World Cup vs Euro

World Cup vs Euros – The Ultimate Showdown

Last updated on January 20th, 2022

There are quite a few international football competitions, where teams from different countries will play against each other.

If you’re from Europe, you may have seen your country participate in both the World Cup and the Euros. However, which one is better, and how are these competitions different?

Here’s what you need to know:

World Cup Soccer: History, Finals, ...
World Cup Soccer: History, Finals, Winners & Host Nations
The difference between the World Cup and Euros

The World Cup is an intercontinental competition that includes countries from all 6 different continents, while the Euros only involves countries in Europe (UEFA).

Here is an in-depth comparison between these 2 competitions:

Number of teams involved

The World Cup has 32 teams in the actual tournament, where it is split into 8 groups of 4 teams.

Meanwhile, the Euros has slightly lesser teams with 24, which will be split into 6 groups of 4 teams.

The number of teams increased from 16 to 24 teams in Euro 2016.

As such, there will be a greater variety in the teams that participate in the World Cup, compared to the Euros.

This only measures the number of teams in the main competition. There will be quite a few teams that were involved in the qualifying rounds which do not make the cut.

Number of continents involved

The World Cup involves countries from all over the world. However, there is a limit to how many teams per continent can feature in the World Cup:

ContinentNumber of Countries
Asia4 or 5
Africa5
North, Central America
and the Caribbean
3 or 4
South America4 or 5
Oceania0 or 1
Europe13
Host1

These limits were decided in 2015 for the next few World Cups, until 2022.

The host will automatically for the competition, which leaves 31 more slots for the other teams.

Europe has the most number of slots at 13! The next continent with the second-highest number of teams includes both Asia and South America.

Meanwhile, the Euros only involve countries that are a part of UEFA, which consist of 55 member countries in the association.

Frequency of the competition

Both the World Cup and the Euros happen once every 4 years. They are usually spaced apart and do not clash with each other.

For example, the World Cup will be held in 2022 and 2026, while the Euros will be held in 2024 and 2028.

This may be done to ensure that the competitions do not ‘outdo’ each other.

The World Cup is also held 2 years apart from the Olympics. With many restrictions being placed on Olympic football, it is no wonder why it is much less popular compared to the World Cup.

Duration of the competition

Both the World Cup and the Euros are usually held over the course of one month. Both competitions usually start in June, one month after most football seasons end in May.

They will both run all the way till the end of July.

Format of competition

Both the World Cup and the Euros consist of a group stage, and then a knockout round.

The top 2 teams from each group will progress onto the knockout round of the tournament.

However, there is another way that teams from the Euros can qualify for the knockout rounds. All of the third placed teams in the 6 groups will be compared, and the top 4 teams out of these 6 third-placed teams will progress to the next round.

If you’re wondering what happens if the top teams have the same points in the group stages, you can check out this article to find out more.

As a result, the knockout rounds for both competitions will start with the round of 16, even though the Euros only has 24 teams!

Presence of third-place match

For the World Cup, a third-place match will be held between the losers of both semi-finals in the World Cup.

However, this is not seen in the Euros, who do not have a third-placed match ever since the 1980 Euros.

Number of matches

Assuming that your team is able to reach the final of the World Cup or Euros, your team will play 7 matches from the start of the tournament.

RoundNumber
of Matches
Group Stages3
Round of 161
Quarter-Finals1
Semi-Finals1
Final / Third-
placed match
1

Squad size

Both the World Cup and the Euros have the same squad size (23). This is slightly lower compared to club competitions like the Champions League which allow 25 players and an unlimited amount of homegrown players.

The squad size for the Euros was increased to 26 in Euro 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qualification for competition

Both competitions have a qualifying round to make it to the final tournament.

Usually, the hosts of both competitions will automatically qualify for the tournament. In the case of Euro 2020, there were 11 host countries, so no country had automatic qualification.

For the World Cup, each association will have their own qualifying competition. This will differ among the associations, as there will be a different number of countries that qualify from each association.

For the Euros, there is a competition to qualify as one of the 24 teams in the competition.

