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Ever since World Cup Willie strutted his stuff in 1966, mascots from big-nosed toys to lion/devil hybrids have brought their own joie de vivre to major football tournaments across the globe.
The UEFA European Championship waited until 1980 before unveiling its own lucky charm, though it has been a curious journey ever since, culminating in the UEFA EURO 2020 figurehead unveiled on Sunday. UEFA.com guides you through the weird and wonderful past.
We, like any child worth their salt, are acutely aware of the perils of telling fibs: lie and your nose grows like a carrot; tell the truth and you shed your life as a wooden toy in favour of a normal childhood. Considered one of the world’s most popular books at the time of the tournament, Pinocchio was the ideal character for the first EURO mascot.
A mascot ready for action, this cockerel was smartly clothed in the kit of host nation France – boots, ball and all. Named Peno after the French slang for penalty, he certainly brought luck to Les Bleus, who went on to win the competition on home soil.
If few were expecting a rabbit, fewer still could have foreseen a rabbit labelled Berni. There was method in the madness. “A likeable and enthusiastic football fan” according to the German Football Association (DFB), he was aptly called after the city of Berne: then location of UEFA headquarters and where Germany lifted the 1954 FIFA World Cup. Primed with two sweat bands on his wrists, as well as one on his head, Berni looked to be having a ball. Sadly for us, a 2006 campaign to revive Berni for the World Cup fell on deaf ears.
The pressure was now on Sweden – the fourth country to unveil a talisman for European football’s most prestigious championship – to provide something imaginative, something joyful, something original. They had the chance to pull a rabbit out of the hat and did just that. A rabbit called Rabbit.
Goaliath brought an end to the run of rabbits. Thirty years since World Cup Willie started it all in his dashing Union Jack waistcoat, this new lion had a tough act to follow. But with three lions on their shirt, England could hardly have chosen differently and, sporting an elegant white and navy number, Goaliath was the gentle giant for which we all yearned.
With 5,000 contenders to pick from, the competition’s first co-hosts had no excuse and duly delivered. Named partly in honour of the Belgium/Netherlands/Luxembourg union, Benelucky was also a combination of the Latin ‘bene’ and the English ‘luck’, thus offering positive vibes to all competing nations. The cahoots did not stop there, though. Part devil after the Belgium team’s ‘Red Devils’ moniker, and part lion in reference to the Dutch side’s national symbol, Benelucky was a triumph whichever way you looked at it.
How close Portugal came to becoming the first hosts since France to reap the maximum rewards of a mascot’s strict purpose: to bring good luck. Defeat by Greece in the final left them just short despite the best efforts of what, ostensibly, was only a small boy dressed in his team’s kit and whose title was derived from the five blue shields – or Quinas – on Portugal’s coat of arms. Kinas, though, was a boy with special powers best showcased by some tremendous halfway-line antics.
Twice the presence and twice the fun: Trix and Flix, the mysterious twins from the Alps, dazzled and confused in equal measure. Each representing one of the home nations, the mischievous duo were even granted an official soundtrack. Their backing music – Shaggy’s Feel the Rush – provoked boogieing aplenty and set the tone for a pair of partygoers so off-script that their animated image, unlike any of their predecessors’, did not even need a football.
It is always important to get approval from local dignitaries and the then Polish Football Association (PZPN) president Grzegorz Lato immediately warmed to Slavek and Slavko. “I especially like their hair – 40 years ago I had hair like that,” he said. What hair it was too – brushing the ceiling and dyed in the co-hosts’ national colours in case the team shirts proved inconclusive. The twins could play a bit as well.
Never has a wayward free-kick been so productive. A miscued garden effort led Super Victor – at this stage just called Victor, we can only presume – to stumble upon a magic cape, boots and ball. Suddenly, he could fly from host city to host city – an especially useful superpower for a EURO mascot.
Netherlands 2-3 Germany
These rivals produced another thriller following their UEFA Nations League duels – but this time Germany had the last laugh. The visitors dominated the first half and led through fine goals from Leroy Sané and Serge Gnabry, before the Dutch replied after the interval through Matthijs de Ligt and Memphis Depay. Nico Schulz coolly dispatched Marco Reus’s cross in the 90th minute to cap a pulsating finish.
