The tournament was a knockout competition; just 17 teams entered with some notable absences, West Germany, Italy and England among them. The teams would play home-and-away matches until the semi-finals; the final four teams would move on to the final tournament, whose host was selected after the teams became known.
Spain refused to travel to the Soviet Union (since it was still under Franco's dictatorship) and withdrew from competition and so the Soviet Union got a walkover victory. Also, the Soviet Union team was forbidden from entering Spain. They would meet again 4 years later.
There were only two venues in this competition: Paris and Marseille.
The hosts were eliminated in a thrilling 5-4 loss to Yugoslavia, which is still the competition's highest-scoring match.
The first final was also the first one decided in extra time.
29 teams entered in the qualification phase, which was more than the 17 teams of the first tournament (Greece withdrew after being drawn with Albania).
The final stage saw the debut of Denmark, Hungary and Spain, who were the hosts. This time, they allowed the Soviet Union team to arrive to Spain.
The third place match was decided in extra time - Hungary won 3-1 against Denmark.
Before the final, Spain coach José Villalonga sketched a pitch on sand and used stones to represent his players, pine cones for the USSR. Stones, he said, were stronger.
It was in this year that the tournament changed its name from European Nations' Cup to European Championship.
Unlike in the two previous tournaments, there were now three venues: Rome, Naples and Florence.
There were also some changes in the tournament's qualifying structure, with the two-legged home-and-away knock-out stage being replaced by a group phase and a quarter-final. However, only four teams were still allowed to be in the final stage.
The group 8 of the qualifying stage (all groups were composed of four teams, with the exception of group 4, which had three teams) was notorious for having all UK teams playing against each other. This was because it was doubled up as the British Home Championship.
Italy's progress to the final came down to a coin toss when their semi-final with the USSR ended goalless after 120 minutes. The referee applied the correct procedure and the Azzurri were promptly awarded a Rome showdown with Yugoslavia.
There were three venues with four stadiums this time: Brussels (two stadiums), Antwerp and Ličge.
The final penalty kick, scored by Panenka, was unique and it coined a new style of scoring penalties: German goalkeeper Sepp Maier dived to his left, while Panenka chipped the ball straight in the middle of the net. Softly.
This generated a sudden increased interest in the competition. Even to this day, many football commentators are amazed at how Panenka managed to hold his nerve to take a shot like that, especially as he would have looked extremely silly had the keeper not dived. Pelé said it could be attempted by "either a genius or a madman". Panenka himself said he had no doubts, since he practiced it a lot in friendly matches and other games.
It was successfully duplicated by Francesco Totti in at Euro 2000, Hélder Postiga at Euro 2004 and by both Sergio Ramos and Andrea Pirlo at Euro 2012. In the World Cup, it was successfully duplicated by Zinedine Zidane in 2006 World Cup Final and by Sebastián Abreu in the 2010 World Cup.
The competition was expanded to eight teams in the 1980 tournament. It involved a group stage, with the winners of the groups going on to contest the final, and the runners-up playing in the third place play-off. It was also the only time there were no semi-finals and it was the last time there was a third place match.
From this point onwards, the host would never have to go through the qualifying stage to be picked as a host.
Italy became the first country to host it twice. There were four venues (one more than in 1968): Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin.
Hooliganism, already a rising problem in the 1970s, made headlines at the first-round match between England and Belgium where riot police had to use tear gas, causing the match to be held up for five minutes in the first half. Thankfully, better measures would be taken from the next tournament onwards.
The third match place ended 1-1 and went to the penalty shootout. The penalty scores: 9-8 (3rd place for Czechoslovakia, who defeated Italy). No wonder this kind of match was dropped.
The semi-finals were restored.
There were seven venues (a notable increase when compared with both previous Euros and France's previous hosting): Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Saint-Étienne, Lens, Nantes and Strasbourg.
Fixtures were scheduled according to an innovative rotation schedule in which each team played its three first-round matches in three different stadia.
This was the first time a team finished with zero points in the final tournament - Yugoslavia.
Michel Platini remains the all-time top goalscorer of this competition, by scoring 9 goals in this final tournament.
This was the first time the tournament had a mascot: Peno, a rooster, representing the emblem of the host nation, France. It had the number 84 on the left side of its chest and its outfit was the same as the French national team, blue shirt, white shorts and red socks.
This tournament was a rare incidence of a major football tournament ending without a single sending-off or goalless draw, nor any knockout matches going to extra time or penalties.
France finished third to the USSR and East Germany in qualifying – the only time since the tournament's 1988 revamp that the holders have not reached the finals.
Because the Eastern Bloc disagreed that West Berlin was part of the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Football Association ruled out playing Championship matches in West Berlin. This secured the participation of Eastern European members of UEFA. In the 1974 FIFA World Cup, however, West Berlin had hosted three matches.
Group B was notable for the defeat by 1-0 of England at the hands of Ireland. In fact, England came in last place, with zero points.
Denmark also left with no points in Group A.
It was the last time the Soviet Union would play. They lost in the final for 2-0 against the Netherlands (especially noteworthy and considered one of the best goals of the tournament is Marco Van Basten's goal).
Denmark could have never been the champions. They only got to appear in the final stage due to the fact that Yugoslavia was having some problems back then. Some players were already having their holidays and the manager was even planning to put a new kitchen in his house when he got the call. They only got two weeks to prepare.
Also notable was the refuse of brilliant playmaker Michael Laudrup to take part.
