Archive for June, 2016

An analysis of the countries with the best/worst records in the European (Soccer) Championships

June 9, 2016

Adrian Kavanagh, 9th June 2016

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 fourteen 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 (8 teams)/25 points for winning a tournament (16/24 teams)
  • 13 points for getting to the final of a tournament (8 teams)/15 points for getting to the final of a tournament (16/24 teams)
  • 10 points for getting to the semi final of a tournament (16/24 teams)
  • 8 points for getting to the semi final of a tournament (8 teams)
  • 6 points for getting to the quarter finals of a tournament/European Finals in years when 16/24 countries took part
  • 4 points for getting to the quarter finals (Finals) of a tournament/European Finals in years when only 8 countries took part/getting to the second round of European Finals in years when 16 countries took part
  • 3 points for getting to the second round of European Finals in years when 24 countries took part
  • 2 points for making it to the European Finals in years when 16 or 24 countries took part (i.e. 1996 and subsequent years)
  • 1 point for making it to the Last 16 of the tournament in European Championships contests 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 France (i.e. awarding two points to all teams competing in the 2016 Finals), the following pattern emerges:

Rank Country Points
1 West Germany/Germany 142
2 Spain 123
3 USSR/Russia 101
4 France 95
5 Italy 87
6 Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic 80
6 Netherlands 80
8 Portugal 60
9 Denmark 56
10 Yugoslavia/Serbia (and Montenegro) 51
11 England 48
12 Greece 41
13 Belgium 34
14 Sweden 28
15 Romania 27
16 Hungary 25
17 Turkey 22
18 Croatia 18
19 Rep. Ireland 14
20 Bulgaria 12
21 Austria 11
21 Switzerland 11
23 Poland 10
24 Wales 8
25 Scotland 7
26 Northern Ireland 6
27 East Germany 5
28 Luxembourg 4
28 Ukraine 4
30 Albania 3
31 Iceland 2
31 Latvia 2
31 Norway 2
31 Slovakia 2
31 Slovenia 2

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 right up to their first win in the competition in 1972. (Then again Germany did not compete in the first tournament in 1960.) Despite failing to make it to the Last 8 of any of the contests held during the 1960s, Germany holds the record for the most Finals (6) and Semi Finals (8) of any of the participating countries, although Spain (11) has qualified for more Quarter Finals than Germany (9) has. 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 surprising 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 out-shadows their success levels in World Cups – a trend that also applies in the cases of Denmark (ranked 9th), Yugoslavia/Serbia (ranked 10th) and Greece (ranked 12th).  By contrast, four-times World Cup winners, Italy, only make it to 5th in the rankings (although their 2012 results push them up from 7th in the previous set of rankings), while 1966 World Cup winners, England, only make it to 11th (and only rank ahead of countries such as Greece and Belgium because of their more consistent record in qualifying for European Finals).

A number of countries that competed unsuccessfully (twenty in all) in the 2016 European Championships qualifiers have yet to make it onto this list, including countries such as

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Finland
  • Gibraltar
  • Cyprus
  • Liechenstein
  • Montenegro
  • Lithuania
  • Armenia
  • Moldova
  • San Marino
  • Georgia
  • Belarus
  • FYR Macedonia
  • Andorra
  • Azerbaijan
  • Malta
  • Estonia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Israel
  • Faroe Islands

Bosnia and Herzegovina actually qualified for the 2014 World Cup Finals but the Bosnians have yet to qualify for the European Championships, mainly thanks to some ill-timed fog and one John Walters (although it probably should be argued that the Bosnians made it to a number of tournaments while part of Yugoslavia).