July 05, 2016

PARIS (AP) Home advantage has counted little for host nations in recent European Championship history.

Since the finals tournament era kicked off in 1980, only France has kept the trophy at home - 32 years ago with Michel Platini in his prime.

France can take some home comfort from this exception ahead of the Euro 2016 semifinals starting Wednesday.

First, Portugal plays Wales in Lyon one day before the French face Germany in Marseille, where captain Platini inspired his team to beat Portugal in a memorable semifinal in 1984.

Still, history teaches us that a semifinal is most often the stumbling stage for home hopes.

Here is how five European Championship hosts fell short of glory:

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PORTUGAL, 2004

Portugal just had to win the Euro 2004 final. Or so it seemed.

Playing in Lisbon, with a star-packed lineup against a Greece team of journeymen.

Luis Figo was in the team, along with a 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo.

Portugal even had the lesson of an opening-game loss against Greece to learn from.

What could go wrong?

A classic from the Greek playbook: Another 1-0 win built on tight marking, robust defense, a headed goal from a rare scoring chance.

Ronaldo left the field in tears and is yet to win a title with Portugal.

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NETHERLANDS, 2000

How the Netherlands managed to lose a Euro 2000 semifinal is still hard to believe.

After Italy was down to 10 men from the 34th minute in Amsterdam, the Dutch failed with two penalty kicks in 90 minutes and three out of four in the shootout after extra time.

Italy was even without first-choice goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who injured a hand in a pre-tournament friendly.

Francesco Toldo was a capable deputy. The Fiorentina `keeper saved Frank de Boer's first-half spot-kick and watched Patrick Kluivert strike the post in the second half.

Though Kluivert scored in the shootout, De Boer missed again and Italy won it 3-1.

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ENGLAND, 1996

England has never again been as close again to tournament success since a semifinals loss to Germany.

This 1-1 draw at Wembley Stadium is recalled as one of the best in the era of the `Golden Goal' rule, when the first goal scored in extra time ended the game.

An English shot hit the post, what seemed a good a German goal was disallowed, and Paul Gascoigne was a toe's length from connecting on a ball trickling across an empty German goalmouth.

Germany, inevitably, won the penalty shootout and Andreas Moeller celebrated his decisive spot-kick with a chest-strutting, peacock pose.

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SWEDEN, 1992

In the last eight-team European Championship, Sweden was ousted in the semifinals by a newly unified Germany team.

Sweden topped a group that eliminated a Platini-coached France and ended Gary Lineker's England career when Tomas Brolin scored in a 2-1 win.

A West Germany team that won the 1990 World Cup now could call on several East Germany stars including midfielders Matthias Sammer and Thomas Doll.

One of the World Cup winners, Karl-Heinz Riedle, scored twice in a 3-2 win, though Denmark would stop Germany getting back-to-back titles.

For Sweden, the experience was a key step toward reaching another semifinal, at the 1994 World Cup.

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WEST GERMANY, 1988

For once, the Netherlands got the better of neighbor and rival West Germany in a major tournament.

A German team in transition from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to Jurgen Klinsmann leading the attack lost to an exceptional Dutch team in the semifinals.

The teams traded goals from penalties in Hamburg, before Marco van Basten stretched to score an 88th-minute winning goal.

The match is also remembered for what happened after Ronald Koeman, who scored the Dutch equalizer, swapped shirts with Olaf Thon. Koeman then delighted visiting fans by seeming to act out wiping his backside with the white Germany shirt.

Two years later, on its way to winning the World Cup, West Germany beat the Netherlands 2-1 in a bad-tempered Round of 16 match.

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This story has been corrected to remove the reference to Luis Figo ending his international career at Euro 2004. He retired from the national team in 2006.

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