The groundwork for a European national-team competition began in 1956, two years later the first European Nations' Cup, now known as the UEFA European Championship, was under way.
The first final in Paris between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia was a close affair, the Soviets triumphing 2-1 after extra time. The 1964 tournament saw politics entering sport, Greece refusing to play Albania - they were technically at war. The final round took place in Spain, with the hosts beating the Soviet Union 2-1 in the Madrid final.
The European Nations' Cup became the UEFA European Football Championship for 1968. The format changed - eight groups of seeded teams played each other twice; the top side from each group progressing to the two-legged quarter-finals. The semi-finals, as before, were held in a host country, Italy. After Italy and Yugoslavia drew the final 1-1, the Italians won the replay 2-0.
The 1972 tournament retained the same structure, with the final phase played in Belgium. The Federal Republic of Germany beat the USSR 3-0 in Brussels after two Gerd Müller goals. The 1976 final round was held in Yugoslavia. In the final, Czechoslovakia squandered a two-goal lead before penalties were needed. When Uli Hoeness missed, it allowed Antonín Panenka to chip into the space vacated by Sepp Maier's anticipatory dive for a Czech victory.
A new format was introduced for 1980. Eight teams went to the final round in Italy, playing each other in two groups before the Federal Republic of Germany faced Belgium in the Rome final. Two goals from Horst Hrubesch ensured the Germans won 2-1. Semi-finals returned for the 1984 finals in France. The two groups remained, but this time the top two from each progressed. The hosts went on to play Spain in the final in Paris, and won 2-0 courtesy of Michel Platini's free-kick and Bruno Bellone.
The Federal Republic of Germany hosted the 1988 tournament, played under the same format as in 1984. The Netherlands finally won a title by beating the Soviet Union 2-0 in the final after a fantastic Marco Van Basten volley and Ruud Gullit's header. The 1992 tournament was held in Sweden at a time of European political change. A united Germany was represented; the break-up of the Soviet Union meant the Commonwealth of Independent States would appear; and hostilities in Yugoslavia led to their team being excluded, with Denmark replacing them. Amazingly, the Danes, with nothing to lose, beat Germany 2-0 in the final thanks to Kim Vilfort and John Jensen goals.
The emergence of new eastern European nations led to 48 teams entering the 1996 tournament, and a new format - 16 teams travelled to the final round in England to contest four groups of four, the top two from each group going through. The final saw ever-present Germany take on the underdogs Czech Republic and was the first to be settled by a golden goal, scored by Germany's Oliver Bierhoff for a 2-1 victory.
Belgium and the Netherlands were appointed as joint hosts for the 2000 final round in a notable European 'first'. A splendid tournament also climaxed in a golden-goal finish with David Trezeguet's extra-time strike bringing European glory to France.