Euro 2020 is upon (albeit a year late because of a global pandemic) and football fever is gripping the nation like never before.
For the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1960, the tournament will not have a host nation. Instead, matches will be played across 11 different venues ranging from Dublin, Ireland to Baku, Azerbaijan. This Pan-European tournament is seen as a ‘romantic one-off’ to celebrate the 60th birthday of the competition.
Portugal are the defending champions of the tournament and they will once again look to their talismanic captain and goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo to fire them to glory. However, they’ll face tough competition from world champions France. and the number one ranked team in the world; Belgium. Of course, there are always threats from Germany, Spain, Italy and maybe England.
This year there are two nations making their debuts at the tournament - Finland and North Macedonia - while the likes of Scotland will be looking to make up for lost time by playing at their first major competition in more than 20 years.
With football comes a multitude of stats and facts and Euro 2020 does not disappoint. However, we aren’t interested in who has scored the most goals or completed the most passes. We are after more alternative takes that might impress your mates or win a few points on the next pub quiz.
1. More players in Spain’s squad have played for Rochdale in the past two years than Real Madrid
In a controversial move, Spain manager Luis Enrique has opted to not take any players from Real Madrid, the most successful team in the nation's history, to the tournament. This is the first time this has ever happened in Spanish football history. To emphasise how rare this is, Spain’s second choice goalkeeper Robert Sanchez, who currently plays for Brighton, once spent time on loan at Rochdale where he played 26 games for the League One side. This is more recent than any player in the current Spain squad has pulled on the famous white shirt of the Spanish giants.
More players in Spain's Euro 2020 squad played for Rochdale than for Real Madrid in 2019-20. https://t.co/YJ9CLUEqQU— Richard Jolly (@Richard Jolly) 1621853639
2. Goran Pandev made his debut for North Macedonia before 9/11
37-year-old Goran Pandev is the oldest captain at the tournament and it will be a proud moment for the veteran when he leads his nation out for their first-ever major tournament game against Austria on 13th June. This will be just 8 days after the anniversary of his first-ever game for the Eastern European nation having made his debut for the Lynxes on 6th June 2001. This was so long ago that the World Trade Centre in New York City was still standing. He was just 17-years-old at the time.
3. Pepe was born on the same day Michael Jackson’s Thriller reached the top of the US billboard charts
Pandev is not actually the oldest player at the tournament. That honour belongs to Portugal’s Pepe who was born on 26th February 1983. He was born on the same day that Michael Jackson’s acclaimed album became the number one album in the US billboard charts. This was the star’s first-ever number one record.
4. The last time Karim Benzema played in an international tournament for France, Barack Obama was still US president
Despite being one of the best strikers in Europe, Karim Benzema hasn’t played in a major competition for France since the 2014 World Cup. This is due to his alleged part in the blackmailing of fellow French player Mathieu Valbuena who was reportedly involved in a sex tape scandal, for which Benzema was arrested and faces trial.
There was political pressure to drop Benzema from the squad which manager Didier Deschamps bowed to. This caused Benzema to miss Euro 2016 and France’s victory at the 2018 World Cup. Benzema was recalled by Deschamps for the first time in six years for this year's competition when the manager decided to bury the hatchet. The last time he competed for Les Blues on a major stage Barack Obama was still president, Britain was still in the EU and TikTok hadn’t even been launched.
Les 2️⃣6️⃣ Bleus qui partiront sur les routes de l’Europe ! 🇫🇷 #FiersdetreBleus https://t.co/HfochGPPen— Equipe de France ⭐⭐ (@Equipe de France ⭐⭐) 1621362178
5. The last time Scotland played at a major international football tournament, Kylian Mbappe wasn’t even born.
Scotland returns to the major international scene this summer after a 22-year absence. The last time the Tartan Army played a game a Euros or World Cup was way back in 1998 when they lost 3-0 to Morocco on 23rd June. To put in perspective how long ago this was France’s Kylian Mbappe, who is one of the best players in the world and contender for the best player at Euro 2020, wasn’t even born. The 22-year-old was born on 20th December 1998.
6. There are more players who play their club football in Japan, Canada, China and USA than Azerbaijan at the tournament, despite them being a host nation
Azerbaijan will make history at this year's tournament by becoming the first-ever Caucasus nation to host a game at a major tournament. The nation will host four games at the Baku Olympic Stadium despite the fact that Azerbaijan has never qualified for a Euros or World Cup. In addition, not a single player at the tournament plays their club football in Japan. In fact, there are more players who play their football on different continents at the tournament. They are:
- Thomas Vermaelen, Belgium, Vissel Kobe (JAP)
- Lassi Lappalainen, Finland, CF Montreal (CAN)
- Robin Lon, Finland, Minnesota United (USA)
- Jukka Raitala, Finland, Minnesota United (USA)
- Marko Arnautovic, Austria, Shanghai Port (CHI)
- Przemyslaw Frankowski, Poland, Chicago Fire (USA)
- Jan Gregus, Slovakia, Minnesota United (USA)
- Gustav Svensson, Sweden, Guangzhou City (CHI)
- Marcus Danielson, Sweden, Dailan Professional (CHI)
- Daniel Gazdag, Hungary, Philadelphia Union (USA)
- Szabolcs Schon, Hungary, FC Dallas (USA)
This is no slight on Azerbaijan. Just further proof that football truly is a global game.
