Fifteen teams had to go through a qualifying round to reach the final stage. England qualified automatically as hosts of the event. This was the first European Championship to introduce the current format of 16 countries competing in the final tournament. UEFA had made the decision to expand the tournament as in the late 1980s and early 1990s it was far easier for European nations to qualify for the World Cup than their own continental championship; 14 of the 24 teams at the 1982, 1986 and 1990 World Cups had been European, whereas the European Championship finals still involved only eight teams. Since the Taylor Report, England now boasted enough all-seater stadia of sufficient capacity to hold an expanded tournament.
The qualifying round was played throughout 1994 and 1995. There were eight qualifying groups of six teams each, with the exception of group 3, which only had five. The matches were played in a home-and-away basis.
The winner and the runner-up of each group qualified automatically, with the exception of the two worst runners-up. These two teams had to play an additional playoff between them (single match in neutral ground), to determine the 16th team to join all others in the final tournament. This was between Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool which the Dutch won 2-0.
The first round group stage went mainly as most observers would have expected, with almost all the major teams qualifying for the quarter-finals. The only exceptions to this were the failures of Italy (from the "Group of Death" which also had Germany and the Czech Republic in it) and defending champions Denmark. The hosts England, after a draw against Switzerland, defeated arch rivals Scotland and then defeated the Netherlands 4-1 to qualify.
However, the knock-out stages were marked for their generally uninspiring play. Only 9 goals were scored in the 7 matches, with four of the games decided by penalty shoot-outs (three of them without goals). The semi-final between England and Germany ultimately ended in disappointment for the home side, as Germany beat England on penalties.
The final of the tournament was between Germany and the surprise of the tournament – the Czech Republic. In the end, it was a triumph for German striker Oliver Bierhoff, who scored Germany's equaliser in the 2nd half after Patrik Berger's penalty had given the Czechs the lead. As the game went into extra time, it was Bierhoff who scored the Golden Goal (after a mistake from the Czech goalkeeper, and the first Golden Goal in the history of international football) to give Germany another major tournament success.
Although not all the games were sold out, the tournament had the highest aggregate attendance in championship history (1,276,000) and the highest average per game of 41,158 for the revised 16 team format with 31 games. Only Germany had had a higher average attendance in championship history with an average of 56,656 in 1988 but only staged 15 games in an 8 team championship.
The following teams participated in the final tournament:
| Wembley Stadium|
| Old Trafford|
| Villa Park|
| Elland Road|
| Hillsborough Stadium|
| St James' Park|
| City Ground|
| David Seaman|
| Radoslav Látal|
| Didier Deschamps|
| Alan Shearer|
UEFA Tournament Golden Boot Award
UEFA Player of the Tournament