Football: Uefa initiative on extra time

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THE 1996 European Championship, 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, officials of Uefa, the governing body of European football, 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 now 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.

Berlin yesterday offered to stage the Germany-England fixture scheduled for 20 April, the date of Hitler's birthday. City officials of Hamburg, the original venue, asked for the high-profile friendly to be taken from them because they feared the aggressive attentions of political extremists.

'For us 20 April is a day like any other,' Barbel Richter, the Berlin football federation spokeswoman, said. 'We want to have this great football match.'

Berlin is not alone in revealing hunger for this hottest of potatoes. The German federation president, Egidius Braun, who is in Manchester for today's European Championship draw, has received a fax from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, offering to play host on days either side of the dreaded 20th. Gelsenkirchen is understood to be the city involved, although the region also covers Dusseldorf and Cologne. Munich is also believed to have shown interest.

'I am sure the match will still be staged somewhere,' Braun said. 'There is no way that we should allow people who want to hijack football for terror to stop us. There is a very special rivalry and friendship between England and Germany in soccer. . . The match must be played.'

Braun added that he would discuss the matter this weekend with Sir Bert Millichip, the chairman of the Football Association, in Manchester.