UEFA and UEFA European Championship 2024 flags flying in the wind

UEFA European Championship – The Euros

4th July, 2004. Portugal was just about to step out onto the Estadio da Luz stadium in Lisbon. The weather was hot and humid, and the sound of 62,865 fans was causing the tunnel to vibrate and rumble. 

This was their year. They had the golden team. The likes of Paulo Ferreira, Luis Figo, and the safest hands in all of football – those of Ricardo. They were in Portugal. This was their home and this was their time. 

To the right of them, however, was Greece. They had come into this tournament as underdogs and perhaps even somewhere under that. At the beginning of the tournament, the odds of them winning were 150/1. Yet somehow, some way, they had forged a path to the final. 

Like Ancient Olympians, they had plucked thunderbolts from the sky and shocked every team who stood in their way. Now there was only one team left in front of the door of victory. 

But who believed? Portugal was better in almost every respect. They were hungry and confident, and they had a skill with the ball reminiscent of the Brazilian World Cup winners of old. Greece had never before won a trophy on the world stage.  These were seasoned supporters, accustomed to hope and disappointment. They knew the score, even before the game had begun. 

Their team steps to the field and the humidity of the night cause a crackle of distant thunder…

The European Championship 

The game they were walking into was the UEFA European Championship Final. The fifteenth to ever be played. And those 62,865 fans weren’t just making such a noise because their team was playing, they were making that noise because of what the tournament means and how prestigious the trophy at the end of it really is.

The UEFA European Championship – or Euros for short – is the second-most watched football tournament in the world. Sitting behind the World Cup as the ultimate champion-decider, it’s a way to distinguish the very best in Europe and give those players a platform to prove their worth. 

The 101 of the UEFA European Championship By Dazn Bet

  • The European Championship is a tournament across Europe, played in a league format initially before finalists move onto knock-out stages.
  • The tournament consists of twenty-four teams – decided by qualifying play-offs – and each group plays each other home and away.
  • There have been sixteen tournaments so far, with a range of ten different winners.
  • The first tournament final was held in France and the next is set to be played in Germany’s Olympiastadion, in Berlin.
  • It is the second most popular international football tournament – behind the FIFA World Cup – with the last final being watched by 365 million people worldwide.

The History Of The UEFA European Championship

Its history goes all the way back to the 1920s, when Henri Delaunay – the French Football Federation’s administrator – came up with an idea of a purely European tournament. As big as the World Cup but focused towards the European countries. Unfortunately, due to financial troubles in the 1930s and the Second World War in the 1940s, the first edition of this tournament did not take place until 1958 – by which time Delaunay had passed away.

The occasion was as big as it was predicted to be. A  total of 17 national teams came together for two-legged knockout ties, leading all the way up to the 1960 Euro Final held in the Parc des Princes. Over the next few years, the tournament only grew. In 1964, 29 teams had entered the championship, with a further two more in 1968.

In 1980, it was decided that the tournament finals would be expanded to eight teams, both of which were split into two groups – with the two group winners progressing to the final. In 1984, this was tweaked to allow the top two teams from both groups to progress to a semi-final round, before ultimately deciding who would play in the final. 

The latest tournament – postponed to 2021 – was played out in a league-esque format, with teams split into groups to play each other home and away. The top two teams went through to the “final tournament”, with the remaining places decided by the top four performing third-place teams. The updated format is, of course, a success. But the UEFA Championship has long been a success. And for good reason.

The UEFA European Championship: Historic Games

Since the beginning, the UEFA European Championship has got something different out of the players who participate. Being a tournament based around neighbours, there is a fierce rivalry between each country that is hard to replicate in a tournament like the World Cup. Every side needs to win. Not just for their status or reputation. For glory and their country. And this brings out a sort of magic on the pitch which can only be described as breathtaking.

Take the 1996 match-up between the Czech Republic and Portugal. Karel Poborsky lobbed a miracle ball over Vitor Baia to catapult his team into the tournament’s quarter-finals, crushing Portugal’s hopes and rejuvenating the state of the sport in his country. 

Or what about the five-goal thriller between Portugal and Denmark? Nicklas Bendtner headed in an equaliser just ten minutes before full time, before Silvestre Varela rose to his country’s call to score a winner just three minutes before the whistle blew. 

No one can forget England’s heartbreak in 1996 or the Netherlands’ domination of 2000

It’s never known what is going to happen in a tournament like this. This is one of the biggest tournaments in the world, designed to find true champions of the game in Europe. A trophy like this is not given to outsiders. Winning a trophy like this is not a fluke. 

History told Greece as much nineteen years ago, when they stepped out onto the pitch to battle Portugal for the trophy. At the end of the final on July 4th, 2004, they became the ultimate team in all of Europe. Athens was rebuilt in the Estadio da Luz and the Portuguese fans were silenced almost immediately. 

As Otto Rehhagel said after the match was over, the opponents were technically better, but Greece used their belief and took advantage of all of their chances.

