Here are some of the things that you probably didn’t know about EURO Cup history.
(Image credit: Footforever)
EURO Cup History: The Inception and the First Cup
Henri Delaunay – UEFA’s first General Secretary (Image credit: UEFA)
The first European Championship was held between 1958 and 1960, but the inception for the tournament came in 1927, when French national association general secretary, Henri Delaunay, presented his ideas to FIFA about a competition very similar to the World Cup, according to UEFA. Delaunay later became the first ever UEFA General Secretary when the organization was created in 1954, and thus put the wheels into motion to stage a European football tournament.
The Frenchman proposed a competition where all of European associations could participate, but that it shouldn’t involve “an infinite number of matches.” The idea of the tournament had been envisaged as a welcome addition to the World Cup, rather than a competition that could possibly become a main rival to it. To make things more interesting, the EURO Cup was intended to pit participants with different opponents in each edition of the event.
Delaunay died in 1955, five years before the first European Championship trophy would have been lifted, but his son Pierre took over to see his father’s mission come to fruition. Pierre was appointed secretary of the European Nations’ Cup Organizing Committee, which allowed him to complete his father’s vision and create a European Championship. In honour of his father’s contributions and services he had made to the inception of the EURO Cup, the competition was decided to be named the Henri Delauney Cup.
EURO Cup History: The Format
USSR’s legendary striker Viktor Ponedelnik (Image credit: Lichthidau)
The plan was to have a knockout format that would see each country play home and away matches until the semi-final stage. This idea seemed plausible and was therefore accepted by the Organizing Committee. The first-ever EURO Cup saw 17 UEFA member associations participate, which was at the time “one more than the minimum required.” The first European Championship match paired USSR and Hungary on 28 September, 1958, in Moscow’s Central Lenin Stadium (now known as Luzhniki Stadium), and it saw the hosts beat the “Mighty Magyars” 3-1 in the qualifying rounds.
Out of 17 member associations, the 1960 tournament in France saw only 4 countries enter the finals: USSR, France, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. The hosts, France, and Czechoslovakia battled it out for third place, which saw the latter clinch a bronze medal, while USSR beat Yugoslavia in the final 2-1 (held in Paris on July 10), making them the first-ever champions in EURO Cup History.
USSR’s iconic striker Viktor Ponedelnik, who scored the winning goal over Yugoslavia with a fine header, expressed his delight after that match, “There are matches and goals which are really special, sort of a climax of a player’s sporting life. That was the star moment of my life.”
EURO Cup History: Henri Delaunay Trophy
USSR’s Igor Netto with the original Henri Delauney Cup (Image credit: UEFA)
The cup itself was named after UEFA’s first General Secretary and “EURO Cup’s father” Henri Delaunay, and the original trophy was designed by the Arthus-Bertrand company in 1960 – just in time when the first European Championship was held. The trophy was 42cm tall and 6kgs in weight, and it was fixed on a plinth (likely made out of marble).
The original design of the Henri Delaunay Cup was used until the 2004 EURO Cup, which saw Greece become the last ever country to lift that particular trophy. However, after that UEFA decided it was time to remodel it. The new, updated version of the cup stands at a height of 60cm and weighs 8kgs, which makes it 18cm taller and 2kgs heavier than the original version.
Spain’s Andres Iniesta with the new Henri Delauney Cup (Image credit: UEFA)
In 2008, Spain’s captain, Iker Casillas, became the first player to lift the redesigned model of the Henri Delaunay Cup. In 2012, he did so again, as Spain won their second consecutive European Championship, and third overall. It’s a question if Casillas can lift it for a third time in France this year, as Bet365 Sports ranks them third favorites 6.00 (5/1), behind hosts France 4.33 (10/3) and World Cup winner Germany 4.00 (3/1). (If you’d like to know more about the online sportsbook, please check out Bet365 Sports Review.)
If Spain were to win the tournament this year, they would effectively become the most successful country in EURO Cup history with 4 titles to their name. This would see them trump Germany, who are also currently three-time European Champions.