With a host of fresh faces set to announce themselves on the international stage when the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifiers begin in September, the competition will once again be rejuvenated by youthful vigour. In anticipation, UEFA.com looks at the youngest players to have competed in UEFA European Championship qualifying and what has become of them – from historic debuts to a future world-record holder.
Sigurdur Jónsson (16 years and 251 days)
Iceland v Malta 05/06/1983
After debuting for home-town club ÍA Akranes, the 16-year-old midfielder known as Siggi got the call from coach Johannes Atlason for this UEFA European Championship qualifier against Malta. Winless in five previous games in the campaign, Iceland prevailed 1-0 with half-time substitute Jónsson helping them over the line. Went on to play for Sheffield Wednesday FC and Arsenal FC in England and had three spells with Akranes before going into coaching, notably with Sweden's Djurgårdens IF. Won 65 caps for his country, scoring three times, to figure on a 2008 ten-man shortlist for Iceland's best-ever player.
Peter Jehle, Liechtenstein (16 years and 265 days)
Liechtenstein v Azerbaijan 14/10/1998
The goalkeeper's debut was not only a personal milestone but a national one. The then 16-year-old's baptism came in October 1998 in a famous 2-1 victory over Azerbaijan, Liechtenstein's first in FIFA or UEFA competition. Still his nation's No1, he has proceeded to pick up 105 caps. Jehle's club career also had a thrilling start: after joining Grasshopper Club at 18, he emerged from the dugout following keeper Stefan Huber's sending-off and immediately saved a penalty. Twice a league champion with the Swiss side, Jehle also plied his trade with Boavista FC, Tours FC and FC Luzern before returning home with FC Vaduz.
Levan Kenia, Georgia (16 years and 325 days)
Georgia v Ukraine 08/09/2007
An FC Lokomotiv Tbilisi product, the forward was called up for this 2007 qualifier against Ukraine, coming off the bench on 62 minutes with his country a goal down. He helped Georgia conjure a late equaliser to clinch a point, prompting coach Klaus Toppmöller to say he had "never seen such technical skill in a player that age". All three of his international goals came in 2008, following a transfer to FC Schalke 04, yet a bad ankle injury stunted his development. Subsequently revived at FC Karpaty Lviv in 2012/03, the 23-year-old headed back to Germany with Fortuna Düsseldorf and should feature prominently in Georgia's bid to reach a first EURO in 2016.
Daniel Frick, Liectentstein (17 years and 79 days)
Latvia v Liechtenstein 06/09/1995
First displayed his talents in EURO qualifying in September 1995 when introduced as a 72nd-minute substitute in Latvia, but was unable to help his side avoid a 1-0 loss. After his second cap in a 9-1 defeat by Germany in 1996, Frick's seemingly promising career in national colours faltered as he endured several years in the wilderness. Made another 20 outings between 2004 and 2007, however, when restored to the international fold, though he failed to score for Liechtenstein despite being used predominantly as a forward. Stayed loyal to club team FC Balzers throughout, until his 2008 retirement.
Ronny Büchel, Liechtenstein (17 years and 82 days)
Portugal v Liechtenstein 09/06/1999
Was given an international baptism of fire in 1999, thrown on with his side 6-0 down to a Portugal outfit for whom João Pinto and Sá Pinto had hit hat-tricks. Rui Costa added two more during Büchel's time on the pitch, but that tough start did not prevent the midfielder going on to amass 73 caps before withdrawing from national service in 2010. A stint with FC Vaduz had preceded his solitary season with BSC Young Boys in 2001/02 before a spell with FC Chur 97. Returned to Liechtenstein with FC USV Eschen/Mauren, later ending his career as player-coach of FC Ruggell.
Gareth Bale, Wales (17 years and 83 days)
Wales v Slovakia 07/10/2006
After bursting onto the scene with Southampton FC as an attacking left-back with lethal ability from free-kicks, Bale received his first Welsh cap against Trinidad and Tobago in May 2006. His EURO debut was memorable for contrasting reasons: Wales suffered a record qualifying home loss, 5-1 to Slovakia, in which a superb Bale set piece provided the consolation. The Welshman has gone from strength to strength since, mutating into a potent forward at Tottenham Hotspur FC to secure a world-record switch to Real Madrid CF.
Vagif Javadov, Azerbaijan (17 years and 100 days)
Serbia v Azerbaijan 02/09/2006
The İnter Bakı PİK captain has become a mainstay of the national team since debuting against Serbia in UEFA EURO 2008 qualification. As a 77th-minute substitute he was unable to stave off a 1-0 defeat, but the former PFC CSKA Moskva youth-teamer has subsequently won 47 caps, netting important goals in 1-1 draws with Russia in FIFA World Cup and EURO qualifying. "Despite my young age, the other players in the national team treated me well," the 2009 Azerbaijani footballer of the year, now 24, recalled. "Everybody has the same aim."
Romelu Lukaku, Belgium (17 years and 113 days)
Belgium v Germany 03/09/2010
Had a remarkable start to his career as a 16-year-old with RSC Anderlecht, firing 15 goals to become the Belgian First League's top scorer for 2009/10. After notching on his Belgium Under-21 debut, he was drafted into the senior squad in February 2010. Germany were the daunting opposition on Lukaku's EURO qualifying bow – a 1-0 reverse in Brussels – and he played six times in that qualification campaign without finding the net. Made a big-money move to Chelsea FC in August 2011, becoming one of the Premier League's most potent strikers during season-long loans to first West Bromwich Albion FC and now Everton FC.
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