Euro 2024: Past winners of the UEFA European Football Championship

As the Euro 2024 tournament kicks off in Germany, Al Jazeera takes a look at the competition’s eventful 64-year history.

Spain's Fernando Torres, Juan Mata, Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta (L-R) lift up the trophy after defeating Italy to win the Euro 2012 final in Kiev, Ukraine on July 1, 2012. [Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters]
Spain's Fernando Torres, Juan Mata, Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta, left to right, hoist the trophy after defeating Italy to win the Euro 2012 final [Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters].

The European Football Championship, informally known as ‘The Euros,’ is UEFA’s flagship competition for its member nations.

The event boasts a rich history and has been a worldwide sporting attraction for decades.

Though the tournament first took place in 1960, the idea behind it was formed years before.

UEFA’s first general secretary, Henri Delaunay, proposed the idea of a European national team competition in the 1920s.

Delauney’s dream became a reality when the first edition of the Euros was held in 1960 in France, but the Frenchman did not live to witness the achievement, having died in 1955.

In recognition of Delaunay’s role in the formation of the new competition, the trophy – provided by the French Football Federation – was named after him.

Photo of Henri Delaunay
Henri Delaunay – Founder of the European Football Championship [Action Images/Reuters]

The inaugural Euros, a four-team competition, ended with the Soviet Union emerging as winners after beating Yugoslavia 2-1 in extra time in the final in Paris.

Spain hosted the next edition in 1964 and won the title by beating the holders Soviet Union 2-1 in Madrid.

The 1968 tournament was won by hosts Italy, but their route to the final was packed with drama.

The Italians reached the Euro 1968 final after a “coin-toss” victory over the Soviet Union in the semifinals – the only competitive European international to have been decided in such a manner. The coin toss was done after the teams played out a goalless draw in the semifinals.

In the title clash, Italy and Yugoslavia drew 1-1 and forced a replay two days later, which the Italians won 2-0 to lift the trophy on home soil.

Football player is carried on the shoulders of teammates.
Giacinto Facchetti, captain of the Italian football team, is carried shoulder high by teammates after their 2-0 win over Yugoslavia in the final of the European Nations Cup tournament, or Euro 1968, in the Olympic Stadium, in Rome, on June 10, 1968 [File: AP Photo]

The iconic ‘Panenka’ moment

The Euros remained a four-team tournament in 1972 and 1976 as West Germany and Czechoslovakia emerged winners in respective editions before the pool size expanded to eight teams in 1980.

Czechoslovakia’s 1976 title victory against West Germany gained popularity for Antonin Panenka’s penalty antics – the attacking midfielder softly chipped the ball up the middle of the goal, securing a 5-3 shootout win after the game remained 2-2 at the end of extra time.

His audacious penalty kick was the first of its kind in international football and was later imitated several times by others, as the style came to be known as “a Panenka”, named after the Czech.

In 1980, eight teams participated as the tournament featured a group stage, a third-place playoff and the final. West Germany won their second European title by beating Belgium 2-1, thanks to a brace from Horst Hrubesch, including a late header which sealed their win.

Four years later, France won their first major title at home as they defeated Spain 2-0 in the final, with captain Michel Platini gaining limelight with his nine goals in five matches.

The Netherlands won the 1988 edition in West Germany, beating the Soviet Union 2-0 in the final, which became famous for Marco van Basten’s volley over the goalkeeper from the right wing.

The Euro 1992, held in Sweden, was won by Denmark who pulled off a remarkable 2-0 victory over then-world champions Germany in the final.

Football players stand together around trophy.
One of the biggest upsets in Euro history. Denmark celebrates their 2-0 Euro 1992 final victory over Germany in Gothenburg, Sweden [Action Images/Reuters]

Greece’s fairytale win and Spain’s back-to-back Euro dominance

The next five editions saw a further expansion, as 16 teams participated in the finals.

Germany won their first title as a united nation at Euro 1996 in England, beating the Czech Republic 2-1 in the final with the first-ever golden goal at a major tournament, scored by Oliver Bierhoff five minutes into extra time.

The Euro 2000 was the first tournament to be held by two countries, the Netherlands and Belgium, and won by France, who were the reigning world champions at that time. The French came from a goal down and went on to beat Italy 2-1 in extra time, thanks to the winning golden goal by David Trezeguet.

Greece pulled off a huge upset at Euro 2004 by beating hosts Portugal 1-0 in the final. At the start of the tournament, bookmakers were offering odds of 150-1 against the Greeks winning the tournament.

Football player carrying flag.
A great time to be a Greek sports fan. Captain Theodoros Zagorakis celebrates with the Greek flag after winning the Euro 2004 final in Lisbon on July 4, 2004. Greece defeated host Portugal 1-0. [Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters]

Euro 2008 saw Spain dominate the tournament with their goal-scoring prowess, as David Villa finished as the top scorer with four strikes. They won the title that year after a 44-year wait with Fernando Torres’s goal sealing a 1-0 win over Germany in the final in Vienna, Austria.

Spain became the first country to defend their Euro title in 2012, winning the tournament by thrashing Italy 4-0 in the final in Kyiv, Ukraine. The Euro title victory followed their 2010 World Cup achievement as the “La Roja” became the first European team to win three consecutive major tournaments.

The 2012 tournament was special for Torres, who became the first player to score in two Euro finals and finished as a joint top-scorer with three goals despite only being used as a substitute during their campaign.

Football player kicks goal.
Spain’s David Villa won the Golden Boot award, along with the title, at Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland [Jon Super/AP]

Portugal’s unlikely victory and despair for England

From the 2016 edition, the tournament expanded to a pool of 24 participants.

At Euro 2016, Portugal finished third in their group, yet made it to the final, defeating hosts and favourites France 1-0 to lift their first major trophy. Portugal’s star player Cristiano Ronaldo suffered an injury in the first half, but Eder scored in extra time to seal their fate.

The 2020 edition was played in 2021 due to the delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a unique event format, matches were spread across 13 different European countries. The final was held at London’s Wembley Stadium, where England succumbed to a 3-2 penalty defeat to Italy after extra time ended 1-1.

England had been hoping to end their 55-year wait for a major football trophy, but they ended the night experiencing the crushing agony of defeat as three of their youngsters – Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho – failed to convert their penalty kicks. For Italy, it was their second Euro title after their 1968 success.

Football team celebrate winning championship.
Italy’s team celebrates with the trophy after winning a dramatic Euro 2020 championship final against England.  Italy will again be one of the favourites at Euro 2024 [Michael Regan/AP]

Euro 2024 will be held in Germany from June 14.

You can follow the action on Al Jazeera’s dedicated Euro 2024 tournament page with all the match build-up and live text commentary, and keep up to date with group standings and real-time match results and schedules.

Source: Al Jazeera