Brief history of the European football championship, from its birth to Italy's victories

THE European men's football championshipsofficially UEFA European Football Championship, are the most important championship in Europe for men's football teams. This year's edition, UEFA Euro 2024start Friday 14 June and it is disputed in Germany. The competition has come to an end 17th edition: she's born in 1960shortly after the founding of the UEFAand has been held regularly ever since every four years. Originally, only 4 teams were admitted to the final phase, but since 1980 the formula has changed several times and today 24 selections participate. In more than sixty years of history, the results of the men's Europeans have offered both confirmations and great surprises. There Italian national team he only won the tournament on two occasions, in 1968 It is in the 2021 (2020 edition postponed due to the pandemic).

The birth of the UEFA European championships

The European football championships are closely connected to the “continentalization” of football governance. After the Second World War, the International Federation (Fifa) he favored the birth of continental confederations, on the model of the Conmenbol, established in 1916 for the South American federations. In the 1954 thus was born UEFA (Union of European football associations), which brings together the football associations of Europe. The confederation promoted new club competitions, such as the Champions Cup (now the UEFA Champions League), established in 1955.

At the time of the birth of UEFA, the only European tournament for national teams was the International Cupborn in 1927, in which the selections of Italy and Central European countries participated, who competed in home and away matches spread over a large period of time. In total they disputed each other six editions of the Cup, the last of which, which lasted from 1955 to 1960, was won by Czechoslovakia.

Battle of Calatafimi (cover)

The first proposal to establish a European championship on the model of the World Championships (born in 1930) and the America's Cup (born in 1916) was put forward in the 1950s by Henri Delaunay, general secretary of UEFA. The championship actually was established in 1960 and replaced the International Cup, which has not been played since. UEFA decided to have the tournament played with every four yearsin even years in which the World Cup is not held.

The first edition took place in 1960 with the participation of 17 teams (among which Italy was not included). The Soviet Union, France, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia entered the final phase, played in France. The Soviet national team won.

The evolution of the European Football Championships to date

Until the 1976 edition, only 4 teams participated in the final phase. The host country was chosen at the end of the qualifiers from among the four qualifiers.

In the 1980 the formula changed: the organizing country was designated in advance and 8 teams participated, divided into two groups of four. The system remained in force until 1992. Subsequently, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and other Eastern European states increased the number of national teams and made a new change to the European formula necessary. In the 1996 the participating teams became 16, divided into four groups of four. From the 2016 I am 24, divided into six groups.

The winning national teams at the European football championship

Two teams, Spain and Germany (including participations as West Germany), the Europeans won three times; two more selections, Italy and Francethey triumphed in two occasions. The multiple winners are all countries with great footballing traditions, but they also came from the Europeans surprising resultsas in the case of the victories of Denmark (1992) and the Greece (2004).

Greece's success in 2004

Italy's victories at the European Championships

Italy won the European Championships for the first time in 1968 in the edition played at home. The path of the Azzurri was very tormented. In the semi-final the selection drew 0-0 against the Soviet Union. Penalties did not exist and, in the event of a draw, the match generally had to be replayed to determine the winner. At the semi-finals of the European Championships, however, it was not possible to do so, because the final was scheduled for a few days later, and to decide who would go through to the round it was necessary to coin toss. The throw, made by the referee in the locker room, rewarded Italy. The final, played on 8 June in Rome against Yugoslavia, also ended in a draw but in this case it was possible repeat the game: on 10 June the two teams faced each other again and Italy won 2-0, taking home the cup.

The second success of the Azzurri dates back to Euro 2020 (played in 2021 due to the pandemic), which was played in several European countries, with semi-finals and finals in the United Kingdom. In the final the Italian team defeated England penalty shots. Italy also hosted the tournament in 1980but only ranked fourth.

The European roll of honour