Greatest Players To Have Played At The European Championships
With the European Championships well under way we are thoroughly enjoying a feast of football. The tournament has seen some brilliant football played by some of the greatest players to have ever graced the international stage. By some it is even considered the biggest international sporting tournament in the world. Even bigger than the Olympics and World Cup
So which players have had the biggest impact?
Platini was undoubtedly the ‘king of France’ after his performances during Euro 1984. The French captain led his country to their first ever international tournament victory, whilst on home soil. Platini was insatiable, scoring nine goals in five appearances. Arguably no player has had a greater impact at a single tournament. The Juventus Fantastita was part of the ‘magic square’ playing alongside Luis Fernandez, Jean Tigana and Alain Giresse.
Platini is still the all-time top scorer in the competition with his nine goals He managed two hat-tricks. One of which was a perfect a hat-trick against Denmark in the group stages. Platini then scored in both the semi-final and final, netting a free-kick against France.
Marco Van Basten
Van Basten played in two tournaments winning the tournament in 1998. Van Basten was part of a devastating Dutch side containing Ruud Gullit, Ronald Koeman and Wim Kieft. He scored the greatest ever euro goal, an absolutely stunning volley against the Soviet Union from the tightest of angles during the final. Van Basten was the top goal scorer at the tournament, scoring in the semi-final as well, with a brilliant turn and volley.
Everything did not go brilliantly for the forward, however. His penalty was saved in the semi-final shootout against Denmark during the 1992 tournament. Van Basten was also defeated as he took the Netherlands to the quarter finals whilst coaching the side in 2008.
The great Dane was an icon in-between the sticks. The Red Devils stopper was monumental for Denmark in the three tournaments he played in. But it was 1992 where Schmeichel really made his name arguably establishing himself as the best goalkeeper of his generation.
The stopper made a crucial semi-final shootout save against Ballon d’Or winner Marco Van Basten. During the final against Germany, Schmeichel also made three World class saves to give his side victory.
The legendary defender skippered West Germany to their first ever championship victory in 1972. He played in two tournaments, taking the Germans to a second consecutive final in 1976. He was an icon for his country during back-to-back finals. It was his West Germany that also claimed a first ever competitive victory over counter parts East Germany.
However, Beckenbauer missed his penalty as his side were beaten by Czechoslovakia in Germany’s only ever penalty shootout loss.
The French maestro was the catalyst behind ‘Les Bleus’ victory at Euro 2000. In total he played at three tournaments, but the midfielder wasn’t an established first team player in 1996. The Frenchman showed nerves of steel to score a golden goal penalty against Portugal in the semi-final at Euro 2000. Before eventually beating Italy helping them become both World Cup and European champions.
Despite France not having a great tournament at Euro 2004. Zidane was one of the few players who came out with his reputation unscathed. He managed three goals before France were knocked out in the group stages. His most notable contribution was against England when he scored a free-kick and penalty in the remaining minutes of the game.
It should be a fantastic tournament in France. There is so much talent on display and it will be fascinating to see if a new player can edge himself into the history of great Euro players.