Saturday 5 June 2021
Previously to appearing in the Nations Cup in Asia, Africa and South America, the European Nations Cup achieved great success, surpassing its counterpart in each of the three continents until it became the most prominent football tournament for teams after the World Cup.
Similar to the modern Olympics and World Cup tournaments, the European Football Championships was a French idea, the brainchild of Frenchman Henri Delanoy.
But unlike the modern Olympics whose founder Pierre de Coubertin watched and the World Cups whose founder Jules Rimet saw them come into force, Delanoe did not see the start of the European Championship in 1958, which he proposed in the late 1920s.
Delanoe, who was the first general secretary of the European Football Association (UEFA), died in 1955.
Two years after his death, UEFA finally gave the green light to the start of the competition, which in the first two tournaments, in 1960 and 1964, was called the European Nations Cup.
Nevertheless, the championship immortalized the name of Delanoy, as the championship cup bore the name of its inventor.
UEFA stipulated that the number of teams participating in the tournament reach at least 16, and with the arrival of some late requests to participate in the tournament, the number reached 17, including the former Soviet Union team, which advanced in the tournament rounds effortlessly after first defeating its Hungarian counterpart in the round of 16. 4 1 Then Spain, under the rule of General Franco, refused to play against the Soviet team in the quarter-finals, so that the Soviet team reached the finals without much trouble.
The most prominent absentees from the first tournament were West Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom (Britain).
The tournament was held by the play-off system (the loser’s exit) in the first and second rounds (the quarter-finals), which included two rounds of back and forth, with the finals limited to the semi-finals and the final, and UEFA granted the right to host the finals for France.
The first match in the history of the tournament was held between the former Soviet Union, which later won the championship, and Hungary on September 28, 1958.
Anatoly Ilyin scored the first goal of the tournament and scored it just four minutes after the start of the match to lead the Soviet team to a 3-1 victory at Luzhniki Stadium in Russia in front of 100,000 fans.
And the Soviet team reached the finals in France without entering the quarter-finals, due to the failure of its Spanish opponent to participate in this confrontation for political reasons.
The Yugoslav national team eliminated the hopes of its French counterpart in winning the first championship title, when it beat it 5-4 in a difficult confrontation in the capital, Paris.
The Yugoslav team succeeded in converting its 2-4 delay against the French team to a valuable 5-4 victory thanks to three goals within four minutes, scored by Tomislav Keynes in the 75th minute and Drazen Yerkovic in the 78th and 79th minutes.
As for the Soviet team, it made its way to the final with an easy victory over its Czechoslovak counterpart 3-0 in Marseille.
On July 10, 1960, the final was held in the capital, Paris, in front of only 18,000 fans.
Milan Galic advanced to the Yugoslav national team in the first half, but young goalkeeper Lev Yashin repelled several Yugoslav attacks to keep his team the chance to compensate and keep hope of winning the match.
Indeed, Slava Mitrivili scored the equalizer for the Soviet team in the 49th minute, and Viktor Benedelnik added the winning goal in extra time, specifically in the 113th minute of the match, taking advantage of the fatigue that appeared on the opposing team.
“There are matches and goals that really taste special and represent an important point in a player’s sporting career. This was the star moment in my life,” Benedelnik said on the UEFA website.