Useful Notes / Euro Footy
As in the United Kingdom, football in the rest of Europe is organised along similar lines, though few countries outside England have as large a league structure, most having only two professional leagues before splitting into regional and amateur leagues. European Football is organized, administered and regulated by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
, which is a union of the governing football associations of each European country
, and is directly under FIFA as one of its member continental federations.
Europe's top national football teams are Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Portugal, Italy and France, and they tend to be consistently among the favourites for both European and Worldwide tournaments. They also tend to usually win them (particularly Germany, Italy and more recently Spain), though exceptions can happen, such as Greece's shock victory in the 2004 European Championships.
The top-ranked leagues, as of the 2015–16 season, are (in order) Spain's La Liga, Germany's Bundesliga, the English Premier League, Italy's Serie A, Portugal's Primeira Liga, the French Ligue 1, the Russian Premier League, the Ukrainian Premier League, the Belgian First Division Anote
, the Dutch Eredivisie, and the Turkish Süper Lig.
The major European football tournaments are:
- The European Championship: a quadrennial competition for all European national teams. Germany and Spain have won it 3 times, France twice, and once each for Portugal, Greece, Denmark, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Italy and the USSR. Portugal are the reigning champions.
- The UEFA Champions League: a competition for the top European clubs; which is neither a league, nor is it (since 1997) for national champions only. The tournament runs from August to May. Real Madrid have 12 wins; AC Milan 7; FC Barcelona (aka "Barça"), Liverpool and Bayern Munich 5 each; and Ajax 4. Real enter the 2017–18 Champions League as two-time defending champions, having become the first team to successfully defend their title in the Champions League era.
- The UEFA Europa League: a secondary competition for those European clubs not quite good enough for the Champions League and those who finished in third place in the group stages of the Champions League; it was formerly called the UEFA Cup. Sevilla have the most wins, with 5note , whilst Juventus, Internazionale and Liverpool are behind them with 3 each. The current champions are Manchester United. As of 2015/16, the winner gets a Champions League place if they don't otherwise qualify.
There are equivalent competitions in women's football, including
- The UEFA Women's Championship: A quadrennial championship for national teams first held in 1984. So far it has been won eight times by (West) Germany, twice by Norway, and once each by the Netherlands and Sweden. The most recent championship in 2017 was won by the Netherlands, ending Germany's reign over the Women's Euro that had lasted since 1995.
- The UEFA Women's Champions League: The women's equivalent to the (men's) Champions League. Began as the UEFA Women's Cup in the 2001–02 season, and renamed as the Women's Champions League starting in 2009–10. Originally, the competition was solely for the winners of each country's top women's competition; since the reorganization as the Champions League, the runners-up of the top eight nations in women's football have also competed. Like the men's Champions League, the women's version runs from August to May, and the women's final is usually held in the same city as the men's final (but in a smaller stadium).note Frankfurt and two-time reigning champions Lyon have 4 wins each, and Turbine Potsdam, Umeå, and Wolfsburg each have 2.
53 domestic leagues send teams to the (men's) Champions League and Europa League. The better a league is, the more teams qualify and the later in the competition they enter. Both competitions are divided into three phases:
- Qualification: Three qualification rounds, then a playoff round. Each round is home/away with the aggregate score of the two legs deciding who qualifies. In case of a tie, the away goals rule is implemented. If it is still a tie, it will proceed to the standard extra time game and penalty shootout.
- Group Phase: Groups of 4 teams play double round robin. A win counts 3 points, a draw 1. In case of a tie, goal difference and head to head records are taken into account.
- Champions League: 8 groups, 32 teams: title holder, top 12 champions, top 6 runners-up, top 3 thirds, 10 playoff round winners (5 champions, 5 others).
- Europa League: 12 groups, 48 teams: 10 Champions League playoff losers, 38 Europa League playoff winners and/or winners or finalists of their respective nations' Cups.
- Knockout Phase: Each round is home/away again, with the aggregate (total) goals scored as the basis for elimination. In the first round group winners are drawn against runners-up.
- The 8 third-placed teams of the Champions League groups are added to the Europa League, with the better ones counted as winners, the others as runners-up. After this, the competitions are fully separate.
- Teams from the same league cannot be drawn against each other until the quarter-finals.
- Final: One game which is held at a predetermined location. This is to maintain a neutral atmosphere for the two teams. Seating is guaranteed equally for the fans of the two competing clubs in case that the club owning the stadium reaches the final.
The Women's Champions League has a somewhat different format from the men's tournament. The number of teams has varied from year to year; UEFA maintains a table
determining the size of the qualifying round based on the total number of entrants.
