Euro 2020 has been a long time coming. Delayed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Championship is less than a week away from kick-off.

While the disappointment of seeing such a major tournament postponed and pushed back in 2020 was significant for many football fans, the delay has arguably helped the prospect of having more young players involved.

Every international event has its star man, but they also have their breakthrough talents and youngsters on the scene for the first time.

Euro 2016 had the likes of Kingsley Coman, Joshua Kimmich, Young Player of the Tournament Renato Sanches and Marcus Rashford – the youngest individual to feature – enjoying their first experiences of such events.

Who will be their equivalents at Euro 2020?

Well, Stats Perform has identified 10 members of the 'next generation' either hoping to stake their claim for a regular spot in the team or announce themselves on the big stage.

Becir Omeragic, 19, centre-back – Switzerland

It's no mean feat to establish yourself as a regular at club level as a teenage centre-back, a position that often requires maturity and composure, but Omeragic has done just that with FC Zurich, playing 48 league games for them since the start of 2019-20.

A tidy player in possession, Omeragic generally operates as the right-sided defender in a back three, and that suits him down to the ground with the national team, whom he has represented four times already.

If he does appear for Switzerland in the Euros, he'll become their second-youngest player to feature for them at a major tournament in the past 10 years, with Breel Embolo the only one to do so at a younger age (19 years, 118 days at Euro 2016).

 

Kacper Kozlowski, 17, attacking midfielder – Poland  

The fact Kozlowski was even in contention for a place in the squad is a triumph in itself, given that he broke his pelvis and back in a car crash just last January. That he actually secured a place is truly remarkable.

Kozlowski is the next great hope of Polish football, having already made a name for himself back home at Pogon Szczecin, with whom he became the second-youngest player in Ekstraklasa history (15y, 215d). He then became the club's youngest league goalscorer (17y, 182d) in April with a diving header against Podbeskidzie.

That came a month after he made history with the national team, becoming their youngest ever player (17y, 163d).

Kozlowski is a technical gifted attacking midfielder, but don't let that lead to certain misconceptions – he's also an impressive physical specimen for his age and a feisty competitor.

 

Jonas Wind, 22, forward – Denmark

Scandinavian countries are producing some bright attacking talents at the moment, and Wind looks set to be Denmark's contribution to the trend.

Wind has been a regular in the Copenhagen squad since he was a teenager, but in 2020-21 he enjoyed something of a breakthrough as he started 28 of their 32 league games.

His haul of 15 goals and eight assists was bettered by only one Danish Superligaen player and also shows his well-rounded nature.

A real unit, Wind is effective in the air, good at holding up play and also technically efficient. This blend of abilities – particularly his aerial prowess – could be a real weapon in Group B, which looks as though it could be a tight one.

Adam Hlozek, 18, forward – Czech Republic

If there's one teenager who looks likely to spark a post-tournament bidding war among Europe's biggest clubs, it's arguably Hlozek, who appears to be a serious talent.

At Sparta Prague, he initially started out as a winger because of his direct style of play and dribbling abilities, but those skills have transferred particularly well to a more central berth this term, where he has also been able to make the most of his impressive build.

Despite missing a chunk of the season through injury, Hlozek's still managed to plunder 15 Liga goals in just 19 matches, and in April became the competition's youngest hat-trick scorer with his treble against Opava.

He then finished the season with an astonishing four-goal haul against Zbrojovka Brno to finish as the league's joint-top scorer, though he also had six assists to his name. The 18-year-old is a complete striker if there ever was one, and he could be a wonderful wildcard option for Czech Republic if he overcomes a pre-tournament injury.

 

Illya Zabarnyi, 18, centre-back – Ukraine

Hopes are high for Zabarnyi, not just with Ukraine, but at club level as well. Currently playing for Dynamo Kiev after coming through their academy and making his debut just last September, the highly regarded centre-back is already attracting interest from abroad, with Chelsea supposedly among those keen on him.

Zabarnyi was one of only two Dynamo players to play every minute in the group stage of the 2020-21 Champions League (540), along with Tomasz Kedziora, highlighting just how trusted he already is by the Ukrainian champions.

The nine clearances he made in December's 1-0 win over Ferencvaros was more than any other Dynamo player in a single game in the 2020-21 edition, while his 34 across the group stage was bettered by only seven defenders. While some might point out such metrics tend to favour those in so-called lesser teams, it's worth mentioning the likes of Marquinhos, Antonio Rudiger and Stefan Savic were among the few with more clearances than Zabarnyi.

His distribution can still be problematic when under pressure, but he does possess a cool head on the ball – Zabarnyi certainly has the potential to be a mainstay for Ukraine in the coming years, and hopefully he'll get an opportunity at Euro 2020.

