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1980 European Championships

PhotobucketAfter tournaments where just four teams competed the ‘final’ section, UEFA decided to make something more of this competition and in 1980 opened it up to 8 qualifiers.  The other change was that they already decided the hosts in advance.  In previous tournaments they chose the hosts once they knew the four qualifiers.

Italy was chosen to host the 1980 tournament.  They had last hosted a major tournament in 1934, the 2nd World Cup, in which they came out as winners.

31 nations were then split into 7 groups; 3 groups of 5 and 4 groups of 4.  The qualifying campaign kicked off from May 1978.  Back in those days there was no such thing as an international calendar, and so some groups ended before others, as countries just arranged fixtures independently.

England had been drawn in Group 1 along with both Northern and Republic of Ireland.  Bulgaria and Denmark made up the other two.  The Republic started off by giving up a 3-1 lead to be held 3-3 in Copenhagen, before they met their neighbours in Dublin.  The much anticipated clash between North and South, the first time the two nations had met, contained few highlights and the game ended 0-0.

That same night in Copenhagen, Denmark and England played out a completely different match.  Denmark were regarded as one of Europe’s minnows, having never qualified for a major tournament before.  Kevin Keegan put England in front after 17 minutes.  6 minutes later he grabbed his 2nd, just before Allan Simonsen scored from the spot to put the home side back in it.  3 minutes later Frank Arnesen equalised and so the teams were level, 2-2 at half-time.  5 minutes after the break, Bob Latchford restored England’s lead.  With just 5 minutes left on the clock, Phil Neal then gave England their 2-goal advantage back, before Per Rontved ensured a nervy last few minutes for England as Denmark brought it back to 3-4.  England would eventually emerge with the victory, but it had been close.

England then drew in Dublin, as Northern Ireland beat both Denmark and Bulgaria, before they arrived at Wembley full of hope.  Manager Danny Blanchflower chose an Irish side exclusively drawn from the English First Division.  But England proved too strong and ran out 4-0 winners.  England went on to win their remaining group matches, conceding just once.  They won 3-0 in Sofia, beat Denmark, 1-0 at Wembley and went to Belfast and thumped Northern Ireland, 5-1.  When they beat Bulgaria, 2-0 at Wembley in November 1979 one of the goals came from a debutant named Glenn Hoddle.  England’s final group match was another 2-0 win, over the Republic in February 1980 as Kevin Keegan scored twice to take his tally to 7 in the qualifying matches.  His 2nd goal in that game is well worth looking up on youtube.  He picks the ball up just inside the Irish half, runs at the defence who are backing off.  As he reaches the edge of the area, he delicately chips the stranded keeper.

In Group 2, Scotland were disappointing, having been the only Home nation which qualified for the 1978 World Cup.  They won all but one of their home matches, losing 1-3 to Belgium, who ultimately won the group.

Spain won Group 3, and in Group 4 Netherlands were top.  That group looked competitive as it contained Netherlands (runners-up in the World Cup) and Poland (also made the Second Round in Argentina).  Netherlands conceded just 1 goal at home, which was scored by Poland, who also won the return match in Chorzow.  What did for the Poles was defeat in Leipzig against East Germany.  Poland held Netherlands to a 1-1 draw in Amsterdam, leaving the Dutch needing a draw Leipzig to go through.  However, the Germans were 2-0 up in the opening 30 minutes.  Franz Thijssen, Kees Kist and Willy van der Kerkhof eventually gave Netherlands a 3-2 win and they won the group.

A similar situation occurred in Group 5, as France beat Czechoslovakia, the holders, 2-1 in Paris to leave the Czechs needing to beat Luxembourg to go through.  The Czechs didn’t struggle as much as the Dutch did and ran out 4-0 winners, to win the group by a point.

Group 6 was really tight.  Finland began well by beating Greece, 3-0 and Hungary, 2-1.  USSR then also beat Greece, 2-0, but then lost themselves, 0-2 to Hungary.  Greece then got their revenge against Finland in Athens, thumping them 8-1, with Thomas Mavros grabbing a hat-trick.  Greece carried on this goalscoring spree by beating Hungary, 4-1.  Hungary had been in Argentina for the World Cup, but were now under pressure as they were then held at home by Greece.

