A close-up of the UEFA European Football Championship 2024 Fussballiebe. Bildersindtoll, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Since its inception in 1960, the UEFA European Football Championship has been a four-yearly highlight of the northern hemisphere game. And every four years since the late ’90s (as they do also for the UEFA World Cup), England fans hopefully crank up one version or another of The Lightning Seeds’ “Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)”.

With the semi-finals about to kick off, let’s take a look back at how England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland have performed over the years.

Having debuted in 1968, England have never won the Euros but have reached the latter stages on several occasions.

England’s agonising relationship with penalty shoot-outs is infamous! The two most painful examples are probably 1996, when they lost to Germany in the semi-final, and 2021 (delayed from 2020 due to Covid-19), when they lost to Italy in the final.

Harry Kane is the team’s most prolific goal scorer in the tournament, with a total of 29 (so far), ahead of Wayne Rooney (20), and Michael Owen, Raheem Sterling, and Alan Shearer (all on 13).

Scotland’s journey in the Euros has been one of persistence and frustration. After participating in the 1992 and 1996 tournaments, they faced a long drought, failing to qualify for the next five. However, their determination paid off; they finally returned to the Euros in 2021, holding the higher-ranked England to a gutsy 0-0 draw in the group stages.

After reaching the quarter-finals in 1976, Wales had to wait 40 years before qualifying again. In 2016, they got as far as the semi-finals, where they lost to Portugal, the eventual tournament winners.

Gareth Bale was a powerhouse that year, breaking Ivor Allchurch’s 58-year record as his country’s highest goal scorer in major tournaments.

Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland have only twice made the Euros’ “Round of 16”, in 1964 and 2016. However, Belfast will be one of the host cities when the UK and Ireland host the 2028 Championship. Perhaps this will be a good omen.

Republic of Ireland
The Republic of Ireland’s history at the Euros has been sporadic. They’ve qualified four times but arguably “peaked early”, as their best performance was when they reached the quarters in 1964.

Can England finally bring football home?
One thing’s for sure: many expats will – once again – be holding their breath when England take on The Netherlands in their semi-final on Thursday, 11 July at 7.00 am (NZ time).

For more UEFA European Football Championship stats, go to uefa.com/euro2024/statistics