 

Maksim Mukhin, 19, defensive midfielder – Russia

With Belgium the big favourites to advance from Group B, there's going to be a three-way tussle for second (and third) between Denmark, Finland and Russia. Those three could be quite well-matched, with their contests looking difficult to call either way.

Mukhin's destructive tendencies could be key towards the end of games if Russia are under pressure but still in with a chance of victory, with the 19-year-old recording the best minutes-per-tackle rate (one every 19.8 minutes) among all players to feature at least 10 games in the Russian Premier League in 2020-21.

Young he may be, but Mukhin won't be overawed by the occasion having made his Champions League debut with Lokomotiv Moscow this season, catching the eye in his solitary appearance – a 3-1 defeat by Salzburg in which he made four tackles (bettered by only one player on the pitch) and three interceptions after coming off the bench at half-time, evidence of his defensive capabilities.

An energetic and competitive midfielder, Mukhin – who has agreed to join CSKA Moscow for next season – could be a real asset for Russia, if not now then almost certainly in the future.

 

Jules Kounde, 22, centre-back – France

Granted, Kounde is perhaps a level above the rest here in terms of how established he already is at club level with Sevilla, but it's worth noting he only got his first senior cap since the domestic season ended.

His form with Sevilla has helped him jump up the queue somewhat, with the Bordeaux youth product getting into France's squad ahead of Bayern Munich-bound Dayot Upamecano.

Kounde won't go into the tournament as first choice, but he is an interesting option at centre-back should France need – or want – a change.

A progressive and positive defender, Kounde's 624 carries (defined as movements of at least five metres with the ball) was bettered by only Pau Torres, while he carried possession forward to the tune of 3,908.8 metres across the campaign, a figure only two defenders could improve on in LaLiga this term.

He's also a keen distributor with 3,172 attempted passes – Edmond Tapsoba is the only player younger than him to try more (3,509) across the top five leagues. Potentially set for a big move away from Sevilla this year, making the most of any opportunities at the Euros won't hurt his chances.

 

Jeremy Doku, 19, winger – Belgium

It seems as though most young talents these days have a backstory that includes almost joining one of Europe's biggest clubs – Doku is no different, having opted against signing for Liverpool back in 2018.

A player who dreams of joining Barcelona, Doku definitely looks primed to have an impact for Belgium at the Euros. An explosive winger to his very core, the teenager has just enjoyed a fine debut campaign at Rennes in Ligue 1.

While his goal involvements return of five (two goals, three assists) is modest, his ability on the ball makes him a nightmare to defend against. In fact, of the players to attempt 200 or more dribbles in the top five European leagues this term, he's one of just three to boast at least a 60 per cent success rate – the other two are Lionel Messi and Adama Traore.

Raw, for sure, but if you want a livewire to inject a little unpredictability to you team, you can count on Doku.

Giacomo Raspadori, 21, forward – Italy

Italy are back in the big time after missing out on the 2018 World Cup, and much of the scoring burden will fall on Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti. But if they aren't doing the business, Sassuolo's Raspadori offers a considerably different alternative.

A nimble and technically gifted forward, Raspadori does not have great physicality on his side, so Italy might need to adapt their game slightly if he's in the attack as opposed to Immobile or Belotti, but he is more likely to dribble past his man.

That's certainly not all he's good at, though. While his return of six Serie A goals is by no means remarkable, four of those were scored in his final six games of the season and among Italians to net five non-penalty goals or more this term across all competitions, Raspadori's conversion rate of 37.5 is the best.

Nuno Mendes, 18, left-back – Portugal

A key player in the Sporting CP side that won the club's first league title since 2001-02, Mendes looks set for a big future.

The teenage left-back has already been strongly linked with the likes of Real Madrid and could be the ideal long-term replacement for Marcelo, such is Mendes' skillset.

He was the only teenage defender to create 30 or more chances (31) across the Portuguese Primeira Liga or any of Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21, proof of just how effective he can be and his forward-thinking nature. He also offers good deliveries from set-pieces.

He'll likely be back-up to Raphael Guerreiro at the Euros, but he's certainly not there just for the ride – he can have an impact if given the chance.

Roberto Mancini does not think his Italy team are the finished article just yet, despite a 4-0 thrashing of the Czech Republic extending their unbeaten run ahead of Euro 2020.

Italy have not lost an international fixture since a 1-0 Nations League reverse against Portugal back in September 2018, with Friday's emphatic friendly triumph making it 27 consecutive matches without defeat.

Ciro Immobile and Nicolo Barella both benefited from deflections to score in the first half, while birthday boy Lorenzo Insigne celebrated with the third goal before setting up Domenico Berardi soon after.

Mancini was pleased with the performance against "excellent" opponents, though made clear there are areas Italy can improve as they now focus on their tournament opener against Turkey on June 11.

