By Jigish Shah:
UEFA European Football Championship is one of the most prestigious tournament in the world and is officiated by UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations). This cup is held every 4 years like the other World Cup tournaments. Before 1968, it was called UEFA European Nations Cup as it was suggested to foster unity between FIFA and other nations. The inaugural tournament was entered by around half of UEFA’s member associations, 17 in total, and one more than the minimum required.
The first championship match was held on 28 September 1958 in Moscow’s Central Stadium — the USSR beating Hungary 3-1, with the home side’s Anatoli Ilyin scoring the first goal after four minutes and the inaugural competition took place over 22 months between 1958 and 1960.
Founder- Henri Delaunay:
He was the man whose vision opened many new doors for the sport and the competition. He initially proposed his ideas in 1927 when he was the first General Secretary of UEFA. It took FIFA & UEFA many years to come to a conclusion and finally the tournament was kicked off in 1958, two years after his death. Far from being forgotten, however, he was a natural choice when it came to naming the trophy. In honour of Delaunay, the trophy awarded to the champions is named after him.
Before 1980, only four teams qualified for the final tournament. From 1980, eight teams competed. In 1996 the tournament expanded to 16 teams, since it was easier for European nations to qualify for the World Cup than their own continental championship; 14 of the 24 teams at the 1982,1986 and 1990 World Cups had been European, whereas the European Championship finals still involved only eight teams.
The Teams participating are chosen by a series for qualifying games through home and away play-offs and from 1968 there was change in the rules and a combination of both qualifying groups and play offs games are chosen. The host country is selected from 4 finalists and thereafter, they are determined through qualification. Since the expansion of the final tournament starting from 1980, the host country, or countries, have been chosen beforehand and qualify automatically.
The number of teams is going to increase from the year 2016 as the increased number of football associations have come up and some breakups with Czech and Yugoslavia and USSR, it was discussed in 2007 to include Israel & Kazakhstan. President of UEFA ,Mr. Platini was in faour to expand the tournament and the teams and on 17th April 2007, UEFA Executive Committee decided to go against expansion in 2012. However the president indicated that UEFA will expand the participants from 16 to 24 in near future, and on 25th Sept 2008 it was officially announced that an agreement has been made for the expansion. (Source)
Following are the Seasons’s Overview:
The hosts lost to Yugoslavia in semi-final and were eliminated from the tournament. They set up a thrilling match but lost by 5-4 and it became the competition’s highest scoring match. 10th June 1960, the final match kicked off in Paris between USSR & Yugoslavia. As match progressed, USSR goalkeeper Lev Yashin brilliant efforts kept them in the game and after 90 minutes Viktor Ponedelnik headed in the goal in extra time to claim USSR the 1st and only trophy.
The Defending Champions USSR got qualified directly as per rules and were the favourites .The final was all set in Spain with an amzing atmosphere in BernabÃ©u and the match was between USSR & Spain.
Nearly 80,000 fans turned up at the Santiago BernabÃ©u to watch the hosts defeat holders- the Soviet Union 2-1 in the final.
As the tournament gained momentum and popularity it was regarded as most awaited tournament and was the most recognized one. Spain were the defending champions. Host Italy entered the finals and defeated a very strong Yugoslavian side by 2-0.Goals by Riva & Anastasi are still remembered as the greatest goals in the Italian football history.
The host country Belgium was regarded as one of the surprise package but they failed to deliver and later were eliminated from the competiotion while West Germany came strongly throughout the competition and entered the finals against the attacking USSR. And in the final match, West Germany defeated USSR by 3-0 to mark their presence.
Germany had won just one international trophy and played in two finals but since their triumph in Belgium they have won two FIFA World Cups and Euro crowns in 1980 and 1996, and reached six other major finals. The hero of 1972 was Gerd MÃ¼ller, who scored both goals in the 2-1 semi-final win against the hosts and two more as West Germany beat the Soviet Union 3-0 for the title.
Yugoslavia were the host country and the final was played between defending champions West Germany and Czechoslovakia.The final was all poised to a draw and forced to penalty shoot-out. There have been many penalty shoot-outs in major tournaments over the years, but perhaps the most famous was the very first: in the 1976 UEFA European Championship showpiece in Belgrade. Twice Czechoslovakia led, twice World and European champions West Germany equalised, the second in the last minute. A half-hour later penalties were needed, and after Uli Hoeness had struck West Germany’s fourth effort over the bar, AntonÃn Panenka sensationally chipped the ball past Sepp Maier to seal a 5-3 shoot-out win.
Italy were the host country and Belgium played beautifully and tactically to reach the finals against West Germany and after a remarkable performance Horst Hrubesch scored twice in the final in Rome to crown West Germany yet another Euro Cup. They beat Belgium by 2-0 .
The 7th season of the Euro Cup and France were the host. They reached the final on their home ground against Spain. Platini created France’s first success in 1984.
The French team was inspired by captain Michel Platini whose nine-goal tally, including two hat-tricks, remains a record. They beat Spain by 2-0.
West Germany hosted the Euro Cup in 1988. Netherlands emerged as the surprise package as they reached the finals against USSR where they beat them by 2-0 to win the 1st ever trophy for the country.
The 9th Season of the tournament was hosted by Sweden and Germany. There were many expectations with Germany as it has recently witnessed the joining of East and West and they reached the finals only to lose against Denmark which was absolutely unexpected. Denmark beat Germany by 2-0.
The 10th Season of the tournament was hosted by England and there were many new changes and rules brought into force. Defending Champions Germany who played their natural game entered into the finals against newly formed Czech Republic where they won the final by golden goal in the extra time. Germany beat Czech by 2-1.
The 11th edition of Euro Cup was hosted by both Belgium & Netherlands. France and Germany were the favourites for the cup but unfortunately Germany were eliminated and France advanced into the finals against Italy. Both teams were equal 1-1 but David Trezeguet scored the goal for France to beat Italy by 2-1 and win the Euro Cup of Millennium year.
Portugal hosted the Euro cup ’04and the participating teams like Germany, France ,England were all favourites to win the title but the host made their way to the finals and suprisingly the underdogs Greece also reached the finals. Greek team captain Theodoros Zagorakis who scored the lone goal in the final was also named the Player of the Tournament. The underdogs Greece beat Portugal by 1-0.
Euro ’08 was hosted by Austria & Switzerland. Spain and Germany were favourites and they remained so till the end to enter in the finals. German Skipper Michael Ballack was all set to lift the cup once again for the nation while Real Madrid’s and Spain’s Casillas looked to dominate and as the final progressed both looked quite competitive but Xavi Hernandez scored the ultimate goal to win it for Spain. Spain beat Germany by 1-0.
Poland & Ukraine will co host the Euro cup this year. The tone is set for the kick-off at Warsaw on June 8th (GMT). It is just a matter of picking up sides now.