By the time Greece took on USSR in September 1979, the four countries were separated by just 1 point.  Dimitrious Nikoludis scored the only goal of the game in the opening 10 minutes and Greece had gained the win that would ultimately take them to their first ever major tournament.  The four teams in the group were separated by just 2pts.

Wales began well in Group 7 with a 7-0 win over Malta.  Wrexham’s Ian Edwards scored 4 on his home ground.  Wales then beat Turkey, 1-0, as West Germany were surprisingly held, 0-0 in Malta.  6 weeks later and the Germans were also held, 0-0 in Turkey.  Then they arrived at Wrexham in May 1979.  Goals in each half from Herbert Zimmermann and Klaus Fischer gave the Germans a 2-0 win.  Wales bounced back with a win in Malta, but then in Cologne they were put to the sword by West Germany as they lost, 1-5.  Worse was to follow the next month as Wales lost in Turkey too.  West Germany then finished off the group with a 2-0 win over Turkey and then 8-0 over Malta.

Italy, England, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Greece, West Germany

Rome : Stadio Olimpico
Milan : Giuseppe Meazza
Naples : Stadio San Paolo
Turin : Stadio Comunale

The 8 nations were drawn into 2 groups of 4.  The winners would progress straight to the final with the 2nd placed sides competing in a Third Place Play-off.

West Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Czechoslovakia

Italy, England, Belgium, Spain


The tournament kicked off with a repeat of the 1976 Final as Czechoslovakia met West Germany in Rome.  A disappointing crowd of just over 11, 000 turned up to see the Germans gain revenge for 4 years ago as Karl-Heinz Rummenigge scored the only goal just before the hour.


Later that evening, Netherlands took on Greece.  The Greeks were in their first ever major tournament having won a tight group to qualify.  Barely 4,000 more turned up for this game in Naples, but still only witnessed one goal.  Kees Kist converted a penalty midway through the second half and that was enough to give the Dutch the points.


Three days later saw the big clash between West Germany and Netherlands in Naples.  For two fierce rivals, the Dutch had only once beaten West Germany in 8 previous meetings, back in 1956.  Cologne’s Klaus Allofs, one of the young breed of footballers the Germans were trying out, opening the scoring after 20 minutes.  On the hour, he scored his 2nd, and then completed his hat-trick 5 minutes later.  The Dutch were stunned, but fought back with a Johnny Rep penalty 10 minutes from time.  When Willy van der Kerkhof scored to make it 2-3 with 5 minutes to go, the Germans had a nervous end to a game they were cruising.  They saw it home in the end, and seemed destined for the Final.


In Rome, Greece met Czechoslovakia.  In a stadium which holds 86,500, there were just under 5,000 people to witness this and the game deserved better.  Panenka, the hero in 1976, gave the Czechs an early lead, but Nikos Anastopoulos equalised soon after, only for Ladislav Vizek to put the Czechs back in front and we’d had 3 goals in the opening 25 minutes.  The Greeks couldn’t get back into it, and early in the second half, Zdenek Nehoda completed the win for the Czechs.  If Greece could pull off a shock win over the Germans, then the Czechs or the Dutch would have an outside chance of the Final, but that seemed remote.


UEFA hadn’t found the need to have the final group matches kick off at the same time, so Netherlands and Czechoslovakia were up first in Milan, with the Germans waiting to see what they needed to do.  In front of another poor crowd Nehoda gave the Czechs an early lead, which they held till the hour, before Kees Kist equalised.  The game ended in a draw which suited neither side and the Czechs finished 2nd in the group, ahead of the Dutch on goal difference.


By the time the last game in the group kicked off in Turin, West Germany already knew they’d reached the final.  It showed too as a dull game almost came to life when Ardizoglu hit the post with 20 minutes to go, but that was about it.  Greece had given a good account of themselves, but ultimately went home without a point.  The Germans had simply been clinical in reaching their 3rd successive European Championship Final.


Group A_1982


England had managed to qualify for a major tournament just once since 1962, having made the 1966 and 1970 World Cup as hosts and holders, respectively.  They were hopeful of doing well after an impressive qualification campaign.  They started brightly too, and midway through the first half, Brooking’s cross wasn’t cleared properly and it fell to Ray Wilkins, just outside the box.  He controlled the ball on his chest and then as it bounced, he calmly lobbed the ball over the keeper for probably his finest goal in an England shirt.

