Euro 2016: Five under 21 stars who will be looking to impress on the big stage

As England are set to begin the European Championships with the youngest squad at the tournament it will give our players the chance to showcase their talents and do the nation proud. Marcus Rashford is the youngest player of all the teams travelling to France and he alongside other Premier League wonder kids such as Dele Alli, Hector Bellerin, Divock Origi and Antony Martial will be looking to steal the limelight at Euro 2016. Well established youngsters playing in Europe such as Kingsley Coman, Breel Embolo and Tin Jedvaj are also featuring in the competition but there are many others yet to make a name for themselves.

At all international tournaments new faces emerge and impress, attracting interest from top clubs due to their performances. Here are some prospects under the age of 21 that are worth watching over the next month.

Jason Denayer- Belgium

With Belgium captain Vincent Kompany ruled out of the Euros due to injury, Jason Denayer is set to step in and take his place in defence. The 20 year-old is on the books at Manchester City and has spent two title winning seasons out on loan at Celtic and most recently Galatasaray. Denayer is making rapid progress and is known for his physicality and athleticism, two key attributes as a central defender. He has already made seven international caps and could be a solution to the void in defence for club and country.

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In good Kompany: Denayer shares similar attributes with his international and club captain

 

Emre Mor- Turkey

Turkish football has steadily improved over the years and the national team have a number of top young players in their ranks ready to feature at Euro 2016. The likes Hakan Calhanoglu, Ozan Tufan and Oguzhan Ozyakup are all under the age of 23 but regarded as Turkey’s best players. Now another potential star has been unearthed. Emre Mor is just 18 years-old but the Danish born winger has been selected for international duty at the Euros this summer. Having recently secured a move from FC Nordsjaelland to German giants Borussia Dortmund, Mor’s talents have clearly been spotted and he will bring pace, technical ability and flair to the Turkish flanks in France.

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Euro 2016 will provide mor opportunities for the youngster to impress

 

Viktor Kovalenko- Ukraine

Arguably Ukraine’s most promising talent, Viktor Kovalenko plays in his home country for Shakhtar Donetsk and at just 20 years- old has been touted as one of the world’s future midfield stars. He dazzled at the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2015 winning the golden boot with five goals from attacking midfield and now has the chance to impress at senior level in a major tournament. Despite only making two appearances for the Blue and Yellows, expect Kovalenko to feature regularly in France, alongside another young Ukrainian talent in Oleksandr Zinchenko.

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Could Kovalenko become Ukraine’s next Shevchenko?

 

Leroy Sane- Germany

Schalke winger Leroy Sane has enjoyed an impressive breakthrough season in the Bundesliga. The 20 year-old is admired for his blistering pace and flair that has helped contribute to nine goals for the Gelsenkirchen outfit this season. Sane has gained a place in the highly competitive Germany squad for Euro 2016 after appearing for his country at youth level and if he can replicate his club form for the World Champions, a big money move could be on the cards. With plenty of interest across Europe including from Premier League giants Chelsea and Manchester City, Schalke could face losing their prize asset after the Euros this summer.

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Sane him up: The Schalke wide man is in demand

 

Renato Sanches- Portugal

Bayern Munich have recently signed 18 year-old Renato Sanches from Benfica for £30 million fee that could rise to an astronomical £60m. He is the youngest Portuguese player to go to a major tournament since Cristiano Ronaldo and possesses a rare ability to run with the ball from holding midfield and start attacks. His size and strength are major attributes and confidence plays a key part in how Sanches plays, even at a young age he holds the ability to decide matches and that’s why Bayern moved to sign the Portuguese powerhouse.

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Game changer: Sanches has been likened to Paul Pogba

 

 

 

 

Euro 2016: Which underdog nations could be successful in France?

With the European Championships just a few days away, excitement is building up across the continent and this year the competition contains 24 teams for the first time and therefore promises more action, upsets and entertainment than ever before.

Of course there are many frontrunners and favourites in the tournament who are expected to go far and contend for the title of European Champions including current holders Spain, World Cup winners Germany, hosts France, Italy, Belgium and even a new look England.

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Three time Champions: Can Spain be stopped after winning the Euros in 2008 and 2012

 

Although there are many countries who may have gone unnoticed during the qualifying stages that possess enough quality to reach the later stages of the Euros, against all odds. With dark horses such as Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004 winning the competition, who could be the long shots this year?

Poland

The White Eagles stormed through their qualifying group, scoring the most goals and they even managed to overcome Germany in the process. Poland are in a much better position than four years ago when they joint hosted the Euros with Ukraine and failed to make it out of Group A.

The Poles also have one of world football’s most prolific goal scorers in their ranks, Robert Lewandowski. The Bayern Munich striker netted more goals than any other player in the qualifying campaign and is no stranger to success. He is likely to be partnered up front with promising Ajax target man Arkadiusz Milik and so Poland will certainly not be lacking in firepower.

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Reliant Rob: Lewandowski was top scorer in qualifying with 13 goals

 

Experienced defenders Kamil Glik and Lukasz Piszezek provide a strong spine alongside Sevilla holding midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak, ensuring that Poland will be a side to look out for in France this summer. They make up Group C alongside Germany, geographical neighbours Ukraine and Northern Ireland.

Portugal

Usually regarded as one of European Football’s elite, the Portuguese have failed to make a lasting impact on the international stage in recent years despite usually going far in the Euros. However with a new generation of talent coming into the side through the Primeira Liga, Portugal can boast some promising home grown talent at Euro 2016.

Obviously the fitness and form of Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will largely depend on how far Portugal go but they possess a blend of experience and youth that could see them reach the latter stages in France. Alongside Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe and Rui Patricio provide maturity in the side.