- Qualifying round: Consists of four-team groups. Each team plays a single round-robin within its group over a six-day period, with one of the participating teams (determined by seeding) hosting all matches. The winner of each group advance to the knockout phase; depending on the number of teams entered, one or more of the top group runners-up may also advance.
- Knockout Phase: All survivors of the Qualifying Round are joined by a sufficient number of teams from higher-ranked leagues to form a 32-team bracket. All matches from this point on, except the final, are two-legged home/away ties.
- In the rounds of 32 and 16, half of the teams are seeded, specifically those with the highest UEFA rankings. The titleholder automatically receives a seed regardless of its UEFA ranking in the round of 32, and also in the round of 16 if it advances. Seeded teams are drawn against unseeded teams, with the seeds hosting the second leg. Teams from the same league can't be drawn together until the quarterfinals.
- The quarterfinals and semifinals are not seeded.
- Final: One game which is held at a predetermined location, under the same conditions as noted above for the men's final.
Some major European footballing nations in detail:
play in red shirt, white shorts and green socks and have been a frustrating side to support: brilliant at times and with some hugely talented players but never ''quite'' able to parlay this into a trophy win
. The closest they got to this was when they hosted Euro 2004, but surprisingly enough, they lost to Greece in the final. Finally, in 2016 they surprised everyone by winning their first international trophy, defeating the host France in Euro 2016 Final, and they did it without Cristiano Ronaldo, injured after 20 minutes. Portugal was not considered the favourite by bookmakers, but managed to advance in the knockout phase as a third-place team, and reached the final by winning just one match in regular time (the semifinal against Wales).
Portuguese domestic football is dominated by three clubs: Benfica and Sporting, both from Lisbon, and FC Porto. Between them they have won the league 81 times out of 83: the other two wins were one-shot victories for Belenenses (Lisbon) and Boavista (Porto). Benfica and FC Porto have also won Europe's top club honour, the Champions League (formerly the European Cup), most recently Porto in 2003/04.
play in red shirt with yellow accents, blue shorts and black socks and, like Portugal, have often promised much and delivered little in the way of silverware. Unlike Portugal, however, the Spanish team (affectionately dubbed La Furia
, "The Fury", or La Roja
after the red jerseys) have won the European Championship three times: once in 1964 and two consecutive titles in 2008 and 2012. The 2008 winning team also went on to record Spain's first World Cup win at the 2010 edition held in South Africa, and their hegemony was confirmed again at the Poland-Ukraine Euro 2012. They entered the 2014 World Cup as the reigning European and World champions, and were generally considered to be the best national side in the world—but their World Cup campaign went disastrously wrong, with La Roja
assured of exiting in the group stage after their first two matches, as well as in the 2016 European Championship when Italy defeated them after the knockout stage. Nonetheless, Spain is the first European champion to successfully defend the crown and the first national team in the world to win three back-to-back major international titles since Italy in 1934-36-38.
The two giants of Spanish club football are Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, the rivalry between whom is intensified by politics and what can only be called a centuries old historical vendetta: Barcelona is capital of Catalonia, a proudly different region of Spain with its own language and customs, both of which were repressed during the Franco
years. Consequently, the team became a centre of Catalan culture and a rallying point. Real ("Royal") Madrid, on the other hand, were Franco's "pet" team and ambassadors for the regime... Both teams have won many European honours, though Real Madrid have the edge with a record twelve
European Cup/Champions League wins, five of them in a row in the late 1950s. Other teams include Atlético de Madrid (third force of the country; 1974, 2014, and 2016 European runner-up) and Valencia CF (runner-up of the 2000 and 2001 Champions Leagues).
play in blue shirt, white shorts and red socks and have won the FIFA World Cup
once, as hosts, in 1998 and also won the European Championship in 1984 and 2000. Since the 1990s a significant proportion of the national team has been black or Arab-descended, a fact credited with increasing multicultural awareness in the nation as a whole. Other nation's fans have suggested uncharitably (but not necessarily inaccurately) that the French national team cherry picks the best players from its former colonies and greases their path to French citizenship.
French club football has a wide range of strong teams, with a large number of clubs having historically won domestic honours - though Olympique Lyonnais, often known just as Lyon, monopolised the title from 2001/02 to 2007/08, with FC Girondins de Bordeaux breaking the streak in the following season. More recently, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) had a lesser monopoly on the title, winning four in a row (2012/13–2015/16), but the reigning champions are AS Monaco
. However, French clubs have rarely challenged seriously internationally, with Marseille's 1993 Champions League win the only occasion on which a French club has won the top European honour. Other well-known clubs include Saint-Étienne (the country's most successful team with 10 victories, and runners-up of the 1976 European Cup), Nancy-Lorraine and Monaco (which came closest to repeating Marseille's feat, losing the 2004 Champions League final to FC Porto). Also, there is Stade de Reims, who supplied many players for the French team of the 1950s and was twice runner-up of the European Cup, in 1956 and 1959, losing both to Real Madrid, and now is playing in the second national league.
