Experience the key heading into the Euros

Jack Ogalbe
May 25th 2021, 8:48 am
Last Updated 3 years ago
Enrique never doubted Spain challenge

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The European Championships are looming large with national managers busy finalising their squads, and plenty will no doubt find it valuable to have experienced players to call upon – with those who have reached a century of caps having proved their worth over a long period of time.

Reaching 100 caps is always a milestone event and such players almost gain cult status within their countries.

It is rare to see a team win a tournament without someone who has clocked three figures.

Take France at the last World Cup for example – Hugo Lloris became a centurion in their second group game against Peru, where he kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 win.

The Spurs goalkeeper may have drawn some criticism over the past few years for his performances at club level, but having such an experienced player behind the defence undoubtedly aided their World Cup triumph.

Similarly, even though he may not start every game, Olivier Giroud is a valuable squad member having also passed the milestone and is always a handy substitute for France to be able to call upon, given his playing style and goal record.

Having a centurion in the ranks is not something that is unusual to past European Championship winners.

The phenomenon that is Cristiano Ronaldo currently stands on 173 caps and it is not inconceivable that he could help fire Portugal to glory once more, five years after they defeated hosts France in extra-time to win their first international honours at Euro 2016.

Portugal have a good balance throughout their squad in addition to the Juventus star – defender Pepe and midfielder Joao Moutinho are also vastly experienced internationals who have shown they can be counted on by boss Fernando Santos, and that know-how could be particularly crucial at Euro 2020 as they have a tough-looking group which includes France and Germany.

France and Portugal are not alone though as several other countries will be able to rely on their own centurions going into the summer showpiece.

Italy will be keen to make a big impression in what is their first tournament appearance for five years after failing to qualify for Russia 2018.

They possess a young squad and are still largely in transition after that failure – yet they can bank on two stellar names at the back.

Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus have earned a combined total of 207 caps and will be the elder statesmen looking to keep the rest of the young guns on the straight and narrow.

With four players having featured over 100 times for their country, Belgium possess huge experience which they will hope can afford the chance for their “Golden Generation” to shine.

Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Axel Witsel, and Eden Hazard have played a huge role in elevating Belgium from also-rans to the world number one side, with Roberto Martinez’s men expected to advance well into the latter stages.

Outgoing Germany boss Joachim Low has also been convinced that experience could be vital heading into the summer.

Thomas Muller was told he would not feature again for Germany under Low over two years ago, with the coach citing a desire to blood younger players into the national setup.

But now the Die Mannschaft boss has had a change of heart and decided to recall the Bayern Munich man, who has been a huge success for his country over the past decade.

Having a veteran talisman or two to pin their hopes on is not something that is unique to the more established or successful international forces.

Few are expecting Poland to be big challengers but having a record-breaking striker in Robert Lewandowski is certainly a huge positive.

The 118-times capped international has broken numerous records with Bayern with his goalscoring exploits and ended the season as the recipient of the European Golden Shoe, ahead of the likes of Lionel Messi and Ronaldo.

And, North Macedonia, competing in their first-ever international tournament have the mercurial talents of 37-year-old Goran Pandev to utilise.

The Genoa forward is a former Champions League winner and can help bring that big-match experience to the party with many of his team-mates set to be in somewhat unfamiliar territory.

Football may be geared more towards younger players these days, with an emphasis on high-pressing and fitness.

But, make no mistake, players who have earned over 100 caps for their country have done so for a reason, and they will all be vital to their respective nation’s hopes and dreams this summer.

Jack Ogalbe

The first choice in any quiz team, Jack is your man for stats, facts and information across a wide range of different sports. He has a vast knowledge of football across all countries and tournaments.