11.06.2021Bayer 04

Euros history: From Rolff to Leno and Tah

The 2020 European Championship it's set to begin with one year's delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. The tournament starts on 11 June and is being staged across Europe first time. An experienced Bayer 04 quintet in Aleksandar Dragovic, Julian Baumgartlinger (both Austria), Lukas Hradecky, Joel Pohjanpalo (both Finland) and Patrik Schick (Czech Republic) are in the competition but there are no Werkself players in the Germany squad for this sixteenth European Championship finals. An unusual situation as can be seen from the European Championships from the end of the 1980s.

Euro 1988: Rolff is number one

Playing in a big tournament in your own country – Wolfgang Rolff realised that childhood dream in 1988. The midfielder joined Leverkusen from Hamburg SV two years earlier and he went into his second Euros full of confidence after winning the UEFA Cup. Rolff was on the subs bench in the opening draw against Italy (1-1) but he went the full distance in the following 2-0 wins against Denmark and Spain. The Bayer 04 player was also on the pitch for 90 minutes in the 2-1 defeat in the semi-final against eventual European Champions the Netherlands. Rolff moved on to French club Strasbourg a year after his last Euros and UEFA Cup triumph with the Werkself.

Euro 1992: A Leverkusen duo 

Germany in Sweden – and two Werkself players on board. Christian Wörns, signed from Waldhof Mannheim the year before, did not play under Germany coach Berti Vogts. With the second Leverkusen player in the Germany squad, Andreas Thom, it looked like he would suffer the same fate. Up to the final in Gothenburg, the future Bayer 04 head coach Vogts did not make use of the Black and Red players. But when Germany were 2-0 down against Denmark, striker Thom was given his first Euros appearance. But he was unable to influence the final result. Germany failed to secure their third European Championship title.

The Germany squad for Euro 1992 with the Leverkusen players Christian Wörns (back row, second left) and Andreas Thom (middle row, sixth left).

Euro 2000: Fourth place with a quintet 

The Werkself were well represented in the first tournament in the new century. Germany coach Erich Ribbek, previously a long-standing Bayer 04 head coach, called up five Leverkusen players to his Euros squad – a Black and Red record at a big tournament. Jens Nowotny and Paulo Rink were in the starting eleven for the 1-1 draw in the opening game against Romania and the Germany squad also included Michael Ballack, Ulf Kirsten and Carsten Ramelow. With the exception of the latter, all the Leverkusen players featured in the three group matches. The titleholders went out at the group stage. After the early exit, Rudi Völler took over from Ribbek as the Germany coach.

Euro 2004: Out of the frying pan into the fire

After finishing runners-up in the 2002 World Cup that unleashed great euphoria and expectation in Germany, the 2004 European Championship could hardly have been more disappointing for the team under then Germany coach Rudi Völler, today's sporting managing director at Bayer 04. The Werkself players Jens Nowotny and Bernd Schneider were in the Euros squad in Portugal. In spite of plenty of time on the pitch, both 'Jenne' and 'Schnix' were unable to make any real impression and Germany went out of the competition in Group D. Two draws against the Netherlands (1-1) and Latvia (0-0) plus a 2-1 defeat against the Czech Republic brought third place and an exit at the group stage.


Euro 2008: Rolfes against Cristiano Ronaldo and Co.

While the former Bayer 04 keeper René Adler was on the subs bench at the European Championship in Austria and Switzerland as a backup for first choice goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, Simon Rolfes did play in the tournament. The current Bayer 04 sporting director replaced the injured Torsten Frings in midfield in the turbulent quarter-final and semi-final matches against Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo (3-2) and Turkey (also 3-2) and thereby played a big part in the Löw team progressing to the final. When Fernando Torres netted the winner in the 1-0 defeat in the final against Spain, the first Euro title since 1996 slipped away again in 2008.

Euro 2012: Bender seals perfect group stage

The Germany team under coach Joachim Löw were in a good position after two games in 2012 at the Euros in Ukraine and Poland. The Löw team were top of Group B after two games with wins against Portugal (1-0) and the Netherlands (2-1). Today's Werkself honorary captain Lars Bender, whose twin brother Sven Bender only made it into the preliminary squad, played a crucial part in Germany achieving a perfect group stage with nine points from three games. In the third group match, the Germany coach played the Brannenburger for the full distance and that was repaid on 80 minutes with the 2-1 winner from a Mesut Özil assist. André Schürrle, also with the Werkself at the time, also featured in the match and he played 67 minutes in the quarter-final triumph against Greece (4-2) before being replaced by Thomas Müller. Two Mario Balotelli goals in the semi-final against Italy (1-2) again saw the dreams of a Euros triumph in Germany disappear as was also the case four years later in France.

Lars Bender celebrates his important strike to make it 2-1 in the group match against Denmark at Euro 2012.

Euro 2016: Tah late call-up, Bellarabi and Brandt dropped

The World Cup winners went into the 2016 European Championship in France as favourites. And 04 players from Leverkusen had been hoping to represent Germany in the neighbouring country. Bernd Leno, Karim Bellarabi and Julian Brandt were called up to the preliminary squad; Jonathan Tah was on standby. After the first stage of preparations, Germany coach Jogi Löw dropped Brandt and Bellarabi from the final squad but Jonathan Tah was happier shortly after that: As Antonio Rüdiger was injured in the first training session in France, the Werkself central defender was called up as a late replacement. Tah and Leno did not play in the Euro finals but did gather valuable experience at the tournament and helped with their performances in training to take the World Cup winners to the semi-finals where they were unlucky to lose to the hosts.

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