Latest updates

Check the Important info page for latest updates! (20 June 2024)

Friday, May 13, 2011

EURO expansion - a look back

What would have happened if the 24 teams expansion would have happened earlier? The first tournament with 16 teams was in 1996, so I'll start with that one.

Euro 1996 (England)

Qualified: Romania, France (Group 1), Spain, Denmark (Group 2), Switzerland, Turkey (Group 3), Croatia, Italy (Group 4), Czech Republic (Group 5), Portugal (Group 6), Germany, Bulgaria (Group 7), Russia, Scotland (Group 8)

Play-off: Netherlands - Republic of Ireland 2 - 0 (Neutral venue - England)

With 24 teams:

Qualified: Romania, France (Group 1), Spain, Denmark, Belgium (Group 2), Switzerland, Turkey, Sweden (Group 3), Croatia, Italy, Lithuania (Group 4), Czech Republic, Netherlands, Norway (Group 5), Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland (Group 6), Germany, Bulgaria (Group 7), Russia, Scotland, Greece (Group 8)

Play-off: Georgia - Slovakia

Euro 2000 (Belgium and Netherlands)

Qualified: Italy (Group 1), Norway (Group 2), Germany (Group 3), France (Group 4), Sweden (Group 5), Spain (Group 6), Romania, Portugal (Group 7), Yugoslavia (Group 8), Czech Republic (Group 9)


Scotland - England 1 - 2
Israel - Denmark 0 - 8
Slovenia - Ukraine 3 - 2
Republic of Ireland - Turkey 1 - 1 (Turkey on away goals)

With 24 teams:

Qualified: Italy, Denmark (Group 1), Norway, Slovenia (Group 2), Germany, Turkey (Group 3), France, Ukraine (Group 4), Sweden, England (Group 5), Spain, Israel (Group 6), Romania, Portugal (Group 7), Yugoslavia, Republic of Ireland (Group 8), Czech Republic, Scotland (Group 9)


Russia vs Finland
Slovakia vs Poland
Greece vs Austria
Switzerland vs Croatia

Euro 2004 (Portugal)

Qualified: France (Group 1), Denmark (Group 2), Czech Republic (Group 3), Sweden (Group 4), Germany (Group 5), Greece (Group 6), England (Group 7), Bulgaria (Group 8), Italy (Group 9), Switzerland (Group 10)


Scotland - Netherlands 1 - 6
Croatia - Slovenia 2 - 1
Russia - Wales 1 - 0
Latvia - Turkey 3 - 2
Spain - Norway 5 - 1

With 24 teams:

Qualified: France, Slovenia (Group 1), Denmark, Norway (Group 2), Czech Republic, Netherlands (Group 3), Sweden, Latvia (Group 4), Germany, Scotland (Group 5), Greece, Spain (Group 6), England, Turkey (Group 7), Bulgaria, Croatia (Group 8), Italy, Wales (Group 9), Switzerland, Russia (Group 10)

Qualified for play-offs: Belgium, Romania, Poland, Iceland, Serbia and Montenegro, Republic of Ireland

Euro 2008 (Austria and Switzerland)

Qualified: Poland, Portugal (Group A), Italy, France (Group B), Greece, Turkey (Group C), Czech Republic, Germany (Group D), Croatia, Russia (Group E), Spain, Sweden (Group F), Romania, Netherlands (Group G)

With 24 teams:

Qualified: Poland, Portugal, Serbia (Group A), Italy, France, Scotland (Group B), Greece, Turkey, Norway (Group C), Czech Republic, Germany, Republic of Ireland (Group D), Croatia, Russia, England (Group E), Spain, Sweden, Northern Ireland (Group F), Romania, Netherlands, Bulgaria (Group G)

Play-off: Israel vs. Finland

About me:

Christian, husband, father x 3, programmer, Romanian. Started the blog in March 2007. Quit in April 2018. You can find me on LinkedIn.


  1. You're not a fan of the 24 team tournament, are you? I think it will seriously lower the quality of the competition and fervently hope my England after failing last time will qualify for what I believe will be seen as the last true Euro, 2012.

  2. I disagree completely, this is progress. Those who attack 24 now, defended 16 against 8. Those who say it'll lower the quality of the competition ruled out Greece from even winning it, because Portugal, Spain, France etc. stood in their way, and apparently Portugal, Spain, France etc. have an automatic victory in this. We've seen English people scoff the quality of teams like Romania and Portugal only to get beat by both. More median teams in the competition make it more likely for an upset on a neutral ground, means that we will see competitive local rivalries. If the England fan above were to see his side in a group with France, Scotland and Republic of Ireland he wouldn't mention the quality.

