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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. Due to the amount of strong teams in Europe, it can also sometimes be harder to win the European Championship than the World Cup - the average FIFA ranking for Spain’s opponents on their path to winning the 2010 World Cup was 17.71, compared to average rankings of 15.67 and 12.17 for their opponents in Euro 2008 and 2012 respectivelynote .

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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 (though this is not the case in the pan-European 2020 tournament, with host cities spread over 12 countries). For the 2020 edition, the competing nations were divided into ten groups, five with six teams and the other five having five. Each group resulted in two teams qualifying for the tournament proper, with the other four coming from the new UEFA Nations League tournament.Explanation  In the finals themselves there is another group stage which results in 16 teams going through into the knockout stage. The winners are crowned European champions.

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This tournament is considered possibly more unpredictable than The World Cup, due in no small part to the shocking victories of Denmark in 1992 (the team was called up a few days before the beginning after the qualified Yugoslavia were disqualified due to the war), and 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 football history. And then there's Iceland in 2016—the smallest country by far to ever reach the final tournament (population about 330,000), they made it to the quarterfinals, with an upset of England in the round of 16 ranking right up there with Denmark '92 and Greece '04. Least we forget, they managed to knock the Netherlands out in the qualifiers to even be at the tournament. And also Wales in 2016 managed to get to the semifinals in their first major tournament after 48 years (first British team to reach the semis in 20 years despite England).

Germany (1972, 1980, 1996) and Spain (1964, 2008, 2012) are the most successful teams with 3 victories each; Spain is the only team to have won two consecutive editions (with a World Cup victory in the middle).

Recap

  • 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. The Soviet Union won their 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 the Soviet Union (in their 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 advancing to the final stage, with two groups of 4 teams. The winners of each group advance to the final. West Germany won their 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 one of the best players of the decade Michel Platini, won their 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 goal 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 Yugoslavia was disqualified 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 on penalties in the semifinal against Germany (now unified), who ended up defeating the 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 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 were competing in just their second tournament, and who was considered by most one of the weakest teams in the tournament, was able to defeat host Portugal in the opening match and advance to the group stage, thus eliminating Spain. Then again won over France in the Quarters, the Czech Republic in the semifinals (after a last-minute goal in extra time), and defeating Portugal again in the final. This was the first time in which the opening and final matches were played by the same teams.
  • 2008 — Austria and Switzerland
    Cities (Austria): Innsbruck / Klagenfurt / Salzburg / Vienna (Final)
    Cities (Switzerland): Basel / Bern / Geneva / Zürich
    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 the Czech Republic in the group stage and Croatia in the quarters.
  • 2012 — Poland and Ukraine
    Cities (Poland): Gdańsk / Poznań / Warsaw / Wrocław
    Cities (Ukraine): Donetsk / Kharkiv / Kyiv (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 their third trophy in just 4 years (there's a World Cup in the middle, the first team to have done so), defeating a surprising Italy.
  • 2016 — France
    Cities: Bordeaux / Décines (Lyon) / Lens / Lille / Marseille / Nice / Paris / Saint-Denis (Paris) (Final) / Saint-Étienne / Toulouse
    Final Four: Portugal / France / Germany / Wales
    Top scorer & best player: Antoine Griezmann (France) - 6 goals
    This was 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-place teams advancing to the Round of 16. The tournament was noteworthy for a lot of surprise teams (Iceland and Wales above all). The final was Portugal - France, with the upset win of Portugal, which advanced to the knockout phase only as a third placed team, and defeated the hosts in the final without Cristiano Ronaldo, injured after 20 minutes, winning their first international trophy after years of disappointments.
  • 2020 — Pan-Europeannote 
    Cities: Amsterdam, The Netherlands / Baku, Azerbaijan / Bucharest, Romania / Budapest, Hungary / Copenhagen, Denmark / Glasgow, Scotland / London, England (Final) / Munich, Germany / Rome, Italy / Saint Petersburg, Russia / Seville, Spain
    Final Four: Italy / England / Spain / Denmark
    Top Scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) / Patrik Schick (Czech Republic) - 5 goals eachnote 
    Best Player: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)
    First itinerant tournament, organised to celebrate the 60th anniversary of UEFA (or probably because no one wanted to host the tournament due to the expensive costs and the economic crisisnote ). The Belgian capital Brussels was intended to be amongst the host cities, but political delays relating to the stadium caused the city to lose their matches in December 2017, with their games being reallocated to London. None of the countries hosting games automatically qualify, but a qualifying host will automatically be placed in the group in their country and host at least two of their group games (for example, Italy were placed into Group A and will play all three of their group games in Rome) - if both countries hosting a group qualify, an additional draw will be held to determine which country hosts the match between them.note  First to have the Nations League as a pre-qualifier fall-back. This was the first tournament to feature Finland, due to the goals of Norwich forward Teemu Pukki, whose name is allegedly an obscenity in Malaysia, and North Macedonia. It also marked the return of Scotland to major tournaments, having been absent from either this or the World Cup since 1998. Russia hosted and competed despite being banned from being represented in the Olympics and 2022 World Cup due to doping allegations. On 17 March 2020, the tournament was pushed back to 2021 due to the European coronavirus pandemic causing most leagues to be suspended - postponing it frees up space for those leagues to be able to be finished. Despite it being postponed to 2021, it's still referred to as Euro 2020; changing it to Euro 2021 would have caused a lot of branded items to be destroyed, which would go against UEFA’s aims of making Euro 2020 a sustainable event. In April 2021, due to a lack of guarantees that spectators would be able to attend matches, Dublin was stripped of its matches (its three group games were moved to St. Petersburg and the last 16 match was switched to London) and Spain’s stadium was switched to Seville. After a dramatic tournament, for reasons both footballing and otherwise (Danish captain Christian Eriksen going into cardiac arrest in the middle of the Denmark-Finland match, being saved by the sterling efforts of the stadium's medical team), Italy finally edged out England's 'Young Lions' in a penalty shoot-out at Wembley, after a tense final had ended 1-1.

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