But England were unable to keep control of the game and Belgium equalised within 3 minutes through Jan Ceulemans.  England had a goal from Kenny Sansom disallowed in the second half, but the game will be remembered for the violence that erupted on the terraces just before half-time.  Unfortunately, this was becoming an all-too familiar occurrence with England games at that time.  Many England fans would point to the local police being heavy-handed, but unfortunately England fans reputation often preceeded them.  The game was held up as the police used tear-gas to try and quell the trouble, which had broken out because locals had gained access to England’s end and started chanting for Belgium.  England goalkeeper, Ray Clemence, was particularly affected by the gas.


Later that evening in Milan, the hosts made their bow in front of over 46,000.  The game was a cagey affair with both sides cancelling each other out.  Spain had a goal disallowed in the second half, which seemed harsh but the points were shared.

SPAIN   0 – 0   ITALY

After both opening matches were drawn, a win in the second game would give any of the 4 sides a good chance of making the final.  Belgium took the lead through right-back, Eric Gerets after 17 minutes.  With 10 minutes of the first half to go, Quini then equalised for the Spanish.  Both teams had chances in the second period, but it was veteran, Julien Cools, who scored the winner midway through the half.  Belgium now put the pressure on Italy.


England and Italy took the field in Turin, in front of the largest crowd of the tournament.  England manager, Ron Greenwood sprung a surprise by selecting Garry Birtles for only his 2nd cap, and he struggled to make an impact.  England relied so heavily on Keegan, who was busy as usual creating chances.  Ray Kennedy hit the post, just before Marco Tardelli finally broke the deadlock with just over 10 minutes to go.  The Italians were far from dominant but knew how to defend a lead.  They would now need to beat Belgium to get to the Final.  England could only hope for 2nd place in the group.


After two games in Turin, England moved to Naples to meet Spain.  They were desperate to restore something from a tournament they were so confident of doing well in.  Trevor Brooking gave England a first half lead after 19 minutes, but early in the second half, Spain were awarded a penalty.  Their substitute, Dani, took it and scored.  5 minutes later they got another penalty.  Dani took it and again scored.  Only this time the referee ordered it to be re-taken.  Dani stuttered in his run-up and it wasn’t clear whether that was what the referee objected to, or whether other players had encroached.  Either way, Dani took it again and this time Clemence saved it.  Within 10 minutes, England were back in front through Tony Woodcock, and they got the win they finally craved.


Italy and Belgium met in Rome, knowing a draw was enough for the Belgians.  The game followed a similar pattern to previous ones in this group involving these teams.  Belgium were dogged in defence and Italy were blunt in attack.  The game ended goalless and, against all the odds, Belgium had reached a major international Final.  Italy and Italians were distraught, as they expected more.  They were unbeaten but 2nd place to Belgium was almost the end for manager, Enzo Bearzot.  He survived, and Italy went on to lift the World Cup two years later.


Group B_1982


Czechoslovakia had defended their title with distinction, and competed well against the hosts.  Under pressure for most of the game, they took the lead just into the second half through Ladislav Jurkemik.  Italy, who had only scored once in their 3 games so far, finally managed to get a goal from one of their attackers, Francesco Graziani.  The game ended 1-1 and went to penalties.  Remarkably, each side had been successful from their first 8 kicks.  Jozef Barmos, who had played in the Final in ’76, made it 9-8 to the Czechs before Fulvio Collovati had his kick saved and the Czechs had finished 3rd.

Czechoslovakia won 9-8 on penalties


West Germany were the overwhelming favourites.  They had reached tournament Finals in 4 out of the last 5 they competed in, but this was a new German side being put together.  This gave us our first glimpse of players like Bernd Schuster, Hans-Peter Briegel, and Toni Schumacher.  But their success came through an unlikely hero.  Horst Hrubesch was part of the Hamburg side beaten by Nottingham Forest in the European Cup Final a month before.  A striker who was considered good in the air, but nowhere else, Hrubesch opened the scoring after 10 minutes with his first goal in international football.  Belgium came back at the Germans in the second half when Van der Elst was brought down and Rene Vandereycken converted the kick.  As extra time approached, Hrubesch headed his 2nd goal of the game and the Germans had won it.  Their third successive European Championship Final had brought their second success.