    I'm looking forward to this.

  3. Besides the drop in quality (almost 50% of UEFA members will qualify), there's also a problem with the format. A 16 or 32 team format is very straight forward. In 12 or 24 team formats you have some third place teams going through and this leads to various problems.

    I don't like the expansion even if my team are unlikely to qualify for a 16 team final tournament.

  4. @ both of you

    It is the format I take issue with the most. Think of it this way, under the current format of 16, we see 31 matches contested between the best 16 teams in Europe. Under the new format when it gets whittled down to 16 teams, we will only see 15 games. Obviously they will play more than that in the group stages, but those matches won't matter as much.

    I was fine with the World Cup's 24 team expansion, and I think I knew it would eventually go further to 32 teams which is even better. But Europe doesn't have that option. 32/53 would be a joke.

    Plus, 24 teams still makes the qualifying campaign a joke. I'll be proud of my team if they qualify for 2012. Qualifying for 2016 will be nothing to be proud of. Plus it will introduce more dead rubber matches to the qualifiers which could skew the results unfairly.

    24 teams was necessary for the World Cup at the time, it is not necessary for the Euro, 16 teams makes it an elite tournament, 24 teams makes it a joke.

  5. What I would love to see is the quarter finalists of Euro 2012 qualify automatically. But while the remaining 45 European nations fight it out for places, these 8 teams would be having their own home and away tournament starting with 2 groups of 4. This wouldn't be a friendly tournament, it would decide the top seeds at 2016, thus be ranked as continental qualifiers between high level teams. The top two in each group would go on to 2 leg semi finals and a final, with a trophy up for grabs. It would be like the old 8 team Euro reborn. Meanwhile, the bottom 4 would have their own semi finals and final, with the winner of this claiming the last top seed, along with the 4 that went for the trophy and the tournament host. This would also get rid of the dead rubber problem in the other qualifiers, which would be much like they are now, 9 groups of 5 for 15 places (9 winners, top 3 runners up, 3 playoff winners.)

  6. On the theme of looking back and fantasising, I shall take a look back myself and imagine if Euro 2008 was the last 16 team tournament and Euro 2012 went to 24 teams and used my idea, what things would look like. I have realised there would have to be only 8 groups to account for the dual hosts. This nearly keeps the fixtures for all nations equal, most whether in the 8 team tournament or qualifying, it is a minimum of 8 fixtures and a maximum of 10, but for three groups it would be 10/12. But that’s still used today, 6 team groups. I thought groups of 4 teams would be too small. So the group winners, 4 best runners up and two playoff winners would advance along with the 8 auto qualifiers and the hosts Poland and Ukraine.

    8 Team Tournament Seeds:

    Pot A: Spain, Germany
    Pot B: Netherlands, Italy
    Pot C: Croatia, Portugal
    Pot D: Russia, Turkey

    Mock Draw:

    Group A: Germany, Netherlands, Croatia, Russia
    Group B: Spain, Italy, Portugal, Turkey

    Qualifying Seeds:

    Pot A: England, France, Greece, Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Serbia, Denmark
    Pot B: Slovakia, Romania, Israel, Bulgaria, Finland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland
    Pot C: Northern Ireland, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Latvia, Hungary, Lithuania, Belarus
    Pot D: Belgium, Wales, FYR Macedonia, Cyprus, Montenegro, Albania, Estonia, Georgia
    Pot E: Moldova, Iceland, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Malta
    Pot F: Faroe Islands, Andorra, San Marino

    Mock Draw:

    Group A: Denmark, Slovakia, Latvia, Montenegro, Malta, San Marino
    Group B: France, Norway, Northern Ireland, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Andorra
    Group C: England, Scotland, Hungary, Albania, Luxembourg, Faroe Islands
    Group D: Switzerland, Bulgaria, Austria, Cyprus, Iceland
    Group E: Serbia, Finland, Slovenia, Wales, Moldova
    Group F: Greece, Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Armenia
    Group G: Czech Republic, Republic of Ireland, Belarus, Belgium, Kazakhstan
    Group H: Sweden, Romania, Lithuania, FYR Macedonia, Liechtenstein

  7. I find it strange that before 1996 they only had 8 teams in the Euro. They had more European teams in the World Cup.

  8. Then it was harder to qualify for the Euro than for the World Cup. From now on it will be easier.