The European championship is upon us once again. This is a tournament that has produced some brilliant moments in football history. On the cards, we are certain to have some fantastic football, some unthinkable upsets, and some fatal showings. It is a tournament that promises plot twists and turns greater than the game of thrones series.
As usual with each tournament, there are bound to be some unfortunate team being dubbed as favourites (read: the English team), and some fantastic teams resting on the laurels of one man (insert Ronaldo’s calm down celebration), but if there’s one thing that has never ceased to be a constant in this tournament, it has got to be talent.
This article isn’t going to be based on some kids who still have to worry about passing their GSCEs or kids too young and financially unintelligent to understand what a lease is. This article is dedicated to the Veterans, the real men, who by virtue of age, might be going to this tournament for the last time (because THIS IS SPARTA!!!).
This year, 24 teams shall be vying for a chance to lay their hands on the prized jewel (Smeagol’s PRECIOUS! P-R-E-C-I-U-O-S!!!), and we shall be looking at a player from each team that might be playing in their last European Championship.
He was born in 1981 in Dakar, Senegal. The rest is history that isn’t important to this article. He made his debut in August, 2004 in a friendly match against Bosnia and Herzegovina. His first European championship was in 2008 and he took part in the last championship as well. A former captain and a very dependable left back; he is the leader in the dressing room and very much a leader on the pitch. He plies his trade with Juventus football club of Italy, and he’s a first team player despite having spent most of his supposed best days at Manchester United. He’s an energetic fullback, with quality crosses, good tackling and good pace even as he’s 35.
FUN FACT: Evra developed a knack for scoring goals late in his career and despite double figures in numbers of caps, he’s yet to score a goal for the blues (plays reggae). It will definitely give him something to cheer about winning this tournament on home soil. Who knows, he might just score the winning goal in the final.
DO YOU KNOW? Evra was the player who led the team’s protest at the 2010 world cup despite being captain, after the whole Nicolas Anelka fracas.
The 29 year old Leicester forward has had a tremendous year. Some years back he was playing in a non-league side and today he is a premier league winner with Leicester football club, scoring 24 times. His rise to prominence was so remarkable that talks of Wayne Rooney losing his place to him in the English side surfaced. A player with an amazing bust of pace, an incredible work rate and a wicked eye for goals; He is expected to partner Harry Kane in the side, in his first and possibly last Euro tournament for the English side.
FUN FACT: Jamie Vardy, after getting signed by Leicester used to show up drunk to training because he had no idea what to do with his life anymore. He has scored a total of 113 goals in a total of 227 club matches, spanning from his old sides FC Halifax, Fleetwood Town to his current side Leicester City. He has been voted players’ player of the season for every club he has played for.
DID YOU KNOW: if you type the phrase “chat shit, get banged” on Google, every page you click will tell you a thing or two about Jamie Vardy? The phrase was culled from his twitter way before he got this famous and gets tweeted by fans with every goal he scores. No FUCHS given!
He currently plies his trade with Manchester United. In his days, he was a midfielder with so much ball playing qualities. His passes were neat and clinical, his work rate was impressive – a Van Gaal favourite. He got his first call up to the senior side in 2004 and he’s currently the side’s captain.
FUN FACT: Bastian originally started as a right winger with Bayern Munich until the arrival of Van Gaal, who turned him into a central midfielder. He has over 100 caps and 23 goals to his name. He’s a survivor of the team that came second in the 2008 European championships.
DO YOU KNOW? Bastian Schweinsteiger is referred to as Basti by fans because he has a senior brother who also played for Bayern Munich, albeit in the reserve team.
He is a defensive midfielder cum centre back who plies his trade in Kazakhstan with Kairat football club. He is a UEFA cup and UEFA super cup winner with Zenit St. Petersburg, and a UEFA Champions league winner with Bayern Munich. Tymo is currently the captain of the Ukrainian side. Comfortable with the ball on his feet and he’s got a keen eye for ferocious shots. His first participation in the European Championship was in 2012. The first time Ukraine made it to the Euros.
FUN FACT: Tymo is the only second player with more than 100 caps for the Ukrainian side after Andriy Shevshencko with more caps than the former AC Milan striker. He has a total of 691 club games with 71 goals to his name.
DO YOU KNOW? In 2011, Tymo came on top of a poll to determine the most important player in Ukraine’s history of the game. He’s the most revered player in Ukrainian football according to the fans of Ukrainian football.
He is a currently a free agent as at the time of writing this article, after playing his last match for Arsenal Football club. An attacking midfielder nicknamed the “little Mozart” for his orchestrating abilities. Blessed with a ferocious fire power, vision and intelligence, Rosicky is a thorn on his day. He made his debut for the national side in 2000 and played in his first Euros the same year. He’s 35 now and a lot slower than he used to be, but if his last game for Arsenal is anything to go by, then you should know class is a permanent thing.
