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European Championship


Known by its full title of the UEFA European Football Championship, and more commonly referred to as "Euro (year)". It has been held every 4 years since 1960, coinciding with the Summer Olympic Games. 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.

This tournament is considered possibly more unpredictable than The World Cup, due to the teams playing a shorter amount of matches respect the World Cup. The shocking victories of Denmark in 1992 (the team was called up a few days before the beginning after the qualified Jugoslavia had to withdraw due to the war), and especially Greece in 2004 (participating for the second time and defeating host Portugal twice in the opening match and in the final) are considered two of the biggest upsets in Sports history.

Germany (1972, 1980, 1996) and Spain (1964, 2008, 2012) are the most winning teams with 3 victories each, Spain is the only team capable of win two consecutive editions (with a World Cup victory in the middle).


  • 1960 — France
    Cities: Marseille / Paris (Final)
    Final Four: USSR / Yugoslavia / Czechoslovakia / France
    Top scorers: Viktor Ponedelnik (USSR), Milan Galić (Yugoslavia), Dražan Jerković (Yugoslavia), Valentin Ivanov (USSR) and François Heutte (France) - 2 goals each
    Original format (until 1976) had only 4 teams advance to the final stage, comprised of semifinals and final. Soviet Union won his first and last championship against Yugoslavia, after extra-time.
  • 1964 — Spain
    Cities: Barcelona / Madrid (Final)
    Final Four: Spain / USSR / Hungary / Denmark
    Top scorers: Jesús María Pereda (Spain), Ference Bene (Hungary) and Dezső Novák (Hungary) - 2 goals each
    In the final, the hosts defeated the champions. This would be the last trophy won by Spain for over 40 years
  • 1968 — Italy
    Cities: Florence / Naples / Rome (Final)
    Final Four: Italy / Yugoslavia / England / USSR
    Top scorer: Dragan Džajić (Yugoslavia) - 2 goals
    Again the hosts end up winning the tournament, against Yugoslavia in a replay match, after the final ended 1-1. Most notably, Italy defeated Soviet Union in the semifinal thanks to the coin toss, because neither team was able to score after the end of extra-time.
  • 1972 — Belgium
    Cities: Antwerp / Brussels (Heysel Stadium [Final] / Stade Émile Versé) / Liège
    Final Four: West Germany / USSR / Belgium / Hungary
    Top scorer: Gerd Müller (West Germany) - 4 goals
    First victory for West Germany, defeating Soviet Union (in his third final in four editions)
  • 1976 — Yugoslavia
    Cities: Belgrade [Serbia] (Final) / Zagreb [Croatia]
    Final Four: Czechoslovakia / West Germany / Netherlands / Yugoslavia
    Top scorer: Dieter Müller (West Germany) - 4 goals
    First surprising victory. Czechoslovakia was a good team, but was able to defeat the favourite team, West Germany. The final became famous because was the first ending with penalties, and Czechoslovakia player Antonin Panenka scored the last and decisive penalty using the infamous Panenka Kick (named after him), and most commonly named il cucchiaio (the spoon) in the italian-speaking world.
  • 1980 — Italy
    Cities: Milan / Naples / Rome (final) / Turin
    Final Four: West Germany / Belgium / Czechoslovakia / Italy
    Top scorer: Klaus Allofs (West Germany) - 3 goals
    The format changed, with 8 teams advacing to the final stage, with two groups of 4 teams. The winners of each group advance to the final. West Germany won his second championship, becoming the first team to do so, against Belgium in the final.
  • 1984 — France
    Cities: Lens / Lyon / Marseille / Nantes / Paris (Final) / Saint-Étienne / Strasbourg
    Final Four: France / Spain / Portugal / Denmark
    Top scorer: Michel Platini (France) - 9 goals
    France, led by the star and by far the best player of the decade Michel Platini, won his first championship, defeating Spain.
  • 1988 — West Germany
    Cities: Cologne / Düsseldorf / Frankfurt / Gelsenkirchen / Hamburg / Hanover / Munich (final) / Stuttgart
    Final Four: Netherlands / USSR / West Germany / Italy
    Top scorer: Marco van Basten (Netherlands) - 5 goals
    First win for Netherlands, who defeated old rivals West Germany in the semifinals and then Soviet Union in final. This edition is famous because of Marco Van Basten, Netherlands striker, who scored in the final what is considered to be the best gol of the Championship and one of the best of all time.
  • 1992 — Sweden
    Cities: Gothenburg (Final) / Malmö / Norrköping / Stockholm
    Final Four: Denmark / Germany / Sweden / Netherlands
    Top scorers: Dennis Bergkamp (Netherlands), Tomas Brolin (Sweden), Henrik Larsen (Denmark) and Karl-Heinz Riedle (Germany) - 3 goals each
