Lars Ricken, one of the heroes of the Borussia Dortmund team that won the 1997 UEFA Champions League, celebrated his 41st birthday on Monday. The anniversary provided bundesliga.com with the perfect excuse to look back on Die Schwarzgelben’s famous victory 20 years ago.
Ahead of the 1997 Champions League final, it is fair to say that Dortmund were not favourites to win against Juventus.
Sure, BVB had won back-to-back Bundesliga titles and reached the quarter-finals of the competition the season before, but a German side had not won 'Old Big Ears' since 1983, when a Felix Magath goal gave Hamburg victory over Juventus.
There was also the team they were playing to take into account: La Vecchia Signora had won the Champions League the previous season and en route the 1997 final the Italians had conceded just one goal in their group and swept Ajax aside 6-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals. Standing in the way of a first European title for Dortmund were Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps, Alen Boksic and Christian Vieri.
The Dortmund team that took the field at Bayern Munich’s Olympiastadion on May 28 was packed with talent, too, though. As Ricken recalled to 11Freunde: "Our team was full of internationals."
Matthias Sammer captained the side from sweeper, Andreas Möller, Paulo Sousa and Paul Lambert formed the central midfield and Swiss striker Stephane Chapuisat partnered Karl-Heinz Riedle up front.
Dortmund had edged a strong Manchester United side in the semi-final but in case there was any doubt about who were the favourites for the final, Riedle explained the pre-match feeling in an interview with UEFA in 2015.
“I think the bookies gave us about a one per cent chance of winning so of course it was a great night,” the former Germany striker recalled.
“That Juventus team with Zidane, Deschamps, Boksic and Co, they were a fantastic team at that time. They were almost unbeatable.”
Indeed, as Ricken put it to 11Freunde, "Juve were a great team and, as holders, they were clear favourites."
Dortmund boss Ottmar Hitzfeld had a plan, though, using set-pieces to exploit a perceived weakness in Juventus goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi’s game.
With 29 minutes played, Peruzzi partially cleared a corner but Riedle chested down the follow-up cross from Lambert and gleefully thrashed home to give Dortmund the lead.
Five minutes later Riedle doubled the lead, scoring with a bullet header from Möller’s corner. The ex-Liverpool striker would later reveal that he had dreamt the night before that he would score twice in the decider.
Juventus, however, were not willing to give up their crown without a fight. Boksic teed up half-time substitute Alessandro Del Piero, whose glorious flicked finish from close range meant it was game on midway through the second half.
Hitzfeld felt the need to respond and with 20 minutes remaining sent on Ricken for Chapuisat.
“I remember it very clearly because he did exactly what I said,” Hitzfeld told UEFA in 2015.
“I told him ‘Lars, you go and you score the decisive goal.’”
Ricken did not wait long to do that: only 16 seconds after coming on, he netted one of the most spectacular goals ever scored in a final.
“I followed the first 70 minutes from the bench and saw that Peruzzi was often too far from his goal,” Ricken told UEFA.
“Before half-time there was a moment when he came out about 30 metres from his line," Ricken told 11Freunde. "When I saw that from the bench, I said that with my first touch I'd try and chip it over him blind. Möller's through-ball meant that I didn't have to shoot blind, but the whole time I had in the back of my head to shoot from anywhere.”
Then 20, Ricken entered the pitch with that thought on his mind. Getting on the end of a through ball from Möller, he executed the perfect chip from well outside the area.
It was a glorious goal that sealed a 3-1 win for Dortmund and a place in club legend for the scorer.
"I don't even have to tell the story of the goal really nowadays," Ricken told 11Freunde. "Instead people now tell me their experiences of the goal. With just one goal I gave so many different people so many unforgettable moments."
Watch: check out Dortmund's top 10 goals in 2016/17