Northern Ireland 2-1 Belarus
Substitute Josh Magennis turned in Paddy McNair’s 87th-minute cross to move Northern Ireland three points clear. The home side had taken the lead too, via a Jonny Evans header on the half-hour, but a deflected Igor Stasevich shot shortly afterwards looked to have clinched Belarus a first point in the section until the late drama.
Wales 1-0 Slovakia
Winger Dan James scored an excellent early opener on his competitive international debut to give Wales a winning start. Ryan Giggs’ youthful line-up enjoyed an electric first half, although they endured nervy moments late on against a dogged Slovakia side, whom they join on three points.
Hungary 2-1 Croatia
Hungary came from behind for their first competitive win against Croatia thanks to midfielder Máté Pátkai’s maiden international goal. Ádám Szalai’s fifth strike in five cancelled out Ante Rebić’s early opener before Patkai’s 76th-minute tap-in secured Hungary’s fourth straight home victory, leaving both on three points.
Israel 4-2 Austria
Israel beat Austria for the first time in 20 years thanks to a superb hat-trick from Eran Zahavi in Haifa. His two headers put the hosts in front after Marko Arnautović’s opener, before he fired in a third and Munas Dabbur added another. That took Andreas Herzog’s team to four points as Austria suffered a second group loss.
Slovenia 1-1 FYR Macedonia
Enis Bardi’s rifled equaliser two minutes after half-time consigned Slovenia to a fifth successive 1-1 draw and extended their winless competitive run. Slack marking allowed midfielder Miha Zajc to head a first-half opener, but FYR Macedonia hit back for their fourth group point.
Poland 2-0 Latvia
Robert Lewandowski ended a run of eight international games without a goal to put Poland on course for a second straight victory. The hosts were struggling to make their domination count until the Bayern striker headed in from Arkadiusz Reca’s cross on 76 minutes, before Kamil Glik nodded in from a corner to ensure Latvia remain without a point.
Kazakhstan 0-4 Russia
Denis Cheryshev struck twice in the first half, and had a hand in Russia’s other goals as the visitors joined their hosts on three points. The Valencia man laid on the third for Artem Dzyuba, while his free-kick led to Abzal Beysebekov diverting the fourth past his own keeper.
San Marino 0-2 Scotland
Scotland recovered from their opening loss in Kazakhstan as Kenny McLean headed in Ryan Fraser’s early cross to settle the visitors’ nerves. Nevertheless, they had to wait until the 74th minute to seal the points, Johnny Russell firing in following a flowing counterattack.
Cyprus 0-2 Belgium
First-half goals from Eden Hazard and Michy Batshuayi in Nicosia helped Belgium continue their perfect start to qualifying. The Chelsea forward celebrated a century of caps by netting his 30th international goal in the victory.
The European Qualifiers for UEFA EURO 2020 run from March to November 2019 – check out all the fixtures and keep up with all the results right here.
All kick-offs 20:45CET unless otherwise stated.