    Denmark did not qualify for this edition, but was called up a few days prior to the beginning after Jugoslavia was disquilified due to the war. Probably the lack of pressure inside the Denmark team was crucial, and they defeated France in the group stages, current champions Netherlands in the semis and finally West Germany in the final, winning the trophy.
  • 1996 — England
    Cities: Birmingham / Leeds / Liverpool / London (final) / Manchester / Newcastle upon Tyne / Nottingham / Sheffield
    Final Four: Germany / Czech Republic / England / France
    Top scorer: Alan Shearer (England) - 5 goals
    Best player: Matthias Sammer (Germany)
    The format was extended, now 16 teams advanced to the final stage, with 4 groups of 4 teams each, the first two of each group advance to the knockout stage. England was considered the best candidate to win the tournament, but they lost at the penalties in the semifinal against Germany (now unified), who ended up defeating Czech Republic (surprise of this edition) in the final and winning their third championship.
  • 2000 — Belgium and The Netherlands
    Cities (Belgium): Bruges / Brussels / Liège / Charleroi
    Cities (Netherlands): Amsterdam / Arnhem / Eindhoven / Rotterdam (Final)
    Final Four: France / Italy / Netherlands / Portugal
    Top scorers: Patrick Kluivert (Netherlands) and Savo Milošević (Yugoslavia) - 5 goals each
    Best player: Zinedine Zidane (France)
    Despite having faced each other a lot of times in the past, the final between France and Italy is considered to have ignited the lifelong rivalry between the two sides. Italy, after defeating the host Netherlands in the semis thanks to the penalties (with another cucchiaio by Francesco Totti, after Panenka in 1976), was leading 1-0 in the final. France score the equalizer in the very last minute, and then scored the Golden Goal in the extra-time, winning the tournament.
  • 2004 — Portugal
    Cities: Aveiro / Braga / Coimbra / Faro / Guimarães / Leiria / Lisbon (Estádio da Luz [Final] / Estádio José Alvalade) / Porto (Estádio do Bessa Século XXI / Estádio do Dragão)
    Final Four: Greece / Portugal / Netherlands / Czech Republic
    Top scorer: Milan Baroš (Czech Republic) - 5 goals
    Best player: Theodoros Zagorakis (Greece)
    This edition was considered one of the biggest upsets in sports history. Greece, who was just at his second participation, and who was considered by most the weakest team of the tournament, was able to defeat host Portugal in the opening match and advace the group stage, thus eliminating Spain. Then again won over France in the Quarters, Czeck Republic in the semifinals (after a last minute goal in the extra time), and defeating again Portugal in the final. Nonetheless, this was the unique where the opening and final match was played by the same teams.
  • 2008 — Austria and Switzerland
    Cities (Austria): Innsbruck / Klagenfurt / Salzburg / Vienna (Final)
    Cities (Switzerland): Basel / Bern / Geneva / Zurich
    Final Four: Spain / Germany / Turkey / Russia
    Top scorer: David Villa (Spain) - 4 goals
    Best player: Xavi (Spain)
    First trophy for Spain after 44 years. The tournament was remarkable for the surprises of Turkey and Russia. The former advanced to the semifinals thank to two goals in the last minutes, against Czech Republic in the group stage and Croatia in the quarters.
  • 2012 — Poland and Ukraine
    Cities (Poland): Gdańsk / Poznań / Warsaw / Wroclaw
    Cities (Ukraine): Donetsk / Kharkiv / Kiev (Final) / Lviv
    Final Four: Spain / Italy / Germany / Portugal
    Top scorers: Mario Mandžukić (Croatia), Mario Gómez (Germany), Mario Balotelli (Italy), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Alan Dzagoev (Russia) and Fernando Torres (Spain) - 3 goals each
    Best player: Andrés Iniesta (Spain)
    Spain won again, marking his third trophy in just 4 years (there's a world cup in the middle, the first team able to do so), defeating a surprising Italy.
  • 2016 — France
    Cities: Bordeaux / Lens / Lille / Lyon / Marseille / Nice / Paris / Saint-Denis (Paris) (Final) / Saint-Étienne / Toulouse
    This will be the first tournament with the format extended to 24 teams, divided in 6 groups with 4 teams each, the first two of each group, and the best 4 third placed advance to the Round of 16.
  • 2020 — Pan-European
    Cities: Amsterdam, The Netherlands / Baku, Azerbaijan / Bilbao, Spain / Brussels, Belgium / Bucharest, Romania / Budapest, Hungary / Copenhagen, Denmark / Dublin, Ireland / Glasgow, Scotland / London, (England (Final) / Munich, Germany / Rome, Italy / Saint Petersburg, Russia
    First itinerating tournament, organised to celebrate the 60 years anniversary of UEFA (or probably because no one wanted to host the tournament due to the expensive costs and the economic crysis)

