Fountain of youth
Kozlowski and Bellingham latest young stars to shine at Euros
Published: Jun 24, 2021 05:08 PM
Kacper Kozlowski of Poland Photo: VCG

Kacper Kozlowski of Poland Photo: VCG

When Kacper Kozlowski came on for Poland's Mateusz Kilch against Spain in the country's second game of the UEFA European Championship he made history.

Aged 17 years and 246 days, Kozlowski became the youngest player in European Championship finals history.

The fact was that he broke a record that was not even a week old.

Six days earlier England's Jude Bellingham had become the youngest player in Euros history, having come on for skipper Harry Kane in England's win over Croatia aged 17 years and 349 days.

The career paths of the young record breakers - born just 109 days apart - has been vastly different so far. Kozlowski plays for Polish side Pogon Szczecin, who finished third last season in the Ekstraklasa. The game against Spain was his fourth cap for Poland.

He made his debut against Andorra in March and as the youngest player at this Euros his record will remain for at least three more years until the 2024 European Championship.

Bellingham meanwhile has already moved from Championship side Birmimgham City - who retired his shirt number when he left his club - to German giants Borussia Dortmund.

He starred for the Bundesliga side last season, impressing in the UEFA Champions League as they went to the quarterfinal stage, notably having a goal disallowed against Manchester City.

The youngster became the third-­youngest full England international when he made his Three Lions debut in ­November 2020. With his appearance against Croatia, Bellingham also broke ­Michael Owen's record as England's youngest appearance maker at a major tournament.

The record that Bellingham and then Kozlowski both broke was previously held by the Netherlands' Jetro Willems (18 years and 71 days, who played at Euro 2012) and, before that, Belgium's Enzo Scifo (18 years and 115 days, playing at Euro 1984).

What other records could they break with a decent run at this European Championship?

Johan Vonlanthen (18 years and 141 days) is the youngest player to have scored at a Euros. The Swiss midfielder did so just days after England's Wayne Rooney had become the youngest scorer in Euros history with a brace against Switzerland, a game that marked Vonlathen's finals bow. Vonlanthen got the consolation in a 3-1 loss to France on June 21, 2004.

Portugal's Renato Sanches, who is with the reigning champions at this year's tournament, is the youngest player to appear in a final.

The midfielder did so at 18 years and 328 days five years ago when the Portuguese took on France and pulled off a shock win against the hosts. Sanches, who had just signed for Bayern Munich from Benfica, impressed for the eventual winners in their 1-0 win.

He may have played but he did not score, with that honor going to Italy's ­Pietro Anastasi (20 years and 63 days) all the way back in 1968.

The hosts beat Yugoslavia in that showpiece and Anastasi - who was about to become the most expensive footballer in the world in a move from Varese to Juventus - volleyed home from outside the box to put Italy 2-0 up.

What happened to some of the other youngest Euros players?

Willems was praised at the time that he played in all their group-stage games. However, the Netherlands were eliminated after losing all three group games.

"I wasn't surprised that he started very well," Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said after the game. "It was a good feeling because everything was new for him and he did well."

He had not played a single game in the Oranje's qualifying campaign for Euro 2012 and only made his debut a fortnight before ­after fellow defender Erik ­Pieters was ruled out through injury.

He has not played for the Netherlands since 2016.

Scifo, who made his debut against Yugoslavia at the 1984 tournament, became a Red Devils legend in a career that spanned four FIFA World Cups, including France '98 when he was 32.

Bulgaria's Valeri Bozhinov was just 18 years and 136 days when he played against Italy at Euro 2004 - and he never pulled on the national team's jersey at another international tournament.

Just a day older, Switzerland's Vonlanthen stole Rooney's record at Euro 2004 and played three times for the Swiss at Euro 2008.

What of some of the other ­European nations' youngest football players? Well, they span the gamut of football greats and footnotes in the game's history.

In the former category, there are the likes of Croatia's Ivan Rakitic (20 years and 94 days old when he played Germany at Euro 2008), the Czech Republic's Tomáš Rosický (aged 19 years and 251 days when he played the Netherlands at Euro 2000) and Denmark's Michael Laudrup (19 years and 363 days  when he played France at Euro '84).

France's Kingsley Coman (19 years and 363 days when he played Romania at Euro 2016), Germany's Lukas Podolski (19 years and 19 days when he played the Czech Republic at Euro 2004) and Italy's Paolo Maldini  (19 years and 350 days when he played West Germany at Euro 1988) have all done pretty well in their careers.

The others include cult heroes such as Scotland's Duncan Ferguson (20 years and 168 days when he played the Netherlands at Euro '92) and players the jury is still out on like Portugal's Sanches.

He is one of many players to have broken a record in recent years - with Turkey's Emre Mor (18 years and 324 days when he played Croatia) and Slovakia's Milan Škriniar (21 years and 130 days when he played England) setting them at Euro 2016.
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