Luxembourg at the European Nations Cup 1964

The European Nations Cup (now known as the European Championships) was born in July 1960 in Paris. The idea for a pan-European football tournament was first proposed by the French Football Federation’s secretary-general Henri Delaunay in 1927, but it was not until 1958 that the tournament actually began, sadly three years after Delaunay’s death. After Qualifying there would be four teams that qualify for the official tournament, it wasn’t until 1980 that the tournament increased participating teams to eight, then in 1996 up to sixteen and now we are at twenty-four nations. Spain, selected as host nation for the 1964 Final Tournament and would host 4 games, Both Semi Finals (Santiago Bernabéu & Camp Nou), 3rd/4th place playoff (Camp Nou) and the final (Santiago Bernabéu).

It is important to remember, that in 1964 the competition had less nations participating for qualification; first because there were less countries inside of Europe, Czechoslovakia’s dissolution on 1 January 1993 split the nation and after an economic and political crisis in the 1980s and the rise of nationalism, Yugoslavia broke up along its republics’ borders, at first into five countries, leading to the Yugoslav Wars. Secondly some countries were just simply not that interested in participating; 4 years earlier in 1960, the first ever European Nations Cup, notable absences included West Germany, Italy, England and the Netherlands. At the 1962 World Cup in Chile, Europe sent representatives that went on to make up six of the last eight teams, only one of the six to exclude themselves from the preliminary rounds of qualifying for Euro ’64 and that was West Germany, the remaining five; Soviet Union, England, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Hungary did take part in qualifying.

The preliminary rounds are what we would describe today as two-legged knockout matches with one home leg each and one away, played at their respective national stadiums. 30 teams entered the competition but only saw 29 take place as Greece withdrew after being drawn to play Albania in their first game, in brief due to the Greek civil war. The Greek People’s Liberation Army and the Democratic Army of Greece (Supported by Albania) fought against the Greek Communist Party. The Greek Communist Party were the internationally recognised government after the 1946 elections, and therefore boycotted the game against Albania. The remaining preliminary rounds saw Norway play Sweden, Sweden winning 3-1 on aggregate, Denmark played Malta winning 9-2 on aggregate, Republic of Ireland beat Iceland 5-3 over 2 games. England played France; after a first leg ending 1-1 at Hillsborough, they went on to lose 5-2 at the Parc Des Princes. Northern Ireland beat Poland 2-0 both home and away, Spain won their first leg at home to Romania 6-0, so losing 3-1 in the second leg was of little significant; Yugoslavia beat Belgium 4-2 on aggregate. Bulgaria beat Portugal 3-1 in Sofia, only for Portugal to return the spoils with a 3-1 win in Lisbon, this was pre-extra time, pre golden goal, pre penalty shootouts after a 3rd leg playoff an 87th minute winner saw Bulgaria progress 1-0. Hungary defeated Wales 4-2 on aggregate and win of the same score line for Holland against Switzerland. East Germany beat Czechoslovakia 3-2 on aggregate and finally Italy destroyed Turkey in Bologna 6-0, Followed by a 1-0 victory in Istanbul. The Soviet Union, Austria and Luxembourg received a bye, straight through to the last 16 (along with Albania after Greece’s decision to boycott the draw).

Boarded by Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east and France to the south, Luxembourg; population 327,750, is a country with a total land area of 998 square miles, which to put into some relatable context, would be about the size of Greater London and Greater Manchester combined. Yet to play an international tournament and geographically surrounded by giants. i wont need to go into too much detail for you to grasp the uphill struggle the national side would face, regardless of the opponents drawn. It is also important to have an understanding of Luxembourg as a nation at the time. After various occupations throughout the first and second world wars and encouraged by the contacts established with the Dutch and Belgian governments in exile, Luxembourg pursued a policy of presence in international organisations. It was one of the six founding members of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957. In the context of the Cold War, Luxembourg opted for the West by joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949, thus renouncing its traditional neutrality, which had determined its international policy since the founding of the state. Luxembourg often played an intermediary role between larger countries. This role of mediator, especially between the two large and often bellicose nations of Germany and France. Considered one of the main characteristics of national identity, allowing the Luxembourgers not to have to choose between one of these two neighbours. The national division, although changing names, is still referred to as the BLG Ligue; the name changed due to a sponsorship deal in 2011. The league consisted of 12 teams, first held in 1910, and has been held every year since, with the exceptions of 1913 and four seasons during the Second World War.

