Euro 2020: A tournament that is blighted by the defending champion's curse

The Euro Football tournament has been blighted by the Champion's curse, with only one team managing to defend their title in the 61-year history of the tournament.

Spain achieved a brilliant period of success from 2008 to 2012 in which they won the 2010 FIFA World Cup and were the defending champions in 2012. (Image credit: Twitter)
By Siddharth vishwanathan | Jun 1, 2021 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

The Euro football competition has plenty of awkward statistics that confound fans. Italy, a four-time World Cup winner, has won the Euro only once and that was way back in 1968, 53 years ago. Countries like Greece and Portugal have also won the Euro tournaments while England has never won the Trophy. Germany and Spain are the most successful teams in the history of the tournament, having won the tournament three times. But, in the 61-year history of the tournament, this one stat will definitely make fans shocked.

The Euro football competition has seen only one team in history successfully defend the title. Spain are the first and only country to have defended their Euro trophy. It was during the glorious period of 2008 to 2012. In that era of the Tiki-Taka, Spain managed to win their first Euro title in 2008, the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the 2012 Euro championships. No other country has come close, with West Germany winning in 1972 but losing in 1976 and winning again in 1980.

The glorious four years of Spain

In 2008, Spain were placed in Group D along with Russia, Sweden and the defending champions Greece. Spain started their campaign on a high with a 4-1 win against Russia. David Villa’s goal in injury time gave Spain a 2-1 win against Sweden while they overcame a 0-1 deficit to knock Greece out of the tournament.

In the quarterfinals, Spain defeated Italy 4-2 on penalties while they overcame Russia yet again in the semi-final. The final was between Germany and Spain and it took a goal in the 33rd minute by Fernando Torres to ensure Spain won the Euro for the first time in 44 years.

In the World Cup in 2010, Spain topped their group again despite losing to Switzerland in their first game. Spain entered the final with identical 1-0 wins against Portugal, Paraguay and Germany. In the final, Andres Iniesta scored in the 116th minute of extra time to help them beat the Netherlands and win their first World Cup title.

the treble completed in 2012

In Euro 2012, Spain topped their group which included Italy, Croatia and Republic of Ireland. The draw against Italy helped them get into the tournament high on confidence. They had a massive boost in the quarterfinals as they defeated France 2-0. In the semi-finals, the match against Portugal went into penalties and Spain won it 4-2. In the final against Italy, they were in sublime form. David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata all scored as Spain won 4-0 and became the first defending champions in the history of the Euro tournament. 

Thus, in four years, Spain achieved the treble of two Euro wins and the World Cup. When one looks at history, France achieved the double of the 1998 World Cup win and the 2000 Euro win. In that tournament, David Trezeguet scored a goal in the 103rd minute in what became the last golden goal in the history of football.

Can Spain regain lost glory?

Ever since their exploits in Euro 2012, Spain has struggled to reach the heights. They struggled in the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups while they failed to make a mark in Euro 2016, losing 0-2 to Italy in the round of 16. France, who won the 2018 World Cup, look favorites for the double this time again. Portugal are the defending Euro champions and it will take a big effort to win the tournament again.

Portugal will have to battle the odds to win the tournament again. It has been observed that the defending champions often crash out in the first round in the preceding edition. In 2000 and 2008, Germany and Greece crashed out in the first round in those editions of the tournament, having earlier won it. In 2004, France lost in the semifinal to Greece.

The champion’s curse is real in Euro football tournament and it looks like the trend will continue in the 2020 edition.