TThe opening matches of major tournaments are often delicate matters. Neither side willing to risk too much so early on, the fun is sacrificed in favor of a solid but unspectacular start. The last four opening games of the European Championships have produced just nine goals between them. On the other hand, nine goals were scored in the very first final match, between Yugoslavia and France, at Euro 1960.
The European Championship, or the European Nations Cup as it was called then, was conceived by Frenchman Henri Delaunay, who had been secretary general of the French Football Federation and UEFA. With Jules Rimet, he is one of the initiators of the World Cup, which was organized for the first time in 1930. Delaunay’s idea of a European tournament took another three decades to materialize. After his death in 1955, his son Pierre and The team journal continued Delaunay’s pioneering work and, five years after Henri’s death, the tournament materialized.
Like the World Cup, the original trophy was named after the man who is primarily responsible for it and rightly so, France was chosen as the host. In 1960, the finals were played by just four countries (which remained the case until Euro 1980), each of which had qualified from an initial group of 17 countries through a series of first-leg matches. return. The Republic of Ireland lost 6-0 on aggregate to Czechoslovakia in a preliminary round, which determined the Czechs would be in the group of 16 attempting to qualify as semi-finalists.
After eliminating the Republic of Ireland, Czechoslovakia advanced to the final alongside France, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, who were eliminated in the quarter-finals after General Franco prevented the Spain team to compete. Despite the loss of key players Raymond Kopa, Roger Piantoni and Just Fontaine – who had scored a record 13 goals in the 1958 World Cup finals – to injury, France were favorites to win the tournament. They clearly weren’t lacking in firepower, having knocked out Austria 9-4 in their round-trip quarter-final. Their semi-final opponents Yugoslavia were also in good shape to score goals, having beaten Portugal 6-3 on aggregate.
The two semi-finals began on the same day, July 6, 1960, with France facing Yugoslavia in Paris and Czechoslovakia meeting the Soviet Union later that evening in Marseille. Partizan Belgrade striker Milan Galic had the honor of scoring the first goal of the European Championship final and it was an excellent goal to mark the occasion. After just 11 minutes, Galic launched a hoarse strike from outside the penalty area that left French goalkeeper Georges Lamia no chance as he flew into the far corner. Their lead lasted barely a minute, as Jean Vincent equalized for France with a cross shot that curled up at the far post.
Goals continued to flow as France led 3-1 with goals on either side of the half thanks to a thunderous strike from Francois Heutte and captain Maryan Wisniewski. Yugoslavia responded immediately via Ante Zanetić’s goal which somehow passed Lamia at his near post, but Heutte restored the hosts two-goal lead soon after. Despite vehement protests from the Yugoslavs that Heutte was offside, the goal held. France led 4-2 seemed to be on track for the final.
However, Yugoslavia was made of tough stuff, turning the game around in the space of four minutes. Tomislav Knez reduced the game to 4-3 in the 75th minute before Dinamo Zagreb striker Drazan Jerkovic struck twice in two minutes. Jerkovic took full advantage of a few mistakes by Lamia as the Nice goalkeeper sent him harmless enough shots to give the Yugoslavs a 5-4 lead. They held on for the remaining 11 minutes to knock the hosts out of the tournament. France will have to wait until 1984 to win the European Championship at home.
In the final against the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia took the lead again thanks to Galić, their 10th goal in consecutive international matches, tying the world record. Even more impressive, he scored in front of Lev Yashin, but the legendary goalkeeper fended off everything thrown at him and, despite dominating the game, Yugoslavia lost 2-1 after extra time. The Soviet Union had won the first European Championship.
Yugoslavia were also runners-up in 1968, having defeated world champions Alf Ramsey in the semi-finals, a match in which Alan Mullery became the first English player to be sent off. In the other semi-final at 68 euros, the Soviet Union lost to Italy tosses a coin after a deadlock after extra time. In the final, the hosts defeated Yugoslavia in a replay after the draw for the first match.
As the 16th edition of the Euros approaches and after 286 matches from previous tournaments, it is remarkable that the very first match of the very first European Championship final in July 1960 is still the highest score in the history of the competition. In the past 61 years, the closest matches to equaling nine goals have been three with seven goals, all of which involved one of the protagonists of that original 1960 game. In 2000, Yugoslavia lost 4-3 against Spain and 6-1 against the Netherlands, and in 2016 France beat Iceland 5-2. It remains to be seen if these nine goals will ever be emulated.