Euro Zone: Portugal’s splendid Pepe ‘a professional for 24 hours a day’

A stopper with astonishing longevity; wolf salute triggers quarter-final ban; Piers Morgan erupts; and more

Ageing double act: Portugal's talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo with the ever-reliable Pepe. Photograph: Bradley Collyer/PA
Old man Pepe shows the way

One player who continues to defy the ageing process is Portuguese defender Pepe who keeps stretching his record as the oldest player to appear in the Euro finals.

Pepe first broke Hungary’s Gábor Király’s benchmark when he featured against Czechia in the opening series of group matches in Germany and has extended it match-by-match since then so that his appearance against France in last night’s quarter-final stretched it to 41 years 130 days.

Hungarian goalkeeper Király’s old mark, set in the 2016 Euros, was 40 years and 86 days.

“A neutral watching Pepe play, you wouldn’t believe he was 41. He’s a professional for 24 hours a day. The focus is on playing another year, then another one. Added to that, there’s a love of the game and genetics; you can’t buy those,” said Portugal manager Roberto Martinez.


Pepe, by the way, has built up something of a reputation for his own words of inspiration. Among them, “follow your instincts, for they are the whispers of the soul”.

Turkey’s Demiral sidelined over ... that salute

Turkish defender Merih Demiral has paid a heavy price for his “wolf salute” celebration after his second goal in Turkey’s against Austria in the round of 16.

Uefa’s get-tough stance on such gestures brought with it a two-match suspension which has ruled Demiral out of the quarter-final against the Netherlands and if they manage to progress, the semi-final.

The “wolf salute” is associated with the far-right extremist group Grey Wolves, who are linked to the Movement Party (MHP), in Turkey. Although the salute is not banned in Germany, it is in Austria — Turkey’s opponents — and Uefa issued the ban for “failing to comply with the general principles of conduct, violating the basic rules of decent conduct, using sports events for manifestations of a non-sporting nature and bringing the sport of football into disrepute”.

Turkey's Merih Demiral's near-post header seals his country's victory over Austria. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Has Piers lost the plot?

Never a man shy about coming forward, Piers Morgan — the broadcaster/journalist/show host — described England’s performances so far in the tournament as “shocking”.

Speaking to TalkSport, he ranted: “It’s been shocking. Let’s remind ourselves that Harry Kane was the best player in the Bundesliga. Jude Bellingham was the best player in La Liga. Phil Foden the best player in the Premier League.

“Why are we playing like the way we’re playing? These are the best players in Europe. They’ve won all the awards for their leagues but they’re playing like a bunch of muted, terrified snails.”

Maybe even like startled earwigs, as former Dubs boss Pat Gilroy once described his team back in 2009? We all know how that Dublin football team developed into a team of invincibles. Some hope for England yet.

In words

“From the training ground to the pitch, you’ve shown us what it means to be a true Red Devil. We’ll miss you, Jan!” — the Belgian FA bidding adieu to one of their own, Jan Vertonghen, who retired from international football after his side’s exit from the Euros.

Jan Vertonghen of Belgium after his final appearance for Belgium against France. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
In numbers

Twenty-nine — Giorgio Marmardashvili may have long departed the Euros but the Georgian goalkeeper remains top by a clear distance in the statistical category for saves made: in his four matches, he made no fewer than 29 stops (an average of 7.25 per match). Next best? Romania’s Florin Nita with 16. According to, Marmardashvili’s value — he plays for Valencia in La Liga — is now estimated at €35 million.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times