The first game of the last 16 saw drawn Spain against Northern Ireland with Spain winning 2-1, After a 0-0 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia lost 3-2 to Sweden in Malmo, Denmark beat Albania 4-0 in Copenhagen so the 1-0 loss in Tirana was of little disruption to the Danish camp which at this point had Madsen on 5 goals already this tournament. Republic of Ireland held Austria to a 0-0 draw in Vienna and won 3-2 in Dublin thanks to a 89th minute penalty. France beat Bulgaria 3-2 on aggregate; Soviet Union knocked Italy out 3-1 after gaining the advantage in a 2-0 win in Moscow, Hungary knocked out East Germany 5-4 on aggregate, leaving Luxembourg taking on the Netherlands (just 6 years before the world would hail the dutch for their introduction of Total Football.) Total Football depends on each footballer to adapt within the team, with the ability to quickly switch positions depending on the on-field situation. The theory requires players to be comfortable in multiple positions; hence, it places high technical and physical demands on them, a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another from his team, thus retaining the team’s intended organisational structure.

The Netherlands v Luxembourg – Round of 16

11 September 1963 Amsterdam Olympic Stadium 20:00

Dutch football at the time had many of the ingredients for the revolutionary total football in place. Although dutch players were still, in majority; “amateur”, they were also skilled, tactical and great thinkers of space and movement. Ajax in particular, already had a tradition of intelligent attacking football dating back to World War I and credited to Englishman Jack Reynolds. John “Jack” Reynolds was manager of Ajax from 1915–1925, 1928–1940, and 1945–1947 and his story his long and illustrious, but to avoid going to far from the point, he is considered one of the pioneers of the Total Football system of playing and among the best managers the team has had.

Not completely new to international competition, The national side of Luxembourg did compete in six Olympic football events between 1920 and 1952, they also participated in FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the 1934 World Cup, all resulting in little, to no, success. Luxembourg played their first ever international match on 29 October 1911, in a friendly match against France; it resulted in a 1–4 defeat, Their first victory came on 8 February 1914, also in a match against France, which they won 5–4. Luxembourg had been regularly beat by the more sizeable nations in Europe during their early years, including by the Dutch in a 1957 World Cup qualifier, with little expectation of Luxembourg in qualifying for the 1964 European Nations’ Cup. Luxembourg had only played one game in the two years before this match, losing 3-1 in friendly against the Soviet Union. A win for the Netherlands seemed a matter of routine and the winner would make their way through to the last eight of the tournament; The teams lined up;

The Netherlands                                    Luxembourg

Eduard Pieters-graafland                           Nico Schmitt

Augustinus W Haak                                   Erny Brenner (C)

Pieter Ouderland                                       Jean-Pierre Hoffstetter

Daniel Schrijvers                                        Jean-Pierre Fiedler

Anton Pronk                                              Fernand Brosius

Jean Anna Klaasens (C)                            François Konter

Jesaia Swart                                             Jean Klein

Hendrick Groot                                         Adolphe Schmit

Klaas Nuninga                                           Louis Pilot

Anthonie van der Linden                            Paul May

Coen Moulijn                                             Nicholas Hoffmann

Netherlands goalkeeper; Eddy Pieters Graafland has a career with both Feyenoord and Ajax Amsterdam and was part of Feyenoord’s European Cup victory in 1970 he earned 47 caps. He was notorious as the time for being a safe pair of hands and is the Netherlands thirds most capped keeper behind only Edwin Van Der Sar (130 caps) and Hans van Breukelen (73 caps). In front of him the dutch had, Guus Haak, Graaflands team-mate and part of their 1970 European Cup victory. Pieter Ouderland Ajax defender, tall and strong also sometimes playing as a centre forward (Pieter Ouderland went on to represent Netherland as part of the national basketball team.) his team-mate, Anton Pronk made up the back line. Captain Jean Anna Klaassens was a Feyenoord midfielder, cool-headed and in command of play, he played along side Hendrick Groot at Feyenoord, Hendrick was an attacking midfielder with 116 goals in 124 games for Ajax before making his transfer to the Rotterdam club scoring 34 in 54 games ,a threat. In attack they had the established and respected Sjaak Swart, nicknamed Mr. Ajax, he playing a total of almost 600 matches, he had won 2 Eredivisie titles before this tournament and went on to win another six, along with 3 European Cup with Ajax in 1971, 1972, 1973. Klaas Nuninga was an Ajax team-mate and had three Eredivisie titles to his name as well as an average goal goals record of 1 in 2. Out wide the Netherlands had; Coen Moulijn, played for Feyenoord and was part of the Feyenoord 1970 European Cup victory, Compared by some to Stanley Matthews (First winner of both the European Footballer of the Year and the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year awards. Matthews’ nicknames included “The Wizard of the Dribble” and “The Magician”.) Moulijn, considered one of the most talented left wingers in Dutch football history. Johan Cruyff added him to his all time favourite Dutch national team, stating that “Coen mastered one movement better than anyone: threatening to pass his opponent through the centre, and then speeding past him on the other side. He was an exceptionally talented football player. A typical product of the Dutch school.” Former Dutch defender Rinus Israël, said “He was a modest, hardworking man. I think the fans loved him because of that too. Whenever Coen would have ball possession, people would get religious experiences. I think he was the best Feyenoord player ever.” Rinus Israël greatest success came whilst at Feyenoord, winning three Eredivisie titles, a KNVB Cup, a European Cup and a UEFA Cup. He scored one of the two Rotterdam goals in the 1970 European Cup final against Celtic F.C. His exclusion from 1964 European Nation Cup is unclear as it was un recorded, i would suggest injury.

