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Teenager Willems breaks Scifo's record

Defender Jetro Willems became the youngest player to tread the EURO stage when he appeared in the Netherlands' Group B opener with Denmark aged 18 years and 71 days.

Jetro Willems became the youngest player in EURO finals history in the Netherlands-Denmark match
Jetro Willems became the youngest player in EURO finals history in the Netherlands-Denmark match ©Getty Images

Jetro Willems entered the UEFA European Championship record books as the youngest player to appear on the finals stage when featuring in the Netherlands' Group B defeat against Denmark.

The PSV Eindhoven defender was 18 years and 71 days old today – precisely 44 days younger than Enzo Scifo, the previous record holder, had been when he appeared at the 1984 finals in France. It was only the third international appearance for the teenager, who joined PSV from Sparta Rotterdam last August and did not play a single game in qualifying. He made his international debut against Bulgaria just a fortnight ago as a replacement for the injured Erik Pieters.

Bert van Marwijk, the Netherlands coach, praised Willems afterwards when he said: "I wasn't surprised that he started very well. It was a good feeling because everything was new for him and he did well." Willems, incidentally, is 20 years younger than Kostas Chalkias, the Greece goalkeeper and oldest player in Poland and Ukraine at 38.

Young boys
Jetro Willems, 18 years, 71 days
Netherlands v Denmark, 9 June 2012
The Rotterdam-born full-back had not played in the Dutch top flight a year ago and has only 20 appearances to his name for PSV but that did not stop Van Maarwijk from throwing him into the fray – and breaking Scifo's 28-year record.

Enzo Scifo, 18 years, 115 days
Belgium v Yugoslavia, 13 June 1984
Scifo showed his prodigious talents at the 1984 finals in France where he appeared in all three of Belgium's group stage games. He did not play again on the EURO stage but did feature in four FIFA World Cup final tournaments – the last back on French soil in 1998 when he was 32.

Valeri Bozhinov, 18 years, 136 days
Bulgaria v Italy, 22 June 2004
The Bulgaria striker came off the bench in his country's final game of the 2004 finals in Portugal – a 2-1 defeat against Italy. It remains the only appearance in a major tournament for the now Sporting Clube de Portugal player.

Johan Vonlanthen, 18 years, 137 days
Switzerland v England, 17 June 2004
The young midfielder made his finals debut on the day Wayne Rooney became the youngest scorer in EURO history with two goals against his team. Vonlanthen grabbed that record for himself by scoring against France four days later. Made three appearances for the Swiss at UEFA EUR0 2008.

UEFA.com also has pieces about the UEFA European Championship's oldest players and the teenagers tipped to dazzle at UEFA EURO 2012.

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