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European Championships through history

| 05.03.2020

The European Championships turns 60 this summer, and to celebrate, this year’s tournament will see the football festival spread out across 12 different host nations.

24 countries will take part in the six-week tournament, with Portugal heading into the event as reigning champions after their victory over France in Paris four years ago.

VAR is also set to play a role in the European Championships for the first time, something that would have been deemed unthinkable back in the first tournament in 1960.


Hosts: France

Teams: 4

Winners: Soviet Union

Top scorer: Francois Heutte, Valentin Ivanov, Viktor Ponedelnik, Milan Galic, Drazan Jerkovic (2)

Best player: N/A

The first few European Championships followed a straight-forward knockout between four countries.

France and Yugoslavia got things off to a thrilling start with a 5-4 cracker in Paris. The French were 4-2 up with just 15 minutes to go, before three late goals in just four minutes sent the Yugoslavians through to the despair of the hosts.

The Soviet Union downed Czechoslovakia 3-0 in the other semi-final, and then claimed the first ever European Championships with a 2-1 win in extra-time over Yugoslavia in front of fewer than 18,000 fans.


Hosts: Spain

Teams: 4

Winners: Spain

Top scorer: Ferenc Bene, Dezso Novak, Jesus Maria Pereda (2)

Best player: N/A

The format remained the same in 1964, with hosts Spain claiming their first European Championships on home soil.

Spain defeated Hungary 2-1 at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu after extra-time, with the Soviet Union beating Denmark 3-0 in the other semi at the Camp Nou.

The final got off to a rapid start. Chus Pereda put the hosts ahead six minutes in, only for Galimzyan Khusainov to level two minutes later.  The final seemed set for extra-time once more, before Marcelino sent the near 80,000 crowd wild with the winner six minutes from time.


Hosts: Italy

Teams: 4

Winners: Italy

Top scorer: Dragan Dzajic (2)

Best player: N/A

The European Championships hopped over to Italy for 1968, and featured the then-reigning World Cup champions England for the first time, alongside Yugoslavia and tournament regulars the Soviet Union.

In a sign of the times, Italy progressed to the final thanks to a coin toss, after drawing 0-0 with the Soviets after extra-time.

England’s first Euros didn’t amount to much. Despite fielding several World Cup winners, including Bobby Charlton, skipper Bobby Moore, Alan Ball and Martin Peters, Sir Alf Ramsey’s men were defeated 1-0 by Yugoslavia in the second semi.

Italy won the final in a replay. Having drawn the first clash 1-1, two goals in the opening 30 minutes of the replay two days later saw Yugoslavia beaten.


Hosts: Belgium

Teams: 4

Winners: West Germany

Top scorer: Gerd Muller (4)

Best player: N/A

Hosts Belgium were joined by Hungary, the Soviet Union and West Germany in the 1972, with the latter boasting Gerd Muller in their ranks.

The legendary striker netted twice to defeat the hosts in the semi-finals, with the Soviets edging out Hungary 1-0 in the other semi in front of an official crowd of just 1,700.

And Muller proved the difference in the final, netting twice more either side of a Herbert Wimmer strike as West Germany eased to a 3-0 win and their first European Championship.


Hosts: Yugoslavia

Teams: 4

Winners: Czechoslovakia

Top scorer: Dieter Muller (4)

Best player: N/A

The 1976 tournament was notable for two reasons; it was the final European Championships to feature just four teams, and every match went to extra time.

Two goals in extra-time helped Czechoslovakia defeat the Netherlands 3-1 in the opening semi-final, before a Dieter Muller hat-trick saw West Germany defeat Yugoslavia 4-2 in the other.

West Germany had gone 2-0 down in that game, and they did so again the final in Belgrade.

And despite a late comeback, they became the first team to lose a European Championship penalty shootout, as Czechoslovakia claimed their first tournament win 5-3 on penalties.


Hosts: Italy

Teams: 8

Winners: West Germany

Top scorer: Klaus Allofs (3)

Best player: N/A

Italy hosted for the second time in 1980, but this time they were joined by seven other nations and separated into two groups.

The format saw group winners go straight through to meet in the final. West Germany came through Group 1 unbeaten, defeating Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands along the way. Belgium topped Group 2 on goal difference from Italy, with England in third.

Horst Hrubesch netted twice in the final in Rome, to hand West Germany their second European Championship title.


Hosts: France

Teams: 8

Winners: France

Top scorer: Michel Platini (9)

Best player: N/A

France hadn’t featured in the Euros since the inaugural tournament in 1960, but they returned as hosts in 1984.

Les Blues waltzed through Group 1, defeating each of Denmark, Belgium and Yugoslavia. Spain topped Group 2 after a close contest with Portugal, West Germany and Romania.

This was the first tournament to include a semi-final stage after the groups. Spain edged Denmark 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, while France saw off Portugal 3-2 after extra-time.

The French then claimed their first European Championship with a 2-0 win over the Spaniards in Paris. Michel Platini netted a record ninth goal in the final just before the hour, before Bruno Bellone wrapped things up late on.

Michel Platini France
Michel Platini scored nine goals at Euro ’84, a record which still stands


Hosts: West Germany

Teams: 8

Winners: Netherlands

Top scorer: Marco van Basten (5)

Best player: N/A

West Germany played host in 1988, and they duly took advantage to top Group 1, with Italy going through in second place.

Group 2 threw up plenty of surprises, not least England’s dismal tournament which saw the Three Lions lose all three group games. The Soviet Union topped the group, ahead of Marco van Basten and the Netherlands.