"We played well and faced the match in the right way against an excellent team," Mancini said in his post-match interview with Rai Sport.

"At the beginning it took us a few minutes to get going, but I wanted to see the team play like this, it's my national team. We need to improve from many points of view, I think it can be a good thing.

"We have to play our game. We are an offensive team, we must attack and defend when there is a need to defend. The mentality will be important.

He added: "We need to improve, we are young and there are many points of view where we can do better. However, a friendly match like this is a good sign."

Insigne excelled on the day he turned 30, with his goal seeing him convert when played through by Immobile's clever pass in behind the Czech defence.

Napoli forward Insigne then assisted for Berardi to complete the scoring, Italy winning with ease while keeping an eighth successive clean sheet – a new record for the national team.

Sassuolo's Berardi made it five goals in his last six appearances for Italy.

"I feel the coach's confidence and I try to do my best," Insigne said after the game. 

"Mancini has created a great group, a great spirit and has put everyone in a position to express themselves at their best and have fun. We are playing great football."

Luis Enrique issued a strong defence of Alvaro Morata after a 0-0 draw with Portugal that saw debutant Aymeric Laporte impress the Spain boss ahead of Euro 2020.

The 2012 winners were unable to find a way through against the reigning champions as the two neighbouring nations met in a friendly fixture as part of their preparations for this year's tournament.

However, Spain saw Morata fail to convert a glorious late chance at the Wanda Metropolitano, his attempt when clean through hitting the crossbar.

It was one of four shots by the striker during proceedings, of which only one ended up on target. Still, he did make two key passes and, despite the crowd getting on his case following the miss, his head coach was more than happy with what he saw.

"I am not worried about it," Luis Enrique said when asked about the 28-year-old.

"The last play saw Morata kill himself to pressure. He has been a constant nuisance for the Portuguese, doing an incredible job, and in the 90th minute he is able to make a 40-metre action, fool the goalkeeper and then has bad luck when hitting the crossbar. 

"I think that's something to be applauded. I have seen him very well in terms of his morale, he is already used to it [the criticism]."

There were also whistles at full-time after the hosts failed to capitalise on their dominance. Spain had 65.7 per cent of possession which led to 10 attempts, albeit Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio only had to make two saves.

"I haven't seen anyone whistle at me. I do not care. Yes, it bothers me that it is done to the players," a defiant Luis Enrique said.

"Everyone can do what they want, but I just found out now. I understand my role, I know what it means to be a public figure.

"But people praise me and even blow me kisses, so I feel loved and in Madrid I am delighted."

Laporte was clearly one of the positives to come out of the fixture for Spain, the Manchester City defender combining with fellow centre-back Pau Torres to keep Cristiano Ronaldo quiet.

After Portugal had just one on-target attempt during the contest, Luis Enrique said: "I have seen it as expected, very good. It is not common and normal to have two left-sided central defenders, but I have played many years with right central defenders and it does not surprise anyone.

"It is difficult to find two left-sided central defenders of this quality. They have been exceptional, dominating in the air, in passing the ball, putting pressure on the Portuguese forwards. They were outstanding."

Italy extended their impressive unbeaten run to 27 matches as they completed their Euro 2020 preparations with a 4-0 victory over the Czech Republic on Friday.

Ciro Immobile and Nicolo Barella grabbed first-half goals in the friendly fixture at the Renato Dall'Ara Stadium in Bologna, though both benefited from seeing their attempts take crucial deflections to beat Jiri Pavlenka.

Lorenzo Insigne required no help to add a third in the 66th minute and then set up Domenico Berardi for the final goal as the Czechs were easily bounced, producing a worrying performance ahead of their involvement in the European Championship.

In contrast, the Azzurri head into the delayed tournament having not been beaten since a 1-0 reverse against Portugal in a Nations League fixture back in September 2018.

Not long after an injury scare for Leonardo Bonucci that saw the Juventus centre-back require treatment on his right knee, Immobile opened the scoring when his close-range shot clipped Ondrej Celustka to wrong-foot goalkeeper Pavlenka.

If that goal was somewhat unfortunate for the Czech Republic, the second they conceded was just plain bizarre.

Barella was allowed to carry the ball when in possession before taking aim from just outside the penalty area, his effort hitting not one but two defenders before ending up in the net.

Jan Boril's bid to make a block on the Inter midfielder only sent the ball onto compatriot Jakub Brabec, who – with his back turned – ended up sending the ball looping up and over the luckless Pavlenka.

Immobile's clever throughball allowed Insigne to curl a right-footed attempt into the net, while the scorer of Italy's third turned provider to set up Berardi for a cheeky finish, with an initial dummy fooling Pavlenka to allow the Sassuolo player to flick in with his left foot.

