How Often Have the Reigning FIFA World Cup Winners Won The Euros?

Red Confetti in Football StadiumThe World Cup is the biggest football tournament in the world, especially on the international stage. It is where all of the individual governing bodies come together and the teams compete against one another to discover which is the best team on the planet for the following four years. That success doesn’t necessarily last very long, however, with the European Championship arriving just two years later.

Obviously plenty of the World Cup winners don’t get to take part in the Euros, given that the European Championship is specifically aimed at teams that come under UEFA’s watchful eye. Sides like Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay can’t even take part in it, so the fact that they won the World Cup is irrelevant when the Euros roll around. How do teams like Germany, Italy and France get on? That’s the key question.

Quick Answer: How Often Have the World Champions Won the Next Euros?

Since the first European Championships in 1960, only France in Euro 2000 and Spain in Euro 2012, have won the tournament whilst being reigning FIFA World Champions.

In total, there have been eight reigning World Cup winners at the Euro’s, meaning only 25% of World Champions from Europe go on to complete the World Cup and European Championship double.

Reigning World Champions That Have Won The Euros

The best place to start is by asking whether any reigning world champions have gone on to win the European Championship two years after their World Cup success. The answer, of course, is yes, but which nations have done it and how often has it happened? That answer is perhaps a tad more surprising, though it’s worth remembering that the Euros didn’t start until 1960, so early World Cup winners couldn’t double-up until then.

France (World Cup 1998 & Euro 2000)

De Kuip Stadium in Rotterdam

By Daniel, flickr

Of all the times that have won both the World Cup and the European Championships, it is perhaps a surprise to see that the first do so in successive years was France. They won the World Cup in 1998, adding their name to the trophy for the first time. They then followed that up with a Euros win in 2000, defeating Italy in the final after extra-time. It was the second time they’d won the Euros, having done so 16 years earlier.

Spain (World Cup 2010 & Euro 2012)

Spain Winning Euro 2012

By vvoevale

The Spanish side of the late 2000s will go down in history as one of the greatest teams of all time, sandwiching a World Cup win between two victories in the European Championship. They won the tournament for the second time as a country in 2008, defeated the Netherlands in the World Cup in 2010 and then became the first team to retain the Euros in 2012 when they beat Italy 4-0 in the final.

What About Runners-Up?

Let’s be honest, winning a major tournament is a tricky thing to do, so it’s not all that surprising that not many teams have been able to follow up a World Cup success with a victory in the Euros. In fact, most European managers would tell you that even reaching a final is in itself a pretty impressive achievement, so shouldn’t be ignored just because fate wasn’t on their side when the next big competition rolled around.

So it is that it’s worth exploring whether any teams have been able to follow up a World Cup win with an appearance in the final of the European Championship two years later, even if it ultimately ended up in disappointment. It has happened but, again, not quite as often as one may imagine. These tournaments are, after all, the pinnacle of international football for a very good reason.

West Germany (Euro 1976 & Euro 1992)

World Cup 1990 and Euro 1992 Official Match Ball

By Liondartois, Wikimedia Commons

England fans won’t be all that surprised to see West Germany on this list, such is the extent to which the Three Lions have found them to be their great scourge over the years. There will doubtless be a touch of schadenfreude in the fact that they were the finalists and not the winners, though. It happened in 1976, losing on penalties (believe it or not) to Czechoslovakia after defeating the Netherlands two years earlier in the World Cup final.

It happened to the Germans again in 1992, having beaten Argentina in the World Cup final two years before. They left Italy as world champions and many fancied them to win the European Championship when Sweden were the hosts. Sadly Denmark proved too great a match for them and they lost 2-0, though there’s an argument that such a defeat should have been expected. After all, they won the World Cup as West Germany but competed in the Euros as a united Germany, offering much upheaval.

How The World Cup Winners Have Done In The Euros

Now that we know which teams have won the World Cup and then gone on to enjoy success in the European Championship, as well as the World Cup winners that just missed out when the Euros rolled around, it’s worth having a look at how World Cup winners have done in general. This time, rather than looking at them individually, we’ll take a wider look at how the European World Cup winners have done in the Euros:

World Cup Winners at the Euros

Team World Cup Win Performance at Next Euros
England 1966 3rd at Euro 1968
West Germany 1974 Runners-Up at Euro 1976
Italy 1984 Did not qualify for Euro 1986
West Germany 1990 Runners-Up at Euro 1992
France 1998 Winners of Euro 2000
Italy 2006 Quarter-Finalists at Euro 2008
Spain 2010 Winners of Euro 2012
Germany 2014 Semi-Finalists at Euro 2016
France 2018 TBD

It’s fair to say that the team that has fared the worst in the European Championship tournament that follows the World Cup that they won is Italy. Having won the World Cup in 1982, defeating West Germany in the final, the Italians failed to even qualify for the Euros two years later. They at least fared slightly better after beating France in the World Cup final in 2006, making it the quarter-finals of the 2008 European Championship before being knocked out by eventual winners Spain.