The UEFA European Championship, also known as ‘The Euros’, is a competition contested by national football teams throughout Europe.

The Euros is held every four years, alternating in even-numbered years with the World Cup, and is one of the world’s most popular sporting events.

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A pan-European football tournament was first proposed in 1927 by Henri Delaunay, one of the early architects of the FIFA World Cup.

However, it was not until 1958 that the Euros (then called the UEFA European Nations Cup) came into being. The first of these tournaments occurred in 1960 and has been held every four years since then.

In 1980, the number of teams that could participate in the Finals was increased from four to eight. This changed to 16 teams in 1996 and as of Euro 2016, 24 teams will take part.

Host nations

Since the competition began in 1960, each tournament has been hosted in a different country, and the host nation for Euro 2016 is France. However, the 2020 competition will see a change in format.

Despite bids from Scotland/Wales, Turkey, Georgia/Azerbaijan and the Republic of Ireland, UEFA have decided that Euro 2020 will be hosted in several different cities across Europe.


The host nation qualifies automatically. 53 other teams have to fight it out for the 23 remaining places in the competition proper.

These teams are drawn into Groups A-H (eight groups of six teams; one group of five). Each group winner and runner-up qualifies for the finals alongside the best-placed runner-up from all eight groups.

The eight remaining third-placed teams take part in two-legged play-offs to decide the four remaining places.

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Final tournament

The tournament begins with another group stage. The 24 teams are drawn into six groups of four. Every group winner, every runner-up and the four best third-placed teams progress to the final 16.

At this point, the Euros become a knockout competition with four rounds:

The Round of 16: Eight matches

Quarter-Finals: Four matches

Semi-Finals: Two matches

Final: The two winners of each semi-final play against each other. The winning team become the European Champions.

If any match ends in a draw after 90 minutes, an extra 30 minutes are played (in two 15-minute halves).

If the scores are still level after this period of extra-time, the winner is decided in a penalty shootout.

The Henri Delaunay Trophy

The Henri Delaunay Trophy – named after the competition’s creator – is awarded to the winner of the European Championship. Delaunay died five years before the first tournament in 1960.

Delaunay’s son, Pierre, created the original trophy in his father’s honour and in 2008, a slightly-modified version of the trophy was unveiled.

Former Winners

  • Spain – 3 (1964, 2008, 2012)
  • Germany – 3 (1972, 1980 as West Germany) (1996)
  • France – 2 (1984, 2000)
  • Denmark – 1 (1992)
  • Greece – 1 (2004)
  • Italy – 1 (1968)
  • Netherlands – 1 (1988)
  • Soviet Union USSR – 1 (1960)
  • Czechoslovakia (now credited to the Czech Republic) – 1 (1976)

The European Championships have been through many changes. From 1960 to 1980, only eight teams took part in the competition.

Now, with 24 teams taking part, the expanding nature of the competition is proof of its continuing popularity and prestige.

Despite a record number of teams vying to take part, there have only been nine winners since the competition began.

The unlikely wins of Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004 show that anything is possible. In fact, the competition can sometimes be a goldmine for savvy punters.