Dusting off the encyclopaedias and scouring the history books, UEFA.com delves deep to unearth the stories behind each nation’s nickname.
Turkey – Ay-Yıldızlılar (The Crescent-Stars), Bizim Çocuklar (Our Boys)
Turkey’s celestial moniker borrows from the elements of their national flag: a white crescent and star on a red background – originally dating back to the flag of the ancient Ottoman Empire. #BizimÇocuklar (literally #OurChildren) is a popular social media hashtag.
Italy – Gli Azzurri (The Blues), La Nazionale (The National Team)
Known as the Tricolore, Italy’s national flag features bold green, white and red stripes. So why The Blues? To honour the colour of the Royal House of Savoy, which unified the nation in 1861.
Wales – Y Dreigiau (The Dragons)
Wales’ mythical namesake can be observed as an emblem throughout Welsh history, dating back as far as the seventh century and the reign of Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd. In 1959, a red dragon on a white and green backdrop was officially recognised as the Welsh national flag.
Switzerland – A-Team, Nati (National Team), Rossocrociati (Red Crosses)
With four official languages (French, German, Italian and Romansh) the Swiss opt for simplicity with A-Team and Nati. Rossocrociati (in Italian) refers to Switzerland’s square-shaped flag depicting a white cross on a red background.
Denmark – De Rød-Hvide (The Red-White), Danish Dynamite
“We are red, we are white, we are Danish Dynamite,” goes the chorus of Denmark’s EURO ’84 song by the rapping 78-year-old sports journalist Gunnar ‘Nu’ Hansen. Known as the Dannebrog, the national flag of a white cross on a red field inspires both their strip and the Rød-Hvide tag.
Finland – Huuhkajat (Eagle Owls)
Bubi the eagle owl was the inspiration behind the Finnish national team’s alias. Swooping down to perch on the goal frame, Bubi famously interrupted Finland’s match against Belgium at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium in 2007.
Belgium – De Rode Duivels, Les Diables Rouges, Die Roten Teufel (The Red Devils)
In a 1905 Low Countries derby between Belgium and the Netherlands, the Dutch press reported that some Belgium players “worked like devils”. Referencing their red shirts, the national team were soon known as the Red Devils (with the name translated into Belgium’s three official languages: Dutch, French and German).
Russia – Sbornaya or Сборная (National Team)
Winners of the EURO’s first edition in 1960 (as the Soviet Union), Russia straightforwardly go by Sbornaya.
Netherlands – Oranje, Clockwork Orange
Orange symbolises the Netherlands’ royal family, the House of Orange, hence their brightly-coloured shirts and Dutch-language nickname Oranje. Runners-up at the FIFA World Cups of 1974 and 1978, the Johan Cruyff-era Netherlands side were dubbed ‘Clockwork Orange’ for the mechanical brilliance of their ‘total football’. However, it’s seldom heard today.
Ukraine – Synio-Zhovti or Синьо-жовті (Blue-Yellows)
Blue and yellow are Ukraine’s national colours. Split horizontally into two halves, the flag’s blue half is said to represent the sky, and the yellow half, fields of grain.
Austria – Das Nationalteam (The National Team), Unsere Burschen (Our Boys)
Some fairly self-explanatory nicknames for Austria, who are making their third UEFA European Championship appearance at EURO 2020.
North Macedonia – Рисови (The Lynxes)
Appearing on the Macedonian five Denar coin, the Balkan Lynx is a native and critically endangered species.
England – Three Lions
England’s badge shows a trio of lions ‘passant guardant’ (walking with heads turned full-face) surrounded by ten Tudor roses, which are traditional heraldic emblems of England. Said to have been carried into battle to spur on the soldiers from Richard the Lionheart’s reign in the 12th century, every English monarch’s royal arms since have featured three lions.
Croatia – Vatreni (Blazers/Fiery Ones), Kockasti (Chequered Ones)
Croatian writer Josip Prudeus first coined the term ‘Vatreni’ in 1996, penning the lyrics to the football anthem ’11 Vatrenih’ (11 Fiery Ones). The nickname caught on. Kockasti refers to Croatia’s red-and-white chequered shirts, the traditional pattern that fills the national coat of arms.
Czech Republic – Národní tým (National Team), Naši (Our Boys)
The Národní tým also go by the shortened version Nároďák. Naši or Our Boys epitomises their bond with the Czech fanbase.
Scotland – The Tartan Army
Tartan is a traditional Scottish pattern. In its many colour combinations, it is used to represent the nation’s various component clans.
Spain – La Roja (The Red One), La Furia Española (The Spanish Fury)
Spain’s hard-bitten, silver medal-winning side of the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp were first dubbed La Furia Española, owing to their fierce, aggressive and direct style, plus their red shirts. Spain’s more recent ‘tiki-taka’ sides often go simply by La Roja.
Sweden – Blågult (Blue-Yellow)
Sweden’s nickname reflects their yellow shirts and socks, and blue shorts, rooted in the national flag of an off-centred yellow cross on a blue background – national colours that date back to Magnus III’s 13th-century tenure.
Poland – Biało-czerwoni (White and Red), Orły (Eagles)
Based on their coat of arms of a white-tailed eagle on a red shield, which also appears on their strip, Poland are nicknamed the Eagles. Given the colour scheme of both flag and kit, they are also labelled the White and Red.
Slovakia – Sokoli (Falcons), Repre (Representatives)
Seeking a symbol to reflect the nation’s traditions in the modern age, in 2015 the Slovak Football Association decided that the “acumen, speed, dexterity and savagery” of a falcon incarnated the attributes of the country’s greatest players.
Portugal – A Seleção (The Selection), Seleção das Quinas (Selection of the Shields)
Seleção das Quinas is a nod to the five blue shields on the Portuguese badge.
France – Les Bleus (The Blues)
Les Bleus is taken from their blue shirts and the left band of the Tricolore flag. Blue is ingrained in French history, appearing in heraldry as a national colour as far back as the 12th century.
Germany – Nationalelf (national eleven), DFB-Elf (DFB Eleven), Die Nationalmannschaft (The National Team), Die Mannschaft (The Team)
In 2015, Germany were rebranded internationally as ‘Die Mannschaft’. Noting Germany’s lack of a single label recognised worldwide, former striker Oliver Bierhoff said the new tag represents everything the team stands for: “creativity, quality, respect, fair play”.
Hungary – Magyarok (Magyars), Nemzeti Tizenegy (National Eleven)
Magyars refers to the ethnic group native to Hungary. The dazzling national team of the 1950s, captained by Ferenc Puskás, were also known to English speakers as the ‘Magical Magyars’ or ‘Marvellous Magyars’.