Roberto Mancini handed Berardi's club colleague Giacomo Raspadori a debut off the bench, but the forward – a surprise selection in the final 26-man squad announced on Monday – could not mark the memorable occasion by adding his name to the list of scorers.

Gareth Bale has backed Carlo Ancelotti to be "amazing" in his second spell in charge at Real Madrid, though the Wales international has reiterated he will not reveal his own future until after Euro 2020.

Ancelotti has returned to the Santiago Bernabeu to replace Zinedine Zidane, leaving Everton to undertake a second spell at a club where he previously spent two years in charge.

Bale was in the squad that won the Champions League under the Italian in 2014, scoring Madrid's second goal as they defeated Atletico Madrid 4-1 in the final to secure 'La Decima'.

However, the forward fell out of favour under Zidane and spent the 2020-21 season back on loan at Tottenham, scoring 16 goals in 34 appearances in all competitions.

It remains unclear if he has a future with Los Blancos, though, even with a familiar face now back in charge.

"He's returned to Real Madrid and he's a great guy," Bale said about Ancelotti in an interview with Sky Sports.

"We had a great time together at Real Madrid and I'm sure he's going to be amazing in charge there.

"I spoke to him when we played Everton at the start of the season, we hugged and had a little chat which was nice.

"But I'm still in the same boat and haven't thought about it too much. I'm concentrated on our preparation now and what's going to happen in the Euros. I'll sort the rest of it after."

Wales take on Albania in a friendly on Saturday before beginning their Euro 2020 campaign against Switzerland on June 16. They also have group games against Turkey and Italy, too.

After scoring twice on the final day of the Premier League season in a 4-2 win at Leicester City, Bale said he already knew what was in store for next season but did not want to cause "chaos" by making an announcement.

"It will have to happen after the Euros. I know what I'm doing but it'll just cause chaos if I say anything," he told Sky Sports after the game at the King Power Stadium.

Spurs are still looking to appoint a new head coach, with former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte - who left Inter after winning the Serie A title - strongly linked with the vacancy.

Trent Alexander-Arnold says he is "absolutely gutted" to miss England's Euro 2020 campaign after suffering a thigh injury against Austria on Wednesday.

The Liverpool full-back was the centre of heated speculation ahead of Gareth Southgate's decision to cut his preliminary squad to a selection of 26 this week.

Alexander-Arnold was picked, though, along with three other recognised right-backs in Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier.

However, the 22-year-old will play no part in the competition having gone off injured late on in the 1-0 friendly win over Austria after clearing the ball.

Alexander-Arnold, who faces around six weeks on the sidelines, posted an image on his Twitter account on Friday with the caption: "Absolutely gutted." 

Southgate will not confirm a replacement until after Sunday's friendly against Romania.

Rio Ferdinand has questioned Gareth Southgate's decision to include Harry Maguire in England's Euro 2020 squad and says Marcus Rashford should not be considered for a starting spot.

Maguire was this week named as part of England's final 26-man squad for the tournament, despite missing Manchester United's final five games of the season – including the Europa League final loss to Villarreal – with ankle ligament damage.

He has yet to take part in training since linking up with his Three Lions team-mates, with Southgate admitting on Tuesday he is unsure if the defender will be ready for the Group D opener against Croatia on June 13.

With fears Maguire may not be fit enough to play any part in the group phase, former United centre-back Ferdinand does not believe Maguire should have been selected at the expense of another defender.

"Harry is important from set-pieces, as he showed at the World Cup. But I have to be honest, I wouldn't take players that are 50 per cent fit," said Ferdinand, who was speaking to Stats Perform on behalf of Heineken, an official UEFA Euro 2020 partner. 

"If I'm worried about a player being able to make 90 minutes, I wouldn't take them. Too much energy goes into talking about it and worrying about it, that it takes the focus off what you are there for as a team."

Who to play alongside John Stones in the heart of defence should Maguire fail to win his fitness battle is not the only big selection call Southgate has to make ahead of Euro 2020 getting under way next week.

The England boss is spoiled for choice in the final third, with Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, Bukayo Saka, Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all battling for starting spots alongside captain Harry Kane.

Rashford has scored four goals in his last five appearances for England, but he struggled with a niggling injury issue towards the end of last season and Ferdinand would hold off from using the versatile forward until later in the tournament.

"If you're looking at form, I think Marcus probably doesn't deserve to start," Ferdinand said. "I think of the players around him in that position, Sancho and Foden should be picked in terms of form.

"I don't know much about Gareth's relationship with them players and what they've done in the past for him, and his confidence in certain players. Also, tactically how the game looks, who he is going to play. 

