Music

'No song written about football is actually any good': The best and worst Euro 2024 songs, ranked

Euro 2024 is upon us and with it, ein fest of football songs to echo around the terraces, from the silly to the cringey to the downright criminal

From left: Armin van Buuren, Chef'Special, Peter Schilling. Images: Orange Pics BV / Imago / Alamy; Lunarts Studio/ Shutterstock

Like Saint to Greavsie, pie to Bovril or a hooligan to a weaponised rattan bistro chair, football and music seem drawn to one another as if by some inexplicable force of nature. Despite the two often making strange bedfellows. And Euro 2024 is no different.

Let’s face it: no song ever written specifically about football is actually any good – and before you say it yes, I am aware of obnoxious dirge Three Lions. Live appearances by pop stars at major tournaments are always either pointless (seemingly Will Smith sang before the 2018 World Cup final?) or laughable (Diana Ross’s penalty miss at USA ’94) or pointless and laughable (Martin Garrix and The Edge with a creepy pixellated cyber-Bono at Euro 2020).

And yet, when the beautiful game and beautiful song connect like a bullet header through an inch-perfect cross – think the Three Tenors doing Nessun Dorma at Italia ’90 – the emotional alchemy can be exquisite.

With the men’s UEFA European Championships in Germany upon us, a whole new set of would-be stadium anthems are here to try and cling to our ears tighter than a pair of pilsner-soaked lederhosen. Are there any surprise breakout stars among the crop of Euro 2024?

Or is it the usual mixture of fake rousing electro-pop paeans to pan-European unity, re-heated cheeseball anthems of yesteryear and other assorted novelty dross? No VAR checks were required in reaching a conclusion on some of the following.

Fire by Meduza, OneRepublic and Leony

The time-honoured tradition of chucking together a kind of songwriter’s salad to focus-group a sporting event’s official anthem sees UEFA pluck seemingly at random from the vegetable aisle of pop for this Euro 2024 line-up. Italo-electro no-marks Meduza, German singer Leony (a late sub for Kim Petras due to “scheduling issues”) and one-man American hit machine Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic meet on dispassionate EDM fist-pumper Fire, which burns about as bright as a dying pocket torch. It’s a song which UEFA say “embodies the fervour and spirit of football and music fans alike”. Which is exactly the sort of corporate nothing-speak you’d expect from an organisation renowned for treating football supporters like fleshy ATMs.

Shot at Glory by The Caledonian Dream

I’m Scottish so I should probably like this one more than I do. But the tartan cringe is unbearable, as all the usual tired cliches about our “deep-fried nation… Bonnie, brave and built to rave” get rehashed to a walloping techno beat. It doesn’t help that Shot at Glory bears a suspicious resemblance to another, far funnier song called The Kingdom of Scotland by Romeo Taylor, and even manages to run Andy Cameron’s infamous Ally’s Tartan Army close for wildly excessive optimism (“Not messing it up, we’re lifting the cup!”). In its defence, it’s very much in the “just a bit of fun” category of bad football songs, and if it gets the Tartan Army bouncing in Germany then fair play.

Larger Than Life by Armin Van Buuren and Chef’Special

The Oranje turn to the Johan Cruyff of Dutch trance in superstar DJ-producer Armin Van Buuren for their Euro 2024 official team anthem, which is a collaboration with Haarlem indie band Chef’Special. With its sugary, shiny electronic stomp and preponderance of massed-choir windy “woah-oh-oh” vocalising, it’s fair to say everyone involved with the making of Larger Than Life has heard a Coldplay record or two in their time. Seemingly there are vocals from the Dutch squad in there somewhere but they’re hard to make out, for better or for worse. Anyone hoping for a Denzel Dumfries rap may be disappointed.

Sweet Caroline, techno remixes by various artists

At the previous Euros in (the 2020 Covid-delayed event held a year later), Neil Diamond’s saccharine 1969 soft-rock ballad became an unlikely anthem among England supporters (copying Northern Ireland fans, for whom it’s been a terrace anthem for many years). The song has since spread throughout the football world like a very polite fever. But in a disconcerting recent development, a variety of donked-up electro reworkings old and new have begun to gain traction in stadiums and beyond for Euro 2024, including Louie Devito’s grim Techno Remix, DJ Ötzi’s grimmer still Party Remix and Dr Rude & 2nd Bass’s truly weapons-grade stinking Hardstyle Remix. The Sweet Caroline sensation is turning very sour.

Major Tom (Coming Home) by Peter Schilling

In one of the more charming bits of cultural archaeology to emerge around Euro 2024, Neue Deutsche Welle star Schilling’s David Bowie-homaging 1983 number one single has become the host nation’s unofficial anthem. Already revived in popularity once before when it featured as the title music to the TV show Deutschland 83 in 2015, Major Tom (Coming Home) has enjoyed another, even stronger third wind since its inclusion in Adidas’s kit launch video for Germany’s Euro 2024 jersey. Its upbeat, future-gazing feel chimes perfectly with the mood of cautious optimism surrounding the team going into the tournament. If it comes home for the Germans this summer, expect to hear this song again and again.

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