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Euro 2024: Has any team won back-to-back Euros?

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Euro 2024: Has any team won back-to-back Euros?

Euro 2024 is fast approaching, with England manager Gareth Southgate set to name his preliminary squad for the tournament on Tuesday, May 21st before the eventual curtain raiser on June 14th as hosts Germany face off against Scotland.

With those crucial dates edging ever closer, the buildup grows ever grander so with that in mind we're taking a look back through previous tournaments to assess the European Championship's greatest champions; has any nation ever retained its crown? If not, who's come closest? Check out our piece below for a deep dive into some of Europe's most memorable international phenoms.

Spain 2008-2012

Regarded by many as international football's greatest team and almost unequivocally Europe's greatest international outfit, Spain's all-conquering team spanning the years 2008-2012 remain the only side ever to win back-to-back European Championship titles.

Pre-2008, the Spanish were viewed by many on the international scene in a similar light to how many view England now: chronic underachievers destined to remain on the periphery of international football's elite. Only arguably their reputation was much worse, because not only had they never won a World Cup but they'd never gone beyond the quarter-finals of the competition, with many of their exploits ending in a group stage exit - barring a 4th-place finish in a 13-team tournament back in 1950.

In the European Championship they had fared only slightly better, with their best results 3rd place finishes in 1968 and 1996. Even then, they'd managed three group stage exits from the six editions of the competition they'd competed in.

However, the Spanish's reputation would change irrevocably in 2008 when manager Luis Aragonés implemented a style of play with a name that became famous across the sport: tiki-taka. Tiki-taka became most notoriously associated with Pep Guardiola and Barcelona in the years following Euro 2008, but it was Aragonés who first introduced its foundations as a style that largely evolved from the pillars of Johan Cruyff's Barcelona in the late 80s and the early 90s. A nation renowned for producing the finest possession-retention midfielders, tiki-taka was a suffocating style of play centred around total domination of both territory and possession through short passing and movement.

At Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, a Spain squad spearheaded by the likes of Carles Puyol, Sergio Ramos, Marcos Senno, Xavi, Iniesta, David Villa and Fernando Torres breezed through a group containing Russia, Sweden and Greece as they registered three wins from three games with a 4-1 win over Russia, a 2-1 win over a 2-1 win over Sweden and a 2-1 win over Greece.

In the knockout stages they did encounter some adversity in a quarter-final tie with the Italians, where it took a penalty shootout for them to book their place in the semi-finals following a 0-0 draw, but that's where most of the adversity ended as they brushed aside the Russians, who'd just beaten the Dutch 3-1, once more in the semi-final by a 3-0 scoreline.

Then, in their first-ever major tournament final, a solitary Fernando Torres goal was the difference between them and Germany, handing Spain their first-ever major trophy.

As the group stage began, Spain found themselves in a group with Italy, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland, and they predictably finished top of the group as they registered wins against Croatia (1-0) and the Republic of Ireland (4-0) alongside a 1-1 draw with Italy.

In the knockout stage, Spain claimed a 2-0 win over France in the quarter-final before a penalty shootout win over Portugal in the semi-finals, following a 0-0 draw, before delivering one of the most dominant wins in the final of a major international tournament ever seen as they hammered Italy 4-0.

Throughout this period the core of Spain's team changed very little, with Xavi winning player of the tournament at Euro 2008 before Iniesta won the award in 2012. Sergio Ramos was a figurehead in both tournaments, as were Iker Casillas, David Silva, Cesc Fàbregas, Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres. The strength in depth of this team, particularly in the midfield, was terrifying, and their ability to strangle teams in possession was unique. They were the perfect tournament team because they kept the ball so, so well that they were almost impossible to score against, with the team conceding just 6 goals across 19 games in Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, none of which were conceded in the knockout stages of any of the three tournaments.

Football has evolved in the last decade and Spain learnt the hard way that they needed to evolve somewhat in order to remain competitive. They haven't won a major tournament since 2012 and have even been the subject of a couple of embarrassing tournament exits since that last final in Kyiv. Nevertheless, though, no amount of abject failures by future generations of Spanish footballers could ever see this team erased from the history books of international football, and it's unlikely that we'll see another side like this for quite some time.

West Germany 1972-1976

There'll be kids of a certain age that know the German national team as little more than a side of gutless underachievers following the last few international tournaments, but there was a time––a long time, in fact––where the Germans were one of the most feared and most successful sides in international football, and that truth was never more pertinent than it was in the 1970s.

