Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
UEFA Champions League
Originally known as the European Champion Clubs' Cup, or simply abbreviated as the European Cup, the competition began in 1955/56 using a two-leg knockout format where the teams would play two matches, one at home and one away, and the team with the highest overall score qualifying for the next round of the competition. Entry was restricted to the teams that won their national league championships, plus the current cup holder.
The format and name were changed in 1992/93, and while the system has changed and evolved radically over the years, the competition currently consists of three qualifying rounds, one stage of group competition (where teams play each other in the style of "home-and-away" or "regular season" competition), and then four rounds of knock-out finals. All qualifying round and knock-out ties are two-legged except for the final, which is a single match played at a predetermined site.
Qualification for the competition is decided by competitor teams placing in their domestic league championship, on a quota system, with countries with stronger domestic league competition allocated more teams. Clubs that play in stronger domestic leagues also enter at later stages of the competition.
For example, the three strongest domestic leagues, as rated by UEFA, place their champions and runners-up directly into the group phase, and their third-and fourth-place teams enter at the third qualifying round. Domestic league champions from countries with poor UEFA ratings receive no place in the Champions League, and instead receive entry to the secondary UEFA Cup.
There is one exception to this rule; the current Champions League titleholder automatically qualifies for the group stage, regardless of where it finished in its domestic league.
The history of the European Cup and Champions League is long and remarkable, with fifty years of competition finding winners and losers from all parts of the continent.
Tracing the history of the Champions League back to its beginning, it is possible to easily pick out periods when specific teams or countries dominated the competition, only to find themselves rapidly superceded by another dominant team or teams. With that in mind, it is easy to view the European Cup and Champions League by era:
1955 to 1960 - First Real Madrid Era
Real Madrid dominated the first five competitions, with the team led by di Stefano, Puskas, Gento, Del Sol and Santamaria winning each of the first five finals comfortably. While this was most definitely the case, Manchester United and several Italian clubs did offer some resistance during the late 1950s, however the combined factors of the 1958 Munich Air Crash and the unorthodox and cavalier playing style of Real meant that little real competition could be found.
This era culminated in the famous 1960 European Cup Final, at Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland, where Real Madrid obliterated Eintracht Frankfurt of the then West Germany 7:3 in front of BBC and other Eurovision television cameras and a crowd of over 135,000 - still the largest attendance for a European Cup or Champions League final.
1961 to 1966 - Benfica and the Milan clubs dominate, though Madrid win a sixth final
Real Madrid's domination was ended by their biggest domestic rivals, Barcelona, in the first round of the 1961 competition. Barca went all the way to the final that year at the Wankdorf Stadion in Berne, Switzerland, where they were defeated in a close game by Benfica of Lisbon. This team, captained by the impressive Mario Coluna from Mozambique, were joined by the legendary Eusébio the following season, where they defended the trophy beating Real Madrid 5:3 in the final at the Olympisch Stadion , Amsterdam, Holland.
Benfica would then go on to reach a third successive final in 1963, but lost to Milan, whose city rivals Internazionale would win the trophy in both 1964 and 1965 beating Real Madrid and Benfica in the process. The 1965 competition is memorable more for the infamous and controversial semi-final between Internazionale and Liverpool, with widespread allegations of bribery and match-fixing being levelled at the Italian side following a 3:0 home win in Milan.
This era was ended by Real Madrid, who defeated Internazionale in the 1966 semi-final, before going on to win a sixth European Cup against Partizan Belgrade in the King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels (then Heysel Stadium). Of the great 1950's side, only Paco Gento played in all six winning teams.
1967 and 1968 - Two British Victories
In 1967, Celtic became the first British team to win the competition, beating Internazionale in the Estadio Nacional, in Lisboa, Portugal. The side, managed by Jock Stein, were all born within 25 miles of Celtic Park in Glasgow, and as such remain unusual by the event's longstanding nature of attracting the best and most cosmopolitan players from all over the planet. By way of contrast, while Real Madrid fielded many Spaniards in the 1950s, their major stars were from elsewhere - Alfredo di Stefano had arrived from Argentina, while Ferenc Puskás had defected from Hungary in 1956.
One year later, Manchester United became the first English team to win the competition, beating Benfica 4:1 after extra time at Wembley Stadium, London, UK. This game was incredibly close, and though United scored three times in extra time, Benfica should have won the game in normal time when the usually imperious Eusébio contrived to miss an easy chance (for him) in the last seconds.
Coming 10 years after the Munich Air Crash though, many fans all across the continent were happy for Matt Busby (the longtime Manchester United manager), who was later knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to football.
1969 to 1973 - Dutch Domination
The European Cup was now to spend almost the whole of the next decade and a half as the property of just three clubs - each winning at least three finals, and appearing regularly in the latter stages of the competition.
The first club to dominate was AFC Ajax, who first lost the 1969 final to Milan and then had to watch deadly rivals Feijenoord win the same title in 1970. After that though, the Total Football of Johan Cruijff, Barry Hulshoff , Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens, Arie Haan , Gerrie Mühren and Piet Keizer dominated for three comfortable years, despatching Panathinaikos of Athens, Internazionale and Juventus of Turin in swift succession.
Each player was able to adapt to play in any number of positions and roles, strikers switching with defenders at will, Krol creating nearly as many chances as Mühren, Cruijff stopping as many as Hulshoff. Created by Rinus Michels and refined by Stefan Kovacs , Ajax seemed unbeatable until Cruijff opted to join former coach Michels at Barcelona later in 1973. With that, the rapid aging of several players and the loss of Neeskens later, Ajax struggled in the premier European competition for over 20 years.
1974 to 1976 - The Rise of Bayern
Bayern Munich became the next club to dominate the competition, winning it three times consecutively in the mid 1970s.
Led by Franz Beckenbauer, and starring Sepp Maier, Gerd Müller, Uli Hoeness and Paul Breitner, Bayern continued on from Total Football, adding their own version of rigidity and organisation to the mix to make an equally as imposing mixture.
Defeating first Atlético Madrid after a replay in 1974, Bayern then beat Leeds United 2:0 in a bad tempered and crowd trouble affected final at the Parc des Princes, Paris, France in 1975, and finally St.-Étienne at Hampden Park, Glasgow, in 1976. Yet again, this side aged rapidly and Bayern would win no more victories in the European Cup era.
1977 to 1984 - Made In England
In 1977, Liverpool started a domination of the competition by English clubs which would see six consecutive victories, and a total of seven in eight years. Liverpool beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 in Rome, then in 1978 retained the trophy with victory over Club Brugge at Wembley.
Liverpool lost in the first round of the 1979 competition to fellow English side Nottingham Forest who went on to win the tournament in arguably the most impressive rise to the top of continental football in the European game's history. Forest defeated Swedish side Malmö 1-0 in the Munich final; then disposed of Hamburg SV in Madrid by the same scoreline to defend the trophy successfully in 1980. Liverpool returned to the final in 1981 where they picked up their third trophy with a 2-0 win over Real Madrid in Paris.
To show the English game's strength in depth, Aston Villa won the competition in 1982 with a 1-0 win over Bayern in Rotterdam. Hamburg won in 1983 as no English side reached the final for the first time in seven years, but Liverpool were back in 1984 to defeat AS Roma on their home turf after a penalty shoot out. Liverpool returned to defend the trophy in Brussels a year later, but the 1-0 defeat by Juventus was rendered meaningless due to the death of 39 Juventus fans in the Heysel Stadium. English clubs immediately began a six year ban from the competition.