Have you ever scored the winning goal at a European Championship? No? Well, Emmanuel Petit neither.
"I don't feel bad about it though," he admits. "I had malaria. That’s why I didn’t play the final."
As he tells me over Zoom, speaking at the launch of the Paddy Park at Flat Iron Square, London – he's not allowed into London right now – he only played half the games at the European tournament. He couldn’t play the final, he couldn’t even walk up the stairs. Oh, but he remembers very well his time on the bench.
Let's rewind. Remember the Euro 2000 final? As Manu tells it, some 21 years later...
"We were losing 1-0, all the French fans were quiet. They were probably thinking we weren’t going to win the double. And I remember the Italian fans were shouting, celebrating the trophy, but the game wasn’t over. On the bench, the Italians were making fun of us, and our bench, we all stood up and we were ready to fight with them on the bench."
"This is why I love football – the story has not been written. You have the privilege to take the pen and you write your own sentence. If you have the desire, you can change the game. This is the beauty of football.""- Emmanuel Petit
That was Manu Petit's memory of the 2000 European Championship final, the tournament that could give his French team the second ever World and European double, after the 1972/74 West Germany team. By that time, of course, 'West' Germany was no more. France could become the first unified country to ever do western football's most momentous double.
But as he said. That evening in Rotterdam, Italy were 1-0 up and feeling comfortable, late in the second half. The Italian team were ready to celebrate their first major tournament victory since the 1982 World Cup – and their first European Championship since the barely-sincere four-team tournament in 1968.
Surprise starter Marco Delvecchio had scored the first of his four international goals, just before the hour mark. As Petit remembers it, that – at the point of the aforementioned near-fight – was when Roger Lemerre, the French manager, decided to make changes – bringing on Sylvain Wiltord, Robert Pires, and David Trezeguet.
Looking back, Wiltord came on a full half-hour before Pires, with Trezeguet in the middle. When they came on didn't matter.
When they chiseled their names into the granite of history is the important part. Fabian Barthez launched a ball long, for 'one last French attack,' as the UEFA archive footage will tell you. Substitute Trezeguet – so often derided as a finisher alone – nodded the ball to the left from his position 30 yards out, to his fellow substitute Wiltord, via Fabio Cannavaro (yes, that Fabio Cannavaro). A chest control, a strike from a tight angle, a 94th-minute equaliser, and the most iconic goal Wiltord would score until his Premiership clincher two years hence.
"In the space of 30 seconds, everything changed. The French fans were celebrating and I remember – this is why I love football – the story has not been written beforehand. You have the privilege to take the pen and you write your own sentence. If you have the desire, you can change the game. This is exactly what happened, this is the beauty of football."
"We had Golden Goal back then," Petit remembers. "It was different."
It certainly was. In the decade or so from the first international Golden Goal from Anthony Carbone in the '93 World Youth Championship to the last from Nia Künzer in the 2003 Women's World Cup final, there were few more 'different' moments than the men's European Championship final of 2000.
Pires – the least heralded, but arguably most brilliant of the three substitutes – set off down the left-hand side, nearing the end of the first period of extra time. Picking a bobbling ball up about 30 yards out on the left, he surged between two Italian defenders. He beat Cannavaro (him again) on the outside, before getting to the ball before Alessandro Nesta and dinking the ball in towards the penalty spot, where France's third substitute was waiting.
As SBNation's Rewinder series would say: welcome to a moment in history.
"We won the game. We were watching the Italian bench and they were all like ‘oh my god, what is going on?' In the space of 30 seconds, everything changed.
"The emotions came out immediately because of the Golden Goal. We’d won the trophy. Since then, they’ve changed the rule and thank God they did it because it was very difficult and harsh to understand on the pitch. ‘What, the game is stopped?’ ‘Yeah, you won the game.’ ‘Oh, okay.'"
"The goal from Trezeguet, this is a typical goal that Harry Kane can score. The way he moved his body, the way he already knew the position of the goalkeeper, the goal, the opponents. He doesn’t ask himself too many questions when the ball arrives in the penalty area. He never thought. Just ‘one touch, boom’."
That left-footed strike beat Francesco Toldo. France beat Italy. They haven't won a European Championship since.
You have to write your own sentence. France, for all their glories, still have writer's block.
For more from Chris Deeley, follow him on Twitter at @ThatChris1209
Emmanuel Petit was speaking at the launch of the Paddy Parks, the ultimate fan viewing experience for all EURO 2020 games. Held at Flat Iron Square and Riverside Newcastle, tickets will sell out fast –visit www.paddyparkfanzones.com book your spot.