Arguably the second most important international tournament, UEFA Euros has a lot of history and stunning stories. Noticing the list of UEFA European Championship finals, you read some of those most interesting stories in top 10 Euro runner-ups in history.
Generally referred to as the UEFA European Football Championship, The UEFA European Football Championship, also known as the Euros, is the largest association football competition contested by the senior men's national teams of the members of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
Being held every four years between the best of the European national teams makes the competition’s history and importance being overshadowed by UEFA Champions League history, which is held every year between elite European clubs,
UEFA Champions League teams
, with its huge UEFA Champions League winners list that keeps on enlarging the competition’s history.
However, theEuropean Championship’s history
is quite noticeable. Since 1960, the European Championship has been held every four years and was initially named the European Nations Cup, changing its name to its current name in 1968. Specific competitions are sometimes referred to in the form of 'UEFA Euro [year]' from the 1996 tournament; this format has since been extended retroactively to earlier tournaments.
Germany and Spain each have won three titles, France has two titles, and the Soviet Union, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Netherlands, Denmark, Greece, and Portugal have each won one title.
The second most important tournament an European nation could attend, at every event of the competition, the footballers try to make their country victorious and be useful in their national team. No matter how glorious are elite UEFA Champions League teams, there is always a huge interest from football fans to European Championship.
However, there sometimes is a bitter end to some of the best generations of a nation as we look at the list of UEFA European Championship finals, where some nations who many believed had the right to win the greatest European football achievement were doomed by chance or just, the game. We cover that and many more in the top 10 Euro runner-ups in history as you read further.
Noticing some of the most fortunate nations who reached the glorious competition's finals but were unfortunate enough to lose the final game. As stunning as UEFA Champions League history, here you read the astounding stories of those second-placed nation teams in our list of the top 10 Euro runner-ups in history.
Route to Final:
Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Spain, Yugoslavia
The first entry into our list of the top 10 Euro runner-ups in history is the most decorated nation of the competition ironically, Germany.
Germany have won 3 editions of UEFA Euro, namely Euro 1972, 1980, and 1996, to this date. Germany is actually the only country on the list that has finished as runners-up in the same competition the same number of times they have actually won the competition 3 times and in 1976, 1992, and 2008. Then-divided West Germany won 2 of those 3 European achievements we mentioned. In Euro 1972 where Belgium hosted the competition, Germany beat the then Soviet Union 3-0 in the final to become the champions. In the 1980 edition of the competition, hosted by Italy, they beat Belgium 2-1 and won the championship. In Euro 1996 where England was hosting the competition, Germany beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in the extra time, taking advantage of the Golden Goal rule that was in effect at the time.
Considering the 3 times they ended the competition as the runner-ups, then Germany is the most decorated nation of the competition though Spain has won the European Championship as many times as Germany has, 3 times.
However, it took a bitter end for the Germans in the 1976 European Championship final, where they were defeated by Czechoslovakia in penalties after ending the game 2-2 after extra times.
The stage was set in Belgrade for the Euro '76 final between Czechoslovakia and Germany, and it certainly didn't disappoint, it was one of the Euro's greatest games ever.
went into the Euro '76 final with an aura of invincibility about them. They were the defending European champions having won the tournament in '72. They were world champions having won the World Cup in '74. And they were dominating in club football as well with Bayern Munich off the back of a hat-trick of European Cup triumphs between 1974 and 1976. It was one of the best European championship matches ever.
Germany was certainly the favorites, but Czechoslovakia had other ideas as they raced into an early lead through Jan Svehlik before Karol Dobias doubled their lead after 25 minutes.
The Germans immediately responded through Dieter Muller but they would then continue to be frustrated. It looked as though Czechoslovakia would triumph, but a late Bernd Holzenbein sent the contest into extra-time and eventually penalties.
The first seven penalties of the shoot-out were scored, but when Uli Hoeness missed the ball was in Antonin Panenka's court. Panenka did more than just score, he dared to chip the penalty past the diving Sepp Maier to win Czechoslovakia the Euros and coin his own term for a chipped penalty.
