Updated: Thu, 19 Apr 2012 22:05:34 GMT | By pa.press.net

Top 5 Football Controversies in the European Championships



The 'dentist's chair'

There is nothing English tabloid newspapers like more than a bit of debauchery, which England provided before a ball had even been kicked at Euro 96.

The Three Lions headed into the tournament looking to end 30 years of hurt on home soil, but it was the off-field issues that dominated the build-up.

Newspapers carried photographs from a tour of Hong Kong showing England players heading to a nightclub and sampling the 'dentist's chair', where various alcoholic beverages were poured down their throats.

The players were criticised heavily - in particular talisman Paul Gascoigne - but all was forgotten as the team briefly lifted the nation by reaching the semi-finals.

Gascoigne, ever the joker, was quick to poke fun at the incident, doing so in style in England's early-tournament success against Scotland as he re-enacted the infamous incident during his celebrations after scoring his goal at Wembley in a moment that has gone down in football folklore.

Basile butts 'Psycho'

England and France's meeting in the 1992 tournament was a pretty drab affair, with the match ending goalless in Malmo.

But it will go down as one of the most controversial matches in European Championships history after Basile Boli headbutted England defender Stuart Peace.

The then Marseille defender decided to show who was the biggest 'Psycho' by splitting open Pearce's cheek. And he got away with it.

"It's one of these things - I'm sure it was an accident," Pearce said calmly after the match, although his comments did not stop Boli becoming public enemy number one for a few days in the English press.

Fortunately for Boli, who later played for Scottish team Rangers, within a few days the tabloids had a new villain - England manager Graham Taylor - whom they dubbed a 'turnip' after his team lost 2-1 to tournament hosts Sweden.

Frojdfeldt gets it right

The old adage that the best referees are not noticed is not one that Swedish official Peter Frojdfeldt adheres to.

"Everybody around the world knows the rule now after our decision," he proudly pronounced after officiating the Netherlands' Group C clash with Italy at Euro 2008.

While few could argue with the 3-0 scoreline, Ruud van Nistelrooy's opening goal created one of the controversies of the tournament.

The Netherlands striker tapped home the first goal in Berne when Christian Panucci was deemed to be in play despite being off the field after colliding with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

The strike was awarded despite the protests aimed at referee Frojdfeldt.

"If we did not have this interpretation then what could happen is the defending team could step off the pitch to play offside and that is clearly unacceptable," UEFA general secretary David Taylor said in the official's defence.

"We have to have the laws as simple as possible for the referee to interpret and for tactical use of the laws if you introduce other interpretations.

"As a defender you are in play unless you have permission to be off the field."

Portugal pay the penalty

There were just four minutes of extra-time remaining and France and Portugal were level at 1-1 in their Euro 2000 semi-final when Sylvain Wiltord's shot was handled in the box by Abel Xavier.

Referee Gunter Benko signalled a corner but reversed his decision and awarded France the penalty after consulting with his linesman, Igor Sramka.

Needless to say Portugal were not amused, with the players - in particular Nuno Gomes - making their feelings known before and after the spot-kick, with both officials repeatedly man-handled.

Zinedine Zidane converted the golden goal to put France through to the final, but the pain did not stop there for Portugal.

Gomes, Xavier and Paulo Bento were all punished with lengthy bans from international football, although all three were successful in having them reduced on appeal.

"I reiterate that I did nothing wrong," former Everton defender Xavier said. "The footage is available and people can watch it.

"This does great damage to my career, because there were clubs which were interested in me, clubs which are involved in European competitions."

Spain suffer pain

Spain are now world and European champions, but we should not forget that they were not always such an international force.

Before clinching the Euro 2008 crown, Spain were without a major competition triumph since winning the European Championship on home soil 44 years earlier.

Bad luck and poor performances cost the national side time and time again, with the former costing them a chance of Euro 96 glory.

Spain faced a tough quarter-final with hosts England, who were riding high after thrashing the Netherlands 4-1 in their final group game.

Javier Clemente's side refused to buckle as easily as the Netherlands and had two goals disallowed.

The second, by Kiko, was borderline but the first by Julio Salinas in the first half was clearly onside, much to the striker's anger.

"We not only played against 11 players and 70,000 fans but also against three officials. It was impossible to win," Salinas later claimed after seeing Spain exit 4-2 on penalties.