Germany will head into UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying as FIFA World Cup holders for the first time since reunification, with past European world champions having had a tough time going from global success to become continental contenders.
1966 World Cup winners (in England)
1968 UEFA European Championship, semi-finals
The first team to enter a UEFA European Championship as reigning world champions, England reached the four-team final tournament in Italy. However, Alf Ramsey's side were denied a place in the final, losing 1-0 to Yugoslavia in an ill-tempered semi-final in Florence, in which Alan Mullery was dismissed for a retaliatory kick at Dobrivoje Trivić. "If that game was played now, it would have been abandoned after 20 minutes because they would have had six players on their side and we would have had about nine," Mullery said later. A 2-0 third-place play-off win against the Soviet Union was little consolation, though England have finished so high again in any tournament outside their home nation.
1974 World Cup winners (in West Germany)
1976 UEFA European Championship finalists
Without a number of their stars from 1974, qualifying was a battle for West Germany, who overcame Spain to reach the four-team finals. They then battled back from two goals down to beat the hosts 4-2, Dieter Müller equalising eight minutes from the end of normal time, and then striking twice more in extra time. On the ropes again in the final against Czechoslovakia, West Germany made it 2-2 in the 89th minute through Bernd Hölzenbein, but their luck ran out in the shoot-out, Antonín Panenka chipping the winner after Uli Hoeness had powered his effort over the bar. Germany have not lost a shoot-out since.
1982 World Cup winners (in Spain)
1984 UEFA European Championship, did not qualify
World champions for the third time in 1982 after a 44-year wait, the Azzurri followed up with their worst qualifying campaign ever. The writing was on the wall after a 1-1 draw in Cyprus followed ties against Czechoslovakia and Romania in their opening fixtures. "I think we are still a good team," said forward Francesco Graziani. "But we have problems that we haven't manage to solve yet." Enzo Bearzot's Italy lost their next four games, a 2-0 loss in Sweden proving to be Dino Zoff's 112th and final Italy appearance, with their only victory coming in their final fixture, 3-1 at home against Cyprus.
1990 World Cup winners (in Italy)
EURO '92 finalists
Just as they did in 1976, the Germans struggled through only to lose the final to the underdogs, in this case Denmark. It had been a hard slog for Berti Vogts' side, who scuffed through the group stage despite a 3-1 loss to neighbours the Netherlands. Germany might have thought they had done the hard work when they ground out a 3-2 win against hosts Sweden in a thrilling semi-final, but rank outsiders Denmark caught them cold in the decider, goals from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort completing the Danes' unexpected journey from the beach to the winner's podium.
1998 World Cup winners (in France)
UEFA EURO 2000 winners
France made history in Rotterdam on 2 July 2000, becoming the first side to triumph at a UEFA European Championship as World Cup winners. Trailing Italy in the added time in the final, Roger Lemerre's players were rescued by Sylvain Wiltord's equaliser, with a second Robert Pirès assist of the night setting up substitute David Trezeguet to volley the golden goal winner in extra time. "All my force was in that shot," the then Juventus striker said. "It had been a difficult championship for me because I had hoped to play a greater part."
2006 World Cup winners (in Germany)
UEFA EURO 2008, quarter-finalists
Roberto Donadoni replaced Marcello Lippi after the World Cup triumph in Germany, the former AC Milan midfielder leading Italy to the finals in Austria and Switzerland. Despite kicking off with a 3-0 defeat against the Netherlands, the Azzurri battled through a tough group, holding Romania and then beating France, only to crash into eventual champions Spain in the quarter-finals, losing on penalties after 120 goalless minutes. "I'm proud of my players' performance," concluded Donadoni, who made way for Lippi again after the tournament. "Everybody gave everything they had and this is what counts the most."
2010 World Cup winners (in South Africa)
UEFA EURO 2012 winners
Lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy after a 4-0 final triumph against Italy in Kyiv meant Spain's 'golden generation' had managed an unprecedented third successive major title win during a run that started at UEFA EURO 2008. In Poland and Ukraine, Vicente del Bosque's side advanced from a group containing Italy, the Republic of Ireland and Croatia, before going on to eliminate France and Portugal on their way to the final. "This is a great generation of players, a great era for Spanish football," Del Bosque said afterwards. "It's magic, something very special, and we have to enjoy the moment," added midfielder Andrés Iniesta.
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