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Euro 2020 is almost here, and as always there will be plenty of players looking to make their mark.
From Wayne Rooney’s bursting runs at Euro 2004, to Karel Poborsky’s luscious locks at Euro 96 and Peter Schmeichel acrobatic shenanigans in 92.
European Championships have often produced break-out stars.
There will be plenty of emerging stars looking to follow suit and make their name at this summer’s Euro 2020 too.
Some will be household names in elite football, meanwhile others like the aforementioned Poborsky are just about to announce themselves on the football scene.
Here are ten players who could catch the eye and light up this summer’s competition.
The Paris Saint Germain forward is an obvious choice.
He was the star of France’s World Cup glory back in 2018 in Russia and he has not looked back since.
The Frenchman has been the rare shining light in a mediocre PSG side scoring 42 goals and registering 11 assists in 47 games.
For France his record is not as glittering, having found the back of the net just once in his last five competitive games.
However, Mbappe has proven at the World Cup he is a man for the big occasion and Didier Deschamps will rely on the French goal-scoring machine to qualify out of a difficult Group F.
This will be Mbappe's chance to cement himself as the true heir of the Ronaldo and Messi era.
Which young star do you think will light up Euro 2020? Let us know in the comments section.
The 23 year old Hungarian centre-back might not be a world renowned name. He is currently plying his trade at Fenerbahce in Turkey and started the season out in Cyprus. However, back in his home country many are tipping him for a break-out tournament.
Since Szalai has come into the Hungarian national team he has solidified an often-patchy defence keeping five clean-sheets in ten games.
The Hungarians will be hoping he makes the same sort of influence at the Euros as he is expected to face off against some of the best attackers in the world.
A brilliant and pacy ball-playing centre-back, he can be dangerous from set-pieces too and scored 6 goals in all competitions during 20/21.
Linked with Leicester City among a host of elite European clubs, Brendan Rodgers will be keeping a close eye on the Hungarian.
From playing in Austria’s lower division back when he was 19 to establishing himself as Austria’s main man in attack five years later, it has been an astonishing rise for Kalajdzic.
The 24-year-old scored 16 Bundesliga goals and registered 6 assists for Stuttgart in a brilliant break-out campaign.
On the field the Austrian will not be hard to spot. His lanky long limbed 6-foot-7 frame towers above everyone else.
But don’t be fooled by his height. Kalajdzic is excellent technically and is very comfortable on the ball which probably stems from his futsal days.
3 goals in his first 5 international caps for Austria has made the forward a hot property. And he could easily add to that tally at the Euros against North Macedonia, Ukraine and the Netherlands.
Ajax, Arsenal and PSV. At 22 years of age Donyell Malen is already a well-travelled pro.
When he left Arsenal, many were disappointed to see him go but the move has paid dividends.
He scored 27 goals and registered 10 assists in 45 games for PSV in 2020/21 and already has 2 goals in 8 caps for his country.
A pacey and direct player who can play as a central forward or winger, Malen could provide the ammunition for the Dutch at the tournament.
Many top clubs will be keeping an eye on the young forward including Liverpool who have been heavily linked with the Dutchman.
Ukraine will be entering the competition with an aura of confidence. Some of that will be down to the emergence of their 18-year-old centre-back Illya Zabarnyi who has established himself as one of the best up and coming young defenders at this summer’s competition.
A composed centre-back who reads the game with precision, Zabarnyi started the season with Dynamo Kiev’s reserve side before injuries and Covid-19 quarantines enabled him to make his debut in a crucial Champions League qualifier.
He has not looked back since, playing every minute in the Champions League group-stages for Dynamo.
And he was crucial for Ukraine too in securing a victory over Spain and a draw against France in his last few games.
Unsurprisingly he’s attracted the attention of Chelsea among others according to various reports.
Back in March there were some who questioned whether Jadon Sancho should be included in England’s Euro 2020 squad. But his presence should never have been a debate.
The 21-year-old winger is one of Europe’s most exciting young players and Euro 2020 could be his big showcase opportunity.
16 goals and 20 assists in 38 games equals a goal-contribution in almost every game for Borussia Dortmund this season.
Even though he may not start, Southgate will be able to use five substitutions at this summer’s tournament which means he will likely feature a lot.
Bringing on someone of Sancho’s ilk could be the difference maker for England.
After recording some really impressive numbers at youth level for England, Sancho is yet to really kick on at senior level. Though in fairness to him, 3 goals and 5 assists in just 9 starts (11 sub appearances) is not a bad return.
He could easily improve on that in the tournament and lead England to glory.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes may have taken the limelight for Portugal ahead of Euro 2020, but it could be Liverpool’s star man who steals the show at this summer’s competition.
Jota has been on red hot form for club and country, despite picking up injuries during the season.
He has 6 goals and 2 assists in 10 games (5 starts) for Portugal, and 13 goals and 1 assist in 19 starts for Liverpool.
Portugal’s star-studded team are expected to do well in the tournament and Diogo Jota will likely play a major role in that.
He’s played a decisive role in recent Portuguese fixtures, bailing them out with a brace in a 2-2 draw with Serbia, setting up a crucial goal in a 3-2 win over Croatia and being involved in all three goals in a 3-0 win over Sweden.
Olmo made the perfect start in his senior international career scoring on his debut for Spain during a 7-0 demolition of Malta.
It took him almost two years to find the back of the net again, but the goal was well worth the wait. A stunning long-range effort in the 92nd minute was a much-needed stoppage time winner over Georgia in World Cup qualifying back in March.
Olmo followed that up with another goal against Kosovo which has made him one of Spain’s most in form players going into the tournament.
Olmo has been good at club level too, scoring 7 goals and registering 12 assists for RB Leipzig in 46 games.
His versatility will make him an excellent asset for Spain and he will be looking to carry on his good form at the Euros.
Having already won the U21 European Championship for Spain in 2019, Olmo will do his best to lift the senior one.
When the 18-year-old Czech forward suffered a serious metatarsal fracture back in November it threatened to destroy his Euro 2020 appearance.
But Hlozek returned from that setback unaffected and ended the season on a high with Sparta Prague including a remarkable run of 10 goals in his last 6 appearances.
He scored 15 and registered 8 assists in 19 Fortuna Liga appearances in total which has attracted the attention of West Ham and Borussia Dortmund among others.
With the Czechs not having a lot of firepower upfront Hlozek could be the key. A fast, agile and technically astute striker capable of holding up the ball and running in behind defences as well as playing on the wing, this could be Hlozek’s time to shine.
Back in 2019 Liverpool were so enamoured by the Belgian teenage talent, even Jurgen Klopp told him to join the club. But just like the aforementioned Mbappe, Doku turned the Merseyside outfit down.
Instead, he built up his reputation back in Belgium for Anderlecht working under Vincent Kompany.
He earned a move to Rennes last season where he hasn’t set the world alight yet in terms of his end product scoring just twice and registering three assists.
Though he has certainly caught the eye.
A quick and agile player with bags of skills, Doku is extremely fun to watch and has tormented Ligue 1 defences at times.
For Belgium he has 2 goals and 2 assists in 6 international caps at senior level. Roberto Martinez is a huge admirer and Doku could be Belgium’s secret weapon at the tournament.
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