History of the European Football Championship

The European Football Championship history began in 1927 when Henri Delaunay decided to hold a European Football Championship. Read all the historical moments of the European Football Championship, from its foundation to the next edition in 2024. How has the tournament developed over the years?

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    Henri Delaunay was one of the first people in history to devise a football competition for countries. Delaunay was a Frenchman and Secretary General of FIFA. The throphy that the winner receives is named after him.

    Partly due to the Second World War, it took until 1960 before such a tournament was organized for the first time. Meanwhile, Hendri Delaunay had already died in 1955.

    First game in 1960

    Although the idea used to come from a member of FIFA, the European Football Championship is held by UEFA. Delaunay was the first UEFA secretary when the organization was founded in 1954. Qualification for the UEFA European Football Championship started in 1958. This tournament was held in France in 1960 for 17 countries to qualify. The final took place in Paris and Marseille, with 4 remaining countries competing for the title. It involved a direct knockout system with a home and an away game.

    European Cup for countries

    The European Football Championship has been held every four years since 1960. In 1960 and 1964, the European Championship was still called the European Cup for countries, with the number of qualifying countries rising to 29. The direct knock-out system with 4 finalists remained for the time being.

    European football history

    Henri Delaunay
    Henri Delaunay

    From 1980, it is decided in advance which country may organize the European Championship. Italy was chosen as the host country. The number of countries that were allowed to play in the main tournament was doubled from 4 to 8 countries. The countries were divided into 2 groups.

    Since the 1996 European Championship, the number of countries that were allowed to participate in the main tournament has been expanded to 16. During this European Championship, the golden goal was introduced. The first country to use this was Germany. Oliver Bierhoff scored the golden goal in the 116th minute, with which Germany won the final against the Czech Republic. After 2 European Championships, the golden goal was already abolished.

    Since 2000, even two countries have been allowed to organize the European Football Championship together, as the Netherlands and Belgium did. Until 1992, 8 countries participated in the European Championship, from 1996 16 countries participated and from 2016 even 24 countries. EURO 2024 is already the 16th edition in history.

    Results of the host countries during the European Championships

    France is one of the favorites to win the 2016 European Championship in their own country. However, the home field advantage is not always as great as some would have you believe. Most host countries had to work hard for a good result. Only three host countries have finally won the final, France being the last in 1984.

    European Championship 1964 in Spain

    Russia were the defending champions at the 1964 European Championship in Spain, having won the tournament in France four years earlier. 80,000 football fans watched the final at the Santiago Bernabéu, where Spain faced the defending champion. Spain national coach José Villalonga and his team eventually won the match 1–0 through a Marcelino header in the 84th minute.

    European Championship 1968 in Italy

    This time defending champion Spain flew out in the quarterfinals, because it lost to England. This left the door open for Italy to win the title as hosts. The 1968 European Championship final was between Italy and Yugoslavia. Italy won the tournament and became the first European country to win the World Championship in 1934.

    European Championship 1984 in France

    20 years after Spain became the first host country to win the European Football Championship at home, France repeated the story. Captain Michel Platini was the star of the French national team as he scored nine times in the football event. Within the hour, Platini had put France ahead against Spain. This title was the first official title won by a French sports group.

    Other results from host countries

    • 1960: France (fourth)
    • 1964: Spain (winners)
    • 1968: Italy (winners)
    • 1972: Belgium (third)
    • 1976: Yugoslavia (Fourth)
    • 1980: Belgium (second)
    • 1988: West Germany (semi-final)
    • 1992: Vices (semi-final)
    • 1996: England (semi-final)
    • 2000: Belgium (group round), Netherlands (semi-final)
    • 2004: Portugal (second)
    • 2008: Austria (group round), Switzerland (group round)
    • 2012: Poland (group round), Ukraine (group round)
    • 2016: France (final)
    • 2021: N/A (all of Europe)

    Number of participating countries on the European Championship

    Year Main tournament Qualification
    1960 4 17
    1964 4 29
    1968 4 31
    1972 4 32
    1976 4 32
    1980 8 31
    1984 8 31
    1988 8 32
    1992 8 34
    1996 16 47
    2000 16 49
    2004 16 50
    2008 16 50
    2012 16 51
    2016 24 54
    2021 24 54


    Date published: 20-02-2023 | Date updated: 16-08-2023 | Author:

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    Read all about the history of the European Football Championship. The developments over the years from the first match in 1960 to the next edition in 2024 in Germany.

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    Author of this content is Patrick. I have been playing soccer for more than 25 years and follow the daily news closely. My hobbies include playing football, running and maintaining various websites, in addition to my job as a financial professional.

    I do not work for any related company or institution, so the information is reliable and independent. The information has been collected accurately from reliable sources and is regularly updated.

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