Renato Sanches, 18 years and 296 days (Portugal) – UEFA EURO 2016
Used from the bench in three of Portugal’s first four games, the fearless 18-year-old touted his powerful presence and knack for tearing opposition midfields apart with a quick shimmy or burst of pace.
When these efforts earned Sanches a quarter-final start, he repaid boss Fernando Santos’ faith by cancelling out Poland’s early lead. Feinting right, Sanches cut inside, played a one-two, then fired in from the edge of the box.
Boasting strength, skill and vision, the newly signed Bayern midfielder started, and commanded the midfield in outstanding fashion, both the semi-final and the final as Portugal prevailed against favourites France to lift the trophy.
Kingsley Coman, 19 years and 362 days (France) – UEFA EURO 2016
The winger’s strength, skill and speed were clear for all to see during France’s EURO 2016 campaign. The Juventus teenager, on loan at Bayern, featured in every game barring the semi-final, starting two of Les Bleus’ group matches.
Fielded by Didier Deschamps on both the left and right flanks, the jet-heeled youngster demonstrated great ability to muscle off markers, break at pace and pick out a runner. His twists and turns, redirection of play and inviting deliveries made Coman a constant menace as the host nation went all the way to the final.
Wayne Rooney, 18 years and 231 days (England) – UEFA EURO 2004
The nerveless 18-year-old sparkled in Portugal, introducing himself with four goals in four games. Downing Switzerland in England’s second group match, the Everton prodigy glanced in his first before drilling in at the near post to double his tally.
To help ensure England’s passage to the knockouts, Rooney teed up Paul Scholes’ opener against Croatia, hammered in the second himself, then cruised through Croatian territory to coolly convert the third in a 4-2 victory.
A broken metatarsal, however, prematurely ended his campaign in the quarter-final against Portugal, where the Three Lions crashed out on penalties.
Cristiano Ronaldo, 19 years and 127 days (Portugal) – UEFA EURO 2004
Called upon at half-time, Manchester United’s teen sensation headed a late consolation in Portugal’s shock opening loss to Greece. However, the hosts still won their group and next it was England’s turn to try to nullify the tricky winger. A quarter-final thriller ultimately went to penalties and, taking Portugal’s fourth, Ronaldo staggered his run-up to blaze into the top corner.
Days later, the 19-year-old slotted in his second goal of the tournament in the semi-final with the Netherlands, before setting up Maniche’s clincher with a quickly taken corner. He also played all 90 minutes of the final, linking well with Deco throughout to cause Greece problems, but it wasn’t to be as Portugal were undone by the underdogs.
Cristian Chivu, 19 years and 227 days (Romania) – UEFA EURO 2000
The 19-year-old left-back played every minute of Romania’s run to the quarter-finals, despite having arrived at EURO 2000 with just four caps. An unforeseen 1-1 draw with title-holders Germany stood the Tricolorii in good stead. And if a last-gasp defeat by Portugal came next, Chivu confirmed his promise, roaming the left channel to whip in dangerous crosses.
The Ajax starlet then struck his first international goal, the opener in the win against England, his floated delivery into the area deceiving everyone and ricocheting in off the back post. Another goal was a whisker away, Chivu embarking on a storming run only to blast over. A taste of knockout football duly followed, although Italy proved too strong for Romania in the last eight.
Patrick Kluivert, 19 years and 342 days (Netherlands) – EURO ’96
The 19-year-old Ajax forward was deployed from the bench for a third consecutive Group A game as the Oranje trailed hosts England 4-0. Making a defence-splitting run, he latched onto a Dennis Bergkamp through ball, striking a 78th-minute consolation through the legs of David Seaman.
Thanks to his rescue act, the Netherlands pipped Scotland on goals scored to advance, and the young marksman earned a quarter-final start against France.
With the last-eight contest subsequently goalless after extra time, Kluivert showed no nerves by stepping up to send the third Dutch spot kick of a hitherto flawless penalty shoot-out into Bernard Lama’s bottom-right corner. The Netherlands’ tournament ended imminently, though, as France prevailed 5-4.
Michael Laudrup, 19 years and 362 days (Denmark) – UEFA EURO 1984
A sparkling figure in the team dubbed Danish Dynamite, Laudrup helped Denmark to the last four at EURO ’84. A natural finisher with an eye for a shrewd pass, the Lazio attacker played every minute of the Danes’ campaign. Always elegant, he showcased his talent for effortlessly luring in defenders with the drop of a shoulder and a swift change of feet.
The day after his 20th birthday he served up two assists in a 5-0 group stage demolition of Yugoslavia. Connecting with a flick forward, Laudrup’s deft touch over the keeper fell for Klaus Berggreen to bundle in Denmark’s second; later, making good of a miscued effort, he slowed down play to feed Preben Elkjær for the fourth.
Third up in the semi-final shoot-out against Spain, Laudrup made no mistake in dispatching his penalty. But going all the way to the tenth kick, Danish hopes were dashed as they yielded to La Roja’s unerring conversions.
Ferenc Bene, 19 years and 182 days (Hungary) – UEFA EURO 1964
Joint EURO 1964 top scorer – netting in Hungary’s two matches – the 19-year-old’s contribution earned his nation a third-place finish. A right-winger in the Magyar line-up, the dynamic Újpesti Dózsa attacker brought creative flair, pace and skill to a free-flowing side.
Trailing 1-0 to Spain in the semi-final, Bene nicked Hungary’s late equaliser, pouncing as the keeper fumbled to force the ball over the line.
However, his leveller was not enough as Spain succeeded in extra time. Denmark then cancelled out Bene’s 11th-minute opener in the third-place play-off, only this time Hungary held sway in overtime to claim bronze.