Known by its full title of the UEFA European Football Championship, and more commonly referred to as "Euro xxxx", where xxxx is the year. It has been held every 4 years since 1960. This is the other primary football competition for Europe's national teams. It fills the void between World Cups by being held 2 years out of phase from each World Cup, and within Europe is nearly as highly regarded.It follows the same basic format as its worldwide cousin. Teams are first required to qualify for the tournament itself through qualifying groups although the hosts are granted automatic entry into the tournament proper. Each group results in two teams qualifying for the finals and 16 teams are currently allowed to participate. The competition will expand to 24 teams in 2016. In the finals themselves there is another group stage which will result in eight teams going through into the knockout stage. The winners are crowned European champions.So far the winners have been:
USSR - 1960
Spain - 1964, 2008, 2012
Italy - 1968
Germany (Also as West Germany) - 1972, 1980, 1996
Czechoslovakia - 1976
France - 1984, 2000
Netherlands - 1988
Denmark - 1992
Greece - 2004
And the hosts have been:
France - 1960, 1984, 2016
Spain - 1964
Italy - 1968, 1980
Belgium - 1972, 2000 (the latter co-hosted with the Netherlands)
Yugoslavia - 1976
West Germany - 1988
Sweden - 1992
England - 1996
Netherlands - 2000 (co-hosted with Belgium)
Portugal - 2004
Austria and Switzerland - 2008
Poland and Ukraine - 2012
2020 will be hosted Europe-wide to mark the 60th anniversary, with precise hosts to be determined.
This competition provides examples of:
And the Adventure Continues: Usually, after winning the Euro, the team raises high expectations for the World Cup. Very successfully for Spain (Euro 2008, World Cup in 2010 and Euro 2012), and West Germany (Euro 1972 and World Cup in 1974).
Arch-Enemy: England and Portugal, since Euro 2000 and 2004. Portugal and France, since France beat them in the semi-finals in 1984 and 2000. England and Germany...we have some more. After all, this is Europe we're talking about.
As pointed out by QI, the England-Germany rivalry is very much one-way only. The Germans' biggest rival is actually the Netherlands. In the past, matches between the two have looked more like wars, though tempers have softened considerably in the past 15 years or so.
Italy and Spain have a Slap-Slap-Kiss one. Fans from each country will say the worst about the other before a match, but after it's done, the defeated side will happily cheer for the victor in the next stage.
Played straight by Italy, on the other hand, with France and Germany.
Big Game: The final stage usually takes three weeks (at least since 1996, when it began to be disputed with 16 teams in the final stage).
Book Ends: Amazingly, in the Euro 2004, organized by Portugal. They lost against Greece in the opening match of the tournament, but they won every single one later, including an amazing match against England. Then, they reached the final, where they met... Greece. Greece won, causing shock across Europe and causing Cristiano Ronaldo (at the time, he was 19 years-old and scored his first international goal in the opening match) and Eusébio, among many others, to cry. The opening match was won by 1-2, the final match by 0-1.
The Chew Toy: In the final stage, Yugoslavia in 1984, Turkey in 1996, Denmark in 2000, Bulgaria in 2004, Republic Of Ireland and Netherlands in 2012.
When it comes to the qualification phase, we usually have: Andorra, Faroe Islands, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, and ESPECIALLY San Marino, who never won a match in official competitions.
Consolation Prize: There used to be a third place match. The last time it was played was in 1980 (Czechoslovakia won against Italy in a penalty shootout after being tied 1-1. The result in penalties: 9-8).
Curb-Stomp Battle: While there are too many examples in the qualification phase, in the final stage we have: In Euro 1984, France beating Belgium and Denmark beating Yugoslavia by 5-0; in Euro 1996, hosts England beat The Nethelands 4-0 in the group stages; in Euro 2004, Sweden beating Bulgaria by 5-0; in Euro 2008, Netherlands beating Italy by 3-0; in Euro 2012, Spain beating Ireland by 4-0, and, in the final, by 4-0 as well, against Italy.
Dark Horse Victory: The titles by both Denmark (last hour addition replacing the warring Yugoslavia) and Greece (hadn't qualified in 24 years, winning both the berth and title on a Boring, but Practical game focused on defense).