Lyon's women's section has won the Women's Champions League four times, including the last two (2016 and 2017).
, also nicknamed The Lions
, play in all whites (though traditionally with navy shorts) and have won the FIFA World Cup
once, as hosts, in 1966 in their famous alternate red kit (which they consequently tend to wear on special occasions), reached the semi finals in Italy in 1990, and have also reached the semis of the European Championship in 1968 and 1996 (the latter at home). In recent decades, they've generally been known as the member of the big guns most likely to fail spectacularly at a major tournament..
English club football, however, has some of the strongest teams on the continent: Arsenal and Chelsea (both from London), Manchester United (the first English team to win a European title, in 1968, and having won a record 20 league championships) and Liverpool (who formerly held the record for most titles at 18, have won the European Championship/Champions League 5 times, as well as the Europa League/UEFA Cup another 3 times). The less storied but currently successful Manchester City are also being considered a serious threat, despite having so far failed to make a serious impression in Europe, and frequent pretenders Tottenham Hotspur are getting into the mix, having, on prior occasion, gone toe to toe with some of the continent's best teams and done respectably - most recently, emerging at the top of the traditional 'Group of Death' in the Champions League, including them, Real Madrid, and Borussia Dortmund, thrashing Madrid 3-1 at Wembley in the process (Madrid hadn't been beaten in the group stages in five years).
Other formerly successful teams include Nottingham Forest (European Champions twice, in 1978 and 1979), Aston Villa (from Birmingham, won the 1982 European Cup) and Leeds United (runners-up of the 1975 European Cup and semi-finalists of the 2000-2001 Champions League). All three currently play in the second tier of English football and don't look like threatening a return of the glory days - though Leeds do look like pushing for promotion, at least.
The reigning league champions are Chelsea, while as of December 2017, Manchester City have only failed to win one league game in 2017/18 season and look to be cruising to the title. The 2015–16 season saw perhaps the biggest surprise in football history when Leicester City, tipped for relegation and listed at 5,000-to-1 odds to win the title prior to the season... beat those odds.
At a direct counterpoint to the national team's somewhat puzzling lack of success - and, more usually, abject failure
- the domestic league is considered by most to be the best (and richest
) league in the world (though Spain's La Liga and Germany's Bundesliga are challenging that crown). Following a fallow few years in Europe, 'best' is usually amended to 'most competitive', with up to six
teams, the so-called 'Big Six', seriously vying for the title - and in the process, the top 4 places, earning qualification to the Champions League. It is frequently speculated that these two things are connected. As of 2017-18, this fallow period seems to have passed: all five English teams top their groups, excepting only Chelsea, who sit in second in theirs, with notable results such as Spurs thumping Real Madrid (who hadn't lost in the group stage in 5 years) 3-1, and Liverpool matching a Champions League record by putting 7 past group Butt-Monkey
Maribor away from home - not bad considering that Maribor had a few months previously held Chelsea to a draw.
Speaking of the national team, they are infamous for being perennial underachievers failing to translate success in qualifying and friendlies into tournament success, while trumpeting how good they are. For this reason, the other big teams tend to see them as Miles Gloriosus
and they usually crash out on penalties in and around the quarter-finals, finally ignominiously exiting the 2014 World Cup at the bottom of their group
. Bogey teams include Germany and to a lesser extent, Portugal thanks to the 2000 and 2004 Euros and the 2006 World Cup. Now, not even the tabloids bother tipping them for success at tournaments any more. Instead, the hope is that the inevitable failure won't be too
Nevertheless, England consistently produces excellent players, most notably the 'Golden Generation' of Owen, Rooney, Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard, Scholes, Terry, Ferdinand, Carragher, Ashley Cole and David Seaman that reigned from 1998 to 2010 (Gerrard captained England to 2014 and Rooney remains available for selection, but the rest had retired by then), and are usually to be found in the top 10 teams in the world, having sufficient firepower to compete with the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France and Italy. The likes of attacking midfielder Dele Alli and striker Harry 'Hurricane' Kane, among others, have proved that the production line of England talent isn't stopping any time soon - a point punctuated by England's retention of the U-21 Toulon Tournament note
and winning first the U-20 World Cup, the first time any men's England side has won a World Cup since 1966, in 2017, then the U-17 World Cup a few months later, and in style, with striker Rhian Brewster scoring hat-tricks in the quarter-final and
semi-final, before adding another in the final, a 5-2 victory over a much fancied Spain. Just don't ask the senior team to do it at a tournament
. Because they can't. Or won't. No one's entirely sure which, or indeed why. However, most, including ex-players, cite an inability by players from top teams to lay aside club rivalries and play as a team, meaning that what happens is that instead of a team, you have 11 highly talented individuals running around the pitch and doing their own thing.