FUN FACT: He was once the most expensive player in the German Bundesliga after signing for Borussia Dortmund from Sparta Prague. He is also the most expensive Czech player ever exported from the Bundesliga when he signed for Arsenal Football club. Arsene Wenger has dubbed him with all kinds of adulation such as “technically top class”.
DO YOU KNOW? He once played guitar during a live performance with a rock band called Tri sestry. He picked up the guitar skills during his time injured.
He is a goalkeeper who currently plies his trade with FC Porto of Portugal. He’s a brilliant, or rather was goalkeeper, with quick reflexes and he had a thing for making outrageous saves. He was one time rated as the best goalkeeper in the world – often made it was hard to decide who was better between him and Gigi Buffon. He made his debut for the Spanish side in June 2000 at the age of 19. His first Euros was in Portugal in 2004.
FUN FACT: He’s appeared in 4 FIFA world cups, and this will be his 4th European championship. He’s only second to Raul as the most capped players in Real Madrid history. He’s made a record of 167 caps for the national side. He holds the record for the most consecutive votes in the FIFPro World XI as well as UEFA team of the year.
DO YOU KNOW? Casillas is the youngest goalkeeper to have ever played in the Champions League final.
An Italian international since 1997, Buffon is the legend other goalkeeping legends aspire to be. A Juventus and Italian legend with numerous Serie A titles and a world cup win, his cat like reflexes separates him from the rest. In his generation, there’s only one goalkeeper who can be mentioned in the same breath as him (Iker Casillas). Buffon first Euros was in the 2004 – he got injured just days before Italy’s first game in the 2000 edition.
FUN FACT: Buffon holds the record for the most caps for an Italian international. He’s also the record clean sheet holder for the Azzuris. He’s the most expensive goalkeeper in the world. He has the record of the least goals conceded by a world cup winning goalkeeper with just 2 goals. He is the goalkeeper with the most minutes without conceding goals in the Euros qualifying stage.
DO YOU KNOW? While at Parma, Buffon revoked his number one jersey for a number 88 jersey but faced heavy criticism for it, the reason being the numbers significance with the Nazis movement of World War II. He however changed it to a number 77 after carefully researching the meaning.
He currently plays for MLS side, LA Galaxy. He is a striker mostly remembered for his time at Tottenham. His first cap for the national side was in March 1998. He holds the record of playing the most games for the national side. He is also the national side’s highest goalscorer.
FUN FACT: Considered one of the golden generation of the Irish side in the 90s, he was part of the team that won the under 18 Euros in Cyprus in 1998. He also partook in the WYC held in Nigeria in 1999. The same tournament a lot of stars made their name known to the world as youngsters, players like Casillas, Pablo Aimar, and Ronaldinho.
DO YOU KNOW? Keane is the tenth highest goal scorer in Tottenham’s history.
He is currently a free agent, after choosing not to renew his contract with PSG. He earned his first cap in 2001. His first Euros was at the 2012 edition. The national side’s goal scorer, he has 62 goals in 112 appearances.
FUN FACT: Zlatan has 392 club career goals in 677 appearances. He’s adored by fans over the internet for his arrogance more than his football. A scorer of amazingly good goals, he once dribbled half a team, scoring in the process, in a match for Ajax, after a fracas with then teammate Van Der Vaart
DO YOU KNOW? It is claimed that the reason Zlatan was loaned to AC Milan was because he threatened to beat Guardiola in public after their relationship broke down.
He is a striker cum attacking midfielder for Iceland. A former Chelsea and Barcelona player; he currently plays for Molde football club. He is a well-travelled player but he however spent most of his time in England. He made his debut in 1996, so far earning 84 caps and scoring 25 goals.
FUN FACT: Eidur played a total of 387 games and scored 112 goals in England. That era of his career remains his productive time ever. His best season is the 2001-02 season, playing 47 games and scoring 23 goals all at Chelsea.
DO YOU KNOW? Eidur used to have a gambling problem, losing about £400,000 in casinos over a five month period in 2003.
Another ex-Chelsea player on the way out of international football. Ricardo also played for Real Madrid defender but currently plays for Monaco. He made his debut for Portugal in 2003. His first Euros was at the 2004 edition in his home country. He was a finalist losing to surprise winners Greece. His time at Porto under Mourinho shot him into prominence and he established himself as one of the best defenders of his generation while at Chelsea.
FUN FACT: He was part of the Mourinho Porto team that won the Champions League, voted the best defender of the tournament. His partnership with John Terry is still regarded as one of the best centre back pairings the premier league has ever seen, helping Chelsea to win their first EPL trophy under Mourinho.
DO YOU KNOW? After winning the EPL in the 2003-04 season, Mourinho dropped Carvalho for the first game of the season and he made comments about the decision being incomprehensible, earning him a nasty reply and an £85,000 fine from Mourinho.
Article by: Lekan Ibrahim, @thislekan