Whether you say soccer or football, one thing is for sure; football fans are hardcore. There is a passion for this sport like none other and it reaches across the globe in American, Australia, Europe, Mexico and everywhere in between. At the moment, the qualifications for UEFA Euro 2016 are underway and will soon come to a close with statistics, betting tips and predictions flooding in, with bookmakers like Bet365 and 32Red leanings towards Germany as the favourite. Let’s take a look back at where this amazing championship started.
UEFA stands for the Union of European Football Associations and governs European football. UEFA.org describes itself as “an association of associations, a representative democracy, and is the umbrella organisation for 54 national football associations across Europe. Its objectives are, among other things, to deal with all questions relating to European football, to promote football in a spirit of unity, solidarity, peace, understanding and fair play, without any discrimination on the part of politics, race, religion, gender or any other reason, to safeguard the values of European football, maintain relations with all stakeholders involved in European football, and support and safeguard its member associations for the overall well-being of the European game.”
How did the championship get its start and where did it all begin?
To tell the story of the makings of the championship, we must go back to September 1965 when the decision was made for the European Nations’ Cup to become what we know as today’s European Football Championship.
The European Nations’ Cup began in 1958 with the Soviet Union winning the first edition in 1960 and Spain winning the second in 1964. The number of countries participating increased and General Secretary Hans Bangerter documented in a 1964/65 report that “The fact that 29 national associations participated in the second European Nations’ Cup [1962/64], as compared with only 17 entries for the first competition [1958/60], gives ample evidence of the growing popularity of this competition. Fifty-four matches, attended by 1,808,186 spectators, were played during 1962/64”, according to UEFA.org.
UEFA had concerns regarding the national team and the 1963/64 UEFA Handbook revealed actions to be taken by the body as pointed out by the UEFA President, Switzerland’s Gustav Wiederkehr.
“The revaluation of the international matches is [a] task which we consider to be of great importance.
“As a result of the popularity of the European club competitions and numerous other international events in which club teams participate,” he added, “the interest of the public and, in part, also of the press, in international matches has in many countries suffered considerably … Under no circumstances shall we idly watch this development.
“In the great majority of cases our national associations depend upon the receipts of international matches in order to be able to fulfil their duties towards amateur football, which must be one of our main concerns.”
It was now time to determine how to take the national team competition to the next level. Unfortunately, the friendly matches failed to draw the attention that they once did and fans preferred the competition matches, which were growing in popularity.
On 14 September 1965, UEFA’s Executive Committee got together to discuss the way forward by changing the European Nations’ Cup into a regulated European Championship. The new format and championship would follow the 1966 FIFA World Cup in England.
It has been 50 years and the European Championship has grown and certainly attracted the attention it deserves with millions of football fans watching the matches.
Today, the championship occurs every four years with the next edition scheduled from 30 June to 10 July 2016. Euro 2016, the 15th edition, will take place in France after winning the bid over Italy and Turkey.
Just as the first changes began in the 1960’s this edition will also feature a first the championship. The European Championship final tournament will determine the final 24 teams, which is an increase from the 16 team format implemented in 1996, who will fight for a place in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. The host automatically qualifies for the final as France has for 2016. The format has seen 54 teams undergo the group stage comprised of six groups of four teams. Three rounds and the final are all part of the elimination phase, known as the Knockout stage. With France already in the running, the remaining 53 national teams have been going through the qualifying rounds since September 2014 and will soon come to a close as of November 2015.
The current standings are available at uefa.com and indicates the status of the teams that will take part in the FIFA Confederations Cup, which will be hosted in Russia from 17 June and 2 July 2017. This event precedes the 2018 FIFA World Cup scheduled from 14 June to 15 July 2018.
Has your country been success thus far and who are you betting on?