With the European Championships kicking off last week in France, football fever has once again gripped the nation. Of course, the last time that France held a major football competition was in 1998 when it hosted the World Cup. Since then 18 years have passed and while the French national team went on to win the World Cup in 1998 and a European Championships in the year 2000, the England team have failed to win either during that time.

Of course, the disappointment of football fans in the last 18 years isn’t dissimilar to the feeling felt by investors in the UK’s main stock market, the FTSE 100 (INDEXFTSE: UKX). That’s because the FTSE 100, like the England team, hasn’t been a winning entity since 1998. In fact, the FTSE 100 is trading at the same level as it was in the summer of that year.

Clearly, there are a number of key reasons for this poor performance. For example, the dot.com bubble burst in and around the year 2000 and this sent the FTSE 100 downwards at a rapid rate. Then there followed the tragic events of 9/11 when there was a huge amount of uncertainty among investors across the globe. And while economic growth in the handful of years following 9/11 proved to be relatively strong, this was undone by the impact of the credit crunch in 2008/09.

Since the credit crunch, the commodity crisis has caused the FTSE 100’s performance to be held back, while US interest rate rises have also caused investors across the globe to become somewhat fearful about the potential for a sustained US economic recovery.

Growth potential

So, while the FTSE 100’s performance has been poor since 1998, there have been clear reasons why that was the case. Looking ahead, there are risks on the horizon such as the EU referendum and the US Presidential race, but with the FTSE 100 trading at the same level as it was 18 years ago it could offer significant growth potential over the next couple of decades.

For example, the FTSE 100 trades on a yield of just over 4% at the present time. This is the highest yield on offer since the credit crunch and indicates that the FTSE 100 is cheap and has significant upside potential.

Furthermore, with the US economy performing well and the Federal Reserve likely to only raise rates at a pace that doesn’t put the economic recovery at risk, the outlook for global growth is relatively bright. In addition, China’s transition towards a consumer-focused economy continues to offer excellent growth opportunities for a wide range of consumer-focused FTSE 100 companies.

So, while 18 years without any capital gains is a very disappointing statistic, the outlook for the next 18 years is very bright and the FTSE 100 seems to be worth buying right now.

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Peter Stephens has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.