How did the European Football Championship (EC) come about?

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European Football Championship(European Championship)

Under UEFA’s patronage, this quadrennial tournament between European national teams has been contested since 1960. The first two tournaments were called “European Cup for Nations”. The number of countries participating in the final tournament was initially only four, but kept increasing. Since 2016, 24 countries have participated in the European Football Championship (EC).

The best teams in this league

Since the first European Football Championship in 1960, Germany and Spain have been the best performers of the European Championship with 3 victories. France follows with 2 victories. Seven other countries have already won the European Championship once. Since Germany has already won a total of 9 medals, this country is clearly the best European performer of the past fifteen editions. Portugal and the Netherlands follow with 5 medals each.

In the last three tournaments (2008,2012,2016) the gold went to Spain (2x) and Portugal. They defeated Germany, Italy and France respectively in the final.

A relevant parameter for the strength of a national team is the FIFA world ranking, which is based on all international matches played, whether qualifying matches, friendlies or international tournament matches.

Currently, a group of five is regularly put forward as the biggest contenders for the next European Championship title: France, Belgium, England, Spain and Germany. The trio of the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal stand behind this group as slightly less likely contenders. As 2016 European Championship champion and 2019 Nations League winner, will Portugal surprise again?

At the moment, the coronavirus can be a bummer that should not be underestimated. Each country hopes to be spared this to compete with its strongest team at the European Football Championship.


België - Nationaal voetbal team

For Belgium, the team of a golden generation is still present, but many of its top players are no longer the youngest. If injuries and corona do not play too much of a problem, the team with top players De Bruyne, Hazard, Lukaku, Mertens and goalkeeper Courtois can still hit hard. Not unimportant is the fact that Roberto Martinez – success coach since 2016 – is still in office.

And Belgium came third in the 2018 World Cup for nothing. Hopefully the team got enough money from the disappointing performance against the weaker Wales in the quarterfinals of the European Football Championship in 2016 not to underestimate matches that were considered lighter during this European Championship.

In April 2021, Belgium was ranked 1st in the FIFA world rankings.


Fédération Française de Football

France is put forward as the top favorite by many football experts. The team will come on the field with an equally strong line-up as in the 2018 World Cup final. The young Kylian Mbappé in particular can once again make the difference. The fact that Didier Deschamps, coach of the World Cup team, also continues to work at the European Championship, is an extra asset. France was ranked 2nd in the FIFA world rankings on April 7, 2021.


England national football team

England was in 4th place in the FIFA world ranking in April 2021, but was not always able to convince in recent confrontations. Nevertheless, the English team will undoubtedly remain a formidable opponent at every European Football Championship. The fourth of the 2018 World Cup features a very young squad, which is still growing under coach Gareth Southgate. Top scorer Harry Kane in particular will have to be kept in mind, as well as Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho.

The fact that the two semi-finals and the final of the European Championship are played in London is not unimportant for the motivation of the English.


Spain national football team

Spain is no longer kicking off as strong in the current European Football Championship as in the period in which it became European champion twice (2008, 2012) and once world champion (2010). Nevertheless, national coach Luis Enrique can still come out quite strong if he can optimally have top players such as David de Gea, Sergio Ramos, Thiago, Koke, Sergio Busquets or Alvaro Morata. The fact that they play three times in their own country in Seville and that there is also one match of the eighth finals played here, provides a not bad home advantage. Spain was ranked 6th in the FIFA world rankings on April 7, 2021.


Duitsland - Nationaal voetbal team

As a three-time European Championship winner and four-time world champion, Germany remains an important contender for a medal. Although Joachim Löw (national coach since 2006) is under increasing pressure after a string of bad results – with the heavy 6-0 defeat against Spain in November 2020 as the most striking fact – “die Mannschaft” should not be underestimated. Then one should not remain obsessed with her early elimination in the 2018 World Cup.

Germany was only 12th on the FIFA list in April 2021.

The fact that “die Mannschaft” plays three times in Munich during the preliminary round and that one of the quarter-final matches is also contested here can give her extra motivation.

How does the European Football Championship work?

When the European Championship was founded, the rule was that the tournament was organized in one country. In 2000, neighboring countries were allowed to organize the European Championship together. For the first time in its history, the European Championship in 2021 will not be played in one and the same host country, but spread over eleven different countries (if we can consider Glasgow and England as different countries). In each country, the matches are played in the same stadium. A total of 51 matches will be played in the eleven host cities.

The European Championship is contested in one month, from June 11 to July 11.

Qualification phase

All 55 UEFA member countries can register for the regular qualifying series and the Nations League established since 2018. 24 countries can qualify for the European Championship final round.

In the draw for the regular qualifying series, all participating countries are divided into different groups. For the European Championship 2021, there were 10 groups (5×5 countries and 5×6 countries). In the draw, the national teams are placed on the basis of their performance in the UEFA Nations League during the most recent UEFA Nations League season. All countries play a back and forth match against each other.

The 20 countries that finish first or second in the ten qualifying groups will qualify directly for the final tournament.

The 4 remaining tickets will go to the top four nations in the Nations League.

For the Nations League competition, the countries are divided into four divisions which are further subdivided into groups of 3 or 4 countries.

The composition of the groups is based on the UEFA coefficient after the most recent World Cup qualifiers. The strongest are together in Division A, the weakest in Division D. All countries play an away and a home match within their group.

In each division, the 4 group winners who were unable to qualify through the regular European Championship qualifying may advance to the play-offs. If a group winner has already qualified for the European Championship final round via the regular qualifying series, the highest-placed country in another group of the same division will receive this vacant ticket for the play-offs. The 16 group winners then play in the play-offs for the last 4 places in the European Championship final round. The four best will be placed in a group of five countries for the group stage of the European Championship final tournament.

Group stage and finals

In the group stage, there are a maximum of two host countries per group in the six groups of four countries. Each host country is guaranteed to play at home twice. That guarantee will expire after the group stage.

If the match is undecided after the regular two halves, there will be two extra periods of 15 minutes each. If the match is still undecided, then penalty kicks will give the final answer.

After the group stage, the eighth finals and the quarter-finals follow. For the semi-finals and the actual final, all remaining teams come to one and the same place. In 2021 that will be London, where all matches will be played in the same stadium: Wembley Stadium (with 90,000 seats the second largest stadium in Europe).

Extra information

– The excessive financial burden on the host host country may have been the main reason for the recent spread of the European Championship tournament across Europe.

– In the classification for the group stage, the flight distance between two host cities was taken into account. After all, travel times and therefore travel costs can be high. The countries are even sometimes in different time zones! It was therefore agreed that, as far as possible, the flight distance between two host cities should not exceed two hours.

Germany is the country that has so far participated the most in the European Championship with 13 times.

– All-time top scorers in the European Championship are Michel Platini (France) and the still active Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) with 9 goals each. Of the still active players, Antoine Griezmann (France) and Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden) with 6 points each belong to the group of ten best-scoring European Championship participants.

– The record for the highest number of European Championship matches is Cristiano Ronaldo. He totals  21.

– In 2004, Russian Dmitri Kirichenko scored the fastest European Championship final goal ever in the game against Greece after 1 minute and 7 seconds.


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