The UEFA European Championship, or simply the Euros, is one of the most important events in world football. The first edition took place in 1960. The knockout qualification tournament involved 17 national teams, with just four reaching the finals.
By 1968, matches were already breaking record attendance numbers: 130,000 fans watched the qualifying game between England and Scotland. Only in 1980 did the finals of the competition expand to involve eight teams. This year, a total of 24 countries will qualify for the Euros.
Germany and Spain are the all-time top winners, with three trophies each. Italy and France have both won the competition twice. Netherlands, Czechia, Slovakia, Russia, Greece, Denmark, and Portugal each have one Euro trophy to their name. Spain’s last trophy was won in 2012, while Germany’s last title dates back to 1996.
The last edition of the Euros in England in 2020, saw a final between Italy and England, with Italy coming out victorious on penalties.
UEFA Euro 2024 is likely to have a live audience of 5 billion fans across the globe. Germany will host the competition, which will include 51 matches. In-person audience numbers are likely to be over 2.6 million people. After all, some of the strongest national teams in Europe are sure to provide even more historic moments.
The championship is scheduled to begin on June 14, and the final match will take place in Berlin’s Olympiastadion on July 14. While you await the tournament, you can learn about some of the most legendary moments of past Euros with us.
1. Michel Platini’s Last Minute Extra Time Winner
Michel Platini was the French captain in 1984 when “Les Bleus” won their first UEFA Euro trophy. France won the final against Spain 2-0. However, the semifinal against Portugal was much more dramatic. The match went to extra time. With both sides tied on two goals and penalties looming, Platini’s stepped up with a dramatic 119th-minute winner.
2. Greece Against All Odds
Until 2004, Greece was an unimportant name in the UEFA Euro history book. Indeed, it was the year the team became known as “The Pirate Galleon.” Fans were pretty surprised when the “pirates” managed to beat Portugal by 2-1 in the group stage to qualify for the knockouts. Yet, no one could have imagined that the Pirate Galleon would sail away with the trophy after defeating Portugal again, this time by 1-0 in the final.
3. One of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Happiest Moments
Cristiano Ronaldo was the star of the Portuguese team in 2016, and rightly so. However, the final loss to Greece in 2004 at the beginning of his international career, was still fresh in his memory. In 2016, he was the legendary captain to bring the first-ever UEFA Euro title back to the country.
After a powerful campaign that included three goals, it’s not surprising that Cristiano Ronaldo insured his legs for EUR 103 million.
4. Toss a Coin to Italy
The coin toss is common at the start of the game but, quite fortunately, not at the end. The match between Italy and the Soviet Union in the 1968 semifinals is an exception, though. The match remained goalless after extra time. Therefore, as per the rules at the time, the result was decided on a coin toss, which went to Italy. Coincidentally (or luckily), Italy won the competition that year.
5. Redemption Shot
Few things are more disappointing for fans than a missed penalty. In contrast, it’s almost like a curse for players. Even more so if this player happens to miss the shot during the semifinals of the 1990 World Cup against one of its bitterest enemies.
Stuart Pearce did just that for England while playing against Germany. He dispelled the curse in 1996 against Spain, however, and his celebration is still one of the most heartfelt moments in the history of football.