EURO 1980: The birth of eight-nation tournament

One of the most prestige football tournaments in the world and the largest in Europe is the UEFA European Football Championship, commonly known as the UEFA European Championship or the Euro. It determines the continental champion of Europe as the senior men’s national teams of the members of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) compete in this quadrennial event.

Originally called the European Nations’ Cup, the very first Euro tournament was inaugurated in 1960 with only four teams, out of 17 teams, contested in the finals. Soviet Union won against Yugoslavia 2-1 in a thrilling match held in Paris. In 1968, hosted and won by Italy, the current name was introduced. It was also the year when a match was decided on a toss coin for the first and only time.

The same four-nation team format remained the same until Euro 1972, wherein the first penalty shootout was introduced. Czechoslovakia defeated West Germany that year, the last year of that tournament format. In 1980 edition held in Italy, the expansion to eight-nation team tournament was introduced. It was the first edition of Euro with group stage, the last that features a third-place play-off.

Aside from the expansion of teams, a lot of monumental moments happened in that year of the tournament. Italy had been unanimously chosen to host this historical event, with qualifying round draw took place in Rome 3 years before the tournament. It was the first time that a group stage was introduced in the tournament, with the winners of each groups heading straight to the final round.

Seven countries had to qualify for the final tournament and also for the first time, the hosting nation has automatic qualification for the finals. Host nation Italy were joined by England, Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Belgium, West Germany and debutants Greece. It was Greece’s first and only finals appearance in the tournament until 2004, where they won the competition.

Belgium and West Germany emerged in the new format and faced each other in the finals held in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, while Naples hosted the last third-place play-off in the history where Czechoslovakia defeated the hosts 9-8 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.Meanwhile, West Germany under Jupp Derwalldefeated Belgium 2-1 in the final.

West Germany bagged their second Euro title after being defeated in the final on penalties four years earlier. Horst Hrubesch was the accidental hero of West Germany’s triumph in that year. During the intense matchup, Hrubesch took the lead for West Germany before René Vandereycken equalised for Belgium with a penalty shootout that lead to extra time.

Hrubesch rescued the team and sealed the win by beating Belgium goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff to Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s cross. He was only a replacement in the squad after Schalke’s Klaus Fischer broke his leg. Klaus Allofs was the top scorer during the finals of that year, netted 3 goals to become the third West German in succession to finish as Euro top scorer.

On the other hand, England’s Kevin Keegan scored seven in the qualification competition that made him the top-scorer in that round. Left-back Bernard Dietz, who captained West Germany that year, was named as the winning captain, while Karl-Heinz Rummenigge won the 1980 Ballon d’Or, along with team-mate Bernd Schuster as runner-up, after their performance in that year.

After four years, France won their first major title at home in the 1984 edition, where the third-place play-off was abolished. West Germany failed to hold the title in 3 consecutive editions and 2 finals in a row since the historic win in 1980, until the unified Germany took part in 1992. They won their first title as a unified nation in 1996. The eight-nation team format lasted until the 1992 edition.