In the footballing world, no achievement is heralded more than winning an international trophy. Lifting a trophy with the national team is a moment of huge honour for any footballer. Although winning the EURO is considered easier than lifting the World Cup, many great players have failed in their pursuit to become continental champions. In this article, we will look at five great players who failed to win the European Championship.
#5 Wayne Rooney
The most prolific English player of all time, Rooney, sadly failed to win the European Championship. As a teenager, he was sensational at EURO 2004, scoring four goals in four games. But he missed the vital quarter-final fixture against Portugal, and England were knocked out of the tournament.
In EURO 2012, a red card before the tournament meant that Rooney could not play the first two group stage matches. However, he helped England qualify for the knockouts with a vital goal against Ukraine. Italy knocked England out on penalties in the quarter-final, while in 2016 minnows Iceland ended Rooney’s hopes of silverware.
A sporting icon in Madrid, Raul’s international career sadly never reached the heights of his club career. He failed to win the European Championship and the World Cup in his career. In EURO 2000, he missed a decisive penalty against France in the quarter-finals, which resulted in Spain getting eliminated. In EURO 2004, more disappointment followed as Spain could not progress beyond the group stage.
He played his last international match for Spain in 2006, at the age of just 29. Spain’s golden generation followed quit after his retirement and won three consecutive International trophies.
#3 Miroslav Klose
The all-time World Cup top scorer, Klose came awfully close to winning the EURO in 2008 and 2012. In 2008, Germany finished second after losing 1-0 to Spain in the final. Klose scored two decisive knock-out goals, but failed to make a mark in the final.
In 2012, Klose was used as a substitute due to the presence of Mario Gomez. But he started the knock-out game against Greece and scored Germany’s second goal. He was once again benched in the semi-final and Germany ended up losing 2-1 to Italy. Klose retired in 2014 after helping Germany to a World Cup title. He is also Germany’s all-time top scorer, a record that will not be easy to break.
#2 Luis Figo
The 2000 Ballon d’Or winner almost won a European Championship in front of a home crowd in 2004. Portugal knocked out several heavyweights on their way to the final, where they faced underdogs Greece. However, Figo’s men lost 1-0 and missed Portugal’s best-ever chance to lift an international trophy.
In EURO 2000, Portugal performed well in the group stage as they beat Germany and England to progress to the knock-out stages. They, unfortunately, lost the semi-final to France because of the controversial golden goal rule. Figo was Portugal’s best player in 2000, and he led Portugal to their best ever performances on the big stage since the era of Eusebio.
#1 Gianluigi Buffon
The timeless Italian legend often endured heartbreaks at a continental level, both with club and country. Buffon was due to start for Italy in 2000, but an injury ruled him out of the tournament. In 2004, he was Italy’s first choice goal-keeper, but his country failed to progress beyond the group stage.
In 2008 EURO, Italy were one of the favourites as they were World Champions at that time. But they struggled in the group stages and needed a crucial save from Buffon to qualify for the quarter-finals. Spain eliminated them in the penalty shoot-out and in 2012, Spain beat Italy to win the final.