The UEFA European Championship, often simply known as the Euros, is one of the world’s most prestigious football tournaments.

Established in 1960, it is organised by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and held every four years, though I should point out that the 2020 renewal was actually pushed back a year and held in 2021 instead because of COVID-19.

The tournament came about because UEFA wanted to create a friendly competition among European nations following the post-World War II era.

Initially recognised  as the European Nations’ Cup, the very first Euros were held in France, and only four teams were featured in the final stage. This was followed by a series of qualifying rounds that saw 17 teams competing.

They were the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and France, with two semifinals, a third-place playoff, and the final.

Czechoslovakia lost to the Soviet Union 3-0 in Marseille, with Yugoslavia beating France 5-4 after full-time.

The final was held on July 10, 1960, at the Parc des Princes in Paris, where the Soviet Union faced Yugoslavia in a tightly contested match.

When the match went into extra time, Viktor Ponedelnik scored the decisive goal in the 113th minute, securing the Soviet Union’s victory.

And what a long way we’ve come since then. As we look ahead to Euro 2024, which will commence in Germany on Friday, June 14, 24 teams will go head to head over four weeks until only one remains as the champion.

France was one of the very first teams to ever participate, and its status as one of the world’s best teams remains as strong today as it was then.

So much so that they are one of the favourites to win the tournament outright in the Euro soccer betting odds, but as we saw back in 1960, upsets can and do happen.

And they will have some tough competition, not least from the two teams that have won this tournament more than any other – Germany and Spain.

Germany at the Euros

Germany is one of only two countries to have won the European Championships on three separate occasions. Their rich football history is highlighted by their 1972, 1980, and 1996 wins.

Germany’s first triumph came in 1972, under the guidance of coach Helmut Schön. The team, led by the legendary Franz Beckenbauer, showcased a new level of tactical discipline and skill.

Gerd Müller, one of the top strikers, was instrumental in their success, scoring crucial goals throughout the tournament.

The final saw Germany overpower the Soviet Union with a convincing 3-0 victory.

The 1980 championship saw Germany lift the trophy once again, this time with Jupp Derwall as the coach.

The team was characterised by its robust defense and efficient attack, with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge emerging as a standout player.

With Horst Hrubesch scoring twice in the final against Belgium, Germany secured their second championship with a 2-1 win.

Despite the hype usually surrounding Germany, the last time they won this competition was in 1996, nearly 30 years ago.

They clinched their third title under the management of Berti Vogts when the tournament was held in England.

It was the first time the golden goal rule had been introduced, and it proved decisive in the final when Oliver Bierhoff scored the first-ever golden goal in a major tournament, leading Germany to a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic.

Spain’s Three Wins

Spain has also etched its name in the history of the Euros with victories in 1964, 2008, and 2012, reflecting their footballing brilliance over the decades.

Many teams go through periods of ups and downs, but Spain has always managed to maintain a standard rarely matched by its European rivals.

While the Soviet Union managed to win the first tournament in 1960, it was Spain who clinched the second in 1964 despite the addition of 12 teams in the overall competition.

Under the management of José Villalonga, the final, which was played in Madrid, saw Spain defeat the Soviet Union 2-1.

Key players included Luis Suárez Miramontes, who orchestrated the midfield, and Marcelino, who scored the decisive goal in the 84th minute.

It may have taken another 44 years, but Spain returned to the winner’s podium in 2008 under manager Luis Aragonés.

The team had adopted the now famous tiki-taka style of play which caught most of their rivals off guard. The strategy worked, and they topped Group D before moving on to the quarterfinals (there was no Round of 16 in 2008).

It was an incredible Spanish team boasting household names such as David Villa, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Iker Casillas, and Fernando Torres, with Torres scoring the winning goal in the final against Germany to give Spain a 1-0 victory.

The Spanish dominance continued into 2012, with Vicente del Bosque as the coach. They became the first team to win back-to-back European Championships along with being the first to win three major international tournaments in a row, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The final was a showcase of their supremacy, with Spain defeating Italy 4-0.

Conclusion

For now, two teams hold the record for the country with the most Euro wins, but should either Germany or Spain lift the trophy on July 14, they will have succeeded in becoming the most successful country in the competition’s history.

From its modest beginnings in 1960 to its growth by 2024, the UEFA European Championship has emerged as one of the biggest sporting events in the world.

Plenty of performances have stood out over the years and hopefully, a few more will join them in 2024 as we celebrate football, unity, and sporting spirit across Europe.