After 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.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA 0 – 1 WEST GERMANY
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.
NETHERLANDS 1 – 0 GREECE
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.
WEST GERMANY 3 – 2 NETHERLANDS
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.
GREECE 1 – 3 CZECHOSLOVAKIA
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.
NETHERLANDS 1 – 1 CZECHOSLOVAKIA
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.
GREECE 0 – 0 WEST GERMANY
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.
BELGIUM 1 – 1 ENGLAND
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.
BELGIUM 2 – 1 SPAIN
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.
ITALY 1 – 0 ENGLAND
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.
ENGLAND 2 – 1 SPAIN
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.
ITALY 0 – 0 BELGIUM
THIRD PLACE PLAY-OFF
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 1 – 1 ITALY
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.
WEST GERMANY 2 – 1 BELGIUM
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.