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The Henri Delaunay Cup

The Henri Delaunay Cup

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In the gap between World Cups, soccer fans have to turn their attention to regional competitions in order to get their fix for great international matches. Thankfully, the Henri Delaunay Cup is contested squarely in the middle of the gap, allowing the best national teams from all over Europe to claim the trophy as the continent’s best. The Euro, as most people call it, was first played out by four teams during the summer of 1960. The tournament now features 16 squads during a three-week showcase event for UEFA member countries.

History

Henri Delaunay, the head of the French Football Federation, first proposed the idea of a continental championship in 1927. It took more than 30 years for the first round of qualification to begin, meaning he never saw his vision come to life – he passed away in 1955 after serving as the first General Secretary of UEFA for a year and a half. His son Pierre, who followed him in the position, took on the responsibility of seeing the competition (and, thus, its trophy) take shape.

The design debuted in anticipation of the first edition of the tournament, played in France during the summer of 1960. Manufactured by the Chobillon goldsmith and purchased by the French jewelers Arthus-Bertrand, the trophy ended up with a simple, elegant style – apart from the figure of a player juggling a ball on the back. The wide barrel gave way to a slender neck and expansive, crown-like opening befitting soccer’s kings of Europe. With small, braided handles, it has a sleeker and more proportional appearance than its cousin for the continent’s top club team, the European Club Champions’ Cup.

Prior to the 2008 competition in Switzerland and Austria, UEFA decided to have the Henri Delaunay Cup updated to reflect the tournament’s growing stature. Now contested by more than three times as many nations (53 as opposed to the original 17) with a four-fold increase in teams at the championship tournament (16 instead of 4), the federation commissioned Asprey of London to bring the trophy up to snuff. Though much of the original design was retained, the newer iteration is seven inches taller and five pounds heavier than the previous incarnation. In order to accommodate the larger size, the sterling silver base was widened and the engraving of winners moved to the back of the trophy, where the juggling soccer player once was.

Best Teams
West Germany (1972)
This squad featured some of the best players in history – Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller, amongst many others – and played with typical German efficiency as it cut through the group phase and into the finals. In smashing the Soviet Union with a 3-0 win in the finals, the team signaled the onset of a decade in which a World Cup and second Euro victory would follow, as well as a runners-up medal in the following continental championship.

France (1984)
There may never be a more dominant individual performance during the tournament than that turned in by Michel Platini during this edition. Posting nine goals over the five matches, he led a strong group of attacking Frenchmen to a triumph over Spain on home soil – the first major trophy for the country from which ideas for the World Cup, European Cup and European Club Champions’ Cup emerged.

Netherlands (1988)
Led by a trio of AC Milan players, this flair-filled group of Dutchmen could arguably be placed in the pantheon of greatest teams in any soccer competition. Marco van Basten, who drilled a stunner from a nearly impossible angle to open the scoring in the final, joined club mates and countrymen Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard to power the Oranje Crush to lift the Henri Delaunay Cup.

France (2000)
Up until this tournament, no defending World Cup Champion had taken home the Euro crown as well. Thanks to a thrilling goal from David Trezeguet late in overtime, the French overtook Italy to seal their position as the dominant team of the period. Led by Zinedine Zidane and Didier Deschamps, with the eccentric Fabian Barthez in goal, they were solid from front to back.

Spain (2008)
FC Barcelona had taken the club competition by storm the previous May, so it was no surprise when many of the same players took the field and put on a mesmerizing display of attacking soccer to claim the trophy. With Xavi and Andres Iniesta changing positions in midfield and Fernando Torres running wild up front, this squad served notice for the kind of performances which would lead to a World Cup triumph just two years later.

Winners
Germany (as West Germany in 1972 and 1980; unified in 1996)
Spain (1964, 2008)
France (1984, 2000)
Greece (2004)
Denmark (1992)
Netherlands (1988)
Czech Republic (as Czechoslovakia in 1976)
Italy (1968)
Soviet Union (1960)