Had the new expanded format been a success?  The TV and stadium attendances would suggest not, but UEFA are hardly an organisation to often change their mind, and they continued with this format for the next 3 tournaments.  The format probably allowed an unfancied side like Belgium to go further than they might have done with just a Semi-Final and Final.  Italy, as hosts, were disappointing, as were the World Cup finalists from 1974 & 1978, Netherlands.  England gave us glimpses of their ability, but for a side so dominant in qualification, the finals had been a let-down.


A History of European Championships

PhotobucketRegarded as the international tournament, second only to the World Cup.  In Brazil and Argentina, they refer to it as ‘the World Cup without us’.

The idea for this type of competition was originally proposed back in 1927 by Henri Delaunay.  Delaunay was secretary-general of the French Football Federation, and was involved with Jules Rimet, in developing the idea for the World Cup.  Delaunay went on to become General Secretary of UEFA until his death in 1954.  Ironically, his dream of a European tournament didn’t become reality until 1958.  Just as the original World Cup trophy was named after Rimet, the trophy for the European Championships was named after Delaunay.

The first competition was called the European Nations Cup.  Only 17 nations entered, with countries such as West Germany, Italy and England declining to take part.  The format was simply a knock-out over 2 legs until the Semi-Finals.  When the final four teams were known, one of them was selected as a host and then Semi-Finals and Final matches were played over 5 days in July 1960.

The competition continued in this format right up to 1976.  From 1980, UEFA started to expand the tournament to include more teams for the finals.

PhotobucketRepublic of Ireland were involved in a Preliminary Round where they lost 2-4 to Czechoslovakia, after winning the 1st leg, 2-0.  In the First Round, France, who had finished third in the World Cup in 1958, thumped Greece, 7-1, with Juste Fontaine (top scorer in Sweden in ’58) and Raymond Kopa amongst the goals.  Spain beat Poland, 7-2 on aggregate with Di Stefano scoring 3.

After France had beaten Greece, 8-2, they then saw off Austria, 9-4 in the Quarter-Finals.  Fontaine grabbed a hat-trick in the 1st leg.  Yugoslavia overturned a 1-2 deficit to beat Portugal, 5-1.  Czechoslovakia were barely in trouble against Romania, as they won 5-0 over 2 legs.  There were only 3 ties in the Quarter-Finals as Spain refused to travel to Soviet Union and so withdrew from the tournament.

The four nations to compete the final stages of the tournament were USSR, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and France.  France was selected as hosts.

6th July 1960 in Parc des Princes, Paris saw the first Semi-Final between France and Yugoslavia.  The two had met in the Group stages in Sweden ’58, with Yugoslavia winning 3-2.  The Yugoslavs took the lead in the 11th minute, but the French hit back a minute later.  France lead, 2-1 at the break and within 10 minutes of the re-start, they were 3-1 up.  Zanetic then got a goal back, before Heutte scored his 2nd of the game and France lead 4-2.  Into the last 15 minutes and the Yugoslavs remarkably hit back with 3 goals in 4 minutes, to progress to the final.  Two of the goals were scored by Drazan Jerkovic, who would go on to share the Golden Boot in the World Cup in 1962.

All of a sudden, the hosts were out and fears for the future of this type of tournament seemed valid.  USSR easily beat Czechoslovakia, 3-0 in the other Semi, in Marseille.  The Czechs won the Third Place Play-off, beating France, 2-0, a day before the first ever European Championship Final.

10th July 1960 was the date for the inaugural European Championship Final.  A disappointing crowd of just 17,966 at the Parc des Princes, witnessed a match decided after extra time.  Galic had given Yugoslavia the lead 2 minutes before half-time, which was then equalised by Metreveli, 4 minutes into the second period.  With 7 minutes of extra time remaining, Viktor Ponedelnik headed the winner for the USSR and they won 2-1.  It still remains the only major international championship won by either USSR or Russia.

Trivia fans might be interested to know the referee for the first final was one Arthur Ellis, who would later attract fame as referee on ‘It’s-a-Knockout’.

