European Championship Winners – History

Every four years, the best men’s footballers in Europe congregate to compete in the European Football Championship. The competition is more commonly referred to as the EUROs and is set to be held in Germany this summer. Behind only the WC, it is the second-most watched footballing tournament in the world.

At EURO 2016, a reported 2 billion people watched the tournament, with 600 million tuning in for the final. Let’s take a look through the history of the European Championship winners.

A History of the European Championships

Believe it or not, there have only ever been 16 tournaments so far. The first edition was held back in 1960 but because it is only held every four years, there haven’t actually been that many past winners to date. The competition is designed to fall on the even-numbered year in between two WCs – the only exception being EURO 2020 which was actually held one year later due to the pandemic.

Before 1960, teams in Europe competed in smaller summer tournaments across the continent. For example, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland competed in the British Home Championship between 1883 and 1950. Austria, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Hungary, Italy, and Czechoslovakia also went head-to-head in the Central European International Cup between 1927 and 1960.

French Football Federation’s secretary-general Henry Delaunay first came up with the idea for the tournament in 1927. The concept was simple, bring the best footballing nations in the continent together for the biggest possible tournament. Unfortunately, the idea was not passed until 1958, three years after Delaunay’s passing, so he never got to see his creation come to life.

In 1960, the first tournament was held in France after 17 countries competed during qualifying. Back then, the competition was actually called the European Nations’ Cup and only four teams made it to the finals. The Soviet Union were the eventual winners, beating Yugoslavia 2-1 after extra time in the final, while Czechoslovakia came third and France fourth. The finals expanded to eight teams in 1980, 16 teams in 1996, and 24 teams in 2016.

EURO Championship Winners

Across the 16 tournaments, there have only ever been ten winners. Germany, Spain, Italy, France, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece and Portugal have all lifted the trophy in their history. Surprisingly, England have never won the competition, despite coming close on multiple occasions.

  • 1960 – Soviet Union
  • 1964 – Spain
  • 1968 – Italy
  • 1972 – West Germany
  • 1976 – Czechoslovakia
  • 1980 – West Germany
  • 1984 – France
  • 1988 – Netherlands
  • 1992 – Denmark
  • 1996 – Germany
  • 2000 – France
  • 2004 – Greece
  • 2008 – Spain
  • 2012 – Spain
  • 2016 – Portugal
  • 2020 – Italy
  • 2024 – ???

Who won Euro 2020?

Euro 2020 was a unique tournament in that there was no host country or group of host countries. Instead, the competition took place across the entire continent. England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Russia, Hungary, Romania, and Azerbaijan were selected to host various games throughout the tournament, with the final being played at Wembley Stadium in London.

The most famous moment in the tournament came not from footballing brilliance but from personal tragedy. A Group B match between Denmark and Finland was halted before half-time when Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch following a cardiac arrest. The then-Inter Milan star was given CPR on the pitch and made a return to football just eight months later when he joined PL side, Brentford.

This tragic and traumatic event eventually inspired Denmark to a semi-final appearance, in Eriksen’s honour. The Danes beat Wales 4-0 and the Czech Republic 2-1 in the knockouts before tasting a narrow 2-1 defeat after extra time against England. The Three Lions booked their place in a home final and took an early lead against Roberto Mancini’s Italy, but were eventually beaten on penalties in front of a devastated Wembley crowd.

Who is the top scorer in European Championship history?

There have been some incredible goalscorers over the years, but one player stands above all others. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals in Euro tournaments than anyone else with 14 (2 in 2004, 1 in 2008, 3 in 2012, 3 in 2016, and 5 in 2020). He also has the most goals in qualifying with 41. The most goals ever scored in a single qualifying campaign goes to Romelu Lukaku with 14 during the 2024 qualifying run. And the most ever scored at a single tournament was Michel Platini with 9 for France in 1984.

The best players in European Championship history

Since 1996, there has been a Player of the Tournament award to the most impressive player from the finals. That means we have seen seven players receive the award to date, but some of the biggest names in the sport have already cemented their names on the list. Barcelona’s creative masterminds, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, won the Player of the Tournament award in back-to-back competitions during Spain’s era of tika-taka dominance. Zinedine Zidane is one of the most iconic names in football and set the 2000 tournament alight with his midfield dominance, scoring two goals and inspiring France to a historic victory.

