Soccer Show Stopper

, SPECIAL

France is the flavour of the season as it’s hosting the Euro 2016. But I bet you could not tell me much about the early years of the Championships. Here’s a rundown

If you’re in France this month, chances are that all you’ll hear about is football. Since June 10, this year’s European Championship is the 15th staging of the event, with the finals first held as a four team tournament in France in 1960 when it was known as the European Nations Cup. We give you a rundown of the first two decades of the tournament.

1960 in France

It took more than 30 years for Henri Delaunay’s idea to become reality and when the inaugural Nations Cup was launched in 1958, it received a cautious welcome with only 17 countries entering — Italy and England were among the absentees. It was a straightforward knockout tournament with home and away legs. The final, watched by only 26,370 in the Parc des Princes, saw the Soviets beat Yugoslavia 2-1.

1964 in Spain

The second tournament attracted all the big names except the Germans. The Netherlands became the first giant-killing victims of the tournament when they were beaten 3-2 on aggregate by Luxembourg. Spain won the Madrid final, also 2-1, with a late header by Marcelino — their last international success for 44 years before winning the EURO back in 2012.

1968 in Italy

This was the first that the tournament was officially re-named as the European Championship and featured qualifying groups. The final event in Italy saw the host nation advance to the final after winning on the determining method used at the time — the toss of a coin after a goalless draw with the Soviet Union in Naples. As the final in Rome’s Olympic stadium ended in a 1-1 draw, a replay was held two days later when Italy, fielding five fresh players, won 2-0.

1972 in Belgium

Most of the drama this year took place in the quarter-finals with the final-four tournament in Belgium, something of an anti-climax. The Germans, with Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Mueller, Uli Hoeness, Guenter Netzer and goalkeeper Sepp Maier, were far too strong and won comfortably 3-0 with two goals for Mueller and one for Herbert Wimmer.

1976 in Yugoslavia

This year produced some classic matches in Yugoslavia, the first time the finals were held in Eastern Europe. The highlight of the tournament came in the finals, which became the first major tournament to be settled on a penalty shoot-out. Antonin Panenka scored the decider with one of the most famous penalties of all time.

Words By: Jamie Howlett

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