What country has the best record in the European (Soccer) Championships? Hint – it’s the Germans!

Adrian Kavanagh, 8th June 2012

Ah the summer of a year ending in an even number can mean only one thing – a major international soccer tournament and this year (being divisible by four) it is the turn of the Europeans! While a number of countries competing in this year’s tournament have excellent records over the previous thirteen tournaments, some other countries such as the Ukraine, Republic of Ireland and Poland do not have great records in the European Championships. But how do teams rank in terms of their performance in past European championships? I’ve done a number crunch here to try and answer that question.

Basically, the system I have developed awards:

  • 23 points for winning a tournament
  • 13 points for getting to the final of a tournament
  • 8 points for getting to the semi final of a tournament
  • 4 points for getting to the quarter finals of a tournament/European Finals in years when only 8 countries took part
  • 2 points for making it to the European Finals in years when 16 countries took part (i.e. 1996 and subsequent years)
  • 1 point for making it to the Last 16 of the tournament in competitions before the 1996 Finals – includes countries making it to Last 16 when qualifiers or finishing second in the qualifying groups in year when European Finals only involved eight countries.

Adding up these points across the thirteen previous tournaments, commencing with the first such tournament (1958-60) and continuing up to the present tournament in Poland and Ukraine (i.e. awarding two points to all teams competing in the 2012 Finals), the following pattern emerges.

1 West Germany/Germany 128
2 Spain 95
3 USSR/Russia 94
4 France 85
5 Netherlands 76
6 Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic 72
7 Italy 69
8 Denmark 55
9 Yugoslavia/Serbia 51
10 Portugal 50
11 England 44
12 Greece 36
13 Belgium 32
14 Romania 24
14 Sweden 24
16 Hungary  23
17 Turkey 18
18 Croatia 14
19 Bulgaria 12
19 Rep. Ireland 12
21 Austria 9
21 Switzerland 9
23 Poland 8
24 Scotland 7
25 Wales 6
26 East Germany 5
27 Luxembourg 4
27 Northern Ireland 4
29 Norway 3
30 Latvia 2
30 Slovenia 2
30 Ukraine 2
33 Albania 1

Not surprisingly, the Germans emerge as having the best record across past European competitions, although it is more surprising to note that country’s poor record in the first few contests and up to their first win in the competition in 1972. (Then again Germany did not compete in the first tournament in 1960.) With a number of victories in the competition and a consistent record of making it to the final stages of these tournaments, Spain are ranked second.  Maybe somewhat surprisingly, especially given their rather poor record in World Cup tournaments, Russia/The USSR emerge as having the third best record in European tournaments, but it becomes rather less suprising when one considers that Russia/The USSR have won this tournament on one occasion (albeit in the very first tournament), made the final on three other occasions and made the semi finals on six occasions in all. With one win and one other final appearance, the Czechs (ranked 6th) are another nation whose performance (and ranking on this list) far outshadows their success levels in World Cups – a trend that also applies in the cases of Denmark (ranked 8th), Yugoslavia/Serbia (ranked ) and Greece (ranked 12th).  By contrast, four-times World Cup winners, Italy, only make it to 7th in the rankings, while 1966 World Cup winners, England, only make it to 11th (and only rank ahead of Greece and Belgium due to their relatively consistent record in qualifying for European Finals). The Republic of Ireland are ranked in Joint 19th position on this list, mainly thanks to the country making it to the Last 8 of the 1964 and 1988 tournaments. A number of countries that competed unsuccessfully (twenty in all) in the 2012 European Championships qualifiers have yet to make it onto this list, including countries such as Finland, Iceland, Cyprus, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia and Georgia, but also Slovakia, a country that made it to the Last 16 of the 2010 World Cup (although it probably should be argued that the Slovaks made it to a number of tourmanents while part of Czechoslovakia!)

  Winner Final Semi Final/3rd-4th Quarter Finals/Last 8
West Germany/Germany 3 6 7 8
Spain 2 3 3 10
France 2 2 4 8
USSR/Russia 1 4 6 8
Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic 1 2 5 5
Italy 1 2 4 6
Netherlands 1 1 5 8
Denmark 1 1 3 5
Greece 1 1 1 2
Yugoslavia/Serbia   2 3 6
Portugal   1 3 6
Belgium   1 2 4
England     2 7
Hungary      2 3
Sweden     1 3
Turkey     1 2
Romania       4
Croatia       2
Rep. Ireland       2
Bulgaria       1
Austria       1
Scotland       1
Wales       1
Luxembourg       1

The final table ranks countries in terms of how many times they have won the competition, or made it to the final of the competition, or made the Last 4 (made it to the semi finals, or the 3rd/4th place play off as in the case of the 1980 competition), or made the Last 8 (quarter finals, or Finals when only 8 teams took parts as in competitions leading up to, and including, the 1992 Finals). Again the Germans top the table, but France’s two wins in 1984 and 2000 pushes the French into the Top 3 in this case ahead of Russia/The USSR. The Republic of Ireland are ranked in joint 18th position along with the Croats due to the Irish making it to the Last 8 of the competition on two occasions, in 1964 and 1988.



3 Responses to “What country has the best record in the European (Soccer) Championships? Hint – it’s the Germans!”

  1. Seán Carey Says:

    I think both the Netherlands and Portugal will improve their place position. Netherlands to win Euro 2012.

  2. The Geography of European Championships Success « Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Blog posts from Adrian Kavanagh on elections, sports, Eurovision and other entities! « What country has the best record in the European (Soccer) Championships? Hint – it’s the… […]

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