The more pertinent question on the lips of football fans at the moment is: who will win the Player of the Tournament award for 2024? Kylian Mbappe will certainly fancy his chances heading into Germany, fresh off the back of another stellar campaign with PSG and with a transfer to Real Madrid looming. France are one of the favourites to go all the way and Mbappe will be among the goalscoring elite with his eye on the Golden Boot as well as the overall trophy. Similarly, Bayern Munich and England superstar, Harry Kane, will be looking to finally drag England to a piece of international silverware. He may have competition from within the Three Lions ranks for Player of the Tournament though, with Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham in particular coming off the back of sensational campaigns. Jamal Musiala will be hoping to inspire a home victory with Germany, using his electric pace to spark a sleeping giant into life. Finally, Cristiano Ronaldo may be selected for his final international tournament with Portugal and you certainly wouldn’t put it past one of the greatest players of all time to go out with a bang!

  • 1996 – Matthias Sammer
  • 2000 – Zinedine Zidane
  • 2004 – Theodoros Zagorakis
  • 2008 – Xavi Hernandez
  • 2012 – Andres Iniesta
  • 2016 – Antoine Griezmann
  • 2020 – Gianluigi Donnarumma
  • 2024 – ???

The era of Spanish dominance in Europe

Spain are the only country to ever win the European Championships twice in a row. They lifted the trophy in 2008 and again in 2012, rounding off one of the most dominant periods of international football ever seen. Spain beat Germany 1-0 in the 2008 final thanks to a Fernando Torres goal, before putting four past Italy without reply in the 2012 final. David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres, and Juan Mata were all goalscorers that day.

Using their infamous brand of tika-taka football, the Spaniards also won the WC between these two victories. Winning three back-to-back major international tournaments is something we may never see again in our lifetimes. Sustaining such a high level of quality and consistent style across four full years is incredibly difficult on the international scene. Tika-taka football focused on one-touch passing, moving the ball faster than the opponent could ever hope to run, and that became synonymous with Spain between 2008 and 2012.

Which players have won multiple Euros?

Only 13 players have ever won multiple European Championship titles, and 12 of these came in the same team. Spain won both the 2008 and 2012 tournaments, meaning there were a dozen overlapping winners between the two squads. Raul Albiol, Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa, Iker Casillas, Santi Cazorla, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, Pepe Reina, David Silva, Fernando Torres, and Xavi all tasted glory twice in their career.

Perhaps more interestingly, West German defensive midfielder, Rainer Bonhof, also won the competition twice in his career. Bonhof is the only player to achieve this feat who was not a part of those two winning Spain squads. Bonhof lifted the trophy in 1972 and 1980 and was the only overlapping West German player between these two squads.

What is the Euros trophy called?

The trophy for the European Championships is called the Henri Delaunay Cup. This is named after the French Football Federation’s former secretary-general who came up with the idea for the tournament back in 1927. Unfortunately, Henri Delaunay passed away three years before the idea was actually green-lit in 1958, but his name lives on to this day as the inspiration behind the trophy.

Euro 2024 odds – Who are the favourites to win?

Euro 2024 is set to take place between June 14 and July 14 in the summer of 2024. Germany are the hosts for this year’s competition, following a historic win for Bayer Leverkusen this season in the Bundesliga. The tournament will start with Germany vs Scotland on June 14th, as the host traditionally opens proceedings.

23 different countries will arrive in Germany, and you can get Euro 24 odds on every single team to win the tournament. England are the current tournament favourites, although France are in very close company. Germany, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands are also popular bets ahead of the summer.

  • England – 4.25
  • France – 4.50
  • Germany – 6.50       
  • Portugal – 9.00
  • Spain – 9.00
  • Belgium – 15.00
  • Italy – 15.00
  • Netherlands – 17.00
  • Croatia – 40.00
  • Denmark – 45.00
  • Turkey – 50.00
  • Serbia – 65.00
  • Switzerland – 65.00
  • Hungary – 75.00
  •  Scotland – 75.00
  • Austria – 80.00                                          
  • Poland – 100.00           
  • Ukraine – 100.00         
  • Czech Republic – 150.00                                       
  • Romania – 200.00
  • Slovakia – 250.00         
  • Slovenia – 250.00                       
  • Georgia – 500.00                        
  • Albania – 500.00