adjudicate that Portugal right-defender Abel Xavier had handled the ball at the near post in an attempt to remove the danger of a Sylvain Wiltord shot.
The complete hopelessness of Portugal’s predicament, the writing as close to being on the wall was evident, epitomised by Gomes’ sending off for sacrificial protestations and his physical altercation with referee Günter Benkö.
Against Portugal, it was Zidane’s duty to step up to the plate and allow France a safe passage to the final. It had been yet another moment in a two year spell that Les Bleus had benefited from the new system, with a last-16 tie in their ‘98 World Cup win over Paraguay thanks to a Laurent Blanc strike in the dying minutes before penalties.
Half a week after breaking Portuguese hearts, it was almost the same story for the French.
On July 2 2000, they came from behind to beat Italy. The decider this time however was an instant, glorious moment for francais exultation. At the De Kuip stadium, Rotterdam, for the final it was David Trezeguet’s turn to shine, his mark to separate the two sides after a 1-1 normal time result; the apotheosis of Zidane’s penalty in its immediacy and ferocity generated by its spontaneous quality. The game concluded in the 103rd minute and sent France once again into rapture and has become one of the most iconic moments in Euros history.
The Golden Goal was removed indefinitely after the Euro 2004 tournament. Though the ruling reached its zenith with Trezeguet’s defining strike for France against Italy, three games in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan were decided as such: most notably Senegal being both the beneficiary and victim of the Golden Goal system on two different occasions.
The ruling has now been absent in major footballing tournaments for 15 years, though In 2010, then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter was reported to be considering bringing back the system.
With the sterility that Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) is starting to infiltrate, the game is alienating the purist, removing emotion for the substitution of intrinsic consequential analysis for a ‘true’ result. The Golden Goal may never return, or an equivalent be introduced, but will continue to be cited and remembered in aged pub-talk, a good handful of Generation X-ers and Millenials’ conversations in vivid remembrance of the drama of the Trezeguet, and one of the only places the rule lives on: PlayStation players’ bedrooms.