10th July 1960, Paris

PhotobucketThe second tournament saw an increase in the countries competing as 29 nations took part.  Austria, Luxembourg and USSR received a bye to the first round and Greece withdrew after they were drawn against Albania.

West Germany was still missing, but Italy and England decided to enter this time round.  England were up against France.  A 1-1 draw at Hillsborough, then saw England being given an exhibition in Paris when France romped home, 5-2.  An England team which included Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves and Bobby Charlton had been dumped out at the first hurdle.  Italy didn’t have any trouble with Turkey.  4 goals from Alberto Orlando helped them win 6-0 in the 1st leg, then a solitary goal was enough in the 2nd leg.

Northern Ireland beat Poland, 2-0 in both legs, but Wales lost, 2-4 to Hungary.  There was drama between Bulgaria and Portugal.  Portugal lost the 1st leg, 1-3, but were 3-0 up in the return with 6 minutes to go before Iliev grabbed a late goal for Bulgaria and the tie was levelled.  The replay was held in Rome, in front or barely 2,000 spectators, with Georgi Asparuhov scoring the only goal of the game to give Bulgaria the win with just 4 minutes to go.

The First Round saw Northern Ireland pull off a great result by holding Spain to a 1-1 draw in Bilbao.  Unfortunately, Gento grabbed the only goal of the game at Windsor Park and the Irish were out.  The shock of the round was when Luxembourg went to Rotterdam and beat the Dutch, 2-1.  This was enough to see them progress with, probably, the best result of their history.  Italy were then knocked out by the defending champions, USSR.

In the Quarter-Finals, Spain beat Republic of Ireland, 7-1 on aggregate, and USSR saw off Sweden, 4-2.  France were beaten at home by Hungary, 1-3 and then in front of over 70,000 spectators, the Hungarians finished the job off with a 2-1 win.  Luxembourg continued their excellent form with a 3-3 draw against Denmark.  Ole Madsen scored a hat-trick for the Danes and then grabbed another double in the 2nd leg, but a late goal from Schmit saw Luxembourg force a replay.  Madsen then scored again in the replay, which Denmark won 1-0.

The final tournament was held in Spain in June 1964.  In Madrid, Spain were taken to extra time by Hungary, before Armancio won it for the hosts.  In Barcelona, USSR won through to their 2nd successive final as they beat Denmark, 3-0.

Ironically, the final would be between Spain and USSR.  The irony was that four years earlier the Spanish refused to play their opponents on political grounds, but presumably because the final was held in their country, they ignored this minor detail.  Until their win in 2008, this remained Spain’s only major tournament success.

The Final was held in Madrid on 21st June 1964, in front of over 79,000 supporters.  The USSR contained just two survivors from their 1960 triumph.  Both teams scored in the opening 10 minutes, but the game seemed to heading for extra time before Spain won with a late goal from Marcelino Martinez in the last 6 minutes.

21st June 1964, Madrid

PhotobucketThis was when the competition had a makeover.  Renamed the European Championships, it now consisted of a qualifying competition with 31 teams divided into 8 groups.  Each group winner then went into a knock-out stage.  Holders Spain, won their group, as did Bulgaria, USSR, Hungary and France.  Italy won a goal-laden group.  Italy, Romania and Switzerland all scored 53 goals between them.  Group 4 contained just 3 teams, West Germany, Yugoslavia and Albania.  Yugoslavia pulled off the first surprise by beating West Germany, 1-0 in Belgrade twelve months after the Germans were losing finalists in the ’66 World Cup.  West Germany then won the return, 3-1, and then travelled to Tirana in December 1967, needing a 1-0 win to progress.  They couldn’t do it, and remarkably Albania held their illustrious opponents to a 0-0 draw with Yugoslavia going through.  To date, Germany/West Germany has then qualified for the finals of every major tournament since.

Group 8 contained the home nations and the results were taken from the British Home International Championships of 1967 and 1968.  15th April 1967 is a date many Scottish fans remember as Scotland became the first side to beat the World Champions, England.  Dennis Law gave the Scots a first-half lead at Wembley.  Bobby Lennox then doubled it with 12 minutes to go, before Jackie Charlton got a goal back 6 minutes from time.  Jim McCalliog then scored Scotland’s 3rd and Geoff Hurst’s goal 2 minutes from the end was merely a consolation.  Scotland had been held in Cardiff and then lost 0-1 in Belfast, which ultimately cost them as England twice beat Wales and Northern Ireland.  This set things up for the big game at Hampden in February 1968.  Martin Peters 20 minute goal was then cancelled out by John Hughes (his only ever international goal) and the game ended 1-1 and England were through.

