The UEFA European Championship is now one of the world’s biggest sporting events, although the competition’s genesis was more difficult than might be expected.
The European Championships are held every four years and like the World Cup, they are the brainchild of a Frenchman. While most continents were already holding football championships it took Henri Delaunay more than 30 years for his 1927 brainchild to come to fruition.
Getting The Euros Off The Ground
It was the distinguished French Sports Newspaper L’Equipe, who in 1954, gave Henri’s idea some form when they proposed a competition with home and away matches to be played midweek.
Sadly Delaunay died in 1955 before the competition was established. however, his son Pierre joined forces with the French newspaper in an attempt to get the event off the ground.
Finally, after agreeing to start the competition it seemed only right and proper that the cup should be named after Henri Delaunay. The inaugural tournament consisted of 17 member associations wishing to take part, one more than the minimum.
To round the numbers down, lots were drawn and the Republic of Ireland was paired against Czechoslovakia in a qualifying playoff, unfortunately for Ireland, they were eliminated.
The First Euros Competition
The competition finally got underway in Moscow’s Tsentralni Lenin Stadium on 29 September 1958. It was here the USSR beat Hungary 3-1, the honour of scoring the first goal went to Anatoli Ilyin in just four minutes.
The competition was staged over a period of 22 months starting in 1958 and ending in 1960.
The UEFA European Championship was an instant success despite the controversy surrounding General Franco’s refusal to let the USSR play in Spain, effectively handing the USSR a bye.
Some thought that Gavril Kachalin’s side might not deserve their place in the final tournament, however after they beat the Czechs 3-0 nobody doubted their pedigree.
France was the first host nation but they were eliminated in a thrilling match with Yugoslavia, who won 5-4, this result still holds the record for the competitions highest ever scoring game.
The first final was held in Paris on 10 July 1960 between thrilling Yugoslavia and the dogged USSR. The man of the match was, without doubt, the USSR goalkeeper Lev Yashin, the game went to extra time and Viktor Ponedelnik headed in the goal, which claimed the USSR’s only ever football trophy.
UEFA European Championship Past Winners
2020 – postponed until 2021
UEFA European Championship Top Goal scorers
Michel Platini (France) 9
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) 9
Alan Shearer (England) 7
Antoine Griezmann (France) 6
Thierry Henry (France) 6
Wayne Rooney (England) 6
Patrick Kluivert (Netherlands) 6
Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden) 6
Nuno Gomes (Portugal) 6
Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands) 6
As we all know by now, the Euros did not take place in 2020. Lockdown restrictions across the world meant a postponement of the tournament. Instead, it takes place in 2021 but will maintain the Euro 2020 branding (not confusing at all!).
London, Glasgow, and Rome are among 12 Euro 2020 hosts for 24-team tournament which will be staged in 2021 between June 11 and July 11.
The 12 cities and stadiums to host UEFA European Championship fixtures are:
- Amsterdam (Netherlands) – Johan Cruyff Arena
- Baku (Azerbaijan) – Olympic Stadium
- Seville (Spain) – Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium
- Bucharest (Romania) – Arena Nationala
- Budapest (Hungary) – Puskas Arena
- Copenhagen (Denmark) – Parken Stadium
- Glasgow (Scotland) – Hampden Park
- London (England) – Wembley Stadium
- Munich (Germany) – Allianz Arena
- Rome (Italy) – Stadio Olimpico
- Saint Petersburg (Russia) – Krestovsky Stadium
England’s national stadium Wembley will stage both semi-finals and the final as well as a last-16 tie that was originally scheduled to be staged in Dublin.
Given that world-class sport has been thin on the ground for the last year, the Euro 2020 tournament should be a winner. But who looks likely to give the bookies a run for their money?
It should come as no surprise that England are currently the favourites (odds of 9/2). They won seven of their eight qualifying matches, only losing once (2-1) to the Czech Republic on 11 October 2019.
However, France is not that far behind in the betting markets. With six teams in their group, the French had to play 10 games. They won eight of them and topped their group. Their short odds of 11/2 put them ahead of Belgium on 6/1.
Surprisingly, given they are the most recent winners, Portugal can be backed at odds of 15/2. However, that will change quickly if they can get off to a good start especially if others flounder.
So with just over a month to go, it’s all to play for – especially as Scotland and Wales will also be taking part this year!