THE 1996 European football championships, to be staged in England, will include for the first time a sudden-death format to decide drawn games in the later stages of the competition.
On the eve of today's qualifying draw in Manchester, Uefa officials decided that extra-time will no longer mean an automatic period of 30 minutes. Instead victory will go to the first team to score in extra-time. No extra-time goals will send the teams into a penalty shoot-out.
The system will be brought in after the first round group fixtures. It has been tested in junior international competition before but never at senior level.
The idea could be introduced for this year's World Cup finals. For the United States showpiece, Fifa, the game's ruling body, has elected to use three points for a win in the group format and, at a meeting tomorrow, Uefa will decide whether it should follow suit in 1996 for both the qualifying rounds and the first-round group stages.
The impetus for change has come from a desire to reward attacking football and remove the potential for inferior sides to set out to defend their way through normal time and extra-time in the hope that they could emerge victorious in the penalty shoot-out. The game's governing bodies have been dissatisfied with that method of separating teams but until have struggled to come up with an alternative solution.
The German federation president, Egidius Braun, who chaired yesterday's meeting, said: 'We decided on these changes in the light of what has happened before. As far as three points for a win is concerned we feel this could make matches more attractive and force teams to adopt attacking tactics.'
Braun's committee made several changes to the previous list of seedings with Wales promoted from the third-ranked group to the second, replacing the Czech Republic who were demoted. With 47 teams involved the organisers will draw eight groups at today's ceremony which will feature England's 1966 World Cup stars Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. Fifteen nations, the eight group winners and seven runners-up, will join England for the final stages.