Having won myriad honours for both club and country and become France's most capped player, defender Lilian Thuram broke another record when he took the field against Romania in today's Group C opener in Zurich.
The FC Barcelona centre-back has come a long way since making his international debut in a 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic in 1994 – a match in which fellow debutant Zinédine Zidane stole his thunder by scoring both of France's goals. This evening, though, Thuram, who has played an unrivalled 141 times for Les Bleus, moved into a league of his own, one match ahead of Zizou, Luís Figo and former Czech Republic winger Karel Poborský as the first player to make 15 UEFA European Championship finals appearances.
Ironically, Romania were Thuram's opponents when he made his first appearance at a major tournament at EURO '96™ – a 1-0 first-round win in Newcastle – and, although that tournament ended in a semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat by the Czech Republic, the versatile defender went on to win a glittering array of silverware for his country. FIFA World Cup glory followed two years later and at UEFA EURO 2000™ Thuram, then at Parma FC, enjoyed more success after the golden goal final win against Italy in Rotterdam. The former AS Monaco FC man, who signed for Barcelona in summer 2006 after five seasons at Juventus, is still regarded as one of the most accomplished defenders in the world.
The 36-year-old can play at either full-back or in the heart of defence, and as the only France player to be ever present in all of their UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying matches his fitness, despite his advancing years in footballing terms, is exemplary. Thuram boasts an unequalled 46 qualifying and final tournament appearances and now intends to add a further five caps to his vast collection, not to mention a second EURO winner's medal.
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