How Many Times Have The Hosts Won The Euros?

Football Fans in Stadium with ConfettiThe European Championship is second only to the World Cup in terms of prestige for European international sides. It pits the top European nations against one another to decide which team is the best at the time that the tournament takes place, with home crowds responding to the success of their nation. The closest that England has come to winning a major tournament since 1966 came in 1996, for example.

That was when the Three Lions played all of their games of Euro ’96 at Wembley, sending Baddiel and Skinner up the charts and the country mad with the sense that football might indeed be ‘coming home’. It feels as if the home nation gets an unfair advantage, but how often has that actually happened in the history of the competition and what changes might be coming in the future?

Quick Answer: How many host nations have won the UEFA European Championship?

Three host nations have won the UEFA European Championships – Spain in 1964, Italy in 1968 and France in 1984.

Spain and Italy were winning hosts during the 4 team format of the Euros. France were the winning hosts during the 8 team format. No host has won during the 16 and 24 team formats of the competition.

Portugal in 2004 and France in 2016 were both losing finalists when hosting the Euros.

The Format of the European Championship Finals

The format of the Finals of the Euros has changed significantly over the years. Initially this was a four team tournament with semi-finals and a final. The number  of teams expanded to eight teams in 1980 with a group stage brought in. Quarter-finals were introduced in 1996 when the number of teams increased to 16 and there has only been a round of 16 since 2016 when the first 24 team tournament was played.

The only tournament without a semi-final stage was 1980 where the two group winners contested the final with the second placed sides from the group stage playing out the third place playoff.

UEFA European Championship Format – 1960 to 2016

Year Teams Group Stage R16 Quarter-Finals Semi-Finals
1960 4
1964 4
1968 4
1972 4
1976 4
1980 8
1984 8
1988 8
1992 8
1996 16
2000 16
2004 16
2008 16
2012 16
2016 24

How The Host Nations Have Done

Of the 15 iterations of the tournament that we can give conclusive data for then, the host nation has won the competition three times. They have finished as losing finalists on two occasions, getting knocked out at the semi-final stage seven times. That does include the five tournaments when they were automatically in the semi-final stage as soon as they qualified because there were only four teams in the finals of the European Championship.

The chart below shows how often the hosts have been eliminated at each stage. Three tournaments have had co-hosts, both have been included in the figures.

Chart That Shows the Stage of Elimination of the UEFA European Championship Hosts Between 1960 and 2016

We can see that the hosts exit most commonly at the semi-final stage though this is skewed by the early four team tournaments. Worryingly for the hosts, one third of nations exit at the group stage.

Four Team Finals Hosts – 1960 to 1976

Year Host Nation Host’s Stage of Elimination
1960 France Semi-Finals (4th)
1964 Spain Winners
1968 Italy Winners
1972 Belgium Semi-Finals (3rd)
1976 Yugoslavia Semi-Finals (4th)

Seventeen countries initially wanted to play in the competition that was known as the European Nations Cup when it was played for the first time in 1960. That resulted in two years’ worth of qualifying competition, which were used to whittle the potential participants down to the four that went to the final tournament. The decision about which nation would host the competition wasn’t made until the four finalists were known.

France, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union were the four sides that made it to the finals, though Spain had originally made it but refused to play the Soviet Union because the country was under Francoist rule. France was chosen as the host nation, but it made little difference as they failed to make the final and then lost the Czechoslovakia in the third-place play-off.

Despite withdrawing from the competition in 1960, Spain was chosen as the location to host the 1964 version when Spain joined the Soviet Union, Hungary and Denmark in the finals. They were whittled down from 29 original entrants, with Spain being chosen to host out of the remaining four and going on to win the competition. They defeated the Soviet Union, who they had refused to play four years earlier, winning 2-1 in front of 79,000 fans.

The competition that had been known as the European Nations Cup for the previous two iterations became the European Championship in 1968. The two-legged knockout stage of qualifying was removed and replaced with a group stage, which Italy, Yugoslavia, England and the Soviet Union emerged from. Italy was chosen to be the host nation from that grouping, with the hosts defeating Yugoslavia in the final after a replay.

As with the previous tournament, the host nation for the 1972 final was only announced after the qualifying phase was complete. Belgium were given the honour, joined in the finals by the Soviet Union, Hungary and the eventual winners West Germany. The hosts did at least manage to win their third-place play-off match against Hungary, but home advantage hardly applied.

The final tournament that involved just four teams took place in 1976 and was also the last time that the hosts didn’t get a bye to the final stage. Instead, the host nation was chosen after qualifying, with Yugoslavia given the honour and joined in the finals by West Germany, the Netherlands and the eventual winners in Czechoslovakia. They defeated West Germany in the final on penalties, with Antonin Panenka scoring his famous deft chipped penalty.

Eight Team Finals Hosts – 1980 to 1992

Year Host Nation Host’s Stage of Elimination
1980 Italy Group Stage (4th)
1984 France Winners
1988 West Germany Semi-Finals
1992 Sweden Semi-Finals

The biggest change to the decision on the host nation for the European Championship tournament came about ahead of the 1980 version of the competition. UEFA announced on October of 1977 that six different countries had expressed an interest in acting as hosts, with the list consisting of England, West Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy. UEFA narrowed it down to England or Italy, choosing the latter.

