It was the first European Championship to feature 16 finalists, following UEFA's decision to expand the tournament from eight teams. Games were staged in eight cities and, although not all games were sold out, the tournament holds the European Championship's second-highest aggregate attendance (1,276,000) and average per game (41,158) for the 16-team format, surpassed only in 2012. It was also the first European Championships where 3 points for a win were awarded during the qualification and group stages, following the previous system of 2 points being awarded for a win, reflecting the growing use of this system in domestic leagues throughout the world during the previous decade.
Germany won the tournament, beating the Czech Republic 2–1 in the final with a golden goal during extra time; this was the first major competition to be decided using this method. This was also Germany's first major title won as a unified nation.
At the time of the bidding process, it had not yet been confirmed that sixteen teams would be participating. Instead, the bids were largely prepared as if hosting an eight-team tournament, meaning only four venues were due to be required. All candidates had to submit their plans by 10 December 1991.
The hosting of the event was contested by five bids: Austria, England, Greece, the Netherlands and Portugal. The English bid was selected by the UEFA Executive Committee at a meeting in Lisbon on 5 May 1992. In the year preceding the decision, the English FA had dropped plans to also bid for the 1998 World Cup in order to gain the support of other UEFA members who were planning to bid for that event.
The hosts, England, drew 1–1 with Switzerland in the opening match of Group A when Alan Shearer's 23rd-minute goal was equalled by a late Kubilay Türkyilmaz penalty kick. England defeated rivals Scotland 2–0 in their next game, and then produced one of their finest performances ever with a 4–1 win over the Netherlands. Patrick Kluivert's late goal for the Netherlands secured his team second place in the group and ensured that Scotland would exit another major competition on goal difference.