The UEFA European Football Championship is the main football competition of the men's national football teams governed by UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations). Held every four years since 1960, in the even-numbered year between World Cup tournaments, it was originally called the UEFA European Nations Cup, changing to the current name in 1968. Specific championships are often referred to in the form "Euro 2008" or whichever year is appropriate, although this phrasing was not used before Euro 96.
Prior to entering the tournament all teams other than the host nations (which qualify automatically) compete in a qualifying process. The championship winners earn the opportunity to compete in the following FIFA Confederations Cup, but are not obliged to do so.
Spain held the next tournament in 1964, which saw an increase in entries to the qualification tournament, with 29 entering; however, Greece withdrew after being drawn against Albania, with whom they were still at war. The hosts beat the title holders, the Soviet Union, 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid.
The tournament format stayed the same for the 1968 edition, hosted and won by Italy. For the first and only time a match was decided on a coin toss (the semi-final against the Soviet Union) and the final went to a replay, after the match against Yugoslavia finished 1-1. Italy won the replay 2-0. More teams entered this tournament (31), a testament to its burgeoning popularity.
Belgium hosted the 1972 edition, which West Germany won, beating the USSR 3-0 in the final in Brussels. This tournament would provide a taste of things to come, as the German side contained many of the key members of the 1974 FIFA World Cup Champions.
The 1976 tournament in Yugoslavia would be the last in which only four teams took part in the final tournament, and the last in which the hosts had to qualify, Czechoslovakia beat West Germany in the newly introduced penalty shootout, with Antonín Panenka's famous chipped shot.
Eight teams took part in the 1980 tournament, again hosted by Italy. It involved a group stage, with the winners of the groups going on to contest the final, and the runners-up playing in the third place play-off. West Germany won their second European title by beating Belgium 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
France won their first major title at home in the 1984 tournament, with their captain Michel Platini scoring 9 goals in just 5 games, including the opening goal in the final, in which they beat Spain 2-0. The format also changed, with the top two teams in each group going through to a semi-final stage, instead of the winners of each group going straight into the final. The third place play-off was also abolished.
West Germany hosted UEFA Euro 1988, and the Netherlands beat the hosts—and traditional rivals—2-1 in the semi-finals, which sparked vigorous celebrations in the Netherlands. The Netherlands went on to win the tournament, beating the USSR 2-0 at the Olympia Stadion in Munich, a match in which Marco van Basten scored one of the most memorable goals in football history, a spectacular volley over the keeper from the right wing.
UEFA Euro 1992 was held in Sweden, and was won by Denmark—a very surprising outcome as Denmark were only in the tournament because of the withdrawal of Yugoslavia due to its internal wars. However, they produced a shock, beating world champion Germany 2-0, having beaten holders the Netherlands on penalties in the semi-finals. This was the first tournament in which a unified Germany took part and also the first major tournament to have the players' names printed on their backs.
England hosted UEFA Euro 1996 and would see the number of teams taking part double to 16. The hosts, in a replay of the 1990 FIFA World Cup semi-final, were knocked out on penalties by Germany, who would go on to win in the final 2-1 against the newly-formed Czech Republic thanks to the first golden goal ever in a major tournament, scored by Oliver Bierhoff. This was Germany's first title as a unified nation.
UEFA Euro 2000 was the first tournament to be held by two countries, the Netherlands and Belgium. Reigning world champion France was favored to win, and they lived up to expectations when they beat Italy 2-1 after extra time, having come from being 1-0 down: Sylvain Wiltord equalized in the very last minute of the game and David Trezeguet scored the winner in extra time.
UEFA Euro 2004, like 1992, produced an upset: Greece, who had only qualified for one World Cup (1994) and one European championship (1980) before, beat host Portugal 1-0 in a dramatic final (after having also beaten them in the opening game) to win a tournament that they had been given odds of 150-1 to win before it began. On their way to the final they also managed to beat holders France as well as dark horses the Czech Republic with a silver goal, a rule which replaced the previous golden goal in 2003, before being abolished itself shortly after this tournament.
The 2008 edition, hosted by Austria and Switzerland marked the second time that two nations co-hosted. It commenced on 7 June and finished on 29 June. The final between Germany and Spain was held at the Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna. Spain defeated Germany 1-0, sparking much celebration across the country. This is their first title since the 1964 tournament.
For the 2008 tournament, the trophy was slightly remodelled, making it larger. The trophy, which is made of sterling silver, now weighs 8 kilograms and is 60 centimeters tall. A small figure juggling a ball on the back of the original was removed, as was the marble plinth. The silver base of the trophy had to be enlarged to make it stable. The names of the winning countries that had appeared on the plinth have now been engraved on the back of the trophy.
Since the expansion of the final tournament starting from 1980, the host country, or countries, have been chosen beforehand and qualify automatically.
The defending champions have never been granted an automatic place in the finals.