There are signs that this is changing, and going into Euro 2016, the attitude was one of cautious optimism thanks to a faultless qualifying campaign, conceding only three goals, to become the first team to qualify after the hosts France and beating both France and Germany, the current World Champions, in friendlies. In the former case, it was just after the Bataclan Attacks, so the focus was on remembering the dead
and the Crowning Moment of Heartwarming
that was the (somewhat uncharacteristic) English response. In the latter case, England came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in Berlin and did so in style. Then Euro 2016 came around... and England made the knockout stage... and immediately crashed out to Iceland
, a team that had never before qualified to a major tournament. The British media went nuclear on England, immediately branding the loss the worst in the country's history;note
and wildly unpopular manager Roy 'Woy' Hodgson (berated for his unimaginative and outdated tactics, misuse of players, and striking resemblance to an owl)
saved the FA the trouble of firing him by resigning.
His first replacement, Sam 'Big Sam' Allardyce, was a streetwise manager with a reputation for old-fashioned football and surprisingly cutting edge use of sports technology, who had harboured ambitions to manage England all his life. He took charge of one game, then promptly did the very un-streetwise thing of getting caught by a newspaper sting casually explaining how to get around FA transfer rules. He was promptly fired and replaced with Gareth Southgate, an England mainstay as a player and as a manager, taking charge of the U-21's after a reasonably successful spell at then Premier League Middlesborough. Now, the attitude is one of world-weary cynicism and suspicion, with England bluntly being branded 'B-List' by the press after a 3-2 loss to a 10-man France team, with a big point being made about the disparate talent available to the respective managers (considering that this is possibly the most talented French team in decades, this is both true and unfair). However, as previously noted, England's youth ranks do seem to bearing fruit, and Southgate does prefer to trust in youth rather than old reputations so... we'll see.
In the women's game, Arsenal (a separate club affiliated with the men's club) have one Women's Champions League title and the women's national team, known as ''The Lionesses''
beat Germany to win the bronze medal at the 2015 Women's World Cup, after missing out on a place in the final when one of the defenders was forced to intercept a dangerous cross and knocked it into her own net. If nothing else, this proved that they are very definitely an England team
. However, their determination
, style, willingness to play their hearts out and obvious desire to win won them a lot of fans, if only because of the contrast with the chronically underachieving men's team, which has frequently and justly been accused of laziness, incoherence, and apathy.
play in orange shirt and socks and white shorts and are one of the best countries never to have won the FIFA World Cup
- they made it to the final in 1974, 1978, and 2010, losing to the hosts in '74 and '78 (West Germany and Argentina respectively) and to Spain in 2010. In fact, they only have the 1988 European Championship to show for decades of high-quality football. Co-hosted the 2000 European Championship with Belgium.
The Dutch league is dominated by three sides - Ajax of Amsterdam (pronounced eye-yaks, not ay-jacks), PSV of Eindhoven and Feyenoord of Rotterdam. Ajax in particular have also been one of the strongest teams in Europe on occasion, particularly in the early 1970s when they won three European Cups on the trot, and are renowned for producing extraordinarily good players, including the late, great Johan Cruyff, the crux of the all-conquering Total Football Dutch side of the 70's and inventor of the Cruyff turn, a deceptively difficult piece of skill which, when properly executed, leaves defenders on their arses. However, Feyenoord was the last Dutch side that won a European trophy: the UEFA Cup in 2002.
On the women's side, the Dutch came out of nowhere to win the Women's Euro 2017 at home; this marked the first time that Germany had failed to win that competition since 1993.
play in blue shirt and socks and white shorts and are (as of 2014 together with Germany) the most successful European team in the World Cup
, their 2006 triumph being their fourth - although their 1934 win on home soil remains controversial, thanks to Mussolini's attempts to influence referees. Due to their geographical closeness, Italy has a major rivalry with France
, increased in the last decades with France eliminating Italy on penalties in the 1998 World Cup quarterfinals (and then winning the tournament), and again winning the Euro 2000 final, scoring the equalizer in the last second of the match
and then winning on a golden goal. However Italy was able to get its revenge
in the 2006 World Cup Final, defeating the old rival on penalties and winning the tournament in front of them. The two teams faced each other again in the Euro 2008 group stage, with Italy defeating France, kicking them out of the tournament and advancing to the next round (only to be defeated by Spain).
