History of the UEFA European Football Championship

History of the UEFA European Football Championship

Ranking high among the most prestigious competitions in the world, the UEFA European Football Championship boasts an illustrious history spanning over 61 years.

Join us as we pop back in time and explore UEFA EURO history, from its early days in the 1960’s up until the latest UEFA Euro 2020 tournament.

First Edition of the UEFA European Championship.

Initially proposed by the French Football Federation administrator Henri Delaunay as a pan-European football tournament in 1927, it was only in 1958, three years after his death that the first edition of the UEFA European Championship came into being; dubbed as the European Nations’ Cup.

Held in France between 6 July and 10 July, the tournament was a knockout competition with a total of 17 European teams taking part. Each side played both home-and-away fixtures until the semi-finals stage.

European politics, and the underlying tension between nations, was a considerable factor at the time. During the quarter-finals stage, the Spanish team refused to travel to the Soviet Union. Proposals to play the tie in a one-legged format at a neutral venue were rejected, thereby leading to Spain’s disqualification.

Semi-finals were played out between the remaining four teams. France lost to Yugoslavia in a thrilling 4-5 fixture, while the Soviet Union beat Czechoslovakia 3-0, courtesy of a double strike from the Golden Boot winner Valentin Ivanov.

The Soviet Union were the first team to take home the newly titled Henri Delaunay Trophy, beating Yugoslavia 2-1 in the first final of the competition, with Viktor Ponedelnik finding the net in extra time.

UEFA European Championships 1964 – 1976

1964: The 1964 tournament was held in Spain, with a total of 29 teams entering the competition. Political tensions once again made their way into the tournament when Greece withdrew after being drawn against Albania. For the first time in history, the tournament hosts emerged as champions after Spain beat the Soviet Union 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid.

1968: A total of 31 teams entered UEFA Euro 1968, which was both hosted and won by Italy. Notably, for the first and only time in the history of the competition, a fixture was decided by a coin toss (the semi-final between Italy and the Soviet Union).

1972: The 1972 tournament was hosted by Belgium and won by West Germany. Fans at the time were lucky enough to experience the greatness of Gerd Müller, who scored twice in the final against the Soviet Union.

1976: The 1976 tournament in Yugoslavia would become the last time that hosts would need to qualify, and the last time that only four teams would take part in the final tournament. Title-holders West Germany would go on to once again reach the final, in which Czechoslovakia would beat them through the newly introduced format of a penalty shootout.

UEFA European Championships 1980 – 1992

1980: Hosted again by Italy, the 1980 competition would expand to eight teams. The format included a group stage in which the winners would go on to contest the final. West Germany once again reached the final, beating Belgium 2-1 and taking home the title.

1984: France won their first major international competition in 1984, with their captain Michel Platini boasting a huge impact, scoring nine out of his side’s 14 goals.

1988: 1988 hosts West Germany lost out to the eventual winners, the Netherlands, who beat the Soviet Union 2-0 at the Olympia Stadion in Munich.

1992: UEFA EURO 1992 was hosted by Sweden and won by Denmark who successfully beat the reigning World Champions Germany 2-0 in the final.

UEFA European Championships 1996 – 2012

1996: England hosted the UEFA Euro 1996 tournament in which the number of teams doubled up to 16. Germany went on to win their first title as a unified nation, beating the newly formed Czech Republic 2-1 in the final.

2000: For the first time in history, the tournament was hosted by two nations, the Netherlands and Belgium. World Cup ‘98 winners France lived up to the hype and won back-to-back international trophies as they secured their second European title, courtesy of a strike from David Trezeguet in extra time.

2004: UEFA Euro 2004 produced one of the most incredible moments in football history. Against all odds, Greece beat the holders France in the quarter-finals, before triumphing over hosts Portugal 1-0 in the final.

2008: The 2008 tournament marked the second time that the UEFA Euro competition was hosted by two nations: Austria and Switzerland. As the highest-scoring team in the tournament, Spain went on to defeat Germany in the final, claiming their first title since 1964.

2012: Co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, Spain become the first-ever team to retain the European title, beating Italy 4-0 in the final.

UEFA European Championship 2016

UEFA Euro 2016 was the first tournament to have 24 teams in the finals, and marked the third time that France hosted the competition. Portugal, who had previously never won the championship, qualified from the knockout stage despite finishing third place in their group. Cristiano Ronaldo’s side went on to win the trophy by beating a heavily favoured French team 1-0 in the final.

UEFA EURO 2020 (2021)

UEFA EURO 2020 (2021) has already made history in its own right. Although it is the first time that the tournament has been postponed, it also marks the first time the competition will be hosted by cities in multiple locations across Europe. Due to take place from 11 June to 11 July 2021, 24 teams are set to battle it out across the continent for the chance to take home one of football’s ultimate prizes.

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