David Versus Goliath: Greece in 2004. Between the opening match and the closing match, they went through over Spain on goals scored and defeated the defending champions France in the quarter-finals and Czech Republic (who had won all three matches in the group stage) in the semi-finals.
A minor example can be found in the debut of Croatia in 1996 (having defeated defending champions Denmark by 3-0 in the group stage). However, they lost in the quarter-finals against Germany.
Determinator: Portugal's win against England in 2000. Portugal was already losing by 2-0 at the 18 minutes and many considered the result pratically definitive. Portugal won 3-2, in an astonishing match.
The Turkish team in 2008 was labelled "the comeback kings" for this reason. Losing to Portugal in the first match, Turkey was out when it came 0-1 down to host Switzerland in the second, until Senturk equalized in the 57th minute and Turan scored the 2-1 in injury time. Two further goals by Nihat in the last four minutes of the next match turned a 1-2 loss to the Czech Republic into a 3-2 victory to the Turks and let them advance to the next stage, where they met Croatia. There was then a 0-0 draw that was broken in the 119th minute by a Croatian goal, only to be equalized by Turkey in the following minute and let the Turks advance after winning in penalties. However, Turkey run out of luck in the next match and was beaten at theirown game by the Germans, who scored a winning 3-2 in the last moment.
Didn't See That Coming: Spain's win in 2008, a team till then described as Every Year They Fizzle Out. Extra morbidity came with the fact that Spain's coach Luis Aragonés had been the target of a smear campaign by part of the Sports press and Real Madrid fans because he had decided to not cap Real's captain Raúl González, and he answered to this pressure by ignoring it and sticking to his guns. Early defeats in que qualifying stage were practically cheered on and the seconds before Aragonés was booted counted. So when Spain unexpectedly beat Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals, the country was in shock. By the time Casillas lifted the trophy, everyone had apparently forgotten that there was even a player called Raúl.
Every Year They Fizzle Out: England, famously. They only reached the third place in 1968 and the semi-finals in 1996 (this one was organized by them).
Portugal counts as well. They reached the final but lost it against Greece. They reached the semi-finals in 1984 (it was remarkable though, since this was their first final stage appearance), 2000 (these two, 1984 and 2000, happened against France) and 2012 (against Spain, who won their second consecutive title). Portuguese people wonder if they're ever gonna get a title, here or in The World Cup.
Golden Path: In terms of a team winning all games before the title - i.e. no draws, losses or winning on penalties - only the hosts France in 1984 achieved it, with 5 victories (but one of them in extra-time).
Heads or Tails: 1968. Italy, against the Soviet Union, won by this method after none having scored in the semi-finals match. It was the first and only time that this method was used.
Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia met Germany/West Germany (2 wins for the Czechs and 3 wins for the Germans, with both having won one final (see Heroic Rematch).
Germany met the Netherlands (2 wins for each side, 1 draw).
Italy met Spain (1 win for the Italians, 1 draw, 3 wins for the Spanish - the last two wins by Spain happened in 2012 - see Loser Leaves Town).
Home Field Advantage: In most cases, the hosts tend to perform well, usually reaching at least the semi-finals:
In terms of the winners, we have Spain in 1964, Italy in 1968 and France in 1984.
In terms of runners-up, we have Portugal in 2004.
In terms of the semi-finals (we'll only count the post-1976 finals, which have more than 4 teams in the final stage), we have Italy in 1980, West Germany in 1988, Sweden in 1992, England in 1996 and Netherlands (co-host) in 2000.
Though in recent years, this has been averted. See Austria and Switzerland in 2008 and Poland and Ukraine in 2012.
Instant-Win Condition: And what an example of a Golden Goal. 1996, the final, between Czech Republic and Germany. The Czech took the lead, but Oliver Bierhoff scored, thus entering extra time. At the 95th minute, Bierhoff scored, thus granting Germany their third Euro trophy (but first time as a unified country). Even more impressive, considering that he came from the bench at the 69th minute, and, four minutes later, scored the equalizer.
