Russia have a fascinating history in the UEFA European Championship. As the Soviet Union (USSR)*, they were one of the world’s best teams from 1960 to 1972, winning the 1960 European Nations’ Cup, and finishing runners-up in the European Championship in both 1964 and 1972. The Soviet Union also finished second at Euro 1988 in West Germany.
Since Russia have had to go it alone, though, they have only progressed past the group stage on one occasion, reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2008. It is no great surprise Russia did not have the same impact on the footballing stage as the USSR given that almost half the population was made up of non-Russian Soviet states (such as Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic States).
*Note that Russia was previously part of the Soviet Union (USSR); after the breakup of the USSR in 1991, Russia competed at football as part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), before later competing as a single nation. Their first European Championship as Russia was in England at Euro 1996.
UEFA European Championship Results
At the 1960 European Nations’ Cup, held in France, the USSR left with the gold medal, beating Yugoslavia 2-1 in the final in Paris. They were then runners-up in Spain in 1964 (losing to the hosts) and then again in Belgium in 1972 when West Germany won the tournament. At Euro 1988 – when eight teams were involved in the finals – the Soviet Union finished second again, this time losing in the final to the Netherlands.
Their best result in recent history was at Euro 2008, when team Russia caused something of an upset by reaching the last four. The Russians finished second in the group behind eventual winners Spain, who beat them 3-0 in Vienna in the semi-finals.
|Year||Host||Stage of Elimination (Position)||Manager||Top Scorer (Goals)|
|2020||Europe||Group Stage (19th)||Stanislav Cherchesov||Alexsei Miranchuk (1) & Artem Dzyuba (1)|
|2016||France||Group Stage (23rd)||Leonid Slutsky||Denis Glushakov (1) & Vasili Berezutski (1)|
|2012||Poland & Ukraine||Group Stage (9th)||Dick Advocaat||Alan Dzagoev (3)|
|2008||Austria & Switzerland||Semi final (3rd)||Guus Hiddink||Roman Pavlyuchenko (3)|
|2004||Portugal||Group Stage (10th)||Georgi Yartsev||Dmitri Bulykin (1) & Dmitri Kirichenko (1)|
|1996||England||Group Stage (14th)||Oleg Romantsev||Vladimir Beschastnykh (1), Aleksandr Mostovoi (1), Omari Tetradze (1) & Ilya Tsymbalar (1)|
|1992||Sweden||Group Stage (8th)||Anatoliy Byshovets||Igor Dobrovolski (1)|
|1988||Germany||Final (2nd)||Valeriy Lobanovskyi||Oleh Protasov (2)|
|1972||Germany||Final (2nd)||Oleksandr Ponomarov||Anatoliy Konkov (1)|
|1968||Italy||Semi finals (4th)||Mikhail Yakushin||No goalscorers|
|1964||Spain||Final (2nd)||Konstantin Beskov||Viktor Ponedelnik (1), Valery Voronin (1), Valentin Ivanov (1) & Galimzyan Khusainov (1)|
|1960||France||Winners (1st)||Gavriil Kachalin||Valentin Ivanov (2) & Viktor Ponedelnik (2)|
When Did Russia Last Win the Euros?
Since the Russia have been competing as a single nation, they have never won the Euros. However, as the USSR they won the inaugural tournament in France in 1960. This remains the only time they have won the Euros.
Times Russia Have Won the Euros
Euro 1960 (USSR)
Victory for the USSR in the very first European Championship 1960 (then called the European Nations’ Cup) is the only time they have won the European Championship, whether competing as the Soviet Union, the CIS or as Russia.
Four teams participated in that championship, with USSR beating Czechoslovakia 3-0 in the semi finals, before overcoming Yugoslavia 2-1 in the final. The Soviets went a goal down in the final in Paris but hit back through Slava Metreveli. The game went to extra time but the decisive strike came from Viktor Ponedelnik in the 113th minute to hand the USSR the triumph.
Best Other Performances
The Soviet Union were a European powerhouse for over a decade, but the tournament back in the 1960s and 1970s was far different to the competition that we know and love these days. Their performance at Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland remains their best showing by far in modern times.
The Russians, who were then managed by Guus Hiddink, finished second in Group D, losing 4-1 to Spain in their first outing before beating Greece (1-0) and Sweden (2-0). Hiddink’s boys then caused a big upset in the quarter-finals, seeing off Holland (3-1) after extra-time. Unfortunately for them, they went up against a formidable Spain outfit in the last four, losing 3-0 to the eventual champions.
Aside from their 1960 tournament win, their three runners-up spots of 1964, 1972 and 1988 mark Russia’s (or USSR’s, more accurately) best performances. The first two of those tournaments only included four teams, however, whereas the 1988 tournament had eight teams competing. That tournament has to be marked out as their best performance since 1960, and it possibly even eclipses that.
They topped their group which also included one of the strongest Netherlands sides for years, England and the Republic of Ireland, beating the Dutch and the English and drawing with Ireland. They then beat Italy 2-0 in the semi final, before once again meeting Netherlands in the final. This time the Dutch made no mistake and goals from two of the game’s great players – Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten meant the USSR has to settle for the runners-up spot.
Overall, the nation – in its various guises – has taken part in 11 European Championships, five times at the Soviet Union, once as CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) and on five occasions as Russia.
Golden Boot/Top Goalscorers
At the first European Championship in France in 1960, five players finished on top of the scoring charts, including Soviet Union’s Viktor Ponedelnik and Valentin Ivanov. All five men finished on two goals.
|Year||Host||Player||Number of Goals||Top Scorers|
|1960||France||Valentin Ivanov & Viktor Ponedelnik||2 each||François Heutte, Milan Galić & Dražan Jerković|
Note that at Euro 2012 there were six players who ended the tournament having scored three goals, including Russia’s Alan Dzagoev. The Golden Boot was awarded to Spain’s Fernando Torres who – despite having the same number of assists as Germany’s Mario Gomez (who also scored three goals) – had fewer game minutes, hence a better goal to playing time ratio.
Times Russia Didn’t Qualify for the Euros
The Soviet Union were not able to qualify for the tournaments in 1976, 1980 and 1984, while Russia have only failed to qualify for one European Championship. Russia missed out on Euro 2000 in cruel fashion, finishing just a point behind Ukraine – who were runners-up to France – in qualifying Group 4. Despite winning six of ten matches, the Russians finished two points behind winners France, and one point adrift of the Ukrainians, who took the play-off spot.
|2000||Belgium & Netherlands||Oleg Romantsev||10||6||1||3|
|1976||Yugoslavia||Valeriy Lobanovskyi & Oleh Bazylevych||8||4||1||3|
Russia failed to get out of the group stage in 1996, 2004, 2012, 2016 and 2020. They were particularly poor in France in 2016, finishing bottom of Group B. They started with an excellent point, holding England to a 1-1 draw in Marseille. However, they were then narrowly beaten by Slovakia (2-1) and were thumped 3-0 by Wales to end their Euro 2016 campaign on just one point having mustered just two goals. They were officially ranked the joint 19th side out of the 24 nations, with only Ukraine performing worse.
2020 wasn’t much better, conceding seven in the group stage and finishing bottom of their group. This included an absolute battering by Belgium (3-0) and the Netherlands (4-1), and of the two goals they managed to score in 3 games, one was a penalty. The manager, Stanislav Cherchesov, departed after the team crashed out of the competition.