Route to Final:
Italy, Sweden, Denmark
Former Russian Federation, Soviet Union was at its time one of the best European national teams as they appeared four times in the
list of UEFA European Championship finals
, bitterly only winning one in 1960. Soviet Union is the only country that alongside Germany has finished as runners-up 3 times in UEFA Euro competitions; in 1964, 1972, and 1988.
To become champions in the 1960 European Nations' Cup, the Soviet Union beat Yugoslavia 2-1 in the final and actually in the extra time. There was no Player of the Tournament at the time to be named, but there were five players from the Soviet Union on the UEFA Team of the Tournament, namely the greatLev Yashin
as the goalkeeper, Valentin Ivanov, and Igor Netto as midfielders, and Slava Metreveli, and Viktor Poendelnik as forwards. Also, Valentin Ivanov and Viktor Poendelnik each with two goals were the top scorers of Euro 1960 alongside François Heutte of France.
However, one of their bitterest defeats was to Spain in the 1964 European Nations Cup final. The 1964 European Nations' Cup was the second edition of the UEFA European Championship. The final tournament was held in Spain. It was won by the hosts 2–1 over the defending champions, the Soviet Union.
The final was played at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid on 21 June 1964 in front of 79,115 spectators. The referee for the match was Arthur Holland, becoming the second Englishman to officiate a European Nations' Cup Final after Arthur Ellis. Before the match, Francisco Franco led the future king of Spain Juan Carlos I onto the pitch while Yashin met his childhood hero Ricardo Zamora before the kick-off.
Spain's Suárez struck an early free-kick over the Spain crossbar before his pass to Marcelino was cut out by Yashin. In the sixth minute, Marcelino dispossessed Ivanov, took the ball past Eduard Mudrik, and after making a one-two with Lapetra, crossed for Pereda who scored to give Spain a 1–0 lead. Two minutes later, Viktor Anichkin passed to Galimzyan Khusainov down the left side of the pitch and his weak shot was mishandled by the Spain goalkeeper Iribar to allow the equalizer. Despite the two early goals, the remainder of the half saw both sides competing in the midfield with several misplaced passes and fouls, although Yashin saved shots from both Pereda and Fusté before Iribar kept Chislenko's attempt out.
Spain began to dominate and missed several chances to score early in the second half. Amancio struck the ball into the side netting before he then ran clear of the Soviet Union defense and passed to Marcelino whose shot was tipped over the Soviet Union crossbar by Yashin. Chislenko then beat three Spain defenders before being brought down by Ignacio Zoco but the referee dismissed the penalty kick.
With six minutes of the match remaining, Feliciano Rivilla passed to Pereda who beat Anichkin and played in a cross that Viktor Shustikov did not clear before Marcelino headed the winning goal inside the near post. Spain won the match 2–1 to win their first European Championship title, giving the title to the most decorated nation in the
UEFA Champions League history
Route to Final:
Germany, Italy, Russia, Portugal, France
The next in our list of the
top 10 Euro runner-ups in history
has also won the competition one time. Just like Russia which won their only Euro championship as the Soviet Union, the Czech Republic also won their Euro championship not actually as the Czech Republic but as former Czechoslovakia. They beat one of the top European teams at the time, West Germany 5-3 in the penalty shootouts after ending the game as a 2-2 draw.
In Euro 1996 where England was hosting the competition, Germany beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in the extra time, taking advantage of the Golden Goal rule that was in effect at the time. Top players like Oliver Bierhoff, Jurgen Klinsmann, Matthias Sammer, Jurgen Kohler, and Oliver Kahn were part of the German squad in that competition.
The Czech Republic was assigned to UEFA Euro 1996 Group C where their opponents were Germany, Italy, and Russia, the group of death. The first group match saw the Czech Republic face Germany at Old Trafford in Manchester on 9 June 1996. Germany took the lead in the 26th minute through Christian Ziege and doubled the lead six minutes later to end the match 2-0. However, a 2-1 victory over Italy and a 3-3 draw against Russia saw Czech qualifying as the runner ups behind Germany and above Italy, who also had the same amount of points.