The Dutch striker had already pummelled in a hat-trick past England, and netted the winner just two minutes from time in the semi-final against the hosts.

The Soviet Union beat Italy 2-0 in the other semi-final, but were powerless in the final as goals from Ruud Gullit and *that* Van Basten volley handed the Dutch their first major footballing title.

Ruud Gullit Netherlands
Ruud Gullit was at the heart of a swashbuckling Netherlands side in 1988


Hosts: Sweden

Teams: 8

Winners: Denmark

Top scorer: Henrik Larsen, Karl-Heinz Riedle, Dennis Bergkamp, Thomas Brolin (3)

Best player: N/A

There were plenty of surprises in 1992, with hosts Sweden and Denmark progressing in Group 1 ahead of France and England. The Dane’s had only qualified due to Yugoslavia’s exclusion.

Group 2 went more to form with the Netherlands and Germany – the latter as a united nation for the first time – going through to the semi-finals.

A Karl-Heinz Riedle double helped Germany beat Sweden 3-2 in the first semi before the Dane’s stunned reigning champions the Netherlands 5-4 on penalties.

And more was to come from the Danes as they then beat Germany 2-0 in Gothenburg to win the Euros at the first time of asking.

Peter Schmeichel saved Marco van Basten’s penalty in the 1992 semi-final


Hosts: England

Teams: 16

Winners: Germany

Top scorer: Alan Shearer (5)

Best player: Matthias Sammer

Football was coming home in 1996 as England hosted a major tournament for the first time since 1966.

The tournament was the first to feature an expanded 16 teams across four groups, with the top two from each progressing to the quarter-finals.

England’s memorable run – including that Paul Gascoigne goal – eventually ended in the semi-finals at the hands of Germany.

The German’s went all the way and defeated the Czech Republic 2-1 in the final at Wembley, thanks to a first-ever golden goal, from Oliver Bierhoff.

Paul Gascoigne England
Despite his famous goal versus Scotland, Paul Gascoigne couldn’t quite guide England to the Euro 96 final


Hosts: Belgium, Netherlands

Teams: 16

Winners: France

Top scorer: Savo Milosevic, Patrick Kluivert (5)

Best player: Zinedine Zidane

A favourite among many for the standard of football throughout, the 2000 Euros were the first to be held across two nations.

Both England and Germany crashed out in the group stage, and for the second tournament in a row the Euros were decided by a golden goal as David Trezeguet’s extra-time strike saw reigning world champions France defeat Italy 2-1 Rotterdam.


Hosts: Portugal

Teams: 16

Winners: Greece

Top scorer: Milan Baros (5)

Best player: Theodoros Zagorakis

The 2004 European Championships features one of the biggest underdog stories in sport.

Greece served notice of their intent with a 2-1 win over hosts Portugal in the opening game.  They then defeated France in the quarter-finals before a silver goal from Traianos Dellas saw them beat Czech Republic in the semis.

Hosts Portugal awaited in the final in Lisbon, and against all expectations, Angelos Charisteas headed in the game’s only goal to complete a remarkable achievement.

Theo Zagorakis Greece
Theo Zagorakis inspired Greece to glory in 2004


Hosts: Austria, Switzerland

Teams: 16

Winners: Spain

Top scorer: David Villa (4)

Best player: Xavi

Spain had often flattened to deceive in major tournaments, but in 2008 it all came together at last.

With Xavi and Andres Iniesta starting to dominate in midfield, Spain saw off Russia, Sweden and Greece in the group stage, before a nervy penalty win over Italy in the last eight.

Russia were swept aside in the semis before Spain claimed their first major tournament success with a 1-0 win over Germany in Vienna.


Hosts: Poland, Ukraine

Teams: 16

Winners: Spain

Top scorer: Mario Mandzukic, Mario Gomez, Mario Balotelli, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Dzagoev, Fernando Torres (3)

Best player: Andres Iniesta

The twin-host theme continued in 2012, with Poland and Ukraine doing the honours for the first time.

Both hosts exited in the group stage, as Spain – now reigning world champions too – again proved too hot to handle.

They dispatched France 2-0 in the quarters, saw off neighbours Portugal on penalties in the last four, before a sensational 4-0 win in the final against Italy to become the first side to win successive European Championships.

Andres Iniesta Spain
Andres Iniesta and Spain were a cut above in 2012.


Hosts: France

Teams: 24

Winners: Portugal

Top scorer: Antoine Griezmann (6)

Best player: Antoine Griezmann

It was all change in 2016, as 24 teams qualified to make it the largest European Championships to date.

The tournament included five debutants; Slovakia, Northern Ireland, Albania, Iceland and Wales, with the latter two going on to be stars of the show.

Iceland kicked England out in the last-16, before bowing out 5-2 to France, while Wales went all the way to the semi-finals, beating Belgium 3-1 on the way.

Hosts France had looked better and better as the tournament went on, but Didier Deschamps men couldn’t find a way past Portugal in the final.

The Portuguese, despite losing Cristiano Ronaldo to injury, made amends for their 2004 defeat with a 1-0 win, the goal coming courtesy of Eder in extra-time.

Antoine Griezmann France
Despite losing in the final, Antoine Griezmann was the top scorer at Euro 2016 and named best player.


Hosts: Multi-national

Teams: 24

Winners: TBC…

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Richard Marsh

Richard loves his sport, especially if it involves the sound of tyres screaming around a race track. He's not fussy though and his '90s Premier League nostalgia and knowledge of team nicknames is tough to match.