Edwin van der Sar and Lilian Thuram share the honour of most final tournament appearances heading into UEFA EURO 2012 and look unlikely to be caught until at least 2016. Portugal striker Nuno Gomes is just two games adrift of the record but is now little more than a bit-part player on the international scene, while Sweden defender Olof Mellberg could draw level with the co-leaders should he feature in every match on a run to the Kyiv final on 1 July.
Edwin van der Sar (16)
A veteran of 130 appearances for the Netherlands, Van der Sar fell tantalisingly short of glory with his national team more than once. The tall goalkeeper is in an elite club of players to have figured in four EURO championships and on each occasion reached at least the quarter-finals. Twice he served between the posts as his country made it to the last four only to fail to take that final step – perhaps most agonisingly at UEFA EURO 2000, where the Oranje went out to Italy on penalties having already spurned two spot kicks in regulation time.
Lilian Thuram (16)
The France defender's 142nd, and final, international outing came as captain against the Netherlands – and Van der Sar – in Les Bleus' second UEFA EURO 2008 group game. Being overlooked for France's subsequent match – a 2-0 defeat by Italy which confirmed their elimination – meant he must share the finals appearance record. It also marked a meek conclusion to his benchmark-setting career in which, most notably, Thuram was a stalwart of the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000-winning squads.
Luís Figo (14)
A stellar career spanning three UEFA European Championships looked, at one point, set to end in despair, with Figo stepping down from international football following Portugal's defeat on home soil by Greece in the UEFA EURO 2004 showpiece. The attacking midfielder eventually reversed his decision, however, and finally bid farewell to the national team at the 2006 World Cup. Though never rewarded with silverware, Figo was certainly a worthy talisman for his country's 'golden generation'.
Nuno Gomes (14)
Among the players to look to Figo not just for inspiration but for service as well was Gomes – for a long time the spearhead of a side abundantly blessed with creative talent. Joint third behind only Michel Platini and Alan Shearer in the all-time UEFA European Championship scoring charts, Gomes is no stranger to producing on the big stage and has registered in all three EUROs in which he has featured.
Karel Poborský (14)
Think Poborský and surely one moment jumps out more than any other: THAT goal against Portugal in the EURO '96 quarter-finals; for the vision, execution and sheer cheek of it, his chip takes some beating. It signalled a personal highlight in a tournament in which the shaggy-haired winger's Czech Republic team made a name for themselves by getting to the final, with Poborský remaining an influential figure at UEFA EURO 2004 as well.
Zinédine Zidane (14)
Simply peerless at his peak, Zidane was the heartbeat of the France side that, in 2000, became the first reigning world champions to win the UEFA European Championship. Scorer of two goals in the 1998 World Cup final, he was equally pivotal in steering Les Bleus to glory two years later, scoring a stunning free-kick in the quarter-final victory over Spain before keeping his nerve to convert a clinching 117th-minute penalty in the 2-1 extra-time defeat of Portugal in the last four.
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