European Football Championship
The UEFA European Football Championship is the main football competition of the men's national football teams governed by the UEFA. Held every four years since 1960, in the even-numbered year between World Cup tournaments, it was originally called the European Nations Cup, changing to the name European Football Championship in 1968. The tournament is considered the second-most important competition among national teams, based on European and worldwide fame, after the FIFA World Cup. Specific championships are often referred to in the form "Euro 2008" or whichever year is appropriate.
There is a UEFA Women's Championship inaugurated in 1984 and from 1997 held every four years, as well as a Men's Under-21 equivalent of the UEFA European Championship tournament, taking place every two years.
In 1956, the groundwork for a European national team competition was laid. Two years later, in 1958, the first European Nations Cup began. The original format of the competition saw the early rounds played in home and away matches between the countries on a knockout basis. This continued until the semi-finals, where the remainder of the competition was played in the host country, chosen from the four semi-finalists.
The French Football Federation’s Henri Delaunay came up with the idea of a European championship in 1927. Given the immense efforts that Delaunay had put into setting up a European national teams competition, UEFA deemed it appropriate that the inaugural competition be hosted by France. The trophy presented to the competition winner still bears his name.
The first final was held in Paris and saw the Soviet Union defeat Yugoslavia, after extra time, and be first to have their name engraved onto the trophy.
The 1964 competition was the first European Nations Cup to be affected by politics as it saw Greece refusing to play Albania as they were technically (though not officially) at war. The finals were hosted by Spain, and they saw the hosts beat the Soviet Union 2-1 in Madrid.
The European Nations Cup changed its name to the UEFA European Football Championship for 1968 and also a new format was introduced. Eight groups of seeded teams played each other twice and the top side of each group proceeded to two-legged quarter finals. The semi-finals and final were played in the host country of Italy who won the competition after a 2-0 replay of the final, having drawn 1-1 in the first against Yugoslavia.
In the 1972 tournament, the same structure was retained, with Belgium being the host of the finals. West Germany won the competition, beating the Soviet Union 3-0 in the final. The 1976 final round was hosted by Yugoslavia. In the final, Czechoslovakia squandered a two-goal lead before penalties were needed. When Uli Hoeness missed, it allowed Antonín Panenka to chip into the space vacated by Sepp Maier's anticipatory dive for a Czechoslovakian victory.
In 1980 UEFA introduced a new format, which saw eight teams go to the finals instead of four, and then play each other in two groups of four teams; the winner of each group then proceeded to the final. West Germany faced Belgium in the final, which they won 2-1 after two goals from Horst Hrubesch. However the newer format was not retained in 1984, and a different format was used, again employing group stages, but this time in place of only the quarter-finals. The top two teams from each of the two groups progressed to the semi-finals. The competition was held in France for the second time. The hosts won 2-0 in Paris against Spain with goals from Michel Platini and Bruno Bellone.
The 1988 competition was held in West Germany, while the format from the 1984 competition was retained. Marco Van Basten led the Netherlands, scoring what was later voted the best goal ever in the competition.
The 1992 competition was held in Sweden during a time of European political change, a united Germany was represented and as a result of the break up of the Soviet Union, a Commonwealth of Independent States of the former Soviet Union. Yugoslavia made it to the finals but were excluded as a result of hostilities in their country, Denmark replaced them. Surprisingly, the Danes went on to win the competition after a 2-0 victory over world champions Germany in the final.
With the break up of the Soviet Union all of the former Soviet bloc countries were required to enter separately. Now that there were more teams, a format that accommodated this was required. With 48 teams entering the competition, and after the enlargement of the World Cup which had more European sides qualifying for it than the European Championships themselves, 16 teams travelled to the finals in England. The teams were put into 4 groups , the winner and runner up of each group progressed to a new round of quarter-finals. The semi-finals and final remained the same. The Germans won in the final over underdogs Czech Republic with a golden goal.
