The four significant formats of European Championship

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. 

Euro 1960: The European Nation’s Cup 

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. The Soviet Union were the powerhouse team back then, and they proved it with a 2-1 victory against Yugoslavia after extra time. Soviet Union won against Yugoslavia 2-1 in a thrilling match held in Paris.

Lev Yashin, known as ‘the Impregnable Spider’ led the Soviet Union to glory along with Viktor Ponedelnik winning header with seven minutes of extra-time remaining, bagging the first ever European title of the inaugural European Championship. The Nations’ Cup was contested between 1958 and 1960 until the name was changed to “European Championship” in 1968 along with a couple of changes.

Euro 1968: The European Championship 

Two of the most iconic moments in the history of Euro happened in 1968. Aside from officially calling the tournament “European Championship”, formerly “European Nations’ Cup”, it was also the year when a match was decided on a toss coin for the first and only time. During this persion, the extra time penalty shootout was not yet introduced and to declare a winner, a toss coin was done. 

After winning via toss-coin in the semifinals, the final round of that year was set by hosts Italy against Yugoslavia, who won against England, played at the Stadio Olympico in Rome. Interestingly, the final also ended in a draw between two teams, but there was no toss coin happened and the host nation prevailed 2-0 in a replay two days later. It was the Azzurri’s first and only European title to date. 

Euro 1980: The eight-nation Euro 

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.

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.

Euro 1996The sixteen-nation Euro

For the first time, the European Championship was held with 16 instead of eight teams in 1996. From the 16 finalists, it was Germany and Czech Republic who made it to the final round of European Championships in Wembley. In this match, Oliver Bierhoff scored the first golden goal in history, a method used during the extra time to determine the winner of the match. 

It was also Germany’s first major title won as a unified nation, adding to the two European Championship titles won by West Germany prior to reunification. Due to the expansion of qualified nations, this period’s Euro holds the tournament’s second-highest aggregate attendance. From sixteen-nation format is also the current format of the European Championship.