Christoph Baumgartner, Austria
Already linked with a move to Manchester United, Christoph Baumgartner is a star in the marking and it is easy to see why. He scored six goals from midfield and set up three for Hoffenheim as they secured a midtable finish in the Bundesliga this season. The 21-year-old, who has been likened to Michael Ballack, liked to charge forward and has a knack for making late, surging runs into the box; five of his six goals this season came from inside the box.
Jérémy Doku, Belgium
With fitness doubts surrounding Eden Hazard, Roberto Martínez may look to the Rennes youngster Jérémy Doku for unpredictability in the final third. Having joined Rennes from Anderlecht last year, the teenager quickly became a first-team regular under Julien Stéphan. Doku eases past opponents as a matter of routine, with his 4.3 dribbles per 90 minutes second only to Neymar (5.5) of Ligue 1’s regular players this season. After his man-of-the-match display against Belarus in March, Doku is ready to explode on to the scene at Euro 2020.
Josip Brekalo, Croatia
Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic has a settled system in place in which Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic providing the width, but he has options on the bench if needed and 22-year-old Josip Brekalo could have a big impact if given his chance. Despite a wobble at the end of the Bundesliga season, Wolfsburg held on to secure a Champions League spot, with Brekalo playing his part in the club’s top-four finish. He scored seven goals, with three coming from outside of the box – only Robert Andrich scored more from distance in the Bundesliga. Brekalo is a handy option from the bench against teams that may restrict Croatia to efforts from distance and with four goals in his last seven league outings, he arrives in fine form.
Adam Hlozek, Czech Republic
Adam Hlozek is unlikely to force his way past Patrik Schick into the Czech Republic starting XI, but the 18-year-old comes into Euro 2020 on the back of a superb domestic season for Sparta Prague. He scored 15 goals in 19 league outings – no player scored more in the the Czech top flight last season – 10 of which came in his final six games of the campaign. Standing at a shade under 6ft 2in, he has the physical presence to cause all kinds of problems.
Mikkel Damsgaard, Denmark
It’s been a season to remember for Mikkel Damsgaard, who made his international debut in November and followed that up with a memorable display for Denmark against Moldova in March, providing two goals and two assists in an 8-0 win. Damsgaard took to the rigours of Serie A with similar ease. Sampdoria may have finished ninth, but the campaign proved a solid foundation for the Danish winger to build on.
Jude Bellingham, England
It’s hard to believe that Jude Bellingham is still only 17. After a superb debut season with Borussia Dortmund, he deserves his place in the England squad and maybe even in the team. His average of 3.1 tackles per 90 minutes in the Champions League ranks highly and suggests he is not overawed by the big stage.
Jules Koundé, France
France are well stocked at centre-back with Raphaël Varane and Presnel Kimpembe, but Didier Deschamps also has quality in reserve in the form of Jules Koundé. The 22-year-old enjoyed another commendable season at Sevilla, playing a starring role as they finished in the Champions League spots and conceded the third fewest goals (33) in La Liga. Koundé was our highest rated centre-back in the division this season, which bodes well for the coming weeks.
Marcus Forss, Finland
Marcus Forss featured from the bench regularly for Brentford last season and he made the most of his time on the field in their successful promotion campaign. Of the eight goals the 21-year-old scored in 2020-21, five were from the bench; no sub scored more in the Championship. Teemu Pukki is Finland’s star forward but if they need a super-sub in their quest to progress to the last 16, Forss is the ideal candidate.
Jamal Musiala, Germany
England’s loss is going to be Germany’s gain. England are stacked with young attacking talent but Jamal Musiala’s decision to represent Germany is still a blow. Even with Thomas Müller having returned to the squad this summer, the teenager could yet prove an important weapon for Jogi Löw. His average of 4.5 dribbles per 90 minutes was more than any other player in the Bundesliga this season and the ease with which he glides past opponents could be key if Germany are to survive the group of death.
Attila Szalai, Hungary
Dominik Szoboszlai is the poster-boy for Hungarian football and his absence at Euro 2020 is a huge blow. Fortunately for manager Marco Rossi, he has a solid set of centre-backs in Willi Organ and Attila Szalai. The latter played well for a Fenerbahçe side that ultimately fell short in the Super Lig title race this season and while the centre-back only played 21 of his club’s 40 league matches, their goals conceded per game record dropped from 1.21 to 0.86 when he started. He will have his work cut out when Hungary take on Germany, France and Portugal.
Alessandro Bastoni, Italy
Roberto Mancini is expected to persist with the experienced Juventus centre-back pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Girogio Chiellini this summer, but he has an excellent deputy in the form of Alessandro Bastoni if needed. The 22-year-old played a key role in Inter’s title success, starting 33 matches and only Gian Marco Ferrari (2,483) made more accurate passes than Bastoni (2,029) from centre-back in Seria A this season. His experience in a three-man defence means Mancini could transition to the system if required.
Ryan Gravenberch, Netherlands
Having made a handful of appearances in the 2019-20 campaign, Ryan Gravenberch became a key man for Ajax as they won the Eredivisie this season, starting all but three matches. The 19-year-old very much fits the Ajax model, with his passes-per-game return of 68.4 ranking second for all midfielders in the Eredivisie, and he won possession in the midfield third 120 times this season. Gravenberch is not yet a first-team regular for the Netherlands under Frank de Boer, but with Donny van de Beek now ruled out of the tournament, the teenager has jumped up the pecking order.