7. Daniel O’Shaughnessy is Finnish not Irish
Unless you are a Cheltenham Town supporter we doubt you will have heard of 26-year-old defender Daniel O’Shaughnessy, who broke through at The Robins between 2016-2018. Despite his Irish sounding surname O’Shaughnessy actually represents Finland having been born to an Irish father and Finnish mother. Finland also has a player called Robert Taylor.
𝐇𝐮𝐮𝐡𝐤𝐚𝐣𝐚𝐭 𝐤𝐢𝐬𝐨𝐢𝐡𝐢𝐧! | 𝐎𝐮𝐫 𝐬𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐄𝐔𝐑𝐎𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟎! 🦉🇫🇮 Ensimmäistä kertaa. Koko Suomi on valmis yhteiseen matkaan. For… https://t.co/LWSiD4NReJ— Huuhkajat (@Huuhkajat) 1622571095
Other players with names that you wouldn’t usually associate with their country include Thomas Delaney (Denmark), Marlos (Ukraine) and Mario Fernandes (Russia) which just goes to show that you cannot know everything about someone just by their name. They are just a number of multinational footballers who will be at the tournament this summer.
8. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more international goals than 18 teams at Euro 2020
It is unlikely that there will ever be another footballer quite like Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese legend has scored 103 goals in 173 games for his country and you can bet on him adding more this summer. The huge amount of goals puts him second on the all-time international goalscorers list just six behind Iran’s Ali Daei. Astonishingly, Ronaldo’s international goals are more than the entire current squads of 18 different teams at Euro 2020.
At the time of writing they are:
Italy (83 goals), Turkey (79), Wales (70), Denmark (102), Finland (68), Russia (76), Austria (85), Netherlands (89), North Macedonia (102), Ukraine (82), Croatia (102), Czech Rep (66), England (82), Scotland (36), Slovakia (88), Spain (59), Sweden (93), Hungary (57).
This will likely change during the tournament but Ronaldo’s status as an all-time great will not.
9. No players in Germany’s squad have ever scored a goal at European Championship
Germany remains one of the most formidable teams in international football but despite winning the World Cup in 2014 their golden generation of players didn’t quite fulfil expectations at the Euros. The last time the nation won the competition was in 1996 but they did crash at the semi-final stage in the last two tournaments. This time they have a much-changed and significantly younger team. In fact, none of the players in the squad - not even the likes of experienced players like Thomas Muller or Toni Kroos - have ever scored a goal at the Euros.
10. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is the only player at the tournament whose name can spell both ‘Covid’ and ‘vaccine’
The Everton striker has been in great form this season and his name can spell two of the most repeated words on the planet in the past year.
11. The last time a European Championship fixture was played in England ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’ by The Fugees was number one.
Not really a fact but the return of the Euros to England gives us another excuse to listen to this banger which was top of the UK charts at the start of Euro 96.
12. Croatia’s Marcelo Brozovic has a cafe named after his celebration
The 28-year-old Croatia and Inter Milan midfielder Marcelo Brozovic has previously endorsed a cryptocurrency also gave £3,000 to a woman in 2020 that he had never met so she could have hip surgery. Brozovic also has a trademark celebration called ‘Epic Brozo’ which he has commemorated with a cafe-bar in Velika Gorica in Zagreb County.
13. 17-year-old Polish midfielder Kacper Kozłowski is younger than Finding Nemo
There are a handful of 17-year-olds at Euro 2020 including England’s Jude Bellingham, but none are as young as Polish midfielder Kacper Kozłowski whose Wikipedia page contains only 19 words about his career. The youngster - who plays his club football for Pogoń Szczecin - was born on 16th October 2003. This is six days after the UK release date of the Pixar classic Finding Nemo. Bet that’ll make you feel old?
14. There hasn’t been an animal-themed mascot at the Euros since 2000
In what has to be some sort of administrative and creative oversight the time-honoured tradition of having an animal as the tournament mascot appears to have died a death at the Euros. The last time we had one of our friends from the animal kingdom display their love of the beautiful game was a lion called Benelucky at Euro 2000 which was co-hosted by Belgium and Netherlands. Since then we’ve had a steady stream of rather unusual looking humanoids including this year's entry a freestyler called ‘Skillzy.’ Bring back the animals, I say. Our personal fave is ‘Rabbit’ from Euro 92 in Sweden which looks to have been a cross between the Nesquick bunny and Thomas Brolin.
