Picture by Michael Regan

UEFA European Championship: The roll of honour

The Soviet Union won the first title in 1960 while Italy lifted the trophy at the latest edition - UEFA Euro 2020.
By Naveen Peter

Often considered as one of the fiercest football competitions in the world, the UEFA European Championship is the most awaited event after the FIFA World Cup.

With the top European teams usually in the mix, the UEFA Euro sees the best in action for about a month.

The UEFA European Championship was first introduced in 1960. Germany is the most successful team, having won the title three times (1972, 1980 and 1996) in six final appearances. Spain too have three titles to their name (1964, 2008 and 2012) after competing in four finals.

Ten different nations have won the UEFA European Championship so far with France and Italy the two other nations to win it more than once.

Here’s a look at the list of the UEFA European Championship winners.

1960: Soviet Union

The inaugural edition of the competition, then called the UEFA European Nations' Cup, was held in 1960 with 17 teams competing. In the final in Paris, the Soviet Union beat Yugoslavia 2-1 in extra time to lift the trophy.

Spanish team celebrate after their title win.
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1964: Spain 

In 1964, Spain became the first host nation to win the title. The Spain football team beat the defending champions Soviet Union 2-1 in the final held at the Santiago Bernabeu, the home of Real Madrid. A total of 79,115 people attended the summit tie in Madrid, which remains the highest attended UEFA Euro match to date.

1968: Italy

Now called the UEFA European Championship, the 1968 edition saw the competition format undergo a change and only four teams made it to the main tournament in Italy.

Debutants Italy and England were joined by former champions the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia with the European Championship consisting of the semi-final and the final.

Italy tossed out the Soviet Union by the spin of a coin after their semi-final match ended 0-0 after extra-time and Yugoslavia beat England 1-0 to make the final.

The Italy vs Yugoslavia final was played over two legs with the first match ending in a 1-1 draw while the Azzurri eked out a 1-0 in the second leg at Rome to win the crown.

1972: West Germany

In 1972, the Soviet Union once again made it to the final -- their third -- only to lose out to West Germany in Brussels, Belgium.

West Germany beat England in the quarter-final of the 1972 championship.
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Led by the German great Gerd Muller and Herbert Wimmer, Die Mannschaft beat the Soviets 3-0 for their maiden title.

1976: Czechoslovakia

Four years later, West Germany came mighty close to defending their European crown. At the Red Star Stadium, Belgrade, Czechoslovakia beat West Germany 5-3 in a penalty shootout. This was the first UEFA Euro final to go into a penalty shootout.

1980: West Germany

The Germans, however, didn’t take long to regain their crown as they beat Belgium 2-1 in the final of the 1980 Euro for their second title.

The match was played at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome with about 50,000 in attendance.

1984: France 

The 1984 UEFA European Championships once again saw the host nation win the title. This time, France beat Spain 2-0 in a heavyweight clash at the Parc des Princes in Paris.

1988: Netherlands

Germany hosted the 1988 European Championships but it was the Netherlands who ran away with the crown.

The Netherlands celebrate their title win at 19988 championships.
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Up against the Soviet Union, the Netherlands were led by two of the well-known names in international football, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten. The Dutch registered a 2-0 win in the final for their first-ever continental crown.

1992: Denmark 

Euro 1992 saw the biggest upset of the competition when underdogs Denmark beat the three-time world champions Germany 2-0 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

It must be noted that Denmark were included in the competition only after Yugoslavia were debarred from competing due to the political turmoil following the Yugoslav War.

1996: Germany 

Clinching their third Euro title, Germany beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in extra time at the Wembley Stadium, London. A total of 73,611 fans were in attendance at the final in England.

Germany celebrate their win at Euro 1996.
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2000: France

Heading into Euro 2000 as the world champions, France proved their credentials once again as they beat Italy for their second European crown at the Feyenoord Stadium in the Netherlands.

Italy took an early lead but squandered the advantage as the French football team roared back to win the championship title in extra time.

2004: Greece

Just like Denmark in 1992, Greece pulled off a major upset to win their first-ever international trophy at Euro 2004.

Making it to the knock-outs at the expense of Spain on criteria (goals scored), Greece rode their luck throughout the competition and beat Portugal 1-0 in their own backyard in the final.

At the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon, Angelos Charisteas’ 57th minute goal proved to be the difference as Greece lifted the Euro for the first time in their history.

2008: Spain

The following years saw Spanish football dominate the European scene with the now-famous tiki-taka style of play (short passing and possession largely defining the game) taking over football. 

Spain won Euro 2008 by beating Germany 1-0 in Vienna, Austria.

2012: Spain

Spain successfully defended their crown in 2012. They romped their way to the title by winning all their matches and capped it off with a stunning 4-0 win over Italy in the final at Kyiv.

2016: Portugal

Having won two European championships at home, the expectations were high from France when the competition returned to their country for the 2016 edition.

Les Bleus did well to reach the final but fumbled at the last hurdle as Portugal beat the French football team 1-0 in extra time to win the title at the Stade de France. Portugal won despite star Cristiano Ronaldo being substituted earlier in the game following an injury.

2020: Italy

Italy tasted continental glory for the first time since 1968 after a thrilling win over England at the Wembley Stadium.

It was Azzurri goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma's heroic efforts in the penalty shootout that made Italy the Euro 2020 champions.