The Quarter-Finals were held around April and May and played over 2 legs.  Italy overturned a 2-3 deficit to beat Bulgaria, 4-3 on aggregate, and USSR came from 0-2 down in 1st leg to win 3-0 in return against Hungary.  France were held at home 1-1 by Yugoslavia, but then in Belgrade they were stuffed, 1-5.  England were up against Spain and a Bobby Charlton goal 6 minutes from time won the 1st leg at Wembley.  A month later in Madrid, Spain took the lead but then Martin Peters and Norman Hunter won it for England.

The finals were held in Italy and contained two nations (Italy and England) who weren’t interested in the competition when it first started in 1960.  The first Semi-Final in Naples was a 0-0 draw between Italy and USSR.  Neither side could be separated after 120 minutes of football and so the bright idea UEFA had to settle it all was, the toss a coin!  The Soviet captain called incorrectly and Italy were through to the final.  In Florence, the game between Yugoslavia and England looked to be heading for extra time before Dragan Dzajic scored a late winner and the World Champions were out.

Goals from Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst gave England a 2-0 win over USSR to claim third place.  The Final was played in front of 85,000 in Rome and Dzajic was on the scoresheet again giving Yugoslavia a first half lead.  Angelo Domenghini levelled things with just 10 minutes remaining.  The game ended 1-1 after extra time, and this time a replay was necessary.  Only 55,000 turned up two days later to see Italy carry off the trophy with a 2-0 win.

8th June 1968, Rome

10th June 1968, Rome

PhotobucketThe Qualifying round had settled into the standard group phase, with 8 groups of 4.  As in previous qualifying phases, Eastern European teams came to the fore.  Hungary won their group containing France, and USSR won theirs containing Spain.  Yugoslavia beat Netherlands to Group 7, and holders Italy were unbeaten in theirs.  Belgium won Group 5, beating Scotland in the process, and Romania won Group 1, which contained Wales.  West Germany won Group 8 with Gerd Muller scoring 6 of their 10 goals.

England were in Group 3 with Switzerland, Greece and Malta.  They won the group, unbeaten, conceding just 3 goals.  England were quite a changed team from the one which reached the Quarter-Finals in the World Cup in Mexico 1970, illustrated by just 5 of their 15 goals being scored by players who were in the World Cup squad that year.

During the Quarter-Finals, Belgium pulled off a shock when they knocked-out the holders, Italy.  A 0-0 draw in Milan saw Belgium win 2-1 in Brussels.  USSR continued their tradition of good performances in this competition by beating Yugoslavia, 3-0 over 2 legs.  Hungary needed a replay to get past Romania.  1-1 in Budapest and then 2-2 in Bucharest, as the away goals rule didn’t apply.  Hungary won the replay, 2-1 in Belgrade.  The 4th tie was a repeat of the 1966 World Cup Final as England took on West Germany.  The Germans, still buoyant from having put out England in Mexico, scored first at Wembley through Uli Hoeness.  Into the final 15 minutes and Francis Lee equalised.  Then with 5 minutes left, Gunter Netzer converted a penalty and Gerd Muller finished things off and England had been beaten 1-3 at home.  Two weeks later in Berlin the game ended 0-0 and England were out.

From the four qualifiers, Belgium was announced as hosts.  The final competition was held between 14th June-18th June 1972.  The hosts, Belgium were up first against West Germany and Gerd Muller, in Antwerp.  ‘Der Bomber’ scored another 2 goals and the Germans prevailed 2-1.

The other Semi-Final, in Brussels saw Anatoli Konkov score the only goal of the game to see USSR beat Hungary, 1-0, and reach their 3rd final in the last 4 tournaments.  Belgium won the Third Place play-off, and then came the main event between West Germany and USSR.

The Germans were in a transition period, but were putting together a squad of players who would dominate European football for much of the decade.  9 of the players were drawn from just 2 clubs, Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach.  Gerd Muller scored 2 more goals to take his tally to 11 for the competition, and West Germany won comfortably, 3-0.

