FC Barcelona and the European Championship opening game

FC Barcelona and the European Championship opening game

With blaugranes Ilkay Gündoğan and Marc ter Stegen part of the Germany squad to take on Scotland in the inaugural fixture of Euro 2024, we look at figures from the club’s past and present in the tournament opener

With Ilkay Gündoğan and Marc ter Stegen possibly involved in the opening game of Euro 2024 on Friday between Germany v Scotland, we look at some Euro opening games involving players who at one point in their careers were blaugranes.  Red cards, goals and glory are some of the elements that make up the story of Barça and the opening fixture of the European Championships.  

First ever goal in final stages  

The inaugural European Championships were held in Spain in 1964 with only four nations competing in the final stages of the tournament. The hosts had a strong squad with blaugranes Josep Maria Fusté and Chus Pereda in midfield alongside Ballon d’Or winner and former Barça man Luis Suárez, and Barça defender Ferran Olivella who captained the Spain side.  

The two semi-finals were played on the same day with Spain v Hungary kicking off first in the Santiago Bernabéu and the second to come later at Spotify Camp Nou between Denmark and the USSR. Blaugrana Pereda scored the first ever goal in the final stages of the tournament when he opened the scoring against the Magyars, helping Spain to a 2-1 extra time victory. Pereda scored again in the final as the hosts defeated the Soviet Union 2-1 to take the title on home soil.  

Feat repeated as Barça strike first  

Some 48 years later, another blaugrana would register the opening strike of the tournament. In 2012 current Barça striker Robert Lewandowski was still a Borussia Dortmund player when he in fired home first for the Polish national side in a 1-1 draw in Warsaw against Greece in the inaugural game of the tournament that was jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine.  

Legendary presence  

In 1976 the tournament was still a small affair involving just four teams. In pouring rain in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, the Netherlands faced Czechoslovakia in the first semi-final. A Dutch side captained by Barça legend Johan Cruyff went down to a 3-1 extra time defeat against the eventual winners with another blaugrana in the team, Johan Neeskens, receiving one of three red cards shown in the encounter.  

Scandinavia, Barça and the Euros 

The blaugrana presence in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s in the Euros opening fixture had a definite Nordic flavour. In 1984 the tournament began with a fixture between hosts France and Denmark.  

Present in an exciting Danish line up that lost 1-0 to France was veteran Allan Simonsen, who had played for Barça between 1979 and 1982, scoring 63 goals in 172 games for the blaugranes. Also in the Denmark XI was a teenager just three days short of his 20th birthday, Michael Laudrup. The Danish forward would eventually join Barça in 1989 and become a vital figure in the famous ‘Dream Team’ under coach Johan Cruyff.  

Michael Laudrup

1992’s opening game saw two future Barça defenders come face to face. Hosts Sweden faced France in the first game of the tournament with a young Patrik Andersson coming up against Frenchman Laurent Blanc in the 1-1 draw. 

In 2000, still a year before becoming a blaugrana and playing for Bayern Munich, Andersson appeared again in the opening game against co-hosts Belgium, captaining the side and getting a late red card. Sweden went down to a 2-1 defeat with another future blaugrana appearing as a substitute early in the second half in the shape of Henrik Larsson.  

Portuguese connection 

Luis Figo had left Barça in controversial circumstances in 2000 but he was still part of the Portugal squad that hosted the tournament in 2004. In the opening game against Greece Figo was in the starting line up along another former blaugrana, Simão Sabrosa.  

In the second half of the 2-1 defeat soon to be blaugrana and now FC Barcelona director of football Deco made an appearance for Portugal. The hosts opened and closed the tournament with defeats to Greece as Figo, Deco and company suffered another shock loss in the final against Otto Rehhagel’s team.  

A Champions League winner with Porto, the midfielder became a fan favourite in his 4 years with the Club

The most recent blaugrana connection to the opening fixture came in 2016 when Antoine Griezmann, still three years away from joining Barça, was part of the France side that defeated Romania 2-1 in Paris.  

So, as we can see, there is a long history of Barça involvement in the tournament’s first game. We will have to wait and see if current blaugranes Ter Stegen and Gündoğan can add another chapter on Friday against Scotland.  

Força Barça
Força Barça

Related to this article

Close article

Related to this article