Whilst in contract the Luxembourg team was not made of domestic champions from within a competitive league, there were no Ballon D’or nominated players and not many players recognised from outside the nation. Louis Pilot, midfielder; selected by the Luxembourg Football Federation as the country’s “Golden Player” the greatest player of the last 50 years. Signing for Belgian team Standard Liège at the age of 20, he went on to play 337 times for Standard, winning 4 Belgian league titles and 2 Belgian cups. Also in midfield they had, Ady Schmit; played most of his career in France for FC Sochaux-Montbéliard. He had scored a hat trick during a 4-2 win in a World-Cup qualifying match versus Portugal, where Eusébio debuted for his national side, now considered by many as one of the greatest footballers of all time. The Luxembourgers also had striker, Johny Léonard, after the tournament left Luxembourg to play for french outfit FC Metz and KAA Genk in Belgium. The rest of the team was largely made up for part-time footballer, full-time working men.

Arthur Blavier the Belgium referee blows his whistle an gets the game under way in front of 36,523 in attendance. It could not be a worst start for Luxembourg as Klaas Nuninga scores after just 5 minutes, The Netherlands looked on course for the victory, until Paul May finds the back of the dutch net and equalises after 33 minutes. Paul May was a forward that had career with Jeunesse d’Esch in Luxembourg. they managed to see the rest of the game out with the result finishing 1-1. A massive draw for the nation, everything still to play for with a second leg that could go either way, they had already shown in this first leg, they had the attitude to do whatever was necessary to honour themselves and not go down without a fight. Louis Pilot told Le Quotidien in 2007: “I remember this game had been particularly for players like me who had been playing for foreign clubs. For almost two years, we hadn’t been summoned by the national team. We hadn’t evolved together as a team — we met only two or three days before the game — but we had something to prove. We wanted to show our value and that it was wrong not to show faith in us.” Netherlands, said to have actually held off in the first leg because they wanted the fans to return in force for the second. The assembled supporters in Rotterdam subsequently showered the team with boos as they went down to an incredible defeat, and the next day Dutch paper De Telegraaf asked: “Who are we going to play against now? San Marino? Andorra? Liechtenstein?”

Luxembourg Vs The Netherlands – Round of 16

30 October 1963Feijenoord Stadion – 20:15

The Luxembourg national team normally plays its home matches at the Stade Josy Barthel in Luxembourg City today but in 1964 their second leg “home” game played at Stadion Feyenoord (De Kuip), Rotterdam, which may have been due to an unsuitable venue in Luxembourg in 1964, the details of this are not readily available or recorded for public access, as you can imagine footballs governing bodies are not notorious for their transparency in regards to information and decision-making. With 42,385 in attendance there were few changes in the line up from the first leg;

Luxembourg                                                       Holland

Nico Schmitt                                                         Eduard Pieters-graafland

Erny Brenner                                                         Augustinus W Haak

Jean-Pierre Hoffstetter                                          Cor Pleun Veldhoen

Jean-Pierre Fiedler                                                Gerardus Van Wissen (C)

Fernand Brosius                                                    Anton Pronk

François Konter                                                    Marinus Bennaars

Jean Klein                                                             Peter Giesen

Adolphe Schmit                                                    Hendrick Groot

Louis Pilot                                                             Pieter Kruiver

Camille Dimmer                                                    Pieter Keizer

Henri Klein                                                            Peter Hendrik Petersen