"In terms of form, I think he's scored one in nine or 10 games at the end of the season [for United]. I think he's a bit fatigued and I think he's been carrying a few injuries. I'd like to see him recuperating in this little period of time off, and then come into it fresh."

Of those eight players vying for a starting role in the final third, Aston Villa playmaker Grealish and Borussia Dortmund's Sancho lead the way in terms of big chances created in the league during the 2020-21 campaign with 14 each.

Despite missing 12 matches, Grealish was by far and away the most fouled player in the Premier League last season (110 fouls won), while his 2.68 dribbles completed per 90 minutes was bettered by just six players to have played at least 20 times.

Only Belgium (40) scored more goals than England's 37 in qualifying for Euro 2020 and Ferdinand is particularly excited by the attacking options available to choose from.

"In terms of wide players, we must have some of the biggest talent," he said. "We've got Foden, Sterling, Rashford, Grealish, Sancho, and Mount can play there as well – so six of the most talented, impactful players that are playing at the moment. 

"You look at Sancho, over the last three years has got 30 goal involvements every year, which is astounding for a kid who had been 21 and under. 

"Jack Grealish has been one of the hardest to combat players in the Premier League when he's fit. Phil Foden is deciding games in Champions League knockout stages, for one so young, and Man City are dominating in midfield. 

"It's crazy. You've also got Sterling, with what he's done over the last three years, his trophy haul that he's building at the moment is up there with the best. Those young players, it's mouthwatering."

While a number of positions are up for debate, it is certain that captain Kane – who topped the scoring charts in qualifying – will lead the line for the Three Lions.

Kane won his third Golden Boot after scoring 23 times in 2020-21, becoming the third player after Thierry Henry (four) and Alan Shearer to achieve such a feat.

He also set up 14 goals to become just the second player in the Premier League era to top the charts for both goals and assists (also Andy Cole in 1993-94).

The Tottenham striker's future is a hot topic of debate heading into the tournament after recently admitting he is at a "crossroads" in his career, but Ferdinand does not expect that to have any sort of impact on his performances.

"It happens to the best players," he said. "These players we're talking about with speculation, like Sancho and Kane, they have this every day of the week. This is normal for them, they are just in a tournament, that's the only difference.

"I think Harry has shown he enjoys wearing the armband. He enjoys the responsibility, some players grow with it. This tournament, I'd like to see that."

 

Ferdinand was speaking as part of Heineken's 'Enjoy the Rivalry' campaign, which encourages fans to watch Euro 2020 matches alongside their rivals.

The United legend was pranked by fellow former pro Robbie Savage as part of the initiative, culminating in the ex-England international having his portrait draped in a flag of rivals Wales.

"I was a bit surprised, I've got to be honest," he said. "I was probably being a bit too polite because there were two young ladies in front of me and I didn't want to be... well I saw the Welsh flag and I thought what are these people playing at?

"They don't understand the rivalry that we have with Wales and all of a sudden they drape me in a Welsh flag. It was weird.

"I think 'finally together again to be rivals', is a perfect strapline. I think everyone's waited for this opportunity, to have some sort of rivalry with teams, with people, with individuals."

After a year's delay, Euro 2020 will finally get under way when Italy take on Turkey in Rome on Friday, June 11.

Some of the world's top talents will be on display in the month-long tournament, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane.

But away from the elite players, there are a clutch of others looking to overshadow those aforementioned names and leave their own mark on the pan-European competition.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform picks out eight under-the-radar stars – those that would not necessarily be considered as one of the favourites for individual honours before a ball is kicked – ahead of the tournament.

 

Federico Chiesa (Italy and Juventus)

Juventus may have endured one of their worst campaigns in recent memory last time out, but Chiesa can hold his head up high after impressing in his first year at the Allianz Stadium.

He was the man for the big occasions, scoring a couple of goals in January's league victory over Milan and the winner in Juve's Coppa Italia triumph against Atalanta.

The 23-year-old was a regular threat down both flanks ​– only Benevento forward Riccardo Improta (77, 29.87 per cent) had more open-play crosses in Serie A last season with a higher success rate than Chiesa (69, 27.54 per cent).

That ability to both create and score goals, plus his never-say-die spirit – best embodied by his three goals in two legs of the Champions League last-16 knockout defeat to Porto – means he is already a fan favourite in Turin.

"He tries to ignite the fans at home on the couch to let them feel the game like the players in the pitch," former Juve striker Fabrizio Ravanelli told Stats Perform. 

"He always sends a strong message to Juventus fans, the true DNA of Juventus of never giving up like it says in the motto: 'Till the end'."

 

Alexander Isak (Sweden and Real Sociedad)

Whisper it quietly, but Sweden may have a new superstar forward emerging to rival the legendary figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Isak's 17 strikes in 34 league appearances for Real Sociedad last season saw him become the Swede with the most goals in a single LaLiga campaign, surpassing Ibrahimovic's 16 for Barcelona in 2009-10.

