Tales from an author

Euro 2016 – and the first competition in 1960

With the start of Euro 2016, I thought it would be good to look back to the origin of what was then the European Nations’ Cup. Here is some material adapted from my recent book about international football – which provides a year-by-year chronicle of events on Planet Football.

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The inaugural European Nations’ Cup reached its conclusion this year, with the finals being held in France. The competition was organised by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), founded in 1954. The qualifying stage begun in 1958, and stretched through to 1960. The Republic of Ireland, the only entrant from Britain or Ireland, were eliminated by Czechoslovakia in the sole tie of the Preliminary Round, with the matches being played in the Spring of 1959, several months after some of the First Round games. Prior to this, Spain’s progress had ended with a withdrawal forced by General Franco’s Fascist government, in order to avoid playing the Soviet Union in the Quarter Finals. By contrast, Real Madrid won the European Cup for a fifth successive time in 1960, beating Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the Final, and also took the inaugural Intercontinental Cup / World Club Championship, by defeating Penarol, of Uruguay – the South American champions. France dramatically lost 5-4 against Yugoslavia in the European Nations’ Cup Semi Finals, after leading 4-2 with 15 minutes left to play. The Soviet Union became the first European national champions, beating Yugoslavia 2-1, after extra time, in the Final. Yugoslavia in turn won the Olympic football tournament this year.

European Nations’ Cup 1960 (France)
Semi Finals
Soviet Union 3 Czechoslovakia 0
Yugoslavia 5 France 4

Third Place Match
Czechoslovakia 2 France 0

Final July 10, Paris
Soviet Union 2 Yugoslavia 1 After Extra Time

The qualifiers for the 1962 World Cup opened on August 21, with Costa Rica beating Guatemala 3-2, at San Jose. Costa Rica finished as runners-up when the North American group concluded in 1961, behind Mexico, who then beat Paraguay in a play-off to gain a place in the finals. Besides this linkage between North and South America, muddled zoning of the World Cup qualifiers placed the teams from Africa and Asia in groups alongside European countries. Although one third of the entrants came from North America, Africa, or Asia, those continents were not guaranteed any places in the finals – and eventually Mexico were only team from outside Europe and South America to make the last 16. England began their campaign with a 9-0 win against Luxembourg, featuring hat tricks by Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Greaves – this remains England’s largest ever World Cup victory. England went on to reach the finals, ahead of Portugal, who won 6-0 at home to Luxembourg during 1961, but then lost the return match 4-2, with this being Luxembourg’s first victory in a World Cup match. Luxembourg had played in the qualifiers for each competition from 1934 onwards, and lost all 17 of their World Cup games before beating Portugal.

Olympic Football 1960 (Italy)
Final September 10, Rome Yugoslavia 3 Denmark 1
Bronze Medal Match Hungary 2 Italy 1

The second Asian Cup finals followed a qualifying process held during 1959. South Korea qualified automatically as host nation, and retained the title they had won in 1956, securing this with a 1-0 win against China (October 21, Seoul).

Asian Cup 1960 (South Korea)
Winners South Korea (6 points from 3 games)
Runners-up Israel (4 points from 3 games)


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