Elsewhere on this site you can read about how the World Cup winners tend to then fare in the European Championship, but what about the reverse scenario? The World Cup is the greatest football tournament on the planet, especially for international teams, so the feeling that the winner of it should then do well in the Euros two years later is one that makes complete sense, given the Euros is the lesser competition.
Yet it’s also understandable that some might think that winning UEFA’s pre-eminent international tournament might set a nation up for success, given the feeling that winning tends to beget winning. The question is, is there any logic to that position? Have teams ever won the European Championship and then taken their winning form into the World Cup, becoming European and World Champions at the same time?
Quick Answer: How Often Have the European Championship Winners Won the Next World Cup?
Since the first European Championships in 1960, only West Germany, winners of Euro 1972, and Spain, winners of Euro 2008, have gone on to win the following World Cup.
There have been fifteen winners of the European Championship, meaning that just 13.3% of champions have followed up by lifting the next World Cup.
Reigning European Champions That Went On To Conquer The World
Have there been any teams that have won the European Championship and then gone on to win the World Cup? That’s the best place to start this particular question, given that it is the greatest demonstration of success available to us. The strange this is that Europe is the centre of the footballing world at club level, but there are many other areas of the world that are strong when you look at international fixtures, meaning that conquering Europe doesn’t necessarily equate to being able to take on the world.
West Germany (Euro 1972 & World Cup 1974)
Fans of the England national side will no doubt have said ‘of course’ to themselves when the saw the West Germans have been able to conquer both Europe and the World in the same era, given that they’ll probably have knocked the Three Lions out of at least one of those tournaments on their way to doing so. They beat the Soviet Union in the 1972 European Championship before defeating the Netherlands in the World Cup two years later.
Spain (Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010)
Anyone that knows anything about Spain at the end of the 2000s will not be surprised to see them on this list, given the fact that they were very much all-conquering. In fact, they’re the only team that has ever won the Euros, won the World Cup two years later and then retained the Euros afterwards, such was their dominance. They won the European Championship for the second time in their history in 2008, then beat the Netherlands in the World Cup final in 2010 to become European and World Champions at the same time.
What About Runners-Up at the World Cup?
Making the final of the World Cup is a huge achievement, with the fact that you couldn’t go all the way and win it not worthy of taking away from that. Yes, you’ll go down as a footnote in the history books, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be remembered as an impressive football team that simply didn’t have the luck go their way when it mattered.
With that in mind, have there been any teams that have been able to win the European Championship and then follow that up with an appearance in the final of the World Cup two years later? No, it’s not as impressive as both West Germany and Spain’s victory in both competitions, but the fact that they’re the only two nations to do it in decades’ worth of the two tournaments suggests it’s still worth a shout out.
Italy (Euro 1968 & World Cup 1970)
Italy are such a strange footballing nation, especially during the 1970s. They won the European Championship in 1968 by defeating Yugoslavia 2-0 in a replay when the first match ended 1-1 after extra-time, looking for all the world like they would conquer the planet when they played Brazil in the 1970 World Cup final. Instead, they lost 4-1 in Mexico City, suffering one of the biggest World Cup final defeats ever.
West Germany (Euro 1980 & World Cup 1982)
The West Germans are never too far from the action on the international stage, beating Belgium in the European Championship final in 1980 when Italy were the hosts. They then reached the World Cup final two years later and victory in it seemed like an inevitability, only for the Italians to beat them 3-1 in the Santiago Bernabéu and stop them from becoming all-conquering for the second time.
How The Euros Winners Have Done In The World Cup
Unlike when looking at the World Cup winners and how they’ve done in the Euros, looking at the winners of the European Championship and seeing how they got on in the World Cup two years later is much more complete for the simple reason that all of them will have been able to take part in it. Not all World Cup winners can take part in the Euros, of course, but every winner of the Euros has at least been able to attempt to qualify for the World Cup.
Here’s a look at every European Championship winning side since the competition first got underway in 1960, alongside their performance in the World Cup that followed. Unsurprisingly, we’re left with a somewhat mixed bag of results…
European Championship Winners at the World Cup
|Team||Euros Win||Performance at Next World Cup|
|Soviet Union||1960||Quarter-Finalists at 1962 World Cup|
|Spain||1964||Group Stage exit at 1966 World Cup|
|Italy||1968||Runners-Up at 1970 World Cup|
|West Germany||1972||Winners of 1974 World Cup|
|Czechoslovakia||1976||Did Not Qualify for 1978 World Cup|
|West Germany||1980||Runners-Up at 1982 World Cup|
|France||1984||3rd Place at 1986 World Cup|
|Netherlands||1988||Round of 16 exit at 1990 World Cup|
|Denmark||1992||Did Not Qualify for 1994 World Cup|
|Germany||1996||Quarter-Finalists at 1998 World Cup|
|France||2000||Group Stage exit at 2002 World Cup|
|Greece||2004||Did Not Qualify for 2006 World Cup|
|Spain||2008||Winners of 2010 World Cup|
|Spain||2012||Group Stage exit at 2014 World Cup|
|Portugal||2016||Round of 16 exit at 2018 World Cup|
You can see that some teams struggled with the expectation on them as European Champions and didn’t even make it to the World Cup finals, with Czechoslovakia in 1978, Denmark in 1994 and Greece in 2006 all succumbing to this. It makes the likes of France in 2000 seeming much-improved by making the group stage of the competition at least.
Spain also only made it to the group stage in 1966 and again in 2014, with the latter being the most surprising, given it came off the back of their back-to-back European Championship wins with a World Cup victory in the middle. They didn’t even have a particularly challenging group the second time around, missing out to the Netherlands and Chile and coming third above Australia.