Eljif Elmas, North Macedonia
Eljif Elmas may not have been a first-team regular for Napoli last season, starting just three league matches, but he remains a key player for his country. At just 21 years of age, there is plenty of pressure on his shoulders this summer. His pass success rate of 90.8% ranked highly among midfielders in Serie A last season and North Macedonia will need his ball-retention qualities as they try to book a place in the last 16.
Jakub Moder, Poland
Brighton secured the services of Jakub Moder last October and he was immediately loaned back to Lech Poznan in order to secure regular game time. However, their Europa League exit saw the Seagulls exercise their option to recall the youngster at the turn of the year and while his first-team experience in Poland will have helped the 22-year-old, Brighton have benefitted from his availability. Moder’s versatility – he played at left-back, left wing-back and central midfield for Brighton in the second half of the season – is an added bonus.
Nuno Mendes, Portugal
Portugal are one of the favourites and it is understandable why given the depth of their squad. That Nuno Mendes is not even their first-choice left-back speaks volumes about the quality available to Fernando Santos. The teenager followed up his breakout season at Sporting in 2019-20 by establishing himself as first-choice this time around, starting all but five league games as they won the title. The 18-year-old is able to whip in a dangerous cross from the left, so we could see a few towering Cristiano Ronaldo headers this summer.
Igor Diveev, Russia
Gone are the days where Russia could rely on the Berezutski twins to shield Igor Akinfeev and, while they still have an ageing backline, Igor Diveev provides some hope for the future. Still only 21, the centre-back has 59 league appearances for CSKA Moscow under his belt. His tally of 103 clearances ranked 10th in the Russian Premier League this season and this proactive approach to defending is a boost for Stanislav Cherchesov’s side.
David Turnbull, Scotland
Scotland’s problems stem from their inability to score goals, though Che Adams’ decision to switch international allegiance may ease those concerns. The Tartan Army have the ideal man to provide the chances for Adams, too, with David Turnbull the only player to create more than 100 goalscoring chances in the Scottish Premiership last season. It was not enough for Celtic to land a 10th successive title but, if Scotland are struggling to break opponents down, Turnbull could be the man to unlock staunch defences.
Robert Bozenik, Slovakia
Robert Bozenik had a tough season: an ankle injury restricted the 21-year-old to just 15 appearances in the Eredivisie. With just one goal to show for his efforts, the 21-year-old does not come into Euro 2020 in great goalscoring form, but he is likely to lead the line for Slovakia at the tournament and they will be hoping the Feyenoord forward can rediscover his touch in front of goal.
Now that Sergio Busquets has tested positive for Covid-19, his Barcelona teammate may play an even bigger role for Spain. The pair occupy different roles, but the creative teenager Pedri will hope to have moved up the pecking order, coming into the tournament off the back of a solid debut campaign. The 18-year-old ranked fourth for key passes (39) of all teenagers in Europe’s top five leagues last season.
Alexander Isak, Sweden
The absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic means there is more pressure on Alexander Isak to bang in the goals for Sweden. Much of the reason for Real Sociedad’s fifth-placed finish in La Liga was down to Isak, whose 17 league goals was the sixth best return in the division. The 21-year-old’s flying form in front of goal was the reason La Real were happy to allow Willian José to leave for Wolves in January.
Ruben Vargas, Switzerland
Despite featuring predominantly from the bench last season, Ruben Vargas still had a direct hand in nine league goals for Augsburg – scoring six – as he contributed to a goal every 179.4 minutes in the Bundesliga. Vargas is able to play through the middle, but is mainly considered a winger. Vladimir Petkovic favours a system whereby wing-backs provide the width, so the 22-year-old’s playing time may be limited, but he has excelled behind the strikers when called on and he could prove an able deputy for Xherdan Shaqiri.
Orkun Kokcu, Turkey
A high-profile summer move is in the offing for Orkun Kokcu and his stock will only rise further if he impresses for Turkey at Euro 2020. The 20-year-old Feyenoord midfielder was born in the Netherlands and represented their youth teams but subsequently declared for Turkey, making his international debut in the Nations League last year. He could be deployed through the middle so Hakan Calhanoglu can play from the left.
Illia Zabarnyi, Ukraine
It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for Illia Zabarnyi, who only made his Dynamo Kyiv debut last September before earning his first senior cap for Ukraine a month later. The 18-year-old played a key role for a Dynamo Kyiv side that won the Ukrainian Premier League and conceded fewer goals (15) than any other side. In addition, Zabarnyi played every minute for Mircea Lucescu’s side in the Champions League and Europa League. That experience will serve him well at Euro 2020.
Ben Cabango, Wales
Swansea failed to overcome Brentford in the Championship playoff final last month but Ben Cabango was a key reason they got to to Wembley and the 21-year-old’s no-nonsense defending may prove vital for Thomas Page’s side. Wales have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last 10 matches coming into Euro 2020, with only Belgium, France and Finland breaching the backline in that run, and this tight-knit defence is a solid foundation to build on as they try to reach the last 16.
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