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 (and England is usually one half of the equation). After all, this is Europe we're talking about.
  • 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 Greeks won the opening match by 1-2 and 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, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, and ESPECIALLY San Marino, who never won a match in official competitions. Gibraltar might be on the way to become a rival to San Marino in this department.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience
  • 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: France beating Belgium and Denmark beating Yugoslavia by 5-0 (1984); hosts England beat The Netherlands 4-1 in the group stages (1996); Sweden beating Bulgaria by 5-0 (2004); Netherlands beating Italy by 3-0 (2008); Spain beating Ireland by 4-0, and, in the final, by 4-0 as well, against Italy (2012).
  • 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 were already losing 2-0 after 18 minutes and many considered the match more or less over. Portugal won 3-2, in an astonishing match.
    • The Turkish team in 2008 was labelled "the comeback kings" for this reason. Having losing to Portugal in the first match, Turkey seemed all but out after going 0-1 down to hosts Switzerland in the second, until Senturk equalized in the 57th minute and Turan scored the winner 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. The match was goalless until Croatia scored in the 119th minute, only for Turkey to equalize a minute later to force a penalty shootout, which they won. However, Turkey's luck ran out in the semi-finals as the Germans beat them at their own game, scoring a last-minute goal to win 3-2.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Spain's win in 2008, a team until then described as uncapable of achieving regularly and consistently good performances, despite having consistently good and great players. 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 the 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.
  • Down to the Last Play: France winning against Portugal in 1984. At the end of regular time, there was a 1-1 tie. In extra time, at the 98th minute, Portugal takes the lead. France then ties at the 114th minute. And, just as the penalty-shootout was looming, at the penultimate minute, Platini scores. The match is considered one of the greatest matches in the history of European football.
  • Epic Fail: England, as per usual. They failed to even get to the finals in 2008. Unsurprisingly, this led to the immediate sacking of the England manager, whose reputation is yet to recover.
  • Every Year They Fizzle Out: England, (in)famously. They only managed third place in 1968 and the semi-finals in 1996 (when they hosted it).
    • Portugal count as well. They reached the final in 2004 only to lose to 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 their semi-final ended 0-0. It was the first and only time that this method was used.
  • Heroic Rematch:
    • 20 years after Czechoslovakia won in the final against West Germany, Germany and Czech Republic met again in the 1996 final. This time, it was Germany who made history.
    • Also, the semi-finals matches of 1984 and 2000 between France and Portugal. France, however, won both (and in extra time).
  • History Repeats:
    • Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia vs Germany/West Germany (2 wins for the Czechs and 3 wins for the Germans, with both having won one final (see Heroic Rematch).
    • Germany vs the Netherlands (2 wins for each side, 1 draw).
    • Italy vs 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: The "Golden Goal" rule used in 1996 and 2000. If a match went to extra time, the next goal decided the winners. This method ended up deciding thw winners of both tournaments:
    • In 1996, the final was between Czech Republic and Germany. The Czechs took the lead, but Oliver Bierhoff equalized, forcing extra time. In the 95th minute, Bierhoff scored again, thus granting Germany their third Euro trophy (but their first as a unified country). Even more impressive, considering that he came off the bench in the 69th minute, and scored the equalizer four minutes later.
    • Then in Euro 2000, in the semi-finals, France beat Portugal 2-1 in extra time through a controversial Zinedine Zidane penalty (it was later proved that Portuguese defender Abel Xavier touched the ball with his hand). In the final, Italy were winning until the final minute when Sylvain Wiltord scored a vital equalizer. In the 103th minute, David Trezeguet scored with a first-time shot into the roof of the net, thus granting France their second Euro trophy, two years after their World Cup title.
  • 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: Re-matches 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 leave 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 win, though.
  • Shirtless Scene: Famously by Italian striker Mario Balotelli after scoring a goal against Germany in 2012. The internet had a field day with it.
  • Sibling Team: Brian and Michael Laudrup (Denmark, 1996), Frank and Ronald de Boer (Netherlands, 2000), and Gary and Phil Neville (England, 1996-2004).
  • Tempting Fate: Ahead of the 2012 final, Italy's Mario Balotelli bragged that he would score 4 goals against Spain. Indeed, there were 4 goals in that match. All in Italy's net.
  • Token Black:
    • Jean Tigana for France in 1984.
      • The team that contested Euro 2000, composed primarily of 1998 World Cup winners, averted this by being quite diverse.
    • 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.
  • Use Your Head: In the 1984 edition, Manuel Amoros (France) headbutted Danish midfielder Jesper Olsen in the opening match. He was sent off and banned for three matches, and only returned in the final against Spain.