As you may have noticed, we’ve had a little lick of paint this afternoon ahead of this summer’s festivities and, to get you in the mood still further, we’ll bringing you a quick round up of the previous European Championship tournaments, along with some brief highlights of some of the great matches from the tournament’s history. I’m starting the round-up because this was the first of the proper, eight team tournaments. The competition had actually started in 1960, and was notable for the previous five competitions having been won by five different nations. As well as West Germany and Italy, who might have expected to have won it, it had also provided the USSR, Spain and Czechoslovakia with their only major tournament wins.
By 1980, though, UEFA sought the expand the programme, though the ham-fisted way in which they did it would result in a tournament in which teams were so afraid to lose matches that they didn’t even try to play attacking football. The problem was this: the tournament was made up of eight teams, divided into two groups of four. UEFA, however, decided not to bother with semi-finals, with the group winners meeting in the final and the runners-up playing a third and fourth place play-off match. What this meant in practice was that defeat meant almost certain elimination, so most of the teams involved played ultra-defensive formations, leading to a string of terrible games.
Coupled with this, Euro 80 was England’s first tournament since the 1970 World Cup, and English hooliganism, which had some sort of point to prove, scented its opportunity. The match Belgium was disrupted by riot police with tear gas – they used it enough of it to leave England’s reserve players in tears on the touchline. After the match, there were calls to bring the team home, but there was no need for England to be sent home – they were perfectly capable of doing that of their own accord, drawing against Belgium and losing to the hosts, Italy, before winning Spain in a meaningless final fixture. Belgium won the group on goals scored from Italy, and there was little arguing with it. Italy scored one and conceded no goals in their three matches – a poor return for a host nation.
The other group provided a little more interest, although West Germany were already through to the final by the time they drew their final group match 0-0 against Greece. The group also saw the lowest crowd of a poorly-attended tournament, when just 4,726 hardy souls turned out to see Czechoslovakia beat Greece 3-1 in Rome. The critical results saw West Germany beat Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands in their opening match. This tournament proved to be the last hurrah for the great Dutch team of the 1970s – they failed to reach the finals of another major tournament until the 1988 European Championships in West Germany. The Germans beat them 3-2 in arguably the match of tournament, and you can see highlights of it below here. The final saw West Germany beat Belgium 2-1 in front of just 47,864 people in Rome. Horst Hrubesch scored both of the German goals, with the winner coming just two minutes from time. UEFA would go on to add semi-finals for the next finals in France, four years later.
West Germany vs Netherlands (First Half)