The decision to go for Italy was primarily based on the fact that England had hosted the World Cup 11 years before the choice had to be made, so Italy qualified for the tournament automatically and seven other nations had to qualify. Belgium, England and Spain were in the first group, with West Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands and Greece being in the other, with the Germans eventually winning.

Only two nations put themselves forward to host the 1984 European Championship, with France being chosen unanimously over West Germany. They got a bye to the finals, with the Germans, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark, Romania, Yugoslavia and Spain eventually joining them. The French went on to win the tournament, gaining the country’s first major footballing trophy when they beat Spain in the final.

The 1988 version of the European Championship was notable for a number of reasons, with the one that we’re most interested here coming in the form of Norway, Sweden and Denmark putting forward a bid to be joint-hosts. In the end, West Germany was chosen and the Netherlands eventually won, defeating the Soviet Union in the final after the two teams finished first and second in their group.

The final tournament with just eight participants was also one that was mildly controversial. The Soviet Union had qualified to play in it but was dissolved, leading the the Commonwealth of Independent States playing, whilst FR Yugoslavia was disqualified because of a breakup of the country and warfare breaking out. They were replaced by Denmark, who defeated the newly unified Germany in the final, with Sweden being hosts.

Sixteen Team Finals Hosts – 1996 to 2012

Year Host Nation Host’s Stage of Elimination
1996 England Semi-Finals
2000 Belgium Group Stage
Netherlands Semi-Finals
2004 Portugal Runners-Up
2008 Austria Group Stage
Switzerland Group Stage
2012 Poland Group Stage
Ukraine Group Stage

UEFA decided to expand the tournament from eight teams to 16 ahead of Euro ’96. Interestingly, the fact that it was to be a 16-team competition had not been decided at the point at which nations bid to be the hosts, so the bidding process was carried out as if it would be an eight-team tournament. Austria, Greece, the Netherlands and Portugal had all bid to be hosts, but the winning nation was England.

The English had an exciting journey in the competition, with the country getting right behind the hosts and ‘Three Lions’ heading up the charts for Baddiel and Skinner and The Lightning Seeds. They lost their semi-final match against Germany, who went on to win the tournament for the first time as a unified country when they beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in the final, winning courtesy of the Golden Goal that was used for the first time.

The 2000 European Championship stands out in terms of the host nation because it wasn’t just one country that carried out the role. Instead, it was the first time that two countries co-hosted, with Belgium and the Netherlands sharing the honour. Belgium didn’t even make it out of their group, whilst the Netherlands were defeated in the semi-finals by Italy, who went on to be beaten by France in the final thanks to another Golden Goal.

The host nation qualified for the finals automatically again in 2004, with Portugal taking on the honour for the first time. They defeated a bid from Spain and a co-hosting bid from Austria and Hungary for the right to host, making it all the way to the final. They were defeated there by Greece, who famously scored just seven goals in the six matches that they played on their way to victory.

There were seven bids to host the competition in 2008, with five of them being joint-bids. Austria and Switzerland were the ultimate winners, but Bosnia and Herzegovina with Croatia, Greece and Turkey, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland and a four-way bid from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden were also on the list. Switzerland finished bottom of their group, with Austria also failing to make it to the knockout stage.

Opting for joint-hosts had become something of the done thing when Poland and Ukraine were awarded the rights to host the competition in 2012. Croatia and Hungary, Greece, Italy and Turkey had also put forward bids but weren’t selected. Once again both host nations failed to make it out of their group, with Poland finishing bottom and Ukraine coming third in theirs. Spain eventually won the title for the third time.

Twenty Four Team Finals Hosts – 2016 to Present

Year Host Nation Host’s Stage of Elimination
2016 France Runners-Up

When the history of co-hosts came to an end in 2016, France was chosen as the host nation for a competition that had been expanded to welcome 24 teams for the first time. Italy and Turkey had also put forward bids, but it was France’s that was chosen to be the most suitable. The hosts made it all the way to the final, too, but lost 1-0 to Portugal after extra-time, seeing the Portuguese win it for the first time.

Euro 2020 was supposed to be a celebration of the competition’s 60th birthday, with 12 cities in 12 UEFA countries chosen to host matches. London, Munich, Rome, Baku, Saint Petersburg, Bucharest, Bilbao, Glasgow, Dublin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Budapest were the countries chosen for the tournament, but the tournament had to be delayed by a year, played in 2021.

Even as 2020 turned into 2021, it wasn’t 100% clear how UEFA would go about hosting the tournament, with England offering to act as the sole host nation in order to avoid mass travel. The fact that the tournament was to be spread around Europe meant that no nation got an automatic qualifying berth and instead all countries that wished to play in it had to qualify to do so.

Two nations offered to host Euro 2024, with Germany and Turkey putting themselves forward. The UEFA Executive Committee held a secret ballot and voted for Germany to be the hosts after a simply majority was achieved. Germany qualified for the tournament automatically, suggesting that UEFA is happy to return to that format after the lack of automatic qualifiers in 2020.