In the quarter-final, the Czech Republic's opponents were Portugal, and eight minutes into the second half, the Czech Republic took the lead with what author Jonathan O'Brien described as "one of the most astonishing goals ever witnessed in a major tournament." Ending the match as a 1-0 victory for Czech, sent to face France in the semi-final at Old Trafford, a 0-0 draw that saw Czech proceeding to the finals through penalties.
The final took place at Wembley Stadium on 30 June 1996 in front of 73,611 spectators. Suchopárek, Bejbl, and Kuka were recalled to the Czech Republic line-up having served their suspensions, Karel Rada kept his position as Látal was unavailable having been sent off in the quarter-final, and Patrik Berger returned to the starting eleven replacing Šmicer.
In the 58th minute, the Czech Republic was awarded a penalty. Sammer's lofted pass was headed clear byNedvěd
and was collected by Kuka, he passed it to Poborský who was brought down by Sammer. Berger converted the penalty with a shot that went under Köpke.
Ten minutes later, Germany made their second substitution of the game with Scholl being replaced by Oliver Bierhoff, and within five minutes he scored. The full-time ended 1–1, sending the match into extra time: the golden goal rule applied such that the first team to score in the additional period would immediately win the game.
In the 95th minute, Klinsmann passed to Bierhoff who had his back to goal and was being closely marked by Kadlec, the German striker turned and struck the ball which took a deflection off Michal Horňák and passed through Kouba's hands into the Czech Republic goal. After confirming with the linesman that Kuntz was not offside, the referee blew to indicate the end of the match with Germany winning 2–1 and securing their third, and to this time their last European Championship title, even though their UEFA Champions League teams are continuing to adding national glory through
UEFA Champions League winners list
Route to Final:
Greece, Russia, Spain, England, Netherlands
With Benfica and Porto appearing constantly in the UEFA Champions League winners list, there’s no surprise that expectations are high from a nation such as Portugal. Portugal has only one UEFA Euro championship to its name; actually, the 2016 Euro championship that the then Portugal national team won by beating the hosts, France, 1-0 and in extra time. Portugal has also finished as runners-up once in UEFA Euro competitions. Although the Portuguese star,Cristiano Ronaldo
, played for his country’s national team in both Euro 2004, and Euro 2016, he never became the top scorer in either of these competitions. He scored 2 goals in Euro 2004 and was 3 goals behind the competition’s top scorer, Milan Baroš of the Czech Republic
UEFA Euro 2004 was the 12th UEFA European Championship hosted by Portugal. Portugal was drawn in Group A, in which they were joined by Greece, Russia, and Spain. A 2-1 defeat to Greece and victories over Russia and Spain saw them qualifying as the runner-ups of the group behind Greece.
The match went to extra time, and Rui Costa gave Portugal the lead in the 110th-minutes with a powerful shot from 20 yards out. Frank Lampard equalized for England five minutes later, and with the match finishing 2–2, Portugal qualified after their 6-5 victory in the penalty shoot-out. The hosts returned to the Estádio José Alvalade for the semi-final on 30 June, in which they played the Netherlands.
Ronaldo scored after 26 minutes with a header, Maniche then doubled Portugal's lead in 58th-minutes, with a curving shot from the edge of the penalty area from a Ronaldo pass. Jorge Andrade scored an own goal five minutes later, but Portugal held on to their 2-1 lead for the remainder of the match to secure a spot in the final against the giant killers, Greece.
Greece went into Euro 2004 as one of the outsiders and a 150/1 shot to win the competition, and they did just that, completely defying the odds. They beat Portugal 2-1 in the tournament's first game in Porto and beat them 1-0 in the tournament's final game in Lisbon.
Portugal thought it was their year with their golden generation of players at their disposal and the fact they were playing on home soil, but the Greeks ensured they had the final say.