Despite being one of the most successful European sides, Italy is famous for winning when they're not considered favourites by the bookmakers. In the 1982 World Cup for instance, their victory came as something of a shock. After an underwhelming first group stage, they defeated both Brazil and Argentina (with Brazil in particular being the favourite by bookmakers to win the tournament) in the second round and then beat West Germany in the final. Again in the 1994 World Cup, after only advancing from the group stage as one of the best third placed teams, they were able to reach the final and only lost, on the penalties, against Brazil (thanks to the infamous missed penalty by Roberto Baggio, the biggest star in the team
). The last example was in the 2006 World Cup; after a huge match-fixing scandal in Italian football which saw most of the big teams forcibly relegated to the lower divisions and/or being stripped of any titles won that year (namely Juventus - which paved the way for Internazionale to regain domination of Italian football, having not been national champions for 16 years at that point), the national team was able to avoid any distraction and go forward to win the World Cup making a huge comeback.
In recent years, despite reaching the European Championship Final in 2012 (where they were curbstomped
4-0 by the all-conquering Spain), the Italian team is in something of a transition period, with the best players retiring and the new leaders not being good enough to make a team that can compete with the best. In fact, the team has failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after a shocking 1-0 defeat against Sweden that they couldn't make up for.
Italian sides have also been very strong in Europe, and there are several different teams that have won major honours at home and internationally: AC Milan
(both from Milan) won respectively seven and three European Cups, Juventus
of Turin is Italy's dominant team, with 33 titles and counting. Other famous teams are AS Roma and Lazio
from the capital, Fiorentina
of Florence - one-time runners-up in the UEFA Cup, and Napoli
of, well, Naples - who have also won the UEFA Cup once. In recent years, the reputation of the Serie A for quality has taken a nose dive, being eclipsed by the resurgent Bundesliga, and with Juventus outright dominating in the last few years and leaving the other teams in the dust. However, this may be changing, due to Juventus reaching the 2015 and 2017 Champions League finals - both lost respectively against Barcelona and Real Madrid, and also due to a more competitive 2017/18 Serie A season having Juventus battling against Napoli, Inter, Roma and Lazio for the home title.
play in white shirts (sometimes with highlights in the flag's black/red/gold colors) and socks and black shorts, and the current national team is regarded as the continuation of the old West German team which won three World Cups
(in 1954, 1974 and 1990). In 2014 they won their fourth overall World Cup title and their first as a unified nation. If Italy is the most successful World Cup team in terms of victories, Germany beats them statistically by a long shot, thanks to their consistency
: out of their 18 appearances, they reached the final 8 times, and were semifinalists 6 other times. Germany have a reputation for being a tough team to beat, even when they're having an off-day, and are a particular bogey team for England. It is perhaps for this reason that it was an English footballer (specifically, Gary Lineker), who remarked that "Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for ninety minutes and at the end, the Germans win." That said, the most recent match ended in a stunning comeback win for England in Berlin, having been 2-0 down before winning 3-2. Have a strong rivalry with the Dutch based
partly on World War II history and partly
on the German win over the Dutch in 1974. Their own bogey team is Italy, with Germany's only win in a competitive match against them having come on penalties in their most recent encounter in the Euro 2016 quarterfinals.
German club football is dominated by Bayern Munich
, though there are plenty of other strong teams out there such as Borussia Dortmund
SV, VfB Stuttgart, Bayer Leverkusen
, Schalke 04
(from Gelsenkirchen, near the Dutch border), Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg. West Germany had no national league until 1963, a legacy of German soccer being organized in regional federations that went back to Imperial Germany. Bayern Munich won three European Cups in the mid-1970s, one in 2001, and the Champions League in 2013, and Dortmund and Hamburg have each won the top European title once, but other than that German clubs have been relatively lacklustre in that competition (the best performances by any other teams were runner-ups by Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1977 against Liverpool, Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 against Real Madrid, and Borussia Dortmund in 2013 against Bayern). Werder Bremen, Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt, Hamburger SV, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayern Munich, and FC Schalke 04 have won the now-defunct European Cup-Winners' Cup and/or the UEFA Cup. 1. FC Magdeburg is the only club of the former GDR league to have won a European competition, the Cup Winners' Cup in 1974, the annus mirabilis
of East German football. In recent history, the relatively new club RB Leipzig has seen an incredibly quick ascent to German football stardom, reaching the Bundesliga for the 2016-17 season and placing second there, just 8 years
from their formation. FC St. Pauli, from Hamburg, is also a major Ensemble Darkhorse
: despite being far less successful on the pitch than their cross-town rivals, they've become very well-known in footy fandom for their fanbase's punk ethos and general openness to everyone.
