The fifth edition of the UEFA European Championship in 1976 was to be last in the four-team “microtournament” format – with reigning champions Germany being joined by the hosts Yugoslavia, 1960 third place finishers Czechoslovakia and tournament debutants The Netherlands.
Two grounds – Belgrade’s Crvena Zvezda and Zagreb’s Maksimir – were used to host the four games which were played over a period of five days; a total of nineteen goals were scored at an average of 4.75 per game, taking scoring levels back to those last seen in the free-scoring 1950s. All four games went into extra time, with the final witnessing the first-even penalty shootout.
Qualifying Campaign and pre-tournament build-up
As in 1972, Germany came through the group phase of their qualifying campaign unbeaten, but at times threatened to make a mess of qualifying from a group that contained three fairly ordinary teams in Bulgaria, Greece and Malta. The first five of their six games were either drawn or won by a single goal before the team burst into life in their final game with an 8-0 demolition of Malta.
This solid form continued into the last-eight playoff against a dangerous Spanish side, where a draw in Madrid and a solid 2-0 win in Munich secured a comfortable 3-1 victory and with it a place in the final four.
Germany’s Tournament in brief
In their semi-final Germany faced hosts Yugoslavia, the team that had inflicted their first and only European Championship defeat back in 1967. Things looked to be heading the same way as the Slavs took a 2-0 lead, but Germany provided one of those famous comebacks to take the game into extra time before prevailing 4-2. Leading the charge with a superb hattrick was another striker with the surname Müller – this time Köln’s twenty-two year old Dieter.
It looked like the final would take a similar course as the Mannschaft once again clawed back a two-goal deficit against Czechoslovakia to take the game into extra time, but this time there would be no final flourish. In what was the first-ever penalty shootout, Helmut Schön’s side would be undone by both Uli Hoeneß’ miss and Antonín Panenka’s famously impetuous chip over Sepp Maier.