Thursday 21 March
Group C: Netherlands 4-0 Belarus, Northern Ireland 2-0 Estonia
Group E: Croatia 2-1 Azerbaijan, Slovakia 2-0 Hungary
Group G: Austria 0-1 Poland, FYR Macedonia 3-1 Latvia, Israel 1-1 Slovenia
Group I: Belgium 3-1 Russia, Kazakhstan 3-0 Scotland, Cyprus 5-0 San Marino
Friday 22 March
Saturday 23 March
Group D: Georgia 0-2 Switzerland, Gibraltar 0-1 Republic of Ireland
Group F: Spain 2-1 Norway, Sweden 2-1 Romania, Malta 2-1 Faroe Islands
Group J: Italy 2-0 Finland, Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1 Armenia, Liechtenstein 0-2 Greece
Sunday 24 March
Group C: Netherlands v Germany, Northern Ireland v Belarus
Group E: Wales v Slovakia (15:00), Hungary v Croatia (18:00)
Group G: Israel v Austria (18:00), Poland v Latvia, Slovenia v FYR Macedonia
Group I: Kazakhstan v Russia (15:00), San Marino v Scotland (18:00), Cyprus v Belgium
Monday 25 March
Tuesday 26 March
Group D: Switzerland v Denmark, Republic of Ireland v Georgia
Group F: Malta v Spain, Norway v Sweden, Romania v Faroe Islands
Group J: Armenia v Finland (18:00), Italy v Liechtenstein, Bosnia and Herzegovina v Greece
Friday 7 June
Group A: Czech Republic v Bulgaria, Montenegro v Kosovo
Group B: Ukraine v Serbia, Lithuania v Luxembourg
Group D: Georgia v Gibraltar (18:00), Denmark v Republic of Ireland
Group F: Faroe Islands v Spain, Sweden v Malta, Norway v Romania
Group G: FYR Macedonia v Poland, Austria v Slovenia, Latvia v Israel
Saturday 8 June
Group C: Estonia v Northern Ireland (18:00), Belarus v Germany
Group E: Croatia v Wales (15:00), Azerbaijan v Hungary (18:00)
Group H: Iceland v Albania (15:00), Moldova v Andorra (18:00), Turkey v France
Group I: Russia v San Marino (18:00), Belgium v Kazakhstan, Scotland v Cyprus
Group J: Finland v Bosnia and Herzegovina (18:00), Armenia v Liechtenstein (18:00), Greece v Italy
Monday 10 June
Group A: Czech Republic v Montenegro, Bulgaria v Kosovo
Group B: Ukraine v Luxembourg, Serbia v Lithuania
Group D: Denmark v Georgia, Republic of Ireland v Gibraltar
Group F: Spain v Sweden, Malta v Romania, Faroe Islands v Norway
Group G: Poland v Israel, FYR Macedonia v Austria, Latvia v Slovenia
Tuesday 11 June
Group C: Germany v Estonia, Belarus v Northern Ireland
Group E: Azerbaijan v Slovakia (18:00), Hungary v Wales
Group H: Andorra v France, Iceland v Turkey, Albania v Moldova
Group I: Kazakhstan v San Marino (16:00), Belgium v Scotland, Russia v Cyprus
Group J: Italy v Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece v Armenia, Liechtenstein v Finland
Thursday 5 September
Group D: Republic of Ireland v Switzerland, Gibraltar v Denmark
Group F: Romania v Spain, Norway v Malta, Faroe Islands v Sweden
Group G: Israel v FYR Macedonia
Group J: Armenia v Italy (18:00), Bosnia and Herzegovina v Liechtenstein, Finland v Greece
Friday 6 September
Group C: Germany v Netherlands, Estonia v Belarus
Group E: Slovakia v Croatia, Wales v Azerbaijan
Group G: Slovenia v Poland, Austria v Latvia
Group I: San Marino v Belgium, Scotland v Russia, Cyprus v Kazakhstan
Saturday 7 September
Sunday 8 September
Group D: Switzerland v Gibraltar (18:00), Georgia v Denmark (18:00)
Group F: Spain v Faroe Islands (15:00), Romania v Malta (18:00), Sweden v Norway
Group J: Armenia v Bosnia and Herzegovina (18:00), Finland v Italy, Greece v Liechtenstein
Monday 9 September
Group C: Northern Ireland v Germany, Estonia v Netherlands
Group E: Azerbaijan v Croatia (18:00), Hungary v Slovakia
Group G: Poland v Austria, Slovenia v Israel, Latvia v FYR Macedonia
Group I: Scotland v Belgium, Russia v Kazakhstan, San Marino v Cyprus
Tuesday 10 September
Thursday 10 October
Group C: Netherlands v Northern Ireland, Belarus v Estonia
Group E: Croatia v Hungary, Slovakia v Wales
Group G: Latvia v Poland, Austria v Israel, FYR Macedonia v Slovenia
Group I: Kazakhstan v Cyprus (16:00), Belgium v San Marino, Russia v Scotland
Friday 11 October
Saturday 12 October
Group D: Georgia v Republic of Ireland (15:00), Denmark v Switzerland (18:00)
Group F: Faroe Islands v Romania (18:00), Norway v Spain, Malta v Sweden
