Looking back at the European Championship

The UEFA European Football Championship 2012 is about to begin co hosted by Poland and Ukraine. It is the most important tournament hosted by the Union of European Football Associations. It began as a four team tournament in 1960 known as the European Nations Cup. Today, it has over 50 teams playing its qualifiers and 16 teams competing in the tournament for the title.

It all began in France in the year 1960 as a brain child of Henri Delaunay. 17 countries entered the competition and four entered the play offs.  The Soviet Union beat Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia beat France. In the finals, Viktor Ponedelnik scored the winning goal and took the championship cup home to The Soviet Union.

In the next tournament, in 1964, Spain beat The Soviet Union 2-1. Little did they know that it will be their only international victory for the next 44 years until they won the cup again in 2004.

It was in 1968 that the tournament’s name was changed to its current name. It was also in this year that for the first time the qualifying groups were featured. The host team Italy won in a replay after a draw.

The year 1972 favored the Germans. Hosted in Belgium, that tournament is known for the drama during its semi-final matches involving Italy and England. But eventually, Germany won in what seemed to be a one-sided match.

In 1988, the host team West Germany came on top of their qualifying table. But they lost dramatically for the first time in 32 years to Netherlands in the semi-finals. Netherlands eventually won the cup.

The tournament held in England in the year 1996 was the first one to feature two things. The first being, four groups sending eight teams to the quarter final and second being penalty shoot-outs to decide two of the quarter finalists and both the semi finalists. Germany beat Czech Republic 2-1 in the final.

The 2000 Championship was hosted by two countries, a first for UEFA European Football Championship. Belgium and Netherlands, both qualified automatically. France beat Italy 2-1 in the finals in sudden death.

In 2004, Greece beat the host team Portugal in the first game of the tournament. They did the same thing all over again in the final to take the cup home.

In 2008, Spain came back in all their glory to claim the cup beating Germany 1-0 in another joint hosted tournament. This time it was Austria and Switzerland.

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