Short of the World Cup, the European Championship Finals (Euros) is the greatest international soccer tournament in the world. It's no mistake that that over 40 percent of the countries in the World Cup are European. This summer (June 10 - July 10) in France, the top 24 countries will square off to determine who will crowned the best team in Europe.
Tournament Setup - This portion of the tournament is merely the finals. First, the 53 teams are group into broken into 9 groups. All of the nations in the groups play each other home and away and the top 2 (except for 1 third place side, Turkey this year) gets automatic entry to the finals. The remaining third place sides and drawn into 1-on-1 playoffs. The winner of those home and away playoff also gets to go to the finals.
This year is the first that the tournament will have 24 teams, up from 16 previously. There is an initial group stage with 6 groups of 4. The top 2 teams along with the best 4 3rd place teams from each group are drawn into a single-elimination, one game knockout stage in 3 rounds until the final.
History of the Euros - The Euros were first held in 1960, 30 years after the first world cup, in France. The inaugural winner was the Soviet Union but only 4 teams competed in the tournament proper. The tournament expanded to 8 in 1980 and 16 in 1996. Every major European side has won the Euros except for England, who have yet to even make the finals of the tournament.
Rosters - Each team brings 23 players to the tournament, three of which must be goalkeepers. They've just announced all the rosters and there have been a lot of uninjured, big name players left out (Spain - Torres, Costa, Cazorla, Mata, Martinez, Bellerin; France - Benzema, Lacazette, Zouma, Schneiderlin; Italy - Pirlo, Giovinco; England - Walcott, Jones, Baines; Germany - Kruse)
What are the groups?
Favorites - Germany. The reigning World Cup winners have to be the favorites for this tournament and have continued performing well in their qualifying campaign. Löw hasn't taken his foot off the gas and, minus Klose, Lahm, and Mertesacker who retired after the world cup win, the same team is available plus Germany's best player to miss Brazil, Marco Reus.
The second favorite is Spain who will be gunning for a 3rd consecutive Euro title and have picked themselves up from a disastrous World Cup campaign in Brazil. It will be interesting to see how Spain line up as they'll be missing a lot of well known players and a big name striker (to be fair that didn't stop them last time). A dark horse is France, who last won it on home soil in 1984 and in neighboring Belgium/Netherlands in 2000. The squad has been in disarray with the Benzema situation and haven't played any competitive matches since the World Cup in Brazil (the host doesn't have to qualify) but the home nation always performs well.
The pack who have a shout of winning are Belgium and England. The Three Lions were perfect in qualifying and the Red Devils have some amazing talent on their roster, their golden generation should be at its peak. This shouldn't rule out an upset, which the Euros have famously had with minnows Greece and Denmark being 2 of the last 5 winners of the competition. The expanded tournament for this year should make an upset less likely to happen, as more games balance out the likelihood of an upset.
First Match - France v Romania - Friday, June 10th 3pm EST
Final – Stade de France, Paris - July 10th 3pm EST
Broadcast Rights - ESPN
- Most Tournament Wins – 3 - Germany (72, 80, 96) & Spain (64, 08, 12)
- Most Finals Appearances – 12 - Germany
- Best Total Record – 23 wins - Germany
- Overall Top Scorer – 9 - Michel Platini (1984 - all goals came in one tournament)
- Most Goals Conceded - 20, Peter Schmeichel (Denmark, what a terrible keeper)
- Most Tournament Wins (Player) – 2 - Rainer Bonhof (West Germany): 1972, 1980 & Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas, Cesc Fàbregas, Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, David Silva, Fernando Torres, Xavi, Raúl Albiol, Álvaro Arbeloa, Santi Cazorla, Pepe Reina (Spain): 2008, 2012
- Most Matches Won (Player) - 9 - Lilian Thuram & Zinedine Zidane ( France, 1996–2004); Edwin van der Sar ( Netherlands, 1996–2008); Nuno Gomes ( Portugal, 2000–2008); Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas & Fernando Torres ( Spain, 2004–2012); Cesc Fàbregas & Andrés Iniesta ( Spain, 2008–2012)
- Most Tournament Wins (Coach) – 1 - No coach has won the tournament twice
- Most Matches Won (Coach) - 8 - Joachim Low (Germany)
- Most Tournament Appearances - 5 - Iker Casillas - Every tournament from 2000 to 2016