Group J: Bosnia and Herzegovina v Finland (18:00), Italy v Greece, Liechtenstein v Armenia
Sunday 13 October
Group C: Belarus v Netherlands (18:00), Estonia v Germany
Group E: Hungary v Azerbaijan (18:00), Wales v Croatia
Group G: Poland v FYR Macedonia, Slovenia v Austria
Group I: Kazakhstan v Belgium (15:00), Cyprus v Russia (18:00), Scotland v San Marino (18:00)
Monday 14 October
Tuesday 15 October
Group D: Switzerland v Republic of Ireland, Gibraltar v Georgia
Group F: Sweden v Spain, Romania v Norway, Faroe Islands v Malta
Group G: Israel v Latvia
Group J: Liechtenstein v Italy, Greece v Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland v Armenia
Thursday 14 November
Friday 15 November
Group D: Switzerland v Georgia, Denmark v Gibraltar
Group F: Spain v Malta, Romania v Sweden, Norway v Faroe Islands (18:00)
Group J: Armenia v Greece (18:00), Finland v Liechtenstein (18:00), Bosnia and Herzegovina v Italy
Saturday 16 November
Group C: Germany v Belarus, Northern Ireland v Netherlands
Group E: Azerbaijan v Wales (18:00), Croatia v Slovakia
Group G: Slovenia v Latvia (18:00), Israel v Poland, Austria v FYR Macedonia
Group I: Cyprus v Scotland (15:00), Russia v Belgium (18:00), San Marino v Kazakhstan (18:00)
Sunday 17 November
Monday 18 November
Group D: Gibraltar v Switzerland, Republic of Ireland v Denmark
Group F: Spain v Romania, Sweden v Faroe Islands, Malta v Norway
Group J: Italy v Armenia, Liechtenstein v Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece v Finland
Tuesday 19 November
Group C: Germany v Northern Ireland, Netherlands v Estonia
Group E: Wales v Hungary, Slovakia v Azerbaijan
Group G: Poland v Slovenia, Latvia v Austria, FYR Macedonia v Israel
Group I: Belgium v Cyprus, San Marino v Russia, Scotland v Kazakhstan
Gibraltar 0-1 Republic of Ireland
After a goalless first half, Darren Randolph made a fine save to deny home captain Roy Chipolina, just before Jeff Hendrick converted David McGoldrick’s pass to give Ireland all three points.
Georgia 0-2 Switzerland
The UEFA Nations League finalists made hard work of it but a half-time change of system did the trick in Tbilisi. In-form Steven Zuber’s through-the-eye-of-a-needle effort broke the deadlock before the hour and Denis Zakaria sealed the points ten minutes from time, following up when an Albian Ajeti effort was parried.
Sweden 2-1 Romania
Sweden survived a second-half Romania scare to get their qualifying campaign off to a winning start. The hosts led at half-time through goals from Robin Quaison and Viktor Claesson, and although substitute Claudiu Keșerü cut the deficit shortly after the interval, the visitors were unable to turn their second-half pressure into an equaliser.
Spain 2-1 Norway
Despite fashioning countless first-half chances only Rodrigo, at his Valencia home, found the net prior to the interval, and Joshua King equalised with a penalty midway through the second period. Sergio Ramos responded in kind, restoring Spain’s lead from the spot soon after – the captain’s fifth goal in as many internationals.
Malta 2-1 Faroe Islands
Malta ended a 30-game, 12-year wait for a EURO qualifying win thanks to Kyrian Nwoko’s early header and a 77th-minute Steve Borg penalty. Just past the hour Malta keeper Henry Bonello denied Brandur Hendriksson an equaliser from the spot following Andrei Agius’s dismissal, though Jákup Thomsen headed a last-gasp consolation.
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1 Armenia
As Edin Džeko became the first Bosnian to 100 caps, Rade Krunić headed in Miralem Pjanić’s corner. Deni Milošević converted Edin Višća’s cross late on for his first international goal before his handball allowed Henrikh Mkhitaryan to score a stoppage-time penalty.
Italy 2-0 Finland
First international goals for Nicolò Barella and Moise Kean saw Italy outclass Finland for a first home win in seven. Barella’s thunderous early strike settled Azzurri nerves before Kean coolly slotted a late second. Substitute Fabio Quagliarella struck the crossbar on his international comeback.