Belgium and the Netherlands became the first countries to jointly host the event in 2000. France won, again the final was decided by golden goal, David Trezeguet was the scorer. In 2004 the event was held in Portugal, with the silver goal rule being used for the first time. The rule saw Greece beat the Czech Republic in the semi-finals. Underdogs Greece went on to win the competition, when they had been put at pre-tournament odds of 100 to 1. The next tournament will be co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria in 2008.
Since the 1990's, an innovation has allowed countries to act as joint hosts. Belgium and the Netherlands were the first countries to co-host the competition in 2000. In the 2008 tournament Austria and Switzerland will co-host the event, held from 7 to 29 of June, 2008. Many also talk about an expansion of the tournament grid to 24 teams, due to the increasing number of FAs in Europe after the Yugoslavia and USSR breakups.
Selection of the host country or countries for the 2012 competition is currently in progress. The host will be chosen in March 2007 from a shortlist including Italy and joint bids from Poland/Ukraine and Croatia/Hungary.
In 2010, UEFA will decide which country will host Euro 2016. Sweden and Denmark are currently planning a joint bid. Bids should be left in 2008.
European Football Championship Format
In order to qualify a team must be winners or runners-up in one of the seven qualifying groups. After this a team proceeds to the finals round in the host country, although hosts qualify for the tournament automatically. The qualifying phase begins in the autumn after the preceding FIFA World Cup, almost two years before the finals.
The groups for qualification are drawn by a UEFA committee using seeding, seeded teams include reigning champions, and other teams on the basis of their performance in the preceding FIFA World Cup qualifying, and the last European Football Championship qualifying. To obtain an accurate view of the teams abilities, a ranking is produced, this is calculated by taking the total number of points won by a particular team, and dividing it by the number of games played, i.e., points per game, in the case of a team having hosted one of the two previous competitions, and therefore having qualified automatically, only the results from the single most recent qualifying competition are used. If two teams have equal points per game, the committee then bases their positions in the rankings on;
- Coefficient from the matches played in its most recent qualifying competition.
- Average goal difference.
- Average number of goals scored.
- Average number of away goals scored.
- Drawing of lots.
The qualifying phase is played in a group format, the composition of the groups is determined through means of a draw of teams from pre-defined seeded bowls. The draw takes place after the preceding World Cup's qualifying competition. For the 2008 European Football Championship, the group qualifying phase consists of seven groups, one of eight teams, and the remainder of seven teams each.
The qualifying phase is done in groups, each effectively a mini league, where the highest ranked team, after all the teams have played each other home and away, progresses to the finals tournament, as with most leagues, the points are dealt as three for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss. In the eventuality of one or more teams having equal points after all matches have been played, the following criteria is used to distinguish the sides;
- Higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question.
- Superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question.
- Higher number of goals scored in the group matches played among the teams in question.
- Higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches played among the teams in question.
- Results of all group matches:
- Superior goal difference
- Higher number of goals scored
- Higher number of goals scored away from home
- Fair play conduct.
- Drawing of lots.
Sixteen teams progress to the final tournament, for the 2008 tournament they will be the winners and runners up of the seven qualifying groups, and joint hosts Austria and Switzerland. These sixteen teams are divided equally into four groups, A, B, C and D, each consisting of four teams. The groups are drawn up by the UEFA administration, again using seeding. The seeded teams being the host nations, the reigning champions, subject to qualification, and those with the best points per game coefficients over the qualifying phase of the tournament and the previous World Cup qualifying. Other finalists will be assigned to by means of a draw, using coefficients as a basis.
The four groups are again played in a league format, where a team plays its opponents once each. The same points system is used (three points for a win, one point for a draw, no points for a defeat). A schedule for the group matches will be drawn up, but the last two matches in a group must kick off simultaneously. The winner and runner-up of each group progresses to the quarter-finals, where a knockout system is used (the two teams play each other once, the winner progresses), this is used in all subsequent rounds as well. The winners of the quarter-finals matches progress to the semi-finals, where the winners play in the final. If in any of the knockout rounds after normal playing time, the scores are still equal, extra time and penalties are employed to separate the two teams.