Luxembourg Coach Robert Heniz make two changes to the attack, replacing Paul May & Nicholas Hoffmann with Camille Dimmer & Henri Klein, whilst The Netherlands Romanian manager Elek Schwartz swapped Pieter Ouderland with Cor Pleun Veldhoen, made Van Wissen Captain, replaced Klaasens with Bennaars and completely swapped his front three, including; Piet Kruiver of Feyenoord, Eredivisie winner, KNVB Cup winner 94 Games 74 goals. Referee Marcel Bois of France gets the game under way; Camille Dimmer, engineer by profession and future politician, scores in the 20th minute giving Luxembourg the lead, Pieter Kruiver scored an equaliser 15 minutes later but the dutch did not offer enough to score before Dimmers second on the 67th minute. Luxembourg had just knocked out The Netherlands to advance to the quarter finals where they would face Denmark, they are only one more win away from making the Final Four of the tournament, what they have achieved already is enough to make themselves and their nation proud, against all odds they have defeated the Dutch.

The Quarter Finals; Spain annihilated Republic of Ireland 7-1 over the two legs, France 5-2 winners over Hungary and the Soviet Union defeating Sweden 4-2 leaving the winner of Luxembourg and Denmark to make it through to the semi finals. 4 December 1963, first leg at (this time) Stade Municipal/ Stade Josy Barthel in Luxembourg, Attendance 6,921. Louis Pilot scores in the first minute, only for Danish captain, Madsen to score 8 minutes later, Klein’s put Luxembourg in front for the second time at 23 minutes, for Madsen to yet again score the equaliser 8 minutes later, the half time whistle blows. One minute into the second half and its a hat trick for Madsen, but this time is Luxembourg’s Klein for a brace. 3-3 and clock runs out. Everything still to play for in the second leg.

Ole Eduard Fischer Madsen played 11 seasons for Danish lower-league clubs, before signing a professional contract for Dutch club Sparta Rotterdam, he would go on to score 42 goals in 50 matches for the Danish national team. In 1964, he was named Danish Player of the Year and became the first Dane to receive a vote in the European Footballer of the Year poll. Ole Madsen was a short, exceptionally fast striker with immense fighting spirit, and a knack for physical infighting. He had a selfish streak to his game, and would rarely pass the ball to his teammates. This was a source of his extraordinary goalscoring talent, but would sometimes frustrate even his own teammates. Madsen was offered a contract by Spanish club FC Barcelona in 1964, but he turned it down in order to stay an amateur with the Danish national team and HIK in the Danish 3rd Division.

The second leg was played 6 days later, on 10 December 1963 at Idrætsparken, Copenhagen, this time the crowd was a lot bigger at 36,294. Again first blood was to Luxembourg, Johny Léonard with a goal after 13 minutes, but as the script seemed written, 3 minutes later Ole Madsen scores the equalizer, he then put the Danes 2-1 in front after scoring again, his 5th of the tie, on 70 minutes, Luxembourg has to dig deep, and did so, Ady Schmit scores the late equalizer on 84 minutes. It seems as much as Denmark and Ole Madsen are determined on going through, the Luxembourgers are as determined to give there all and reach the 1964 European Nations Cup semi final. The game finishes 2-2 and as there was were no such thing as away goals, golden goals or extra time, a play off was necessary and arrange for 8 days later, held in neutral Amsterdam Olympic stadium. One goal decided the tie, and of course; Ole Madsen, the goal machine was simply unstoppable, not much is known about dutch referee Piet P. Roomer or the performance of either team but Denmark make it through to the semis, Luxembourg leave the tournament heads held high, an achievement yet to be equalled or surpassed by themselves or another nation of that size.

Back in Luxembourg the media and public ecstatic and is still today regarded as Luxembourg’s best performance, this is a win for many part timers knocking out a Holland team that was full of the players that went on to win Eredivisie after Eredivisie and 4 European cups among Feyenoord players in 1970 and Ajax players in ’71, ’72, ’73. A feat comparative to Iceland defeating England in the last 16 of the Euro ’16 tournament, teamwork, playing for each other, approaching the game with a well worked plan and implementing it. We may never see Luxembourg at an international tournament, I’m almost certain we wont see them in the quarter finals of a major tournament, this is an achievement set in stone, long to live in football antiquity.

By Chris Nichols, a football obsessive, researcher and writer, presenting tales from footballing antiquity, urging the underdog and hailing the perpetuity of the beautiful game. You can keep up-to-date with his influences and ideas at; 

Posted by Natter Football

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