Another big example: France in 2000. They won the semi-finals match by 2-1 against Portugal. Said Golden Goal came through a controversial penalty (it was later proved that Portuguese defender Abel Xavier touched the ball with his hand) scored by Zidane. But the BIG Golden Goal was the one against Italy in the final. Italy was winning, but them, at the last minute of regular time, Wiltord scored the equalizer. At the 103th minute, Trezeguet scored with a first-time shot into the roof of the net, thus granting France its second Euro trophy, two years after their World Cup title. And so, the Golden Goal rule ended.
International Showdown By Proxy: Especially in the case of a team from one side of the Curtain facing the other from the other side (i.e. Spain vs. Soviet Union 1964).
Long Runner: Among the players who played in most tournaments (4), we have, for example, Lothar Matthäus (Germany, 1980-88 and 2000), Peter Schmeichel (Denmark, 1988–2000), Alessandro Del Piero (Italy, 1996-2008), Edwin Van Der Sar (Netherlands, 1996-2008) and Lilian Thuram (France, 1996-2008).
Among the coaches present in most tournaments (3), we have Lars Lagerbäck (Sweden, 2000-2008).
Loser Leaves Town: Rematches in the knockout stages of countries that met in the group stages:
Netherlands vs. Soviet Union in 1988. The latter won the match between them in the group stage (0-1), though the former won the final (2-0).
Germany vs. Czech Republic in 1996. Germany won both (2-0 in the group stage, 2-1 after extra-time in the final).
Portugal vs. Greece in 2004. See Book Ends. The irony being that the loser didn't literally left town (Portugal were the hosts).
Spain vs. Russia in 2008. Spain thrashed Russia in both matches (4-1 in the group stage, 3-0 in the semi-finals match).
Spain vs. Italy in 2012. They tied in the group match (1-1), but Spain thrashed Italy in the final (4-0).
Music At Sporting Events: Every match is preceded by the playing of both teams' national anthems. Much national pride ensues, especially when the fan contingent from one country is large enough and sings along loud enough to be heard on television.
Nominal Importance: Name any other player besides Platini who won the Euro 1984 in and for France. He scored 9 goals in this tournament, a record which remains unbeaten.
Older and Wiser: Ex-players returning as coaches. With the exception of José Villalonga Llorente (Spain, 1964), all winners were ex-players. Among the many, we have:
Vicente del Bosque (played for Real Madrid), for Spain in 2012;
Luís Aragonés (played for Real Madrid and Betis, among others), for Spain in 2008 (he was also a reserve for the team who won the 1964 trophy, in Spain, of course);
Otto Rehhagel (played for Hertha BSC and 1. FC Kaiserslautern), for Greece in 2004;
Berti Vogts (a legend for Borussia Mönchengladbach, nicknamed "Der Terrier"), for Germany in 1996;
Rinus Michels, a big legend both as a football player (for Ajax) and as a coach (he was nicknamed "The General" and had a high IQ), for the Netherlands in 1988. He also developed Total Football, a kind of tactical strategy that consisted in ever-changing positions between adaptable players in a solid structure. He lost the 1974 World Cup against West Germany, led by equally legendary Helmut Schön;
Helmut Schön, way more legendary as a coach than a football player, for West Germany in 1972 and also the 1974 World Cup;
Ferruccio Valcareggi (played for Fiorentina and Bologna, among others) for Italy in 1968. Lost the World Cup final in 1970 against Brazil, which is not that bad.
Morten Olsen, the captain and libero of the Danish team in 1984 and 1988, was the coach of the Danish side in the 2004 and 2012 tournaments. Denmark didn't won, though.
Sibling Team: Brian and Michael Laudrup (Denmark, 1996) and Frank and Ronald de Boer (Netherlands, 2000).
Tempting Fate: In 2012. Mario Balotelli of Italy bragging that he was gonna score 4 goals against Spain. Indeed, there were 4 scored goals. On Italy's net.
Marcos Senna for Spain, Gelson Fernandes for Switzerland and David Odonkor for Germany in 2008.
Theodor Gebre Selassie for Czech Republic and Mario Balotelli for Italy in 2012.
More obviously and annoyingly, the British TV coverage always involves a Token Black pundit. Sometimes this is fine, as there are plenty of talented minority players in the English Premier League. Sometimes they end up with someone from Francophone Africa who simply doesn't have the command of English to give decent commentary or punditry in English.