After overcoming France 1-0 in the quarters, then beating the Czech Republic 1-0 in the semis, Greece went and beat Portugal by the same scoreline in the final as Angelos Charisteas lit up the Estadio da Luz.
He became the latest Greek god as Athens rose from its ruins in 2004 to pull off one of the greatest sporting shocks you will ever see, and in doing so they rained on the Portuguese parade. The game was one of the best European championship matches ever.
Route to Final:
West Germany, Albania, France, England
The Yugoslavia national football team, which mainly represented the pre-war Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the post-war SFR Yugoslavia, enjoyed success in international competition and is the next entry in our list of the
top 10 Euro runner-ups in history
, coming up runner-ups in two European Championship tournaments. One in 1960, and the more bitter one in 1968.
UEFA Euro 1968 was the third edition of the UEFA European Championship. Qualifying rounds were played on a home-and-away round-robin tournament basis prior to the semi-finals and final taking place in Italy. Yugoslavia was in the three-team UEFA Euro 1968 qualifying Group 4 with West Germany and Albania.
2 victories against Albania and one against West Germany sent Yugoslavia to the next stage as they finished as the winners of Group 4, facing France in two-legged quarter finals, where they smashed the Frenchmen at home with a 5-1 victory and held on to a 1-1 away draw.
The semi-final saw Yugoslavia drawn against the 1966 FIFA World Cup champions England with the one-off match being played on 5 June 1968 at the Stadio Comunale in Florence. With two minutes remaining of the regular time, Yugoslavia took the lead when Džajić lifted the ball over Gordon Banks. Mullery then kicked Dobrivoje Trivić and was sent off becoming the first player to be expelled in a European Championship finals game and the first England international ever to be dismissed. Yugoslavia won the match 1–0 and progressed to their second European Championship tournament final.
The final was played at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on 8 June 1968 in front of a crowd of 68,817. Six minutes before half-time, Džajić gave his side the lead. Trivić made a run down the right wing and crossed for Džajić whose control was initially poor but was still able to get a shot away into the Italy net. Yugoslavia was the dominating side throughout the game, ten minutes of the match remaining, Lodetti was fouled on the edge of the Yugoslavia penalty area by Blagoje Paunović. Domenghini's subsequent right-footed free-kick went through the wall and past Pantelić who did not move and leveled the score at 1–1. Extra-time brought no change to the scoreline and the match ended in a draw, the result of the final would need to be determined in a replay.
The replay was played at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Riva scored the match opener for Italy from a corner in the 12th-minute before Anastasi doubled Italy's lead in the 31st minute. The match ended 2–0 and Italy claimed their first European title.
Referring to the late goal for Italy in the initial final,Dino Zoff
admitted that "to be honest, we didn't deserve to draw". He went on to suggest that his side's performance in the replay was "perfect" and that they "definitely deserved to win that game."
Route to Final:
Romania, Albania, Switzerland, Republic of Ireland, Iceland, Germany
France is actually the last country on the list of countries with the most UEFA European championships won with more than one Euro championship. France actually won the UEFA Euro championship once in 1984 and another time in 2000. They also finished as runners-up once in 2016 where they, themselves, were the hosts but lost 1-0 to Portugal in the final and through the goal that the Portuguese footballer, Eder, scored at 109 minutes. If that just didn’t happen - we mean France won the tournament’s championship, then they would now share the first position on the list with Germany and Spain.
Having qualified for Euro 2016 automatically as hosts, France was placed in Group A with Romania, Albania, and Switzerland. Victories over Romania and Albania and a draw with Switzerland sent France as the Group A winners to the round of 16 of Euro 2016. In the round of 16, France faced the Republic of Ireland. In the second minute, Pogba fouled Shane Long in the France penalty area and Robbie Brady scored the resulting penalty to give the Republic of Ireland a 1–0 lead. Griezmann scored the equalizer with a header for France twelve minutes after half-time, before scoring his second four minutes later to make it 2–1, a result that sent France to the quarter-finals to smash Iceland 5-2.
