What is UEFA European Championship?

Founded: 1960
Confederation: UEFA
Number of Teams: 52

The UEFA European Championship trophy is called Henri Delaunay TrophyOrigin & History

The UEFA European Championship features European national teams every four years. The foundation of the tournament was set in 1956 and qualifications began two years later. This came in the early existence of UEFA, created in 1954, and at a time when there was a drive for the creation of European Championship. The first UEFA General Secretary, Henri Delaunay, credited for presenting the first proposal to FIFA in 1927.

Delaunay died in 1955 before the tournament was formed. However, his son Pierre Delaunay pushed the plans further and was successful. Pierre was then appointed the secretary of the organizing committee for the European Nations Cup. In recognition of Henri’s efforts, the winner of the tournament is awarded the ‘Henri Delaunay Trophy’.

Henri Delaunay - The first UEFA Secretary General Evolution of UEFA Euro

The tournament has seen many remarkable changes since its inception. The UEFA European Championship was first known as the UEFA European Nations Cup. The title changed in 1968 and since the 1996 tournament the term ‘UEFA Euro’ has been adopted.

17 teams entered the first tournament with only four of them taking part in the final contest with the Soviet Union emerging winners. Outstanding teams that did not take part then were Italy, England, West Germany and Netherlands. Spain withdrew from the tournament owing to a push by their government for being drawn against Russia. However, they hosted the following tournament which saw an increased number of participants as 29 nations took part.

The tournament gained reputation extending the participants to 31 teams in the 1968 UEFA European Championship in Italy. Remarkable events of the tournament were the use of a coin-toss in deciding a semifinal match and the final between Italy and Yugoslavia which went for a replay. Otherwise, the format remained unchanged.

The last tournament to comprise only four teams in the final challenge is the 1976 European Championships. In addition, the penalty shootout was introduced and the hosts would qualify automatically henceforth. The next tournament, hosted in Italy, had 8 teams involved in the final tournament. Winners of the two groups battled it out in the finals, with the runners up playing the third place match.

Spanish Squad winning second consecutive titles, UEFA Euro 2008 and 2012 The only change in the 1984 tournament pertained the group winners and runners up playing at the semi-final stage. The winners would then play at the final and the third-place playoff game was done away with.

The same setup was used until the UEFA Euro 1996 where the participation extended to 16 teams. The 2000 Euro was the first to be co-hosted by two countries, Belgium and the Netherlands. This has been emulated in recent tournaments, in particular by Austria and Switzerland (2008) and Poland and Ukraine (2012).

The 2004 tournament which saw the host nation, Portugal, lose the final to Greece national squad, was the last to have the silver goal, which had replaced the golden goal. In 2008, the outstanding Spain squad won the finals against Germany and was the first team to receive the new trophy. The trophy was remodeled making it taller and heavier. The most recent UEFA Euro Championships comprised 16 teams with Spain winning the second consecutive title.

UEFA European Championship qualification phase, group & format 

In the first two tournaments, the competing teams were determined through knockout competitions. From 1968, teams have been involved in qualification groups and play offs. The qualifying phase starts about two years before the final tournament, right after the FIFA World Cup. Apart from the hosts, other teams have to finish in a qualifying spot or go on winning a play-off to qualify.

UEFA groups the national teams in the qualifying round through seeding. The system is based on each team’s performance in the world cup and prior Euro tournament. The committee ranks the teams as per the average points per game followed by other measures to break ties. Namely, the coefficient of a team from the latest qualifying competition, then the average goal difference, goals scored, away goals scored and finally through drawing of lots.

Teams in the group play home and away games to establish their positions in the group and the common points-system are used (the winner gets three points, the loser none and one point for an even score line). This determines which teams make it to the final tournament and those that go for play-offs.

For instance, the Euro 2012 had fifty one teams drawn in nine qualification groups, three with five teams and the rest with six each. All group winners qualified straightaway together with the top ranked second-placed team. The other eight runners up played two-legged play-offs and the four winners qualified too. The fourteen teams joined the hosts, Ukraine and Poland.

Image below: UEFA Euro 2012 tournament group stage 

UEFA Euro 2012 Tournament Groupings

UEFA European Championship Final tournament schedule

The teams that qualify are grouped once again through seeding. UEFA set up four groups in the previous tournament each having four national teams. The teams play again in a league format, all the levels involving a team playing the opponent(s) once.

The last two group match matches are played simultaneously, just as in the World Cup. A knockout system is utilized in the quarter and semi-finals. Winners of the semis meet in the finals. Penalty shootouts are taken to break a draw.


UEFA European Championship Most Apperances

Liliam Thuram France 16
Edwin Van Der Sar Netherlands 16
Luis Figo Portugal 14
Nuno Gomes Portugal 15
Karel Poborsky Czech Republic 14
Zinedine Zidane France 14


UEFA European Championship Top Goalscorers

Michel Platini France 9
Alan Shearer England 7
Ruud Van Nistelrooy Netherlands 6
Patrick Kluivert Netherlands 6
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Sweden 6
Thierry Henry France 6
Crisitiano Ronaldo Portugal 6
Nuno Gomes Portugal 6
Savo Miloševi? Yugoslavia 5
Wayne Rooney England 5
Marco Van Basten Netherlands 5
Milan Baroš Czech Republic 5
Jürgen Klinsmann Germany 5
Fernando Torres Spain 5
Zinedine Zidane France 5

Note: Players name in bold are still active.


Michel Platini, the top goalscorer of all time in UEFA Euro ChampionshipBest goal scorer of UEFA European Championship

French player, Michel Platini, one of the top 10 football players of all time and President of UEFA is still the best goal scorer of the UEFA Euro Championship with 9 goals. He was also named in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players.