Liechtenstein 0-2 Greece
The visitors eased to victory in Vaduz thanks to two fine finishes, Kostas Fortounis breaking the deadlock with a volley just before half-time and substitute Anastasios Donis smashing in a late second.
At 32, Edin Džeko remains one of the continent’s top goalscorers at Roma, and the ‘Bosnian Diamond’ will further cement his reputation at home if he becomes his nation’s first 100-cap player this week. Credit where it’s due, says UEFA.com.
What they say
“If a coach could make a striker, I’d make one like Džeko. He’s the perfect prototype: strong, tall, fast for his height, combative, aggressive and has good technique.”
Luciano Spalletti, former Roma coach
“He’s rubbish at football, but great at goalscoring.”
Noel Gallagher, Oasis songwriter and Manchester City fan
“Edin is the best striker in Europe. You will see. He is better than Ibrahimović.”
Miroslav Blažević, former Switzerland, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina coach
“Italian journalists gave me funny looks and even laughed when I said Džeko would be Serie A top scorer after a bad first season. Who’s laughing now?”
Mehmed Baždarević, former Bosnia and Herzegovina coach
“I met him for the first time in 2003 when I started to coach Željezničar; he was 17 and amazingly no one saw him as any kind of talent. But I saw his gift.”
Jiří Plíšek, former Željezničar coach
International: 99 appearances, 55 goals
UEFA club competition: 89 appearances, 38 goals
Domestic competition: 501 appearances, 225 goals
Claims to fame
• Started out as a midfielder, winning a junior cup with the Sarajevo club in 2002/03, with his coach Jusuf Šehović remembering: “He had the talent, even more he had application. I never doubted he would become a great player, that’s why I’m proud. He exceeded all expectations. He is our jewel.”
• One unnamed Željezničar director was quoted as saying that selling Džeko to Czech side Teplice for a reported €25,000 in 2005 was like “winning the lottery” for the Railwaymen, where not everybody considered him a great prospect.
Teplice and Ústí nad Labem (loan)
• Six goals in 15 games on loan at second-division Ústí nad Labem was regarded as a decent total for the young Džeko, who made the Teplice first team the next season; in 2006/07, he was the league’s second-highest scorer with 13 goals and earned a move to Wolfsburg.
• Fine-tuned by coach Felix Magath – “I am more physically fit than ever,” Džeko said – the Bosnian, with 26 goals, and Brazilian ace Grafite, with 28, racked up 54 goals as Wolfsburg won the 2008/09 Bundesliga. That made them the top goalscoring double-act ever in a single German top-flight season, beating Gerd Müller and Uli Hoeness’s 53 for Bayern in 1971/72.
• Džeko was duly voted Bundesliga player of the season, also ending the campaign as the German Cup’s six-goal leading marksman.
• Bundesliga top scorer in 2009/10 with 22 goals, Džeko also chimed in with ten assists – a measure of his generosity. “Goalscorers are selfish, Edin Džeko is not,” explained former Želježnicar and Yugoslavia midfielder Ivica Osim.
• Left for Manchester City in 2011 as Wolfsburg’s 66-goal all-time top scorer and their joint-leading marksman in UEFA competitions, level with Grafite on nine goals.
• Became the first City player to net four in a Premier League game in a 5-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur on 28 August 2011, his haul including a perfect hat-trick: left foot, right foot, head.
• Scored the second-fastest goal ever in a Manchester derby, 45 seconds into a match at Old Trafford on 24 March 2014; only City’s Dennis Tueart – after 39 seconds on 12 November 1975 – could better that.
• His overall tally in six Premier League derbies was four goals, all at Old Trafford, in just 174 minutes of football. Factor in a Community Shield goal and two more against United for Wolfsburg, and he struck seven times in nine games against the Red Devils – an average of a goal every 63 minutes.
• Departed for Roma in 2015 having lifted every major English honour: two Premier League titles (2011/12, 2013/14), the FA Cup (2010/11), the League Cup (2013/14) and the pre-season Community Shield (2012).
• Transformed after a sluggish first term, he scored ten in his first ten Serie A games of 2016/17 – the first player to do so for the club since Gabriel Batistuta in the Giallorossi’s title-winning 2000/01 campaign.