The German women's national team won the World Cup twice, in 2003 and 2007, and the European championship eight times (including every competition from 1995 through 2013). The country has also been highly successful at the women's club level, winning the Women's Champions League nine times (four times by Frankfurt, twice each by Turbine Potsdam and Wolfsburg, and once by Duisburg).
Other countries in Euro Footy include, but are not limited to:
- Austria: red shirt and socks and white shorts. Was known as the Wunderteam (Wonder Team) in the 1930s, before Nazi annexation crippled the team from its foundations. Along with Switzerland, was one of the joint hosts of the 2008 European Championship. Main clubs: Rapid Wien (from Vienna, most nationally successful team, with 32 league trophies), Austria Wien (trailing behind their rivals Rapid, with 23 wins) and Red Bull Salzburg (winners of eight of the last 11 titles, with a current streak of four).
- Belgium play in red shirt, black shorts and yellow socks and, despite never really challenging for honours, have usually produced a much better team than you might expect of a small nation deeply divided along linguistic grounds. In fact, in early 2016, the "Red Devils" briefly reached #1 in the FIFA World Rankings (they entered Euro 2016 at #2, but were thrashed 3–1 in the quarterfinals by tournament surprise package Wales). Co-hosted the 2000 European Championship with the Netherlands. Belgian club football is dominated by Anderlecht of Brussels and Club Brugge of Bruges, with Anderlecht being the current champions. Club Brugge did make it to the European Cup final in 1978, the furthest a Belgian team has gone in that competition.
- Bulgaria: white shirt and socks and green shorts. While not much of a contender, they managed to assemble a spectacular team which reached the 1994 World Cup semifinals, spearheaded by Hristo Stoichkov, one of the best Eastern European footballers of all time. Main clubs: CSKA Sofia (31 league victories, and revealed Stoichkov), Levski Sofia (CSKA's main rivals, with five league trophies behind them), and Ludogorets Razgrad (which made it to the top flight for the first time in 2011/12... and have won every title since).
- Bosnia: White shirt with blue stripes on the right sleeve and torso, blue shorts, white socks. Bosnia and Herzegovina entered international football amidst the desolation of the Bosnian War. The country lay in ruins and many young players were killed or wounded during the war—or simply elected to play for other sides (whether due to ethnic intolerance or simply to earn money). Needless to say, it was an unsurprisingly weak team. Things began to change rapidly for the better after enough time passed for new players to grow up and train without war surrounding them, like Hasan Salihamidžić (formerly from Bayern Munich) and Manchester City's Edin Džeko. Still: corruption, underfunding and management-team conflicts are endemic to Bosnian national football. Since the mid-00s Bosnia has gained a reputation as a confusing team to play against- keeping up with giants such as Spain, Portugal, France and Germany during away games on one day and getting absolutely smashed the next. Due to this inconsistency Bosnia had yet to qualify for a major tournament despite being ranked 21st out of 208 teams in the world rankings. Things are looking up for them, however, as they directly qualified for the 2014 World Cup by winning a qualifying group that also included Greece and Slovakia.
- Croatia: white-and-red checkered shirt, white shorts and blue socks. Arguably the most successful of the national teams created after the breakup of Yugoslavia, if the third place in 1998 is any indication. Main teams: Dinamo Zagreb (with 18 Croatian league wins) and Hajduk Split (which carried the tradition of one of the main teams in Yugoslavia over to Croatia).
- Czech Republic: red shirt, white shorts and blue socks. Saw its better days while under the Czechoslovakia flag (by which they were runners-up in the 1934 and 1962 World Cups, and won the 1976 European Championship and the 1980 Olympic gold medal), but on their own right are not a bad team, as the second place in Euro '96 can attest. Main teams: Sparta Praha (most victorious in the country, with 12 leagues under their belts) and current champions Slavia Praha, both from Prague, and Viktoria Plzeň (four titles in the 2010s).
- Denmark: red shirt and socks and white shorts. Won the Euro '92 after replacing the war-torn Yugoslavia in the nick of time. Main clubs: FC Copenhagen (greatest champions of the modern Danish league, with 12 victoriesnote ) and Brøndby (which won 10 national championships, and in which Michael Laudrup & Peter Schmeichel first gained prominence). The women's national team notably ended Germany's 20-plus-year reign over the Women's Euro, taking them down in the 2017 quarterfinals before losing to the homestanding Netherlands in the final.