15. Austria has never won a match at European Championship.
Austria, despite having a population of 8.8 million people, has only qualified for the Euro twice before this year’s competition. They’ve done slightly better at World Cup having played at seven different tournaments but none since 1998. Their last ever win at a major competition was when they beat the United States 2-1 on 19th June 1990. At this stage, neighbouring Germany was still a divided nation and reunification didn’t happen until 3rd October 1990.
16. Since winning Euro 92, Denmark has won just three matches at the European Championships.
One of the biggest upsets in Euros history was when Denmark, who hadn’t even qualified for the competition, won the entire thing after they replaced Yugoslavia which was in a state of war. The unfancied Scandinavian side beat European Champions the Netherlands and world champions Germany to lift the trophy. That was about the last time the Danes had anything to shout about at the Euros, as having played at four tournaments since then have won just three games in total. Perhaps that’ll change this year for them.
17. No country has ever won Eurovision and the Euros in the same year.
You think it would have happened at least once but no. Perhaps it will be Italy’s year this time around?
18. Bono and The Edge will be the only official Irish representation at Euro 2020.
Ireland didn’t manage to make it to this year’s tournament but fear not U2’s Bono and The Edge are here to represent the Emerald Isle instead. The pair appear on the tournament’s official song ‘We Are The People.’ It’s... err... a typically cliched football tournament song.
19. Kyle Walker is the only member of the England squad to have kept a clean sheet in a Champions League game
England’s three goalkeepers at Euro 2020 are Jordan Pickford, Dean Henderson and Sam Johnstone. However, if things don’t go quite right between the sticks for Gareth Southgate he could always call upon Kyle Walker. The Manchester City defender once put on the gloves for his club side during a 1-1 draw with Atalanta in the Champions League after City’s substitute goalkeeper was sent off leaving them with no options on the bench. Walker actually managed to make more saves than City’s two previous goalkeepers on the night and get a clean sheet. This is something that none of England’s three goalkeepers can say as Henderson is the only one of the trio to have played in the Champions League but his only appearance was a 2-1 loss for Manchester United against Istanbul Basaksehir in November 2020. (via Richard Jolly)
“Ladsss! Don’t worry, I’ve got this!!!” https://t.co/plNvgbKtaQ— Kyle Walker (@Kyle Walker) 1573081993
20. Giovanni di Lorenzo has the same name as the editor of a German newspaper
The 27-year-old Italian right-back has two unusual facts to his name. Since 2015, he has played for only teams that wear blue and white kits: Napoli, Empoli, Matera and of course, Italy. Also, if you search for his name on Google another Giovanni di Lorenzo will show up. The other Di Lorenzo is the German-Italian journalist who is the current editor of the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit (via the Guardian)
21. Wales’ Joe Allen once appeared on the cover of Chicken & Egg magazine
Chicken & Egg
The Welsh midfielder graced the cover of the egg industry magazine in 2016 when he was still at Liverpool due to his love of poultry. During his appearance in the magazine, he revealed that he and his partner have two cockerels and 12 hens. How humble.
22. Ukraine’s shirt has upset Russia
You won’t need us to tell you there is no love lost between Russia and Ukraine and the animosity between the two nations has been amped up again thanks to a football shirt. Ukraine’s kit for Euro 2020 contains a map of their country and features the Crimea peninsula which was annexed by Russia in 2014. Although Russia considers it part of their territory that is not recognised internationally. The jersey also contains two Ukrainian military slogans: “Glory to Ukraine!” and “Glory to heroes!”. Both mottos are rooted in the country’s anti-Soviet insurgency. The Russian Football Union has complained and urged UEFA to take action with the football governing body asking Ukraine to remove the slogans.
Ukraine's new football shirt is causing controversy... https://t.co/Zpzt7J1NZc— Tim Allman (@Tim Allman) 1623037887
These two aren’t in the same group but things could get feisty if they meet in the knockout stages.
23. Austria’s manager’s name means something very rude in Portuguese
Unless you speak Portuguese then the name Franco Foda won’t strike you as weird. However, in Portuguese, it means something very different. Foda who was a German international in his playing days discovered this when playing against Brazil in 1987. When substituted onto the pitch in a game in Brasilia, his name was greeted with laughter and applause as in Portuguese Franco Foda means “free intercourse.” Oh my...
24. You can’t spell ‘Marxism’ out of any players names at the tournament
Ignore what the likes of Nigel Farage and some Tory MPs are saying, there won’t be much Marxism on display at Euro 2020, if you go purely by players names, that is...