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Euro 2024: Luka Modric sets Euros goalscoring record amid Croatia heartbreak

:Headline: Euro 2024: Luka Modric sets Euros goalscoring record amid Croatia heartbreak:
With Cristiano Ronaldo potentially on the brink of setting yet another goalscoring record, Sports Mole looks at the oldest scorers in European Championship history.
Sports Mole

Football has always been a young man's game, and the age of 30 is often seen as a watershed for a player's prime years. However, this century has seen a steady increase of players staying at the top of their game even in their mid-30s.

Naturally, a little biological luck and some iron discipline always helps, but such has been the improvement in sports science, nutrition and conditioning, many players can mix it with opponents less than half their age.

A notable case in point saw 16-year-old Lamine Yamal and 38-year-old Luka Modric share a pitch during Saturday's Euro 2024 action.

The poster boy for this new - or old - breed of player is undoubtedly Cristiano Ronaldo. Even though he no longer plays amongst Europe's elite at club level, the Portugal icon still has bags of goals in him.

The next one could be amongst his most important though, as a strike at any point during Euro 2024 would see him become the first player aged 39 or over to score in the competition's history.

Ronaldo's latest attempt at a goalscoring feat never achieved by anyone else before is expected to come in Tuesday's showdown with Czech Republic, and with that in mind, here Sports Mole looks at the current five oldest scorers in Euros history.

Who are the oldest goalscorers in Euros history?

5. Gareth McAuley, Northern Ireland (36y 194d)

The only defender in the top five, Northern Ireland centre-back Gareth McAuley scored one of the biggest goals in Northern Irish history eight years ago, netting against Ukraine at Euro 2016 aged 36 years and 194 days.

Chris Brunt delivered a teasing set piece from deep on the left towards the back post, allowing McAuley to power through the penalty area and crash a header over the helpless Andriy Pyatov.

Niall McGinn added a second to secure Northern Ireland's first ever win at the European Championship, crowning a truly vintage period for the British Isles' smallest nation. McAuley came back to the UK and played out two more seasons, one at West Bromwich Albion and another at Rangers, before calling it a day aged 38.

4. Zoltan Gera, Hungary (37y 62d)

Another West Bromwich Albion veteran, Zoltan Gera scored a surprise opener against eventual champions Portugal at Euro 2016 for Hungary. The Magyars played out a back-and-forth 3-3 draw in a frenetic game, but Gera's opener was the pick of the bunch.

Portugal failed to adequately clear a Hungarian corner and the ball dropped to Gera, who cut across itl with his weaker left foot. By luck or skill, that sent the ball fading perfectly into the bottom-right corner beyond a helpless Rui Patricio.

Gera was aged 37 years and 62 days at the time, and had returned to Ferencvaros in his home country when he scored. The draw was essential to Hungary clinching top spot in their group, for what was their best performance at the Euros in over 40 years.

3. Goran Pandev, North Macedonia (37y 322d)

One of the most romantic things about international football is how players from smaller nations can drag their countries to the biggest stages.

Welsh winger Gareth Bale is one prominent example of course, but a less well-known one is Goran Pandev, and his single-minded determination to take North Macedonia to the Euros.

Pandev is his nation's record appearance-maker and goalscorer, and like Ronaldo, he has served his national team for two decades. The former Inter Milan striker's goals fired North Macedonia to the 2020 Euros, and he then scored against Austria in a 3-1 defeat, aged 37 years and 322 days.

Pandev retired from international duty after the tournament, but played one more season in Italy, appearing for Genoa and Parma.

2. Ivica Vastic, Austria (38y 257d)

Second in the list is the relatively little-known Ivica Vastic, who scored co-host Austria's first-ever European Championship goal in 2008, when he was aged 38 years and 257 days.

Vastic was a shock inclusion in the Austria squad, having not been selected since 2005, but given that he had scored a crucial goal at the 1998 World Cup – when he equalised against Chile – the intent to make him an 'impact substitute' did make some sense.

Make an impact he did; with defeat looming, Vastic scored a crucial equaliser against Poland in the 93rd minute, slotting a penalty away from Artur Boruc. Vastic broke the existing record for the oldest scorer by over four years, overtaking Portugal striker Nene.

The Yugoslavian-born striker would play one more season at club level after the tournament, scoring five more goals for LASK Linz in the Austrian Bundesliga, but this record-breaking strike was his one and only goal at the Euros.

1. Luka Modric, Croatia (38y 289d)

Having helped to guide Croatia to a World Cup final and a third-placed finish during his legendary career, Euro 2024 was expected to be Luka Modric's last hurrah at a major international tournament.

Despite their success on the world stage, Croatia had never progressed past the quarter-finals at a Euros, and had not even made it that far since 2008 prior to their trip to Germany.

However, they looked on course to reach the last 16 when Modric netted a record-breaking strike to give them a lead in their final group game against Italy, firing into the roof of the net after Gianluigi Donnarumma had brilliantly denied Ante Budimir.

It capped a crazy minute of action for Modric, who had seen a penalty saved by Donnarumma moments before becoming the oldest goalscorer in European Championship history.

That was not the end of his rollercoaster of emotions that day, though; Italy scored an equaliser in the last minute of stoppage time to send them through to the last 16 at Croatia's expense.

Cristiano Ronaldo one of two players who could still break the record

Despite Luka Modric setting a new mark, his record could only last a matter of days with the all-time record European Championship goalscorer one of two players older than Modric currently playing at Euro 2024.

Thirty-nine-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo has 14 Euros goals to his name already, as well as being the all-time tournament leader for appearances and assists, and will fancy his chances of adding to that tally at Euro 2024.

The Al-Nassr man was also back to his fearsome best in qualifying, scoring 10 goals as Portugal romped to the tournament finals with the only perfect qualifying record, while he hit the 50-goal mark domestically in 2023-24.

Ronaldo was already among the five oldest scorers in Euros history heading into this summer's tournament courtesy of his last goal at Euro 2020, but Modric's strike knocked his former Real Madrid teammate off the list.

Any goal Ronaldo scores throughout Euro 2024 is guaranteed to break Modric's new record, although one of his Portugal teammates could still deny him top spot in this list, with the 41-year-old centre-back Pepe sure to end the tournament as its oldest ever scorer if he finds the back of the net.

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Read more about Cristiano Ronaldo Lamine Yamal Luka Modric Gareth McAuley Chris Brunt Andriy Pyatov Niall McGinn Zoltan Gera Rui Patricio Goran Pandev Gareth Bale Ivica Vastic Artur Boruc Pepe Gianluigi Donnarumma Ante Budimir Football
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