Rise of the long-range rocket has made Euro 2024 one of the best we’ve seen in years

2 min read

Despite the fact we are not yet into the knockout stages, Euro 2024 has so far been one of the most entertaining international tournaments we have witnessed in years. 

Italy’s breathtaking last-gasp equaliser against Croatia on Monday evening was the most recent example of unpredictable beauty (providing you are not a Croatian supporter), as the Central European country went from being strong contenders to progress through to the last-16 as one of the highest ranked third-placed teams, to tumbling out of the tournament altogether at the very last second. In turn, the Italians secured their spot in the initial knockout round as runners-up behind table-toppers Spain, who defeated Albania 1-0 and made it three wins from three in the group stages.

There have been gems unearthed, surprise packages and dark horses aplenty and a plethora of world-class goals for us all to feast on during the tournament’s opening fortnight, but a trend which has emerged strongly is just how many goals are being scored from long distance – and needless to say we are all here for it. 

Romania’s Nicolae Stanciu set the tone with his long-range rocket in Romania’s 3-0 win against Ukraine just over a week ago. A firm contender for goal of the tournament, the midfielder whipped a dipping first-time shot spectacularly into the top corner from 20 yards to put his side in front after half an hour at the Allianz Arena, but that was merely a taste of what was to come from this swashbuckling month-long football frenzy on German soil. 

In the very same game, just the other side of the half-time interval, Răzvan Marin doubled Romania’s advantage with an outside of the box special of his own, ferociously wrapping a first-time rasping effort into the bottom corner of Andriy Lunin’s net. What a start. 

A day later, Mert Muldur’s outrageous volley which notched Turkey in front against Georgia was a faultless example of how to execute a first-time volley, made all the more impressive considering he is a defender. Nestling right into the top corner, the Fenerbahçe man provided yet another breathtaking moment of magic in a game which looked, on paper at least, to lack any overwhelming quality. 

That proved to be a foolish assumption, as 40 minutes later, Muldur’s teammate Arda Güler laid on his own audition for goal of the tournament by curling in a beautiful long-range effort after a swift, sharp turn and run got everyone off their feet. 

Such auditions have lasted fleetingly at Euro 2024, though, with Lukas Provod kidnapping the limelight a matter of hours later. The Slavia Prague winger put the Czech Republic ahead against Portugal in true style, and whilst A Seleção did manage to fight back and win the game 2-1 in the end, the goal of the game was certainly thanks to Provod. 

Fast-forward 24 hours and it was the turn of a former Premier League stalwart, with Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri latching onto a defensive error against Scotland to sweep home a swirling masterpiece which he made look almost obnoxiously effortless. 

Whilst much has been dissected of England’s disastrous showing in the 1-1 against Denmark, the class of Morten Hjulmand’s equaliser cannot be denied. Yes, he was afforded too much time on the edge of the area to get his shot away but the purity of the strike deserved it turning into a goal. England’s inability to recover from it and grab a winner is an argument for another day, month or year(s) to come. 

Switzerland’s Michel Aebischer, Italy’s Nicolò Barella, Netherlands forward Cody Gakpo, Belgium’s Youri Tielemans and Erik Janza of Slovenia have also scored from outside the box at this summer’s European Championship, and with so much of the tournament still to play out, you can guarantee there will be more players joining that list from now until the final on July 14th. 

In total, 15 of the 69 goals netted at Euro 2024 have been scored from outside the area. That is in stark contrast to Euro 2020, where only 19 were scored from that distance (15.7% of overall goals scored) and Euro 2016, where just 17 were bagged from long range (13.4% of overall goals scored). For context, the recent Premier League season which has not long finished saw only 11.5% of goals scored from outside the area – the lowest number from records dating back to 2010/11 (as per Sky Sports). 

So far, this summer’s European Championship has lived up to its billing. Let’s hope the trend continues, and the net keeps bulging from players having a go from distance.