In 1972, West Germany, as they were once known, were crowned European champions with what many believe was their greatest side of all-time, a team that also went on to win the World Cup just two years later in 1974. The team was spearheaded by the likes of Paul Breitner, a defender/midfielder who nearly won a Ballon d'Or, Günter Netzer, one of the greatest playmakers of his generation, Gerd Müller, arguably the greatest goalscorers the sport has ever seen, and, of course, Franz Beckenbauer, the man unanimously regardless as Germany's greatest-ever player, and regarded by many as a top five player of all-time. Not bad, right?

Back in those days, the tournament format used a four-team "finals", similar to how the UEFA Nations League operates today, which was preceded by a rigorous qualifying phase that saw eight groups of four teams who would play one another twice, with the group winners progressing to the "quarter-final" phase, that for some reason was still considered part of qualifying.

West Germany topped a group containing Poland, Turkey and Albania before beating England 3-1 in the quarter-finals. This allowed them to progress to the finals, hosted by Belgium, which was made up by the hosts, the Soviet Union and Hungary. West Germany were drawn against Belgium in the semi-finals and ran out 2-1 winners, before comfortably beating the Soviets 3-0 in the final, with the great Gerd Müller scoring a a brace in both games.

After winning the World Cup in 1974, West Germany were going for a historic treble of major trophies and they kicked off their pursuit by topping a qualifying group containing Greece, Bulgaria and Malta, before beating Spain 3-1 in the quarter-finals. The final tournament, hosted in Serbia, saw a final four of West Germany, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and the Netherlands. West Germany faced Yugoslavia in the semi-finals where they claimed a hard-fought 4-2 win after extra time, with a hat-trick from Gerd Müller helping them along the way.

In the final, West Germany came up against Czechoslovakia, with the two teams playing out a razor-tight and physically draining encounter that finished 2-2, resulting in an eventual penalty shootout. In what still remains their only shootout loss in a major tournament, West Germany were beaten 5-3 on penalties, with Antonín Panenka chipping the 5th and final penalty straight down the middle for the Czechs, christening what is known today as the "Panenka penalty".

Germany went as close as a side could come to retaining this trophy and while they may have come up short, they'll forever be remembered as one of international football's most feared teams.

Soviet Union 1960-1964

Few people know that the first winner of this competition was, in fact, the Soviet Union. The Soviets were mightily strong in the 60s and were led by goalkeeper Lev Yashin, still regarded by many as football's greatest-ever goalkeeper to this day, midfielder Igor Netto, one of Europe's finest box-to-box midfielders, and midfielder Valentin Ivanov, widely considered Russia's greatest-ever outfield player.

This tournament had 17 entrants and featured two preliminary knockout rounds, named the round of 16 and quarter-finals, that were technically still part of qualifying for the final tournament. The Soviets cruised past a strong Hungary side over two legs by a 4-1 scoreline in the last 16 but were then granted a bye in the quarter-finals after their scheduled opponents, Spain, refused to travel to the Soviet Union amidst the height of tensions during the Cold War and were therefore disqualified.

Alongside the Soviet Union, the final tournament, hosted in France, featured the hosts, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, with the Soviets drawn against Czechoslovakia in the semi-finals. The semi-final was a one-sided encounter, with the Soviet Union registering a thumping 3-0 win against a very strong side that comfortably beat France 2-0 in the 3rd place playoff.

The Soviets faced Yugoslavia in the final, and in what was a very competitive affair they eventually ran out 2-1 winners, with Viktor Ponedelnik netting the winner in the 113th minute.

Four years later the Soviets made a bid to defend their crown and their attempt was admirable, as they bagged a 3-1 win over Italy over two legs in the round of 16 which was followed by a 4-2 win over Sweden in the quarter-finals, again over two legs.

The final tournament, hosted in Spain, contained Spain, Denmark, Hungary and, indeed, the Soviet Union. The Soviets walked over Denmark in the semi-final as they delivered a comfortable 3-0 win, before eventually losing a very tight final to the hosts by two goals to one, with Spain's winner coming with just six minutes remaining.

Some may argue that the Soviet's win in 1960 is blemished by an asterisk given they were awarded a bye against Spain in the quarter-finals, but they otherwise faced a brutal level of opposition en route to the trophy, with Czechoslovakia, their semi-final opponents, reaching the World Cup final just two years later 1962 and Yugoslavia, their final opponents in 1960, reaching the World Cup semi-final themselves in 1962. The Soviets were deserved winners in 1960 and were undoubtedly the best side in Europe that year amidst a very strong field, that much is almost impossible to deny.

Their bid to win two European Championships on the bounce came ever so close but ultimately they were downed in the final by a strong team buoyed by home advantage. They may have fallen at the final hurdle, but this is not a side whose memory should be cast into the abyss. The Soviet team of the early 60s are more than deserving of legendary status.


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