"This latest European Championship took a bit of believing. The four games in the final stages in Yugoslavia were played out in a manner refreshingly reminiscent of children playing in the park, with the added spice of talents and technique of the very highest order."
From total football to total chaos...
The People, 20th June 1976
The final, held once more in Belgrade, saw a pulsating first-half with Czechoslovakia taking a 2-1 lead into half-time. After the match resumed, the second 45 saw a West German onslaught, and after sustained pressure, an equaliser one minute from time through left-wing Bernd Holzenbein. For the third match in-a-row, spectators were treated to a side coming back from two goals down to draw level. No further goals were scored before the full-time whistle and once again the 1976 European Championships would see extra-time. Peculiarly, each match at Euro '76 would go the distance in a tournament of many coincidences.
Extra-time itself was cagey. Although both sides had chances to win the tie, tiredness and fatigue had severely reduced the effectiveness of the two nations, resulting in a penalty shootout. The spot-kicks would be the first ever in the European Championships, with the law only being introduced by IFAB at the start of the decade. Both Czechoslovakia and West Germany would score the first seven penalties before an exhausted Uli Hoeness blazed over the bar. The miss provided Czech midfielder Antonin Panenka with the opportunity to win the Euros for his country. Stepping up to the spot, Panenka would delicately chip the ball down the middle of the goal and into the net. German 'keeper Sepp Maier, anticipating a more forceful strike would dive to his left and see the ball drift slowly in. Panenka would follow the ball into the goals before turning to celebrate with his euphoric teammates.
“I was really convinced I couldn’t fail with this sort of penalty. I was convinced it would be okay to convert the penalty in the final against Germany.
Antonin Panenka talking to TalkSport (2021)
So much incident was crammed into Euro 1976 that, per capita, it has no rivals as the most exciting international tournament ever.