Euro Cup 2012, which will be hosted by Ukraine and Poland from June 8th to July 1st, will be the 14th edition of the UEFA European Championship, which takes place every four years. It features the top 16 European teams who make the tournament after playing in a two-year-long qualifying competition. With the host nation(s) qualifying automatically. This will be the last European Championship with 16 teams as the next one in 2016 will feature 24 nationalities.
The idea of a European championship was originally suggested by Henri Delaunay of the French Football Federation and the trophy is named after him. However, the first tournament wasn’t held until 1960 and it was originally called the European Nations’ Cup. The competition featured four teams who had advanced through a knockout tournament that took place during the previous two years. Just 17 teams entered the qualifying rounds. The competition changed its name to the UEFA European Championship in 1968 and the modern-era qualifying competition was introduced.
The Euro tournament was expanded to eight nations in 1980 and was then doubled again to 16 teams in 1996 and the number of teams trying to qualify for the event reached 48. Some of the qualifying games are just as important as Euro games themselves. In fact, a qualifying game between Scotland and England at Scotland’s Hampden Park back in 1968 attracted a crowd of 130,711.
There have been 10 different winners since the tournament began. These were: 1960-the Soviet Union 1964-Spain, 1968-Italy, 1972-West Germany, 1976-Czechoslovakia, 1980-West Germany, 1984-France, 1988- Holland, 1992-Denmark, 1996-Germany, 2000-France, 2004-Greece, and 2008-Spain.
Denmark won the 1992 European championship even though the country didn’t qualify for the tournament. Yugoslavia qualified, but was banned from the competition due to the civil war that was raging in that nation. Denmark was invited as a late replacement and won the trophy.
Another team that failed to play in a championship that they qualified for was Spain. The country’s right-wing government pulled them out of the very first event in 1960 as it didn’t want the team to face the communist Soviet Union regime in a quarterfinal match. The USSR didn’t mind this as they ended up winning the tournament. In 1964, Greece pulled out of the qualifying stages after the nation was drawn to play against Albania, who they were still at war with.
The European Championship has been held in 13 different European nations over the years. These are: 1960-France, 1964-Spain, 1968-Italy, 1972-Belgium, 1976-Yugoslavia, 1980-Italy, 1984-France, 1988-Germany, 1992-Sweden 1996-England, 2000-Belgium and Holland, 2004-Portugal, 2008-Switzerland and Austria.
In the 1968 tournament in Italy, the final game ended in a 1-1 draw between Italy and Yugoslavia and Italy won a reply 2-0. Italy also managed to beat the Soviet Union in the semi-final by a coin toss. In 1976 in Yugoslavia, the hosts won the trophy on the event’s first-ever penalty shootout. This was also the last year that the host nation had to qualify for the competition. Starting in 1980 they automatically qualified. In England in 1996 Germany won the cup on the newly-created Golden Goal rule when they beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in extra time.
The Euro 2016 tournament will be held in France for the third time.