He may be tall and blessed with great technical ability, but Isak is a lot different to Ibrahimovic – ruled out of Euro 2020 with a knee injury – in terms of his playing style.

And with clubs such as Barcelona and Manchester City reportedly keeping a close eye on the 21-year-old, it may well be one day that other youngsters from the Scandinavian country are described as 'the next Isak'.

 

Unai Simon (Spain and Athletic Bilbao)

Luis Enrique has not shied away from putting his faith in youth at the expense of those who have been there and done it, with veteran centre-back Sergio Ramos arguably the most high-profile omission from any squad at Euro 2020.

That is also true between the sticks, where 23-year-old Athletic Bilbao stopper Simon has usurped David de Gea to take control of the number-one spot.

Unlike Manchester United keeper De Gea and Chelsea's Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has not made the cut for Spain, Simon played regularly for his club side in 2020-21.

Indeed, the only Spanish goalkeepers to play more minutes last term in Europe's top five leagues than Simon (3,330) were Alex Remiro and Fernando Pacheco of Real Sociedad and Deportivo Alaves respectively.

Simon saved 63.3 per cent of the shots he faced in LaLiga in 2020-21, compared to 65.22 per cent for De Gea in 26 Premier League games, and the six-cap keeper will need to be at his best if Spain are to banish their demons from the 2018 World Cup.

 

Jamal Musiala (Germany and Bayern Munich)

Musiala switched international allegiance from England to Germany four months ago in the same week he became Bayern's youngest Champions League goalscorer at the age of 17 years and 363 days.

Despite strong competition for places, Musiala featured regularly for the German champions last season with 35 appearances in all competitions, albeit the majority of those outings being as a substitute.

The former Chelsea product made his first two appearances for Germany in March's World Cup qualifiers and only adds to a plethora of options available to Joachim Low in the final third.

Musiala may not be considered a regular just yet, but the stats suggest Low should perhaps consider using the youngster from the beginning of games.

Bayern's win rate increased from 62.5 per cent without Musiala in their side in the Bundesliga last term to 73.1 per cent with him, while their average goals for climbed from 2.5 to 3.0, and their passing accuracy in the final third went from 72.4 to 74.1.

Not so much a lucky omen, but a player who is clearly already good enough to make a telling impact on even the biggest sides.

 

Marcus Thuram (France and Borussia Monchengladbach)

No nation boasts a collection of forwards quite like France, who can call upon Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Wissam Ben Yedder, Thomas Lemar, Kingsley Coman, Olivier Giroud and the returning Karim Benzema.

What chance does Borussia Monchengladbach forward Thuram have, then, of ousting any of those players from the side?

While the 23-year-old may not be used as a regular starter, he will provide an intriguing option for spoiled-for-choice head coach Didier Deschamps to choose from off the bench for group games against Germany, Portugal and Hungary.

Thuram, the son of World Cup winner Lilian, certainly knows how to make the most of his minutes on the field and has the ability to score via a range of different ways.

All eight of his Bundesliga goals last term were scored inside the box, but they were shared between his right foot (three), left foot (two), head (two) and other means (one).

In fact, he was one of just nine forwards to start 20 games or fewer in Europe's top five leagues last season and still score more than once with his right foot.

 

Aleksandr Golovin (Russia and Monaco)

Monaco midfielder Golovin was plagued by injuries and illness in 2020-21 but still played a starring role in Monaco's unlikely Ligue 1 title bid that went down to the final game.

The 25-year-old found the net five times and set up nine more in 21 appearances, three of those goals coming in one game against Nimes in early February.

That made Golovin the first Russian to score a hat-trick in Europe's top five leagues since ex-Fulham striker Pavel Pogrebnyak in 2012.

He is undoubtedly the key creative talent in the Russia squad and, in a group that contains a defensively-strong Denmark and Belgium, plus Finland, it will likely be the Monaco man that holds the key to his side's hopes of progression.

His effectiveness with set-piece deliveries could be particularly vital.

 

 

Yusuf Yazici (Turkey and Lille)

Lille's incredible Ligue 1 triumph was down to a collective effort, but a few players certainly stood out for the shock title winners.

Look no further than breakthrough star Yazici, whose return of a goal every 153.71 minutes was the fourth best of any midfielder with at least five goals in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21, trailing just Joe Willock, Lars Stindl and Musiala.

The 24-year-old scored seven league goals in total and netted the same amount in the Europa League, where Lille made it to the knockout stages before being eliminated by Ajax.

That includes a couple of three-goal hauls in the group stage as he became the first player to score an away hat-trick against Milan in all competitions since Rivaldo in October 2000 for Barcelona.

