There is no substitute for experience in a UEFA European Championship. Instead, look at Arnold Muhren: the former Dutch midfielder delivered the centre that Marco van Basten masterfully lifted in the 1988 edition, during the final victory of the Oranje. The centre made the 37-year-old, 23-day-old, the oldest player to hang a gold medal around his neck.
But players at the end of their international careers have not always enjoyed glory. Germany’s Lothar Matthus – Jens Lehmann broke records for their last appearances for their team, but while the latter had to wait until 2008 for a place in the final, the former experienced a stinging elimination in the group stage in 2000. UEFA.com honours the oldest players in the competition.
Gobor Kirily (40 years and 86 days)
Finally, the keeper of Hungary, nicknamed ‘The Pajama Man’ for his famous old-fashioned cotton tracksuits, will be known for something other than his questionable clothing choices. Indeed, he became the oldest player to play in a EURO match, helping Hungary reach the last eight of Euro 2016, in which they lost 4-0 to Belgium, but Kirily’s save on a Kevin De Bruyne free kick was voted the UEFA season stoppage for 2015/16.
Oldest field player:
Lothar Matthus (39 years and 91 days)
The match against Portugal against Portugal at UEFA EURO 2000 had made him the oldest player to play in a UEFA European Championship match, until the intervention of Kirily, and also marked his 150th and final selection with Germany. His performance was quickly erased that day, with Sérgio Conceiçao scoring the hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Portugal.
Arnold Muhren (37 years and 23 days)
Everyone remembers the final of the 1988 UEFA European Championship for Van Basten’s volley but few remember the meaning of Arnold’s presence on the pitch. The former Ajax, Twente, Ipswich Town and Manchester United midfielder is not only the author of the assist to Van Basten, which means victory over the USSR, but also allowed him to become the oldest winner in the competition. “It was only when we returned that we became aware of the madness, the intense joy and the joy that reigned,” he said. “We didn’t realize it in Germany. The boat trip was the apotheosis, I couldn’t believe it.”
Jens Lehmann (38 years and 232 days)
Lehmann, who had a fine run at Schalke, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal, was due to retire from international level in 2008, denied a victory by the Spaniards. The goalkeeper kept the cages of the Nationalmannschaft in all the matches of the tournament, including two without conceding a goal, but could do nothing against Fernando Torres, who brought to Roja his first European crown in 44 years in Vienna. Small consolation for the international: last night he became the oldest finalist of a European Championship.
Ivica Vastic (38 years and 257 days)
The former Sturm Graz and Austria Vienna player returned 26 minutes from the final whistle against Poland at UEFA EURO 2008, in the group stage, and managed to keep his composure to snatch Austria’s draw in the 3rd minute of extra time from the penalty spot. This 14th goal in 50 caps earned him the title of oldest goalscorer in a European final.
Oldest scorer in the final:
Bernd Hulkenbein (30 years and 103 days)
The only player over 30 to score in the Euro final, Holzenbein was on the receiving end of rainer Bonhof’s 89th-minute header in Belgrade to equalise at 2-2 for the FRG, with the world and European champions leading 2-0 by Czechoslovakia. Antonon Panenka had the final say, with the Czechoslovaks winning on penalties.