All of the member countries of UEFA will be drawn into 10 groups, depending on their ranking from the UEFA Nations League. The top 2 of each group will qualify as the first 20 teams of the Euros.

Meanwhile, the top 16 teams (based on the performances of the UEFA Nations League) who did not already qualify for the Euros will play in the qualifying play-offs.

This made it important to perform well in the UEFA Nations League, if your country is looking to enter the Euros!

Rewards for winning competition

When your country wins the World Cup, it is considered to be one of the greatest honours to win as a footballer. This is because your country will be considered to be the best footballing team in the world.

Some people may say that the Champions League may be better than the World Cup, but it’s really up to your discretion!

If your country wins the Euros, it will signify that your country is the best in UEFA.

Verdict

Here is a summary of the comparison between these 2 competitions:

World CupEuros
Number of
Countries
3224
Number of
Continents
61 (Europe)
Frequency of
Competition
Every 4 yearsEvery 4 years
Duration of
Competition
1 month1 month
Format of
Competition
Group stage +
knockout round (RO16)
Group stage +
knockout round (RO16)
Third Place
Match?
PresentAbsent
Number of
Matches
Up to 7Up to 7
Squad Size2323
QualificationWorld Cup 
Qualifiers
Euro qualifiers
(top 2 from each team)

Euro qualifying playoffs
(best 16 teams based on
UEFA Nations League)
Automatic
Qualification
Only for hostsOnly for hosts
Rewards for 
Winning
Competition
Best country
in the world
Best country
in UEFA

Is the Euros harder than the World Cup?

The Euros may be perceived to be harder than the World Cup, since most of the stronger teams in the world are European countries.

Here are some reasons why the Euros may be considered to be harder than the World Cup:

#1 Some of the best teams may fail to qualify

There are some European teams who, on paper, should be the top teams in the world. However, the World Cup only allocates 13 slots for European countries.

For example, both Netherlands and Italy failed to make it to the 2018 World Cup.

Both of these teams are arguably a few of the stronger teams in Europe, so the World Cup may have been ‘easier’ without these 2 teams.

#2 There are more mismatched teams in the World Cup than in the Euros

There may be some teams from other continents apart from Europe that may be seem to be ‘weaker’, which may ‘dilute’ the quality of the competition.

For example, Panama featured in the 2018 World Cup, as there had to be at least 3 teams from CONCACAF (North America) that should feature in a World Cup.

However, things did not go so well for Panama as they lost all 3 of their games in the group stages of the World Cup.

Given that their FIFA ranking is around the 60s, they may not have even qualified for the Euros!

Is the World Cup better than the Euros?

The World Cup may be considered to be better than the Euros, as it includes other top teams in the world, particularly those from South America (e.g. Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay). This adds to the quality of the teams that feature in the competition.

If we look at the top countries based on the FIFA rankings, not all of these countries come from Europe. Some of them come from other continents too, such as:

  1. Brazil
  2. Argentina
  3. Mexico

Since the World Cup includes all continents in the tournament, it will allow all of these countries to feature in the tournament.

South American teams are rather strong too

Although the World Cup finals have mainly been dominated by European teams, there have been some South American teams that feature too.

If we look at the number of World Cup wins by European teams compared to South American teams, they are actually not that far behind!

As such, having top teams from other continents competing in the World Cup may result in an increase in the overall quality of the competition.

Do the Euro winners qualify for the World Cup?

Winning the Euros will not result in your country receiving automatic qualification for the World Cup. Your country’s team will still need to participate in the European World Cup Qualifiers, but they may receive a higher seeding due to their performance in the Euros.

If your country wins the Euros, it mainly means that your country is the best team in UEFA.

However, the results of the Euros do not directly impact whether your team automatically qualifies for the World Cup.

Instead, your country’s FIFA World Ranking may be higher due to their performance in the Euros.

If your country is one of the top-ranked teams in UEFA, they may have a greater chance of qualifying for the World Cup!

Conclusion

Both the World Cup and Euros are the top international competitions in the world. Since the World Cup includes top teams from other continents (especially South America), it may actually have a higher prestige compared to the Euros.

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