With experience of scoring in big matches and winning silverware with rank outsiders, Yazici will now be looking to guide many people's dark horses Turkey deep into Euro 2020.

 

Ryan Gravenberch (Netherlands and Ajax)

A member of the Netherlands' Under-17s European Championship-winning squad in 2018, Gravenberch has gone from strength to strength in the three years since and is now a regular in Ajax's central midfield.

Gravenberch also has two Eredivisie titles and two Dutch Cups to his name to go with that age-grade continental triumph, all before he even turned 19 last month.

The teenage talent, another product of Ajax's fabled academy, made his senior international debut earlier this year and has a chance of starting – or at least playing a prominent part in – the Oranje's quest for a second European Championship crown.

If nothing else, Gravenberch will certainly bring a level of calmness to the Dutch midfield.

He had a pass accuracy rate of 87.21 per cent in the Eredivisie last season – the only midfielders younger in Europe's top five leagues to play 20 or more times with a better return were Pedri (87.66) and Lucas Gourna-Douath (87.29). 

Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez heaped praise on teenager Jeremy Doku after impressing in Thursday's 1-1 international friendly draw with Greece.

Martinez's Belgium were without several key players including star Kevin De Bruyne, Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois for the pre-Euro 2020 warm-up fixture in Brussels.

Thorgan Hazard – brother of Real Madrid's Eden – opened the scoring off his shin in the 20th minute from a Yannick Carrasco assist.

Greece equalised in the 66th minute after Kyriakos Papadopoulos' header hit the post, with Georgios Tzavellas reacting first for the visitors.

Despite failing to win, Martinez was content with the result as they fine-tune ahead of the rescheduled European Championship, where top-ranked Belgium are one of the favourites.

Martinez offered rare praise of an individual, singling out 19-year-old Rennes forward Doku following his seventh international appearance.

The former Anderlecht man only scored two goals and provided three assists in Ligue 1 in 2020-21 but is highly rated in his native Belgium, bursting on to the international scene with a goal in his second Red Devils appearance last September.

"I'm very, very satisfied with some of the individual performances," Martinez said after the game. "It seems Jeremy Doku had exactly the same impact he had in March.

"He's looking always to be getting stronger and better. Not only when he has the ball but in general in many actions of the game he's involved in. He worked well tonight."

The Spaniard added: "Yannick Carrasco was very strong in both halves of the field. Romelu Lukaku also showed that he was having a very good time mentally.

"Then there is Dennis Praet, for a player who has not played for so long, it's really nice to see that he managed the 90 minutes well. It's very good to see such a good response from all the players."

Greece failed to qualify for the Euros, but Martinez was not too fazed by his side's inability to beat the 2004 champions.

"We needed a game like this," he said. "You don't learn anything that you win 3 or 4-0.

"I wanted a competitive team like the ones we are going to face at the Euros. That's why we chose Greece. We knew it would not be a friendly match against them.

"I am not disappointed because this game was not scheduled to be won. It was played so that all the players could level up.

"Many players have accumulated the playing time necessary for the Euros."

Belgium, whose Euro 2020 campaign starts against Russia on June 12, will play Croatia in their final warm-up fixture on Sunday.

Belgium started their preparations for Euro 2020 with a disappointing 1-1 friendly draw with Greece at the King Baudouin Stadium on Thursday. 

The Red Devils were without influential midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who sustained fractures to his nose and eye socket in Manchester City's Champions League defeat to Chelsea at the weekend, and they sorely missed his creativity against John van 't Schip's side, who are ranked 50 places beneath them in the world rankings.

Thorgan Hazard had put Roberto Martinez's side ahead midway through the first half after a slick move and he missed a glaring opportunity to add another before the interval. 

He was punished for that miss in the 66th minute when Georgios Tzavellas stroked home to seal a draw for the visitors.

Greece started on the front foot, with Giorgos Masouras and Anastasios Bakasetas forcing Simon Mignolet into saves inside the opening 10 minutes.

Romelu Lukaku was denied from point-blank range by Odisseas Vlachodimos as the hosts belatedly woke from their slumber.

It did not take them long to go ahead once they had hit their stride, Hazard volleying home from six yards after a smart one-two with Yannick Carrasco in the 20th minute.

Hazard should have had a second before the interval, but the Borussia Dortmund man inexplicably struck the outside of the post with the goal at his mercy.

Mignolet tipped Masouras' effort around the post on the hour mark, before Tzavellas secured a draw for Greece with an instinctive finish from 10 yards after Kyriakos Papadopoulos' header had bounced back off the post.

 

What does it mean? Tougher tests to come for Red Devils

Their Euro 2020 group is not packed with giants of European football but if their struggles here are anything to go by then Belgium might not have it all their own way against Finland, Norway and Russia. 