- Greece: all-white uniform with blue highlights. Shocked the world by winning the 2004 European Championship over hosts and then-favorites Portugal. But still, they are on an average level at best. Main teams: Olympiacos (from Piraeus, the dominant team in Greek football, with 44 league trophies) and Panathinaikos (from Athens, which reached the 1971 European Cup final, losing it to Johan Cruyff's Ajax).
- Hungary: red shirt, white shorts and green socks. Now they pose not much of a threat, but back in the 1950s the "Mighty Magyars" were a fearful force to be reckoned with, having in their ranks legends like Ferenc Puskás and Sandor Kocsis. Everything came crashing down with the loss at the 1954 World Cup final and the suppression of the 1956 rebellion, and now their legacy consists of three Olympic gold medals (1952, 1964 and 1968) and another World Cup second place (in 1938). Main clubs: Ferencváros (29 national league victories, and now fully recovered from a second-flight spell) and Kispest Honvéd (whose 1950s team was practically synonymous with the Magical Magyars).
- Iceland: all blues with red accents on the shirt. As one of the smallest football nations, the team didn't really do much until they made their first major tournament appearance at Euro 2016 after upsetting the Netherlands. They proceeded to stun people by drawing against Portugal and Hungary before defeating Austria to advance to the knockout round where they upset England. Just to put this in perspective, England was composed of all top league players and a manager who was paid millions while Iceland had several semi-pro players and their manager is a part-time dentist. Even though they were defeated by hosts France right after, they earned the respect and love of football fans everywhere for their performance. And they followed that up by qualifying directly for the 2018 World Cup, becoming the smallest nation (by population) ever to reach the World Cup final tournament.note
- Ireland: green shirt and socks and white shorts. Perhaps the least football mad nation in Europenote , at least when it comes to local clubs, with attendance figures for League of Ireland matches being far below those for Gaelic Football and Hurling (though it must be said the British clubs have a lot of fans and when the national team is playing interest increases dramatically). While its clubs are not continental-level contenders, the national team has achieved some degree of success, qualifying for three World Cups and advancing from the first stage in all three. Fun fact, the team's fans were so well behaved at the Euro '16 tournament that the Mayor of Paris awarded them the Grand Vermeil, Paris' most prestigious honour.
- Norway: red shirt, white shorts and navy socks. Not so hot in men's football, but their women's national team became World Champions in 1995 and also won two European Championships. Its main club is Trondheim side Rosenborg, who won the league 24 times - 13 of them in a row (1992 to 2004).
- Poland: white shirt and socks and red shorts. A surprisingly capable nation, bringing to the world talents like Michal Zewlakow, Wlodzmierz Lubanski, and more recently, Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczycowski, and Arkadiusz Milik. Gold medallist in 1972, and third place in the 1974 and 1982 World Cups. Main clubs: Wisla Krakow (with seven national titles in the last 14 seasons), Legia Warszawa (the most recent champions in 2017, with 12 titles overall) and Lech Poznań (the only Polish club in the top 100 of the UEFA rankings thanks to some impressive European performances). Co-hosted the European Championships in 2012 with Ukraine.
- Romania: plays in all yellows. Like Bulgaria, they left quite a mark in world football in the 1990s, thanks to their ace Gheorghe Hagi. Main teams: Steaua Bucharest (1986 European winners, and runners-up in 1989 - on both occasions helmed by Hagi too - and greatest national winners with 26 titles) and CFR Cluj (an uprising team which won its three titles in even-numbered years from 2008 to 2012).
- Russia: white shirt and shorts and blue socks. Like the Czechs, their prime in football was under the Soviet red flag, with which they won the first European Championship in 1960, plus two Olympic gold medals (1956 and 1988). Main clubs: Spartak Moscow (10 league titles), Dynamo Moscow (for which Lev Yashin, arguably the greatest goalkeeper in the game, played his entire career), Zenit St. Petersburg (who won the 2008 UEFA Cup after upsetting Bayern Munich in the semifinals), Rubin Kazan, and CSKA Moscow.
- San Marino: blue shirt, shorts and socks. Permanent Butt-Monkey of all nations, San Marino are rooted to the bottom of the world and European rankings and are notable for only winning one senior fixture in their history, defeating Liechtenstein in a friendly in 2004. Their most famous player is Andy Selva, who is their all-time top goal scorer, with eight goals.