18th June 1972, Brussels

PhotobucketThis would be the last tournament with just 4 teams in the final stages.  During the qualifying round, Yugoslavia beat Northern Ireland to win Group 3.  Spain beat Scotland to win Group 4, and USSR beat Republic of Ireland to win Group 6.  Belgium reached the Quarter-Finals again, by beating France to win Group 7.  Netherlands, runners-up in the 1974 World Cup, won their group beating Italy in the process.  World Champions, West Germany won Group 8 despite only winning 3 of their 6 matches.  In Group 2, Wales were drawn with Hungary, Austria and Luxembourg.  They lost their opening match, 1-2 in Vienna and then won the rest of them, conceding just a further 2 goals, and stormed to become group winners.  There were plenty of goals in this group, and all against Luxembourg, who conceded 28 goals in their 6 matches.  Tibor Nyilasi scored 5 when Hungary beat them 8-1.  Wales beat them 5-0 and Austria won 6-2.

England were drawn in Group 1 along with Czechoslovakia, Portugal and Cyprus.  Having failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, Don Revie had replaced Alf Ramsey.  England began well beating the Czechs, 3-0 at Wembley, but were then held at home to a 0-0 draw by Portugal.  In April 1975 they beat Cyprus, 5-0 when Newcastle United’s Malcolm MacDonald scored all 5.  Kevin Keegan scored the only goal of the game to win in Cyprus but then just when they were leading in Bratislava to a Mick Channon goal, the Czechs then hit back and won 2-1.  England couldn’t win in Lisbon either and they finished 2nd in the group to Czechoslovakia.

The Quarter-Final stage saw Czechoslovakia beat USSR, 4-2 on aggregate.  West Germany beat Spain, 3-1, and Wales were beaten by the same score by Yugoslavia.  Netherlands were up against neighbours, Belgium.  Rob Rensenbrink scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win for the Dutch in Rotterdam.  Johnny Rep and Johann Cruyff then scored in Brussels and Netherlands progressed 7-1.

From the four nations who qualified, Yugoslavia was named as hosts.  Czechoslovakia were up against Netherlands, including most of the side who were runners-up in the recent World Cup.  19 minutes in and Czech captain, Anton Ondrus opened the scoring.  This remained the only goal of the game until Ondrus scored again with 17 minutes to go.  Unfortunately for the Czechs, it was at the wrong end and the game went into extra time.  In the second period of extra time, Nehoda and Vesely completed a surprise 3-1 win for Czechoslovakia.

The next day, in Belgrade, Yugoslavia were 2-0 up inside the opening half-hour with goals from Popivoda and Dzajic.  Heinz Flohe then got a goal back midway through the 2nd half, before Dieter Muller (no relation to Gerd) forced extra time.  Muller then scored twice in extra time to complete his hat-trick and West Germany were through to their 3rd successive major Final.

Netherlands then won the Third Place Play-off, which again went to extra time.  The Final looked set for another major trophy for West Germany.  Jan Svehlik put the Czechs in front in the opening 10 minutes.  Karol Dobias then doubled the lead, before Dieter Muller got a goal back.  With a minute to go, Bernd Holzenbein grabbed a dramatic late equaliser for West Germany, to take the game into extra time.  The two sides couldn’t be separated and so, for the first time in international football, a major Final went to penalties.

The Czechs lead 4-3 as each kicker had been successful, before Uli Hoeness skied his kick over the bar.  Up stepped Antonin Panenka.  Score and his nation were European Champions, miss and the Germans were still in the game.  Panenka, who played his football for Bohemians Prague, calmly stepped up to the ball and as Sepp Maier dived to his left, he coolly chipped the ball into the middle of the goal.

This was the first time the watching football world had seen this type of penalty and it went down in history, mainly down to, not just the cheek of it, but the fact that Panenka, hitherto unknown, could commit such an act under such pressure.

Czechoslovakia were European Champions.  This was the last tournament under this 4-nation final stage, as the tournament was expanded to 8 countries for the next competition.

20th June 1976, Belgrade
Czechoslovakia won 5-3 on penalties.

For the rest of this series we will concentrate on each tournament seperately.  Next up is the 1980 Championships in Italy.

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