What It’s Like To Play At The EurosPublished on: June 18, 2021Author: Brett Curtis
There has always seemed to be something very different about a player competing for their country compared to their club.
West Ham United goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, who has made 56 caps for Poland and started in their quarter-final defeat to Portugal at Euro 2016, certainly agrees with this sentiment.
“It’s always very special to represent your country,” Fabianski told Betway. “Before the first kick-off you always listen to your national anthem, which is always special.
“You get this feeling that the game means maybe a little bit more.”
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Defender Angelo Ogbonna, who was a part of Italy’s squads at both Euro 2012 and Euro 2016, agrees with his club team-mate.
“When you’re young, you’re not thinking about money, cars or whatever,” Ogonna admitted. “You’re thinking about being a top player, winning trophies.”
This is particularly true in the international arena.
While players are paid wages the vast majority of people can only dream of, an interesting element of international football is that their wages are generally considerably smaller than the vast sums many receive from their clubs.
Indeed, a BBC study in 2018 rationalised that England’s players may ‘only’ receive around £2,000 for each matchday squad which they are involved in for their country.
As such, there is arguably something purer about international football: players never have money in their minds as they are sometimes accused of, simply nationalistic pride and glory.
This can come with significant stresses, though, with any mistakes pounced on in the national press and on social media on a much wider scale than in the club game.
Brighton & Hove Albion forward Danny Welbeck clearly thrived on the pressure which came in an England shirt, though, scoring 16 goals in 42 caps for the Three Lions, including a dramatic late winner against Sweden at Euro 2012.
“The whole country is behind you,” Welbeck explained. “Try and take that pressure and use it as a positive.”
Welbeck’s club team-mate Adam Lallana spoke of his personal pride of competing for England, whom he played for at World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016.
“I’m sure I’ll look back one day once I’ve retired and be extremely proud of them [sic] occasions and moments during my career,” Lallana reflected.
“When you win, there’s no better feeling in football. It’s worth fighting through the disappointments just to achieve them [sic] moments.”
This is particularly true at Euro 2020, a unique tournament in which England are one of nine countries that will be competing in front of home fans on at least two occasions.
Unfortunately, Lallana did not experience many significant winning moments in an England shirt, crashing out of the group stage at World Cup 2014, before losing 2-1 to Iceland in the last 16 at Euro 2016.
William Carvalho, however, started five of Portugal’s seven matches in France five years ago, when A Selecao lifted a major tournament for the first time by beating the hosts 1-0 in the final.
“The feeling of pride and responsibility in representing your country is always there,” Carvalho said, sharing similar sentiments to his counterparts.
“I was lucky to be able to get to the end of the match and take the cup to Portugal. It was an unforgettable experience; a wonderful feeling, an immense euphoria.”
One of many players who will desperately be hoping to taste Carvalho’s “euphoria” this summer is West Ham full-back Vladimir Coufal, who will be a key player for England and Scotland’s Group D rivals Czech Republic.
“In the summer Euros, we can be successful like our team from 1996,” Coufal said with a wry smile, referencing the Czech Republic side which surprised many by reaching the final of Euro 1996.
The Czechs have certainly made a great start by beating the Tartan Army 2-0 in their opening game, but there is still a long road ahead for Coufal and the other 621 players at Euro 2020, as each of them aim to scale heights only Carvalho of Betway Insider’s six interviewees has managed to reach at a European Championship.