13 December 2014

Northern Ireland in the European Championships

UEFA European Championships
1960 - 1964 - 1968 - 1972 - 1976 - 1980 - 1984 - 1988 - 19921996 - 
2000 - 2004 - 2008 - 2012 - 2016 - 2020 -


The Henri Delaunay Trophy
Northern Ireland have qualified for the finals of the UEFA European Championships for the first time in 2016, having come painfully close on a few previous occasions. The competition was founded in 1960 as the European Nations' Cup, taking its current name in 1968 (and now usually truncated to the form of Euro 20XX).

Northern Ireland, along with the other Home Nations, plus West Germany, Italy and several other significant European footballing powers, did not enter the first edition of the tournament. For the first two tournaments, qualification was held on a two-legged knock-out basis, with one of the last four remaining teams being selected as host of the finals (consisting of semi-finals, third place play-off and final).

Qualification groups were introduced for the 1968 tournament, followed by two-legged quarter-finals. For the Home Nations, the results of the 1967 and 1968 British Championships were combined to serve as Qualification Group Eight. The hosts were still selected from the last four competing teams. The format remained the same for the 1972 and 1976 tournaments, though the Home Nations were no longer limited to their own qualification group.

For the 1980 edition the finals tournament was expanded to eight teams and the hosts were selected prior to the competition commencing. 1980 was also the final year that a third-place play-off was held. As UEFA membership grew, so too did the finals; to 16 in 1996 and to 24 from 2016. The ever evolving nature of the tournament and UEFA's membership has required regular tweaks to the qualification process, with post-group play-offs used as required.

The biggest change to the format of the tournament in a generation will occur for the 2020 edition. The finals will not be held in a host country, but instead in thirteen host cities across Europe. This however is expected to be on a one-off basis as a celebration of the competition's 60th anniversary. Qualification will also change, with the "back door" opportunity for teams to qualify through the UEFA Nations' League.

Notable Northern Ireland Qualifying Campaigns:
  • 1964 - In their first tournament, Northern Ireland were knocked-out in the first round (having defeated Poland in a preliminary round) by eventual champions, Spain. Having held the Spanish to a 1-1 draw in Bilbao, a second-half goal by Gento put Northern Ireland out 2-1 on aggregate.
  • 1972 - Already out of the running for qualification, Northern Ireland's last home match, against Spain, was postponed due to the ongoing Troubles and eventually played in Hull, England.
  • 1976 - This tournament marked Northern Ireland's first match in Belfast for three-and-a-half years as Yugoslavia were defeated 1-0 at Windsor Park. The campaign was otherwise poor, with disappointing defeats at the hands of a poor Norway and an under-appreciated Sweden, but a sufficient win in the final match in Yugoslavia would have seen Northern Ireland qualify for the quarter-finals - they lost 1-0.
  • 1980 - Northern Ireland faced the Republic of Ireland for the first time in a senior international, drawing 0-0 and winning 1-0. Although they finished second, they were a long way short of group winners, England.
  • 1984 - Northern Ireland became the first side to defeat West Germany home and away in a qualification series. However, a draw with Albania and a defeat by (then minnows) Turkey meant they finish second on goal difference and failed to qualify.
  • 1992 - Although never really in the running for qualification, Northern Ireland's group provided some interest as winners Yugoslavia were expelled from the tournament due to civil war. Group runners-up Denmark replaced them in the finals, and won the trophy.
  • 1996 - Northern Ireland finished third in the group, behind runners-up the Republic of Ireland, on head-to-head record. The Republic lost out on a place in the finals in a one-off play-off match against the Netherlands at Anfield.
  • 2004 - Northern Ireland endure their worst ever qualifying campaign. In the midst of their infamous goal drought they finish bottom of the group without a win.
  • 2008 - If the results on the final game-day had gone their way, Northern Ireland could have qualified in second place. Wins over all of the groups strongest teams (Spain (the eventual winners), Sweden and Denmark) were offset by defeats against the minnows (Iceland and Latvia). David Healy's thirteen goals set a record for the most in the qualification stages of the tournament.
  • 2016 - Northern Ireland qualify for the first time, becoming the first ever fifth seeded team to top their qualifying group.
Northern Ireland's Record in the European Championship:
Finals
Hosts
Entrants
Northern Ireland's Record
Qualifiers
Finals
Group
Pos
Pl
W
D
L
GF
GA
I
1960
France
17
4
Did not enter
II
1964
Spain
29
4
Q-KO
1R
4
2
1
1
5
2
III
1968
Italy
31
4
Q-8
4/4
6
1
1
4
2
8
IV
1972
Belgium
32
4
Q-4
3/4
6
2
2
2
10
6
V
1976
Yugoslavia
32
4
Q-3
2/4
6
3
0
3
8
5
VI
1980
Italy
31(+1)
8
Q-1
2/5
8
4
1
3
8
14
VII
1984
France
32(+1)
8
Q-6
2/5
8
5
1
2
8
5
VIII
1988
West Germany
32(+1)
8
Q-4
3/4
6
1
1
4
2
10
IX
1992
Sweden
33(+1)
8
Q-4
3/5
8
2
3
3
11
11
X
1996
England
47(+1)
16
Q-6
3/6
10
5
2
3
20
15
XI
2000
Belgium/Netherlands
49(+2)
16
Q-3
4/5
8
1
2
5
4
19
XII
2004
Portugal
50(+1)
16
Q-6
5/5
8
0
3
5
0
8
XIII
2008
Austria/Switzerland
50(+2)
16
Q-F
3/7
12
6
2
4
17
14
XIV
2012
Poland/Ukraine
51(+2)
16
Q-C
5/6
10
2
3
5
9
13
XV
2016
France (in progress)
53(+1)
24
Q-F
1/6
10
6
3
1
16
8
F-2
3/4
4
1
0
3
2
3
XVI
2020
Europe-wide
tbd
24
Q-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
XVII
2024
tbd
tbd
-
Q-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
110
40
25
45
120
138

Records:
Most Appearances: 31 Keith Gillespie (1994-2007) and Aaron Hughes (1998-date)
Most Tournaments Played In: 5 Pat Jennings (1968-1984), Sammy McIlroy (1972-1988) and Aaron Hughes (2000-2016)
Most Goals Scored Total: 13 David Healy (2002-2011)
Most Goals in a Campaign: 13 David Healy (2008)

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