The groups for qualification are drawn by a UEFA committee using seeding. Seeded teams include reigning champions, and other teams on the basis of their performance in the preceding FIFA World Cup qualifying and the last European Football Championship qualifying. To obtain an accurate view of the teams abilities, a ranking is produced. This is calculated by taking the total number of points won by a particular team and dividing it by the number of games played, i.e. points per game. In the case of a team having hosted one of the two previous competitions and therefore having qualified automatically, only the results from the single most recent qualifying competition are used. If two teams have equal points per game, the committee then bases their positions in the rankings on:
The qualifying phase is played in a group format, the composition of the groups is determined through means of a draw of teams from pre-defined seeded bowls. The draw takes place after the preceding World Cup's qualifying competition. For the 2008 European Football Championship, the group qualifying phase consists of seven groups; one of eight teams and the remainder of seven teams each.
The qualifying phase is done in groups, each effectively a mini league, where the highest ranked team and the runner up, after all the teams have played each other home and away, progresses to the finals tournament. As with most leagues, the points are awarded as three for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss. In the eventuality of one or more teams having equal points after all matches have been played, the following criteria are used to distinguish the sides:
Sixteen teams progress to the final tournament; for the 2008 tournament, they will be the winners and runners up of the seven qualifying groups and joint hosts Austria and Switzerland. These sixteen teams are divided equally into four groups, A, B, C and D, each consisting of four teams. The groups are drawn up by the UEFA administration, again using seeding. The seeded teams being the host nations, the reigning champions, subject to qualification, and those with the best points per game coefficients over the qualifying phase of the tournament and the previous World Cup qualifying. Other finalists will be assigned to by means of a draw, using coefficients as a basis.
The four groups are again played in a league format, where a team plays its opponents once each. The same points system is used (three points for a win, one point for a draw, no points for a defeat). A schedule for the group matches will be drawn up, but the last two matches in a group must kick off simultaneously. The winner and runner-up of each group progresses to the quarter-finals, where a knockout system is used (the two teams play each other once, the winner progresses), this is used in all subsequent rounds as well. The winners of the quarter-finals matches progress to the semi-finals, where the winners play in the final. If in any of the knockout rounds, the scores are still equal after normal playing time, extra time and penalties are employed to separate the two teams. This tournament, unlike the FIFA World Cup does not have a 3rd place play-off.
In 2010, UEFA will decide which country will host Euro 2016. Sweden and Norway are currently planning a joint bid, and it has been reported that Scotland also are, most likely jointly with either Wales or Ireland should the tournament expand. Bids should be submitted in 2008.
There was much discussion about an expansion of the tournament to 24 teams, started by Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, due to the increased number of football associations in Europe after the breakups of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the USSR and the inclusion of many Asian based countries. The new president of UEFA, Michel Platini, was reported to be in favour of expansion which proved an accurate assumption. Whilst on April 17, 2007, UEFA's Executive Committee formally decided against expansion in 2012, Platini indicated in June 2008 that UEFA will increase participation from 16 to 24 teams in future tournaments, starting from 2016. On 25 September, it was announced by Franz Beckenbauer that an agreement had been reached, and the expansion to 24 teams would be officially announced the next day.
In all, 27 nations have appeared at least once in the final tournament. Of these, only twelve have made it to the final match, and nine of them have won it at least once. With three titles, Germany is the most successful European Championship team. No team has ever won consecutive titles.
|^||3 (1972, 1980, 1996)||3 (1976, 1992, 2008)|
|2 (1964*, 2008)||1 (1984)|
|2 (1984*, 2000)||-|
|‡||1 (1960)||3 (1964, 1972, 1988)|
|†||1 (1976)||1 (1996)|
|1 (1968*)||1 (2000)|
|SFR Yugoslavia||-||2 (1960, 1968)|
Appearance in this year's Euro 2008 is included in these figures.
3:Includes 3 appearances of Czechoslovakia
|2|| (1972, 20001)|
| Nuno Gomes|
Ruud van Nistelrooy
| Milan Baroš|
Marco van Basten
|1960|| François Heutte |
|1964|| Jesús María Pereda |
|1988||Marco van Basten||5|
|1992|| Henrik Larsen |
|2000|| Patrick Kluivert |
|Dieter Müller||4-2||82',115',119'||Euro 1976|
|Klaus Allofs||3-2||20',60',65'||Euro 1980|
|Michel Platini||5-0||4',74',89'||Euro 1984|
|Michel Platini||3-2||59',62',77'||Euro 1984|
|Marco van Basten||3-1||44',71',75'||Euro 1988|
|Sérgio Conceição||3-0||35',54',71'||Euro 2000|
|Patrick Kluivert||6-1||24',38',54'||Euro 2000|
|David Villa||4-1||20',44',75'||Euro 2008|
|4||Lothar Matthäus||1980, 1984, 1988, 2000|
|4||Peter Schmeichel||1988, 1992, 1996, 2000|
|4||Aron Winter||1988, 1992, 1996, 2000|
|4||Lilian Thuram||1996, 2000, 2004, 2008|
|4||Edwin van der Sar||1996, 2000, 2004, 2008|
|4||Alessandro Del Piero||1996, 2000, 2004, 2008|
|16|| Lilian Thuram |
Edwin van der Sar
|14|| Luís Figo|