Whilst the European Championships are staged every four years, taking place every second year is the Under-21 version of the tournament which many of those players among the Euro 2016 squads have experience of being involved in.
The under-21 European Championship in it’s current form has existed since 1978, with the earliest appearances in the tournament by Euro 2016 players being made by Bruno Alves and Petr Cech in 2002.
Since then, seven more under-21 European Championships have been held with a whole host of Euro 2016 players being called upon to represent their respective countries at those tournaments.
Ultimately of the 552 players registered to play in France this summer, only a minority have gone to an under-21 European Championship with their country, with a summary of that now provided below.
Euro 2016 players who have experienced a UEFA Under-21 European Championship:
Belgium – Marouane Fellaini, Thomas Vermaelan, Jan Vertonghen and Axel Witsel (2007)
Croatia – Darjo Srna (2004)
Czech Republic – Petr Cech (2002); Michal Kadlec, Daniel Pudl, Daniel Kolar (2007); Tomas Koubek, Martin Frydek, Ladislav Krejci, Jiri Skalak (2015)
England – Joe Hart, Danny Rose, James Milner (2009); Danny Rose, Chris Smalling, Kyle Walker, Daniel Sturridge (2011); Danny Rose, Nathaniel Clyne (2013); John Stones, Harry Kane (2015)
France – Bacary Sagna, Steve Mandanda (2006)
Germany – Lucas Podolski, Bastien Schweinsteiger (2004); Manuel Neuer, Benedickt Howedes, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil (2009); Bernd Leno, Emre Can, Matthias Ginter, Shkodran Mustafi (2013); Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Emre Can, Matthias Ginter (2015)
Iceland – Birkir Bjarnson, Johann Gudmundsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Alfred Finnbogason, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (2011)
Italy – Andrea Barzagli, Daniele De Rossi (2004); Giorgio Chiellini (2006); Salvatore Sirigu, Antonio Candreva (2009); Alesandro Florenzi, Marcio Verrati, Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile (2013); Federico Bernardeschi (2015)
Portugal – Bruno Alves (2002 and 2004); Joao Moutinho, Nani, Ricardo Quaresma (2006); Joao Moutinho, Nani (2007); Joao Mario, Rafa Silva, William Carvalho, Raphael Guerreiro (2015)
Russia – Oleg Shatov, Fedor Smolov (2013)
Spain – Cesar Azpilicueta (2009); Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Alcantara, David De Gea (2011); Koke, Thiago Alcantara, Alvaro Morata, Marc Bartra (2013)
Sweden – Marcus Berg, Martin Olsson (2009); Ludwig Augustinsson, Victor Lindelof, Alexander Milosevic, Oscar Hiljemark, Oscar Lewicki, John Guidetti (2015)
Switzerland – Stephan Lichsteiner (2004); Admir Mehmedi, Yann Sommer, Pajtim Kasami, Granit Xhaka Xherdan Shaquiri (2011)
As such a total of 79 different players who had previously gone to an Under-21 European Championship with their country, were named among the 24 Euro 2016 squads. Given that, just 14.3 per cent of the players at Euro 2016 have experienced an Under-21 European Championship. Subsequently that low percentage indicates the challenge facing young international players as they seek to graduate from under-21 to senior international level.
Among the select group of players listed above as achieving that are several who have both won the UEFA Under-21 European Championship and performed remarkably well at the tournament. A summary of that is now provided.
Euro 2016 players who have previously won a UEFA Under-21 European Championship:
Petr Cech (2002) – Czech Republic 0-0 France (Czechs won 3-1 on penalties, with Cech saving two penalties in the shoot-out)
Andrea Barzagli, Daniele De Rossi (2004) – Italy 3-0 Serbia and Montenegro
Manuel Neuer, Benedickt Howedes, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil (2009) – Germany 4-0 England
Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Alcantara, David De Gea (2011) – Switzerland 0-2 Spain
Koke, Thiago Alcantara, Alvaro Morata, Marc Barta (2013) – Italy 2-4 Spain
Ludwig Augustinsson, Victor Lindelof, Alexander Milosevic, Oscar Hiljemark, Oscar Lewicki, John Guidetti (2015) – Sweden 0-0 Portugal (Sweden won 4-3 on penalties)
Notable performances by Euro 2016 players at UEFA Under-21 European Championships:
Petr Cech (2002) – Named the tournament’s golden player
Daniele De Rossi (2004) – Scored two goals, including the opening one in Italy’s 3-0 final win over Serbia and Montenegro
Marcus Berg (2009) Both the tournament’s golden player and top scorer with seven goals, including a hat-trick as Sweden opened their campaign with a 5-1 win over Belarus
Mesut Ozil (2009) – Scored one and set-up two of Germany’s goals in the tournament’s final as they swept aside England 4-0
Admir Mehmedi (2011) – Second top scorer with three goals. Mehmedi also played in the tournament’s final, along with his current Euro 2016 team mates Yann Sommer, Pajtim Kasami, Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaquiri as Switzerland lost 2-0 to Spain.
Thiago Alcantara (2011 and 2013) – Scored as Spain beat Switzerland 2-0 in the 2011 final, whilst netting a hat-trick for and captaining La Roja in their 4-2 2013 win over Italy, for whom Ciro Immobile scored and Alesandro Florenzi, Marco Verrati, Lorenzo Insigne played.
Oscar Hiljemark (2015) – Captain of the Swedish team who beat Portugal in the final for whom Joao Mario, William Carvalho and Raphael Guerreiro played.
Therefore throughout the years the UEFA Under-21 European Championship has been a stage on which several Euro 2016 players have excelled before graduating to play for their country at senior level.
Has any player ever won both the UEFA Under-21 & senior European Championships?
Despite the considerable European Championship achievements of many of the Euro 2016 players, none have won both the Under-21 and senior versions of the tournament. In contention to make history by doing so in France are those players listed below.
Andrea Barzagli, Daniele De Rossi – Italy
Manuel Neuer, Benedickt Howedes, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil – Germany
Cesar Azpilicueta, David De Gea Koke, Thiago Alcantara, Alvaro Morata, Marc Barta – Spain
As such, it will be interesting to watch the progress of Germany, Italy and Spain over the next fortnight to learn if any of their former under-21 European Championship winning stars can help their country win Euro 2016.