• Is now the top-scoring player from Yugoslavia or any former Yugoslav state in Europe’s top-five leagues (Spain, England, Germany, Italy, France) with 176, having surpassed Davor Šuker’s total of 129 back in 2016/17.
• Ended 2016/17 with 39 Roma goals in all competitions, breaking the club record of 32 which had been shared by Rodolfo Volk and Francesco Totti.
Bosnia and Herzegovina national team
• Overtook Zvjezdan Misimović and Elvir Bolić to become Bosnia’s top marksman on 7 September 2012 with a hat-trick against Liechtenstein. With 55 goals, he is now equal tenth in terms of all-time leading scorers for UEFA nations.
• His ten qualifying strikes helped the Dragons qualify for their first major international tournament, the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
• Became his country’s most capped player in September 2018, passing his cousin Emir Spahić’s record of 94. He will therefore be the first player to reach 100 caps for Bosnia.
What you might not know
• His upbringing was interrupted by the war in the Balkans. “I was six when the war started. It was terrible. My house was destroyed so we went to live with my grandparents. The whole family was there, maybe 15 people all staying in an apartment. It was very hard. We were stressed every day in case somebody we knew died. A lot of footballers began kick-arounds in the street but for me that was impossible. But when the war finished I was much stronger, mentally.”
• Seen as too tall and clumsy to succeed as a midfielder with Zelježničar, Džeko was nicknamed ‘Kloc’ – the local slang for a lamp-post or the pole that holds up a road sign.
• Magath signed him for Wolfsburg without seeing him in the flesh; scout analysis and video highlights had convinced him that Džeko was the right man.
• Džeko’s footballing intelligence extends to languages; he is fluent in Czech, German, English and Italian as well as his native tongue.
• His ties to his homeland remain strong; he has a Bosnian wife, model Amra Silajdžić, whom he married on 31 March 2014. The couple have a daughter, Una, and a son, Dani. Una received her dad’s match ball following the first of his two UEFA Europa League hat-tricks in 2016/17. He said: “When I scored my first hat-trick against Viktoria Plzeň, I took the match ball home and Una immediately took it and didn’t want to let go; she played with it all day. I then dedicated the second hat-trick [against Villarreal] to her.”
• While at Wolfsburg, he said AC Milan was his “dream club”, adding: “At some point in my career, I want to play there.” His boyhood hero was Andriy Shevchenko.
What he says
“Regardless of what I was and who I am, the most important thing is to remain human. I have to thank my parents for how I was raised, and I have brought that idea from home.”
“I always try to do my best. Sometimes that’s enough to get a good result, sometimes not, but I never give up and never will.”
“Goals don’t bother me, even though it is my job. I am as happy when team-mates score as when I score. Winning is what matters.”
“I played [in England] for five years, scored a lot of goals and won a lot of trophies. I played with the best players, against the best players. It’s an experience that helped me a lot, but I think I’m a much better player now than I was at Manchester City.”
“Expectations were big in Germany, bigger in England, but nothing even close to Rome. It’s a special city, with a special bond with a club. In Manchester I could go out for dinner or for a walk; people would stop me and politely ask for a photo from time to time. In Rome it is impossible to walk normally in the city.”
“I don’t even think about what I’ll do after I stop playing. I have three years of contract and I don’t think this is my last contract. I just want to enjoy it. I just want to score goals. And win. As long as possible.”
What he might achieve yet
• Score 30 goals in a single league season; he made it to 29 in 2016/17. Gonzalo Higuaín holds the Serie A record with 36, scored for Napoli in 2015/16.
• Džeko has Bosnia and Herzegovina’s goals and appearances records, but one ‘Bosnian’ player still has the edge on him; Zlatan Ibrahimović netted 62 in 116 games for Sweden. Can Džeko outstrip those totals?
• Take Cristiano Ronaldo’s record for most goals in European World Cup qualifiers. The 34-year-old has 30 for Portugal, with Džeko third in the continental rankings with 24 (two fewer than Shevchenko).
• Win a title in Italy. Džeko is unique in having scored 50-plus goals in three of the big-five European leagues, but while he landed league honours with Wolfsburg and City, he has yet to do so with Roma. He once said: “I won the championship in Germany and England – now its Italy’s turn.”