In the semi-finals, France faced Germany, the 2014 FIFA World Cup winners. two minutes into first-half stoppage time, Bastian Schweinsteiger was adjudged to have handled the ball when he challenged Evra in the penalty area, andGriezmann
scored the resulting penalty to give France a 1–0 lead at half-time. With 18 minutes of the match remaining, Griezmann sealed a 2-0 victory by scoring from close range. It was France's first victory over Germany in a major tournament since the 1958 FIFA World Cup.
Portugal kicked off the final in front of an attendance of 75,868. In the final match, France fell short to Portugal’s defensive style, and even Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury didn’t give France much of an advantage as both sides headed extra-times after a 0-0 draw in regular time. France kicked off the first half of extra time and in the 109th-minute the decisive moment of the match came when Portugal took the lead by a goal from Eder. The striker received the ball, held off Koscielny before running infield, and struck it from 25 yards with a low shot that beat Lloris to his right. Portugal held on to their lead, the final whistle was blown and Portugal won the match 1–0, becoming the champions for their very first time.
Route to Final:
Austria, Portugal, Scotland, Norway, England, Spain, Italy
, the next in our list of the top 10 Euro runner-ups in history, have only finished as runners-up once in UEFA Euro history and in 1980 when they were defeated 2-1 by West Germany in the final. Other than that, they have also finished in third place once and in 1972 when they lost 2-1 to Hungary. In Euro 1980 Belgium had one player on the tournament’s Team of the Tournament who was actually the Belgian midfielder, Jan Ceulemans. Belgium's UEFA Euro 1980 campaign started in qualifying group 2 where they faced Austria, Portugal, Scotland, and Norway. Each team met one another both at home and away, after which Belgium had won four and drawn four of their matches to finish top of the group, one point ahead of Austria, to qualify for the final tournament.
Belgium was placed in group 2 which consisted of Italy, England, and Spain. Two draws against England and Italy and a 2-1 victory over Spain made Belgium the winner of the group. Tied on four points and level on goal difference with Italy, Belgium progressed to scoring more goals toward the Euro 1980 finals.
The final took place at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on 21 June 1980 in front of 47,864 spectators. West Germany took the lead in the tenth minute through Hrubesch. In the 75th minute, Schuster lost possession 10 yards (9 m) inside his own half and Manfred Kaltz inadvertently played the ball to Van der Elst who headed it goalbound and was fouled by Stielike. Although the initial contact appeared to have been outside West Germany's penalty area, the referee awarded a penalty that Vandereycken scored, with Schumacher diving the wrong way.
With 90 seconds of the match remaining, Rummenigge's corner found Hrubesch who had made a late run into the penalty area and he headed the ball into the Belgium goal from close range to secure a 2–1 victory for West Germany, and their second European Championship in three attempts.
Hrubesch later said, "We wouldn't have made it in extra time because it would have been too much ... It was very hot that day and I recall being so tired after the game that it was hard to lift the trophy."
Route to Final:
Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, England, Italy
Appearing for the second time, Soviet Union’s 1988 furious side is the next on our list of the top 10 Euro runner-ups in history.
In UEFA Euro 1988 Group 2, the Soviet Union's opponents were the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, and England. In their initial group match, the Soviet Union faced the Netherlands for the first time in a competitive fixture and won the match 1-0. A 1-1 draw with Ireland and a 3-1 victory over England made the Soviet the winner of the group as they faced Italy in the semi-finals, winning the match 2-0.
Going into Euro '88, one of the best European championship matches ever was Holland. Despite their best efforts, they still hadn't won an international honor. At the club level, Ajax won three European Cup titles in a row between 1971 and 1973, with a core of Dutch players, starring the legendary Johann Cruyff, playing a pivotal role.
The Dutch national team was denied by the brilliance of Gerd Muller and Germany in the 1974 World Cup final and the brilliance of Mario Kempes and Argentina in the 1978 World Cup final.
But the leading light in the Dutch class of '88 was Marco Van Basten, he's a football god and was as important to Holland in the 80s as Cruyff was in the 70s. Gullit set the Dutch on their way in the first half, but his strike partner produced a bolt from the blue in the second when he scored arguably the best goal ever scored.