- Scotland: navy shirt and socks and white shorts. Despite their tradition (played the first international match ever, a 0-0 draw with England in 1872), they are always unlucky in international competitions (they never went past stage one of each World Cup final they were in). Main clubs: Celtic (European Cup champions in 1967 and runners-up in 1970) and Rangers (54 league victories against 48 from their rivals), both from Glasgow - and with a very well-documented rivalry, on and off the pitch (Celtic's supporters are Catholic, and Rangers fans are Protestants, echoing religious-based struggles like the one in which the two Irelands are involved). With the Rangers' insolvency in 2011, followed by a rebranding that placed them in the fourth tier of the Scottish league (followed by two consecutive promotions and, as of 2015/16, a third back to the Scottish Premiership), Celtic became (temporarily at least) the sole dominant team of the Highlands.
- Serbia: red shirt and socks and white shorts. While relatively new to the game, they are the direct successors of the Yugoslav legacy, which includes the 1960 Olympic gold, two second places at the European Championship (1960 and 1968) and the 1991 European Cup won by FK Red Star Belgrade (or Crvena Zvezda, if you're a native Serbian speaker). Aside from the aforementioned Red Star, its other main club is Partizan, from Belgrade like RS, and which lost the 1966 European Cup to Real Madrid.
- Sweden: yellow shirt and socks and blue shorts. Hosted the 1958 World Cup, only losing the final to Brazil, and the Euro '92. Main clubs: Malmö FF (1979 European Cup runners-up), IFK Göteborg (from Gothenburg, with 18 national league victories) and AIK Solna (from Stockholm). The most prominent women's club is Umeå IK, twice Women's Champions League winners.
- Switzerland: red shirt and socks and white shorts. Hosted the 1954 World Cup and Euro 2008, the latter along with Austria. Have a tradition of playing defensive, earning them the World Cup record of time without conceding a goal (559 minutes between 2006 and 2010). Main clubs: FC Basel (winners of 11 of the 14 titles since the current Super League was established in 2003–04, including the last eight), FC Zürich (the winner of the other three titles in the Super League era) and Grasshopper (also from Zürich, the most nationally successful team with 27 league victories).
- Turkey: white shirt with a red horizontal band and white shorts and socks. Showed the world what they are capable of by clinching the 2002 World Cup third place, but have since faded dramatically. Its main teams are all from Istanbul: Galatasaray (who beat Arsenal to the 2000 UEFA Cup win), Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş. That Bursaspor won the 2010 national championship in a major upset made them only the second non-Istanbul club to do so; the other was six-times champion Trabzonspor.
- Ukraine: yellow shirt and socks and blue shorts. The most famous club is FC Dynamo Kyiv, which won the Soviet championship and the post-USSR Ukrainian one 13 times each, as well as the European Cup-Winners' Cup twice. In 1975, headed by European footballer of the year Oleg Blokhin, Dynamo also won the Supercup. Dynamo's greatest rival is Shakhtar Donetsk which won the Ukrainian championship five times as well as the 2009 UEFA Cup. Co-hosted the European Championships in 2012 with Poland.
- Wales: red shirt with green stripes on the shoulder, red shorts and socks, sometimes known as 'the Dragons'. Historically something of a joke and the weakest of the so-called 'Home Nations', partly because the near religious reverence that the Welsh have historically held for rugby. Between the World Cup of 1958 (which they were knocked out of by a young fellow named Pelé) and Euro 2016, they failed to qualify for a single major tournament. Despite this, Wales has produced a number of great players; legendary Liverpool striker and all time top scorer Ian Rush, Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall, and Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs. Ranked 117th in 2011, they have progressively risen improved, only stalling because of the tragic suicide of their young manager, Gary Speed. The emergence of fiercely talented players such as Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, combined with a strong team ethos has led to a meteoric rise up the rankings, breaking into the top 10 in July 2015 for the first time in their history thanks to going unbeaten in Euro 2016 qualifying, including a win over the highly rated and then World #2 team, Belgium. This proved a mere prelude to an astonishing run to the Euro 2016 semifinals, crushing Russia 3–0 in the group stage, beating Northern Ireland in the Round of 16 and registering another win over Belgium (this time a 3–1 thrashing) along the way before they ran out of steam and a fortunate Portugal ended their dreams of glory. However, their efforts made them, with Iceland, briefly the sweethearts of a continent. Sadly, despite a heroic effort, they narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2018 World Cup. While Wales has its own league, the two best teams, Swansea and Cardiff, play in the English leagues, Swansea establishing themselves in the Premier League as an upper mid-table side (if one, as of December 2017, currently bolted to the bottom of the table) and winning the League Cup in 2013. Cardiff, by contrast, were promoted, then relegated the following year.