The UEFA European Championship: Top Players

Take Franz Beckenbauer, nicknamed the Emperor, responsible for captaining West Germany to glory in 1972. He was one of the greatest ever players in the defender position and, despite a tough draw during the 1972 European Championship, he managed to lead his team and consistently hold out against the strongest of opponents. 

Zinedine Zidane is another notable alumnus of the championship. France were in good shape going into the 2000 Euros, but sometimes there is a possibility that teams peak too soon. Not with Zidane on board. With courage and conviction, he led his team to an unbelievably easy Euro 2000 win, playing his best to inspire their form all the way from the start to the end of the tournament. 

Zinedine Zidane, played for Juventus, Real Madrid and for for The French national side

The Euros: DAZN Bet’s Pop Quiz

Magical moments, wonderful players, packed stadiums. We could go on and on about this tournament, but sometimes it’s better to simply lay down the facts and let the tournament speak for itself. 

Not to mention, these facts could come in handy for those who are new to the Euros and want to assert their own knowledge dominance during 2024.

Which Teams Have Won The European Championship?

There have been sixteen European Championship winners since its beginning in 1958. These include Germany, Spain, Italy, France, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece and Portugal.

Who Has Won The Most European Championships?

Germany and Spain have won an equal share of three titles each. Italy and France are not far behind with two titles.

What Is The Biggest Scoreline in The Euros?

There have been many high-scoring games in the European Championship, but the biggest is France vs Yugoslavia, with the Yugoslavians beating their opposition with five goals to four.

Which player has won the most Euros?

Only one nation has won back-to-back Euros titles: Spain. Unsurprisingly, then, much of the 2008 team also appeared in the 2012 tournament. As such, the following players have lifted the trophy twice: Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, Andres Indiesta, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi, Fernando Torres, Santi Cazorla, Raul Albiol, Alvaro Arbeloa, and Pepe Reina. This team defined international football during this four-year span. 

However, there is a West German international we mustn’t fail to mention: Rainer Bonhof. He won Euro titles with West Germany in 1972 and 1980. His silver medal at the 1976 Euros actually means he has 3 Euro medals, one more than all the Spanish players listed above. Bonhof, then, is arguably the Euros’ most successful player.

What Is The Highest Attendance For A European Championship Game?

The highest attendance record goes to the 1964 final between Spain and the Soviet Union, which had as many as 79,115 fans in the stands. Not too close behind is Scotland vs England in 1996 – with a total of 76,864 fans – and France against Iceland in 2016 – with a total of 76,833 fans.

Who Hosted The First European Championship?

The very first host for the UEFA European Championship – which was won by the Soviet Union – was France.

What Was The Biggest Shock European Championship Result?

Shock game results are to be expected during the European Championship, and there have been many. These include the Republic of Ireland beating England in the 1988 group stage, Denmark beating Germany in 1992 and the Czech Republic beating Italy in 1996 – not to mention Greece beating Portugal in 2004. 

UEFA European Championship Cup with the Italian flag in the background

The 2024 UEFA European Championship: DAZN Bet’s Predictions

No matter what the year is – or where players are in their careers – the UEFA European Championship gives them the stage to rise up and write their names into the history books. This has always been the case and it will continue to be so long into the future. 

The last European Championship game was fought by Italy and England, and it was Italy that came out on top. It was a hard-fought game of hunger and nerve, and this won’t be any different when the twenty-four sides meet again in the run-up to the 2024 finals. 

Having just completed the 2022 World Cup, it’s easy to see exactly where teams are in terms of their quality and player base. England has confirmed that manager Gareth Southgate will stay on until at least the European Championship 2024, and this can only be a positive move as far as England is concerned. 

Over the last few years, they have reached a World Cup Quarter Final, Semi Final, and a Euro Final, but a trophy is still missing from their cabinet. They’ll be going into this tournament hurt and bruised and desperate to prove themselves finally on the world stage. 

France, on the other hand, may have other ideas. They were fierce in the 2022 World Cup, fighting it out with Argentina before Messi broke French hearts and led his country to a stunning victory. There is no shame when it comes to losing on penalties, however, and they’ll be making sure they aren’t put in that position again. 

Italy also has a strong chance of retaining the trophy. Their 2020 Final success is only emboldened by the fact that they were not even involved in Qatar – there’s that magic of the UEFA European Championship that we spoke about – and they will be wanting to take the tournament by the scruff of the neck. 

Netherlands, Portugal and Germany are also hot contenders. None had a particularly stunning World Cup, so each of them has the drive to put things right to once again assert their dominance on the European stage.

Looking forward to 2024 – and the tournament as a whole – this game is the best example of what the European Championship encapsulates. On any day, in any conditions, an opponent can go out and make history simply by believing in themselves and taking their chances. 

Greece did it in 2004 and it is sure to happen again. Which country will be gifted by magic in 2024 remains to be seen. We’re all going to have to keep tuning in to find out…