UEFA Intertoto Cup
The UEFA Intertoto Cup is a sort of a consolation prize for the teams that fail to make it through to Europe's top club competitions, namely the UEFA Champion's League and the UEFA Cup. Basically the Intertoto Cup is open to all clubs in a country's league, but the condition is that the clubs must first apply to take part in the competition.
Initially the cup began as a summer tournament that was played for aiding football pools companies that dominated central Europe during the late 1960s. Conceived by Ernst Thommen, from Switzerland, and the Austrian Karl Rappan. The latter was a legend at VfB Admira Wacker Mödling, SK Rapid Wien and FK Austria Wien.
In 1954 he also had the distinction to lead Switzerland to the World Cup quarter-finals. Thommen had purely commercial interests at heart when he mooted a plan for a summer football tournament. The idea was to keep the betting business in the money during the lean season as well. The UEFA was reluctant to crowd the calendar, but was convinced by the duo. The first Intertoto Cup thus came to life in 1961.
The Intertoto Cup was envisaged as a harbinger to a future European club competition. However over the years, the competition has evolved into a knock-out phase one that usually involves teams unable to make the top half of their respective leagues.
AFC Ajax clinched the first ever Intertoto Cup after getting to the finals via group stage and knockout rounds. In the subsequent years, the scheduling became a huge issue with the organizers. Therefore in 1967 the knock-out rounds were done away with leaving no overall winner for the Intertoto Cup. In effect, a tournament without a trophy had become a prestigious event in the footballing calendar.
In 1995, the UEFA officially sanctioned the Intertoto Cup. Sixty teams from member nations were allowed to take part and were divided into 12 groups. Among them 16 teams advanced to the knock-out rounds with the last two standing receiving UEFA Cup places as rewards.
In that year it was the French team of FC Girondins de Bordeaux, which contained big names like Zinédine Zidane, Bixente Lizarazu and Christophe Dugarry, which went onto clinch a place in the UEFA Cup and make it to the finals as well.
Back in the 1970s the Intertoto Cup was viewed as a tournament that was designed to allow teams that had not qualified for the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Cup to gain some European exposure. Therefore the format was nothing much to write home about.
The UEFA Intertoto Cup was supervised by UEFA beginning 1995. Sixty teams from all member nations were put through their paces in a group stage involving twelve groups. Thereafter 16 teams competed in knockout stages, while the final two teams were rewarded with a place in the UEFA Cup first round.
FC Girondins de Bordeaux took full advantage of this largesse to progress to the finals of the UEFA Cup in 1995. Later on Bologna FC, AJ Auxerre and Villarreal CF also qualified for the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup via the Intertoto Cup.
In effect Intertoto Cup became a platform for teams that had not done well in their leagues to find a way to Europe. After 1996 UEFA allowed three finalists to progress to the UEFA Cup first round. The tournament is open to all clubs that finish behind the top clubs, who are ensured direct qualification into the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Cup.
However preference will be given to those clubs that have a higher placing on their league tables. For example is a 10th placed club and a 8th placed club were to apply for admission into the Intertoto Cup, UEFA will give the nod to the 8th placed team ahead of its rival.
In a similar manner the UEFA coefficient ranking system decides which member nations can have two teams competing in the Intertoto Cup and which nations will be allowed to have only one team.
UEFA changed the format of the Intertoto Cup for the 2006-07 season. Under the new rules, instead of three teams qualifying for the UEFA Cup first round, eleven teams will have the opportunity to fight for a berth in the UEFA Cup by playing the second round of the qualifying competition.
This means that instead of five rounds, only three rounds will be played with the eleven victorious sides from the UEFA Intertoto Cup third round gaining direct admission into the UEFA Cup qualifiers.
Basically 49 member associations have the right to get one team each into the Intertoto Cup. However UEFA can decide to allow a member nation to field two teams if another nation declines to field any. Matches are played on a home and away basis with the team winning on aggregate goals progressing into the next round.
UEFA Intertoto Cup 2007-08
Last season following the changed format Olympique de Marseille, AJ Auxerre, Hertha BSC Berlin, Odense BK, Ethnikos Achnas FC, NK Maribor, Grasshopper-Club, Kayserispor, SV Ried, FC Twente and Newcastle United FC made it to the UEFA Cup second round through the Intertoto Cup.
Newcastle United were also awarded the trophy by virtue of being the team to have progressed farthest in the UEFA Cup.
This year fifty teams are eligible to compete in the first round that also has a team from Montenegro for the first time. For the first round 28 clubs will battle it out on 23/24 June and 30 June/1 July. In the next stage 14 additional teams will join the 14 first round winners.
These fixtures will be held in the following two weekends in July. In the last round to be played on 21/22 July and 28/29 July, UEFA has chosen clubs from Spain, Italy, England, France, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands and Greece to take on the 14 second round winners.
The UEFA Intertoto Cup has grown in prestige over recent years. Teams no longer treat it as a step-sister to the main European club competitions. In fact it is now viewed as a stepping stone to UEFA Cup success even if teams do not finish in the top half of their domestic leagues.
In hindsight, the UEFA Intertoto Cup is certainly living up to the dreams of its founders who wanted a pan-European club competition in the months of June and July. You can watch live Intertoto Cup football online inside our dedicated member’s area.
Tags: Intertoto Cup, UEFA Cup, UEFA Intertoto Cup