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Thursday, May 1, 2008
ESPNsoccernet: May 6, 4:09 PM UK
European Nations Cup 1960

John Brewin

Host nation: France
Winners: Soviet Union

Europe's version of the other continental championships (the Copa America dated as far back as 1910) received a limited response in its first version. Neither West Germany, England nor Italy chose to enter the European Nations Cup, as it was so called, and just 17 countries in all entered.

The tournament began as a knock-out played over two legs meaning that a qualifying round had to be played between Czechoslovakia and the Republic of Ireland. However the first round game between Hungary and the Soviet Union was played before the play-off and Soviet Anatoly Ilyin scored the fledgling competition's first goal as the Hungarians exited. The Irish despite a 2-0 home win, eventually exited 4-2 on aggregate scoreline.

France, 3rd-placed at the 1958 World Cup, and including legendary forwards Raymond Kopa and Just Fontaine in their ranks were highly fancied. And a 7-1 first round first leg win over Greece marked their card as a team to beat. So too the Spanish, for whom Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano had become a naturalised national team member. Their 7-2 win over Poland came as a result of three goals from Di Stefano and a powerhouse performance from Luis Suarez, then of Barcelona.

France's run continued in the last eight with Fontaine following his record 13 at Sweden '58 with a devastating hat-trick against Poland, who were demolished 9-4 on aggregate. The French lay in wait in the semis for Yugoslavia, for whom goals from Bora Kostic were enough to dismiss a young Portugese side.

The Czechs, set to be World Cup finallists in 1962 and boasting the skills of Josef Masopust, also qualified after a 5-0 aggregate win over Romania. Spain were favourites to be the fourth team making a trip to France, where the semi-finals, final and third-place play-off would be played but politics got in the way when Facist dictator General Franco barred his team from facing the Soviets, who were not allowed to cross Spanish borders.

So matters moved to France, and despite the tournament's trophy being named after Henri Delaunay, the French federation bigwig who had originally mooted the idea of the tournament way back in 1927, the French could not maintain their challenge. Yugoslavia crashed the party despite France leading 4-2 with 15 minutes to go. Three goals in three minutes sank France, for whom both Kopa and Fontaine were missing with injury.

The Soviets were in the groove with Valentin Ivanov scoring twice in a 3-0 win over the Czechs in which goalkeeper Lev 'The Black Panther' Yashin was imperious. The final was set for the Parc des Princes.

There the Yugoslavs dominated the final and led through a Galic goal. While Yashin kept out wave after wave of attacks, his opposite number Blagoje Vidinic dropped a long shot and Slava Metreveli equalised just after half-time. Extra-time came and the Soviets were now the stronger. A single chance fell to striker Viktor Ponedelnik and the USSR had won the maiden tournament through a combination of athleticism, strong defence and the dominance of Yashin.


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