The summer of 2021 will see, finally, the men’s 2020 European Championships played out in several countries — a year late because of the pandemic. But what are the Euros, how do they fit into the organization of world soccer, and what is the history of the competition?
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What is UEFA Euro 2020?
The official name of the competition is the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, with UEFA being the Union of European Football Associations. That’s a lot of words and letters, so let’s take a moment to explain.
As we explained briefly in this post about the history of football (and that controversial word “soccer”), World football is governed by FIFA, which is split into six regions all over the globe, one of which is UEFA covering, obviously, Europe. Within each region, there is an annual regional club competition; in Europe the main one is the UEFA Champions League. Also within each region, every four years, countries compete for (A) qualification to the FIFA World Cup, and (B) a regional championship.
Groundhopper Paul explained it all in this video, as well:
The Euros, as they are commonly called, are therefore the regional championship, among nations rather than clubs, of Europe.
How to Watch Euro 2020 on TV in the US
ABC and ESPN have the US rights along with Univision. The final rounds will be on ABC, 40 other matches will be on ESPN, and all 51 matches will be on ESPN+:
Euro 2020 Venues
We have another post that introduces you to the 11 venues in 11 countries that will host the tournament.
History of the European Championships
The first European Championship was held in 1960 in France, but only four teams actually made the trip. The Soviet Union won, beating Yugoslavia 2-1 in the Final. Spain hosted and won in 1964, then Italy hosted and won in 1968.
In 1972 West Germany won in Belgium — two years before winning a World Cup they would host — and in 1976 Czechoslovakia won in Yugoslavia. That tournament went to penalty kicks, and the winning kick was by a Czech player named Antonin Panenka, for whom that style of penalty kick has been named ever since.
It’s the first, naturally, in this video of 10 Panenkas:
Starting in 1980, eight teams made the trip to the host nation for the finals, and West Germany won in Italy. The 1984 tournament, hosted and won by France, was made famous by Michel Platini scoring 9 goals in five games; he later became the president of UEFA but was banned for life for various ethical breaches in 2015.
The 1988 tournament was in West Germany, but the hosts lost in the semifinals to the Netherlands, who went on to win it through one of the most famous goals in history, this volley by Marco Van Basten:
In 1992 the Euros were held in Sweden but won by Denmark, who only got in because Yugoslavia was in a civil war and was banned from the tournament.
England hosted in 1996 but lost to Germany in the semifinals — on penalties, of course. The Germans then won the Final on the first “golden goal” (which Americans will know as “sudden death”) in international final history. That rule was banned by FIFA in 2006.
After France won in 2000, the Euro 2004 saw the biggest shock winners in history: at odds of 150-1, Greece beat hosts Portugal 1-0 in the Final.
Euro 2008 was the coming-out party for the great Spanish side that would win the 2010 World Cup and then return to win Euro 2012, beating Italy 4-0 in the Final. Worth mentioning in that tournament is one of the great sporting moments in history (well, for us), when at the end of a 4-0 thrashing by Spain that eliminated the Irish, tens of thousands of Republic of Ireland fans began to sing “Low Lie the Fields of Athenry,” bringing waves of applause (and attempts to join in) from the Spanish fans and near silence from the German announcer on this broadcast:
Euro 2016 was hosted by France, but the hosts lost the Final 1-0 to Portugal despite Cristiano Rolando leaving the game with an injury after just 25 minutes.