For the final time, the 2012 Euro, co-hosted by the Ukraine and Poland this summer, will be a 16 team tournament, a format that’s been around since 1996. In Sweden ’92 the 8 team format was played for the final time, as Denmark stunned the world by beating Germany to win the tournament.
It’s hard picking the best nation in the history of tournament, with number of wins not always telling the full story. We’ve taken the last five – Euro 92 in Sweden, 96 in England, 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands, 2004 in Portugal and 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, taking the top 10 most successful nation in the past 20 years.
Scoring system – 1 point for making the tournament but not making it out of the group stage, 3 points for quarter finalists, 5 points for semi finalists, 7 for the runner-up and nine for the tournament champions. In 1992, with only a Semi Final stage, the winner got 7 points and the finalist 5.
Number 10 – Turkey, 9 points
Turkey made their first Euro tournament in 1996, losing all three matches of the group stage. Then came two impressive performances during the golden age of Turkish football. They lost to Portugal in the 2000 Quarter Finals, as Hakan Sukur scored twice for them during the tournament.
After an impressive 2002 World Cup, Turkey missed out on the 2004 tournament, but saved their best for the 2008 summer. They scored a dramatic win over Croatia in the QF thanks to penalty kicks and pushed Germany in the Semi final, losing 3-2. Semih Senturk scored 3 goals during the tourney.
Number 9 – Greece, 10 points
Besides an appearance in 1980 which didn’t amount to much, Greece didn’t make a European Championship until 2004, which put them on the list. Under Otto Rehhagel Greece became the most unlikely champions since Denmark in 1992, just without the style and public support that followed.
They barely made it our of the group stage, but their defensive style didn’t win them any fans despite being “Giant Killers”, eventually beating tournament hosts Portugal in the final, 1-0. Angelos Charisteas scored 3 goals for them in the tournament.
Greece reached the 2008 tournament as well, but lost all three group matches while scoring only one goal. Their style hasn’t changed much, but they have made it again to the 2012 tournament, without much hope of making it to the knockout stage.
Number 8 – Italy, 12 points
Unlike their world cup record, Italy have a knack for disappointing or not even making the European Championships. The missed out on 1992, and bowed out in the 1996 group stage with that famous Gianfranco Zola penalty miss. In 2000, they made it all the way to the finals, beating the Netherlands in the Semi Final.
They were involved in a classic final against France, losing to a David Trezeguet Golden Goal, while Alessandro Del Piero got the ‘Loser’ pinned to his back due to his misses. In 2004 they didn’t make it out of the group stage again, while a very unimpressive display somehow got them as far as the quarter finals in 2008, pushing Spain to the penalty spot and no more.
Number 7 – Denmark, 12 points
Denamrk tend to bring out the best in the Euro qualifiers, making each tournament since 1984 except for 2008. Euro 1992 will forever remain one of the most memorable in history, as the Danes made it through only because Yugoslavia were banned from the competition.
Barely out of the group stage, they stunned France in the deciding match, stunned the Netherlands in a classic 2-2 Semi Final which was followed by penalty kicks and their 2-0 win over Germany in the final. In 1996 and 2000 it was the group stage and nothing more, including 3 losses in 2000 with no goals scored, leading to Morten Olsen’s arrival. Twelve years later, he’s still there. In 2004 Denmark made the quarter finals.
Number 6 – Czech Republic, 14 points
Since the Czechoslovakia split, the Czech Republic have yet to miss a European Championship. Their most impressive showing was in 1996, which included a famous 2-1 win over Italy in the group stages with goals from a very young Pavel Nedved and Radek Bejbl. They beat Portugal in the QF and knocked out France after a penalty shootout. They shockingly scored first against Germany in the final, but Bierhoff’s brace, including a golden goal, denied them the title.
In 2004 the Czechs had another impressive team, making it to semi final after winning all three matches in the group stage, inclduing a brilliant 3-2 win over the Netherlands. In the SF, it was Greece who stood in their way. They have made the tournament again in 2012, through the playoffs.
Number 5 – Spain, 16 points
Spain were an underachieving side until the current golden age of Spanish sports, not just football. They didn’t even make the 1992 tournament, and crashed out in the 2004 group stages after a 1-0 defeat against Portugal. In 1996 it was the quarter finals against England and in 2000 against France.
In 2008, nothing stood in their way. A fantastic display in the group stages was almost thwarted by a terrible Italy team, but Spain survived the penalty kicks. Russia were no match once again, losing 3-0 in the Semi Final, and Fernando Torres, back when he was one of the best strikers in the world for a short period, scored the only goal in the 1-0 win over Germany in the final.
Number 4 – Portugal, 18 points
Portugal began their current streak of Euro performances in 1996, making it out of the group stage each time. Luis Figo’s brilliant side made it to the Semi Final in 2000, falling against France in a heated Semi Final encounter. Four years later, as the hosts, with a young Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal made it all the way to the final, before losing to Greece.
In 2008 they found Germany too hard to overcome in the quarter finals. They barely made it in this time around, making it to the 2012 tournament through the playoffs.
Number 3 – The Netherlands, 19 points
Since winning their only major title in 1988 the Dutch haven’t returned to the Euro final, but have made it out of the group stage each time, and made it into the Semi Final three times. In 1992, with Van Basten and the Milan gang, it was Denmark in the way. In 2000, it was the Italian team and a penalty shootout, which usually doesn’t go the Dutch way.
In 2004, the hosts Portugal beat the Netherlands. In 2008, despite a brilliant group stage, which included demolitions of France and Italy, which brought out calls of ‘return of total-football’, Andrei Arshavin and Russia were simply too much, winning 3-1 in extra time.
Number 2 – France, 19 points
France were terrible in 2008, not making it out of the group stage for the first time since 1992, continuing their decline since their 2000 win, completing the World Cup and Euro double.
They also made the Semi Final in 1996, but 2000 was the crowning achievement of French football at its best hour. They didn’t sweep through the group stage as expected, losing to the Dutch 3-2 in a match that didn’t really matter, and then completed an Iberian double, beating both Spain and Portugal (extra time) 2-1. The final was another 2-1 victory, with Trezeguet becoming a hero for a day.
Number 1 – Germany, 23 points
The German side did suffer from a dip in form during the early 00’s, not making it out of the group stage. But their the only nation to make three finals during the last five tournaments, although they won only one of them.
In 1992, it was a shocking Denmark team and a 2-0 loss in the final. In 1996, Germany won their first Euro since 1980, showing just how cruel and effective the golden goal can be with Oliver Bierhoff scoring. In 2008, the German side, in the midst of its revolution and change towards a more attractive kind of football, made it to the final again, losing to Spain 1-0.