Standing for the dissolved Soviet Union was the C.I.S. (Commonwealth of Independent States). Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania didn't send any players to this team.
Germany competed for the first time as a unified country.
It was the last tournament to use the UEFA plus flag logo, and the last before the tournament came to be known as "Euro" (it is known as "Euro 1992" only retrospectively). It was also the first major football competition in which the players had their names printed on their backs, at around the time that it was becoming a trend in club football across Europe. It was also the first time the tournament had its own official anthem ("More Than a Game", performed by Towe Jaarnek and Peter Jöback).
It was the last tournament to take place with only 8 participants, the last to award the winner of a match with only two points and the last tournament before the introduction of the back-pass rule.
Denmark shocked the continent when, in the semi-final, Peter Schmeichel defended Marco Van Basten's penalty in the penalty shoot-out, thus causing then reigning champions Netherlands to lose and Denmark to arrive to the final (where they won 2-0 against Germany).
Denmark went on to lift the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1995 (at the time called King Fahd Cup).
The tournament was the first European Championship to feature 16 finalists, following UEFA's decision to expand the tournament from eight teams.
While Sweden had only four venues in 1992, England had eight: London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Newcastle.
A custom version of the Adidas Questra, the Questra Europa, was the official match ball of the championships. The design of the ball included a reworking of the England badge, and was the first coloured ball in a major footballing tournament.
Romania and Turkey finished with zero points. Turkey didn't even scored a goal.
Germany won the tournament, beating the Czech Republic 2–1 with a golden goal during extra time; this marked the first major football competition to be decided using this method. This was Germany's first, and to date only, major title won as a unified nation.
For the first time, the tournament was co-hosted (by Belgium and the Netherlands). Four venues were Belgian (Brussels, Bruges, Ličge and Charleroi) and four were Dutch (Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Arnhem).
The finals saw the first major UEFA competition contested in the King Baudouin Stadium (formerly the Heysel Stadium) since the events of the 1985 European Cup Final and the Heysel Stadium disaster, with the opening game being played in the rebuilt stadium.
The official mascot for the tournament was Benelucky (a pun on Benelux), a lion-devil with its hair colour being a combination of the flag colours of both host nations. The lion is the national football emblem of the Netherlands and a devil is the emblem of Belgium (the team being nicknamed "the Red Devils").
Previous champions Germany notably went out with only one point. Denmark went out with zero points, no goals scored and eight suffered, making them one of the worst teams in all editions of the tournament.
This was the last time the golden goal rule was used. France beat Portugal in the semi-finals (through a penalty) and Italy in the final with this method.
This was the first time there were ten stadiums (in eight cities): Lisbon had two stadiums (Estádio da Luz and Estádio José Alvalade) and Porto had two as well (Estádio do Dragăo and Estádio do Bessa Século XXI). The other venues were: Aveiro, Braga, Coimbra, Faro, Guimarăes and Leiria.
For the first time, there were commemorative coin and stamp collections, which were issued by the Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda, the Portuguese national mint and printing house, and CTT, the national postal service, respectively.
For the first time in an international football tournament, the silver goal system was applied, whereby the team who leads the game at the half-time break during the extra time period would be declared the winner.
The only major competitive match to be decided by a silver goal was the semi-final match between Greece and the Czech Republic, when Traianos Dellas scored for Greece after a corner kick in the last two seconds of the first period of extra time. This was also the last ever professional silver goal (since the rule was abolished shortly after the end of the tournament).
For the first time in a major football tournament, the final featured the same teams as the opening match. Greece won both.
It was again co-hosted (by Austria and Switzerland). There were four Austrian venues (Vienna, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Innsbruck) and four Swiss venues (Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zurich).
This was the first time there were two mascots: Trix and Flix (representing Austria and Switzerland, respectively).
Previous winners Greece went out with zero points.
Co-hosted for the third (and possibly the last: see the 2020 edition) time (by Poland and Ukraine). There were four Polish venues (Warsaw, Wroclaw, Poznan and Gdansk) and four Ukranian venues (Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lviv).
Like in the previous tournament, both hosts went out on the group stage.
Netherlands and Ireland went out with zero points.
There were notably six players who shared Golden Boot status (a record in this tournament) with three goals each: Mario Mandzukic (Croatia), Mario Balotelli (Italy), Mario Gómez (Germany), Dzagoev (Russia), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Fernando Torresnote who was the previous winner of the Golden Boot, with four goals (Spain).
Spain became the first reigning champions to sucessfully defend their title. Considering that they won the 2010 World Cup in between these two editions, they became the first nation to win three major tournaments successively.
There will be an expansion from 16 to 24 teams in the final tournament. Under this new format, it is proposed that the finalists will contest a group stage consisting of six groups of four teams, followed by a knockout stage including three rounds and the final. Besides the usual top two teams of each group, the four best third-ranked sides would/will also progress. However, the format is still being discussed, so there will be updates.
There will be 10 venues: Saint-Denis (which hosted the 1998 World Cup Final, won by the hosts), Marseille, Lyon, Villeneuve-d'Ascq, Paris, Bordeaux, Saint-Étienne, Nice, Lens and Toulouse.
It will be held in thirteen cities in thirteen different European countries during the middle of 2020. While there are bids for hosting by one or two nations for 2024, it yet remains to be seen whether this hosting format will be successful or not. This means that there will be no automatic qualifying berth.