With this summer’s European Championships less than one month away, Melosport rounds-up the best of the archives across a five-part series. The coverage starts with the inaugural 1960 tournament hosted in France culminating with the joint Ukraine Poland 2012 show-piece
In 1927 Henri Delaunay, secretary of the French Football Association, had a vision to create a European football tournament. Sadly Delaunay would not live to see his concept come to fruition (he passed away in 1955), but it was fitting that his native France hosted the inaugural tournament and the trophy was named after the creator himself.
1960 France European Championships
There were notable absentees as Italy, West Germany, Holland and England failed to take part. Seventeen teams entered the tournament and an initial qualification round eliminated one team, resulting in a last-16 knock-out competition. Rounds were played in a home and away format until four teams were left standing.
The Soviets commenced the tournament in September 1958 by beating then-European powerhouses Hungary 4-1 on aggregate—over 100,000 fans witnessed Anatoli Ilyin score the very first goal of the European Championships.
Fresh from Real Madrid’s legendary 7-3 winning performance in the European Cup Final, Spain had started the qualification campaign strongly as they swept Poland aside 7-2. However, La Roja withdrew from the competition, gifting USSR a finals berth as General Franco refused the Soviets entry into Spain for their upcoming match.
Joining the USSR in the semi-finals was Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and hosts France to contest the 1960 European Championships.
Yugoslavia prevailed 5-4 against the hosts despite trailling by two goals twice in the match and the USSR comfortably beat the Czechs 3-0. A tense final was decided in extra-time as the Soviets, led by legendary goalkeeper Lev Yashin, beat the Yugoslavs 2-1.
- Teams: 17
- Winner: USSR
- Runner-Up: Yugoslavia
- Goals: 17 goals in 4 games (4.25 goals per game)
- Golden Boot: François Heutte (France); Valentin Ivanov (USSR); Drazan Jerkovic (Yugoslavia); Milan Galic (Yugoslavia); Viktor Ponedelnik (USSR) — all scored 2 goals
1964 Spain European Championships
The competition format remained consistent with the inaugural tournament but the applicants rose from 17 to 29.
Defending champions USSR, hosts Spain plus debutants Hungary and Denmark reached the semi-finals and therefore played in the tournament proper.
USSR reached a successive final by sweeping the Danes aside in a 3-0 victory. Spain faced tougher opposition in Hungary and edged them out in extra-time winning 2-1. General Franco did not interfere this time around and allowed Spain to face the Soviets in the Madrid final.
Le Roja benefited from fierce home support as the fans identified with their young team (the oldest player was 29-year-old midfielder Luis Suarez). The side demonstrated the importance of team work as opposed to having star players—with legendary Alfredo Di Stefano having recently retired.
Suarez recalled, “The fans were in the right frame of mind to get behind us right from the start. That gave us a great sense of security and helped us to stay calm.”
The Santiago Bernabeu hosted the final and Marcelino scored a late goal to crown Spain European Champions.
- Teams: 29
- Winner: Spain
- Runner-Up: USSR
- Goals: 13 goals in 4 games (3.25 goals per game)
- Golden Boot: Jesus Maria Pereda (Spain); Ferenc Bene (Hungary); Dezso Novak (Hungary) — all scored 2 goals
1968 Italy European Championships
The qualifying campaign consisted of team being split into groups. Each group winner would progress to the quarter-finals where they would play a home and away aggregate elimination round to qualify for the Finals.
Holders Spain finished top of their group while Eusebio’s Portugal, semi-finalists at the 1966 World Cup, surprisingly finished behind Bulgaria.
West Germany made their debut in the tournament but finished below Yugoslavia in their group. World Champions England battled their way through a Home Nations group and despite losing at Wembley by old foes Scotland, the Three Lions finished top. Scotland versus England at Hamden Park drew a record 134,000 attendance.
In the quarter-finals the defending European champions and reigning World champions met and England came out on top twice—1-0 at home and 2-1 away to secure a 3-1 aggregate win. Wins for Italy, USSR and Yugoslavia completed the line-up of the 1968 finalists.
The hosts took on the USSR. After 120 minutes the toss of a coin would end the stalemate and Italy fortuitously progressed to the final.
England meanwhile saw Alan Mullery sent off as they were downed 1-0 by Yugoslavia in Florence. In the final, the Azzurri again were held to a draw after extra-time with the game locked at 1-1. A replay two days later resulted in a 2-0 victory with goals from Luigi Riva and Pietro Anastasi.
- Teams: 31
- Winner: Italy
- Runner-Up: Yugoslavia
- Goals: 7 goals in 5 games (1.4 goals per game)
- Golden Boot: 2 goals – Dragan Dzajic (Yugoslavia)
Categories: European Championships Archives
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