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Overhaul: Only eight of Portugal’s 23 man squad at Euro 2012 have been included this year

 

Added to that are young but powerful midfielders William Carvalho, Danilo and Renato Sanches who are all products of the Portuguese League’s top three clubs Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon. At just 18 years-old, Sanches has recently completed a big money move from Benfica to Bayern Munich and has a point to prove at the Euros.

Portugal are widely anticipated to ease through Group F with minnows Iceland and Hungary but will face competition for top spot from another highly regarded underdog in Austria.

Croatia

Arguably the strongest side to go under the radar at Euro 2016 are Croatia. Ante Cacic’s side contain some huge names who earn their trade at some of Europe’s top clubs. But previous performances at international tournaments mean that they aren’t as touted for success as they  perhaps should be.

Having not progressed past the group stages of any tournament since Euro 2008, Croatian hopes may not be high but like Portugal they have a mix of proven quality and promising youth in the squad that should bring success this time around. The side boasts an impressive array of attacking talent with a star studded midfield including the likes of Real Madrid pair Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic, Barcelona playmaker Ivan Rakitic and Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic. Up front Croatia will have well travelled Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic  to target and Nikola Kalinic, who enjoyed a goal filled season at Fiorentina.

With all those attacking options, the work of Croatia’s defence can go unnoticed. Central defensive pair Vedran Corluka and Domagoj Vida lead the back four and 34 year-old captain Darijo Srna will play at right back. 19 year-old Tin Jedvaj provides cover while Monaco keeper Danjel Subasic will be number one between the sticks.

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Defensive duo: Veterans Vedran and Vida helped Croatia concede just five goals in qualifying

 

Make no mistake, Croatia will be a force at Euro 2016 and could go all the way if managed effectively, although they are in one of the toughest groups alongside Spain, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

Should Arsenal fans party over the signing of Jamie Vardy?

Out of absolutely nowhere, Arsenal are on the brink of signing England striker Jamie Vardy from Leicester City after they triggered a £20 million release clause in his contract. A deal is expected to be completed imminently providing the 29 year-old opts to leave the Premier League champions.

Arsene Wenger is in the market for a new striker after Danny Welbeck suffered another huge injury lay off and there is intense pressure on the Frenchman to deliver a stellar signing. So far it has been an uncharacteristic start to summer business by Wenger, but his activity in the transfer market is surely pleasing most Arsenal supporters. With the capture of Granit Xhaka confirmed, the North London outfit could be on the verge of spending £50 million before Euro 2016 has even started.

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Gunner go or stay? Arsene Wenger is determined to get the deal done before Euro 2016

 

Olivier Giroud has lead from the front as Arsenal’s main striker since 2012, however he has become a regular scapegoat when the Gunners misfire. The 29 year-old France international has been labelled as a ‘nearly man’ averaging between 15 and 20 goals a season which is seen as not good enough. Although Giroud managed to notch 28 goals in all competitions this season, one more than Vardy, albeit in more appearances.

For many years Arsenal have been linked with strikers deemed as world class, but does Vardy really fit into that goal scoring elite? Last season he was on fire for the Foxes, netting 24 times including becoming the first player to score in 11 consecutive Premier League matches. He also contributed to more goals than any other player, 30 in total.

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Eleven heaven: Vardy celebrates setting a new record

Vardy has enjoyed a fairy tale rise to the top, he has ascended from playing non league football to becoming a Premier League winner in just five years. But with his age and lack of experience at European level, it is questionable whether the former Fleetwood Town man would be a sustainable buy for Arsenal.

Vardy is used to playing in a very different style to that of which Arsenal advocate, with far less possession. Nevertheless his versatility, high work rate and blistering pace are features that could compliment counter attacking football when Arsenal are on the back foot, as opposed to the slow build up play they usually adopt.

Despite coming off the back of an amazing season, Vardy could still be a risky signing for Arsenal. His quality is for all to see but he would almost certainly be a quick fix rather than a long term solution.

Taking Marcus to the Euros is no rash decision

England have announced their squad for the European Championships ahead of the competitions kick off in just under a week and one controversial inclusion in Roy Hodgson’s  23 man squad is teenage sensation Marcus Rashford.

The 18 year-old Manchester United strikers progression over the last three months has been astonishing. After making his United debut in late February, Rashford has scored eight goals in 18 appearances for the Red Devils and has broken many records along the way. He has netted on his Europa League, Premier League and international debuts as well as becoming the youngest ever scorer in a Manchester derby. This form has warranted a place in the England squad for Euro 2016 and Rashford has become the latest recruit of Roy Hodgson’s youthful revolution.

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Roy Hodgson has named England’s youngest ever European Championships squad

 

It’s safe to say that Rashford has become the most talked about prospect in British football and deserves to go to the Euros based on form. His incredible rise from the shadows and unpredictability provides a perfect fit and the Fletcher Moss product is set to be England’s wildcard in France. Rashford shares many similarities with Wayne Rooney and could follow in the footsteps of his international and club teammate if nurtured in the right way.

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Soccerood: Rashford and Rooney scored both goals for England against Australia

However media hype placed on young and inexperienced players like Rashford could damage their development and so the hopes of our nation must not be pinned entirely upon them. Past experiences with Theo Walcott and Raheem Sterling have proved fruitless and so we must be careful not to place too much pressure on young shoulders, as was the case with Reece Oxford at the start of the season.

 

Hodgson has taken a gamble to rush Rashford into the squad for Euro 2016, but its time England tried something different. His inclusion alongside Dele Alli, Eric Dier, John Stones, Jack Wilshere and Harry Kane may give the Three Lions that extra flair and energy to be successful in France. Even if it doesn’t, the future of English football looks bright.