Van Basten struck Arnold Muhren's lofted cross-field ball sweet on the volley before his right-footed effort flew into the top corner from a tight angle. It's perhaps the most iconic moment in European Championship history and one of the greatest Euro cups matches ever.
Route to Final
: Poland, Croatia, Austria, Portugal, Turkey
Spain’s second UEFA Euro championship actually occurred in 2008 where Austria and Switzerland were the hosts, where they beat a mighty Germany before adding their third title in 2012 to even add to the Germans’ upset by becoming the shared-most winners of European Championship.
Nevertheless, Germany’s 2008 fearsome team is the next entry on our list of the top 10 Euro runner-ups in history.
Germany was drawn in Group B for the tournament, alongside Austria, Croatia, and Poland. They defeated Poland 2-0 before submitting to 2-1 to Croatia. However, a 1-0 victory over Austria sent the Germans to the quarter-finals of the Euro 2008 as the runner-ups, behind Croatia. They defeated Portugal 3-2 and returned to Basel to face Turkey for the semi-finals of the tournament. Turkey had several chances in the opening 20 minutes before taking the lead in 22 minutes; Uğur Boral's shot went under the body of goalkeeper Jens Lehmann after Colin Kazim-Richards had hit the crossbar. Five minutes later Schweinsteiger equalized for Germany with a close-range shot. Klose scored Germany's second on 79 minutes, but Turkey equalized 7 minutes later through Semih Şentürk. With the game heading towards extra-time, Germany'sPhilipp Lahm
scored a winning goal in the 90th minute.
Spain kicked off the final match with 51,428 spectators in attendance. Spain took the lead after 33 minutes when Torres latched onto a through ball from Xavi, beat Lahm on the edge of the penalty area, and then clipped the ball over the advancing Lehmann into the left-hand corner of the goal.
The opening minutes of the second half panned out as the first half had, Germany having most of the possession but constructing few attacking moves. Spain held to their 1-0 lead and won the game, paralyzing the Germans' midfield, to become the Euro 2008 Champions. Analysts attributed Spain’s success in part to a style of play called tiki-taka, which had been introduced by Aragonés and was continued by Del Bosque.
Route to Final:
Turkey, Belgium, Sweden, Romania, Netherlands
Finally, at top of our list of the
top 10 Euro runner-ups in history
is one of the most decorated European nations in the World Cup history, Italy, who despite winning the World Cup four times, has only won the European Championship once in 1968, when they won Yugoslavia 2-0 in the final match to become the champions.
Italy has also finished as runners-up in Euro competitions twice that actually took place in 2000 and 2012. However, Euro 2000’s Italy was a fearsome side with Toldo at the goal-post, Cannavaro, Nesta, and Maldini at defence, and Francesco Totti, Allessandro Del Piero, Vincenzo Montella, and Marco Delvecchio up front.
However, the fearsome side fell victim to the golden goal rule in 2000, where until the 94th-minute Italy was the Champion the of the tournament, when Wiltord's goal canceled Delvecchio's 55th-minute goal, and the rest, as they say, is history.
It certainly didn't look that way in the final as stoppage time approached. France was 1-0 down and struggling to break down the Italian rearguard that had conceded just two goals in the whole tournament before the showpiece of one of the greatest European Championship tournaments ever.
A defense that contained the likes of Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta, and Paolo Maldini that was holding firm. It looked as though Marco Delvecchio's goal on 55 minutes would see the Italians over the line in Holland. It was one of the best Euro matches of all time.
Deep into stoppage time, France goalkeeper Fabian Barthez launched his side's last attack of the game with a big boot up-field. David Trezeguet won the header and headed onto Sylvain Wiltord who leveled for France.
After being a provider at the end of the second half, Trezeguet then netted the golden goal in extra time that saw France crowned European champions.
The Monaco striker swept the ball home on the half-volley with a delicious left-footed strike that wrong-footed Francesco Toldo in the Italy goal.
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