Euro Cup: The First Battle - 1960
Tuesday, June 5, 2012 Report by Kanad Basu
Picture Courtesy : Nabbenz.com
While the East Bengal fans are still looking at the transfer window to guess who would be the fourth foreigner to don the red-and-gold jersey, football lovers across the world are counting days for one of the most extravagant football tournaments of the world – Euro Cup. We, at East Bengal the Real Power, would like to take this opportunity and discuss with fellow East Bengal fans the various aspects of this prestigious tournament. We will delve into the history of this tournament and remember the greats who adorned the beautiful game of football.
In this article, we would be looking at the first tournament, held in 1960. It was known as the UEFA European Nations Cup at that time. The qualifying rounds of the first tournament started in 1958. Not only football, the entire political scenario of the world at that time, specially the effects of the cold war was reflected throughout the tournament.
Czechoslovakia and Republic of Ireland played the preliminaries during the qualifying round when the Irish were defeated in an aggregate of 4-2 over 2 legs. Czechoslovakia would later go on to reach the semifinals of the tournament. 16 teams participated in the qualifying rounds. 8 pairs were formed from each of these 16 teams. The teams in a pair would play against each other in a home-away basis over 2 legs. The winners would advance to the quarterfinals. Three of Europe’s footballing super powers – West Germany, Italy and England stayed out of this tournament.
The qualifying rounds witnessed some extremely high scoring games. France defeated Greece in Paris by a margin of 7-1. Austria defeated Norway 5-2 at Vienna, while Czechoslovakia defeated Denmark 5-1 at Brno. The interesting encounter was between Portugal and East Germany. At Berlin, the Portuguese won by a margin of 2 goals. The Germans fought bravely at Porto, but lost by 3-2. Mario Caluna, the Benfica left-half scored 3 goals over the 2 legs. Needless to say, Portugal advanced to the quarterfinals. Turkey was defeated by a clear margin of 3 goals at Bucharest by Romania. However, things were different at Istanbul. Within 54 minutes, the Turkish were up by 2 goals. The home crowd was anticipating a third goal, and hence a comeback – however, they were left disappointed. The “Magic of Istanbul” was still 46 years away. A 2-0 victory over Romania was not sufficient for Turkey to grant a place at the Quarterfinals.
The quarterfinals started in December 1959 when France met Austria at Colombes. Apart from these two teams, the other teams advancing at this stage were Romania, Portugal, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Spain and USSR. The quarterfinals were also supposed to be on a home-away basis. Spain was pitted against USSR. However, dictator Francisco Franco, the ruler of Spain at that time, decided not to send the team to USSR. Hence, the Russians got a walkover to the semis. The Spanish team comprised of stars like Alfredo Di Stefano, who helped Real Madrid win the European Cup in 1960 and Luis Suarez, who was named the European footballer of the year on the same year. It is still a question among football enthusiasts what would have happened had Franco allowed his team to travel to Moscow.
France and Czechoslovakia progressed to the next rounds comfortably, defeating Austria and Romania over both legs. Yugoslavia was defeated at Lisbon by 2-1. However, they came back strongly at Belgrade to win 5-1 and hence reach the semis. The semifinals comprised of the main tournament, organized in France. Since French Football Federation’s Henri Delaunay first proposed the idea of a European Championship, the trophy was named under him.
Unlike the previous rounds, the semifinals were just one match each. The Russians beat Czechoslovakia 3-0 at Marseille to reach the finals. The other semifinal, held at Paris, was a thriller. Yugoslavia was playing against the home team France. Within 11 minutes, the guests opened their account. However, the French replied back the very next minute to level the scores. The French domination continued and by 53 minutes, they were 3-1 up. Just when, the home crowd was expecting their team in the finals, Zanetic of Yugoslavia scored in the 55th minute. The French extended their lead to 4-2 shortly. Tomislav Knez of Yugoslavia scored to reduce the lead. Drazen Jerkovic, the forward of Dinamo Zagreb, scored twice in 78th and 79th minute to leave the French audience at dismay. Yugoslavia won the game by 5-4 to reach the finals.
The final was held at Paris. Yugoslavia took the lead in the 43rd minute, but the Russians leveled the score before the half-time. The scorecard remained unchanged after full 90 minutes of play. It was towards the end of the extra time, in about 113th minute, when the legendary Victor Ponedelnik scored the winning goal for the Russians. The first European Championship went to Moscow.
This tournament gave birth to the first pan-European Championship, which is still regarded as one of the best in the football universe. In our next article, we will describe how the current champions, Spain won their first European title in their home ground.
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