UEFA Champions League

Ahead of EURO 2024: Ranking the Most Shocking European Championship Runs 

EURO 2024 Most Shocking European Championship Runs

Euro 2024 kicks off this summer in Germany, and there are lots of expectations about the continent’s most celebrated tournament. Like in previous editions, this year will feature a mix of top-performing national teams and underdogs, hoping for a chance to cement their legacies in the annals of history.

Many consider the European Championship to be the most competitive tournament in international football, with 10 different teams clinching the title in the 16 tournaments played so far.

Unlike the World Cup, where the big teams continue to dominate, the Euros have given us dramatic outcomes and shockers, with an array of teams rising through the ranks from underdogs to champions.

As the demand for Euro 2024 tickets continues to surge, expect to see some more drama when the tournament kicks off in June, given the calibre of teams that will be competing.

With all eyes set on Germany’s opener against Scotland, here’s a recap of the most shocking championship runs in Euro history. 

Euro 2024: Most Shocking European Championship Runs

Portugal – Euro 2016

The Seleção may have had Cristiano Ronaldo in their squad, but nobody except the CR7 faithful expected them to win. Portugal was favourites to win a fairly easy group that contained Iceland, Austria, and Hungary but performed poorly, finishing with zero wins and three draws.

Nevertheless, they made it out of the group stage as “Best Losers” and set up a Round of 16 clash against Croatia. A stunning Ricardo Quaresma goal in extra time was enough to see off the Balkans and secure a quarterfinal matchup against Poland, which they won on penalties after another sluggish 120 minutes of football.

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Portugal advanced to the semifinals to face a strong Wales side but were able to defeat them 2-0, with goals from Ronaldo and Nani. But it was the final that came as the most shocking, as the Seleção defeated the host country and heavy favorites France to clinch their first major tournament championship.

The final was set at a packed Stade De France, with screams from the 75,868 home fans in attendance enough to intimidate any opponent. Les Bleus were also the better team in all aspects, from their elite defense to their formidable attack.

Things went from bad to worse for the Seleção midway through the first half as Ronaldo, their star player and highest goalscorer in the tournament, had to be stretchered off after sustaining an injury.

The game remained scoreless throughout the first 90 minutes, despite scoring opportunities from both sides, taking the match to extra time.

It seemed like the finals would be decided by a penalty shootout, but 78th-minute substitute Eder had other answers, firing a low shot past France’s Hugo Lloris from 25 yards out in the 117th minute. Portugal held on until the final whistle and won.

Italy – Euro 2020

This tournament was historic in many ways. 2020 marked the 60th anniversary of the European Championship, which was postponed to the following year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also the first time the Euros were hosted in several European countries.

While Italy’s pedigree at the Euros is well-documented, the then two-time champions came into the tournament with little to no expectations after failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Roberto Mancini’s men opened their campaign in Group A and clinched the top spot over Wales, Switzerland, and Turkey.

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They advanced to the next round to face Group C runners-up Austria, defeating them 2-1, with all three goals coming in extra time. The Azzurri progressed to the quarterfinals to take on pre-tournament favorites Belgium and scored two goals in the first half to see off the Red Devils 2-1.

A semifinal showdown was set against another pre-tournament favorite, Spain, with Italy defeating them on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

The final was set, with Italy facing England, another team that was favored to win. The game played at the iconic Wembley Stadium, started on a good note for the Three Lions thanks to an early goal from Luke Shaw, but Leonardo Bonucci equalized in the 67th minute to force extra time.

With both sides unable to find the back of the net, the match went to penalties, which Italy won 3-2 to stun the home crowd.

Greece – Euro 2004

The 2004 European Championship held in Portugal came with lots of shocking outcomes early on, with traditional powerhouses Germany, Italy, and Spain crashing out in the group stage. Greece began their campaign in Group A, alongside Spain and Portugal, and was considered underdogs to make it out of the group.

However, an opening day win against the hosts and eventual Group Winners Portugal saw them break a tie with Spain for the runner-up spot and advance to the quarterfinal to play France.

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Greece shocked the world by knocking France out of the competition, thanks to Angelos Charisteas’ goal in the 65th minute. They proceeded to beat the Czech Republic 1-0 in the semifinals to set up a Group A rematch against Portugal. The Greeks clinched the title with a third consecutive 1-0 win thanks again to Charisteas’ 57th-minute goal.

Denmark – Euro 1992

Denmark’s fairytale journey to continental triumph is perhaps the most remarkable in the history of this competition. The 1992 Euros had the likes of Germany, France, and the Netherlands as favorites coming into the tournament.

What’s more interesting is the fact that Denmark was originally not meant to play in this tournament. The Danes failed to qualify for Euro 1992, with Yugoslavia making it to the competition ahead of them.

But the Balkans were a country at war and mandated their players to join in the fight. The unrest in Yugoslavia led to their disqualification from the Euros, giving Denmark, runners-up in Group 4, automatic qualification.

Denmark found themselves in Group 1, with France, England, and Sweden. They managed to clinch the second spot, despite dropping points against England and losing to Sweden.

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The Danes faced the reigning Euro champions, the Netherlands, in the semifinals, defeating the Dutch on penalties after a 2-2 draw. They proceeded to face Germany in the final, defeating the former champions 2-0, thanks to an 18th-minute strike from John Jensen and a late goal from Kim Vilfort.

It was the Danish National Team’s first major trophy and remains their only title to date. Denmark will have the opportunity to make another surprise run at the Euros but face dicey Group C encounters with England, Slovenia, and Serbia. Will there be a repeat of the 1992 tournament?

Aqeel Ahmad
the authorAqeel Ahmad
Aqeel Ahmad is a passionate sports fan who enjoys reading and writing about the most recent sporting events taking place all around the world.

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