Despite their attacking talent, the Red Devils only managed to carve out seven shots to Greece's nine, which will surely concern Martinez so close to a major tournament.

Hazard impresses for hosts 

Few in red shone, with Hazard the best of a below-par bunch. His goal came from a game-high three shots, while he gained possession on nine occasions – the joint-highest tally on the pitch.

Doku fails to shine

Martinez has suggested De Bruyne is unlikely to be fit enough for Belgium's opening group game and Jeremy Doku did not exactly stake his claim to deputise for him here. The Rennes man was brought off at half-time after playing just one key pass to a team-mate and failing to register a single shot on target.

What's next?

Belgium face Croatia in a friendly before their Euro 2020 campaign kicks off against Russia on June 12. Greece, meanwhile, face the Red Devils' Group B opponents Norway in a friendly on Sunday.

Trent Alexander-Arnold will miss Euro 2020 after suffering a thigh injury against Austria on Wednesday, England have confirmed.

The Liverpool full-back was the subject of much media speculation ahead of Gareth Southgate's decision to cut his preliminary squad to a selection of 26 earlier this week.

Alexander-Arnold was picked, however, along with three other players capable of playing right-back in Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier.

However, as fate would have it, the 22-year-old will miss out after all, having gone off injured late on in the 1-0 win over Austria after clearing the ball.

Southgate said after the friendly at Middlesbrough – which England won 1-0 – that it "was not a good sign" to see Alexander-Arnold need assistance to walk around the sidelines, and further assessments on Thursday revealed a grade two quad tear.

Alexander-Arnold faces around six weeks out, meaning he will be unable to take part in the Euros – which for England start on June 13 against Croatia – and will instead withdraw from the squad.

Southgate will not confirm a replacement until after Sunday's friendly against Romania.

Trent Alexander-Arnold will miss Euro 2020 after suffering a thigh injury against Austria on Wednesday, England have confirmed.

The Liverpool full-back was the subject of much media speculation ahead of Gareth Southgate's decision to cut his preliminary squad to a selection of 26 earlier this week.

Alexander-Arnold was picked, however, along with three other players capable of playing right-back in Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier.

However, as fate would have it, the 22-year-old will miss out after all, having gone off injured late on in the 1-0 win over Austria after clearing the ball.

Southgate said after the friendly at Middlesbrough – which England won 1-0 – that it "was not a good sign" to see Alexander-Arnold need assistance to walk around the sidelines, and further assessments on Thursday revealed a grade two quad tear.

Alexander-Arnold faces around six weeks out, meaning he will be unable to take part in the Euros – which for England start on June 13 against Croatia – and will instead withdraw from the squad.

Southgate will not confirm a replacement until after Sunday's friendly against Romania.

The year-long delay to Euro 2020 has shifted the narrative for a host of stars, and meant the long wait for a return to the big stage has been extended for others.

Now, though, Europe's elite are set to battle it out as Portugal defend the title they won in France five years ago.

Some players enter the competition in great form and with little baggage, but for others this month-long tournament is a chance to make a big splash, or live up to long-held expectations.

Here, Stats Perform looks at two famous footballing nations, four big-name stars and a coach who bows out of his current job and may have designs on his next assignment.

Gareth Bale: Finished or a new beginning?

The wing wizard can do little wrong in the eyes of Wales and Tottenham supporters, and perhaps now there is a glimmer of hope for his Real Madrid career.

At the end of a season-long loan at Spurs, it seemed likely Bale would head back to Madrid and spend the final year of his contract largely on the sidelines. His future looked to be one of training, playing the odd Copa del Rey game and making fleeting LaLiga appearances, and spending his happiest hours on the region's best golf courses.

Now that Zinedine Zidane has moved on, that could change all of a sudden, and Bale has an immediate chance to make an impression on new Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti when he captains Wales at the Euros.

Bale joined Madrid in 2013, when Ancelotti was embarking on his first spell at the Santiago Bernabeu, but his career in Spain looked to have all but conked out 12 months ago.

The door certainly seems open for the 31-year-old to do just that as, in his presentation news conference at Madrid, Ancelotti said: "Gareth has not played much in the Premier League [in 2020-21], but he scored lots of goals, and was very effective in recent games when he had a chance to play.

"He is coming back, I know him very well, he will be motivated to play better and have a great season, no doubt."

At Spurs, he scored 16 goals across all competitions at an average of one every 104.44 minutes, and his match fitness appeared to be building up nicely when the season ended.

Bale exceeded his expected goals (xG) total of 11.07 quite handsomely, and for the first time since the 2015-16 season he scored more goals than he had big chances.

He had 15 such chances, defined by Opta as situations "where a player should reasonably be expected to score".

Bale is said by some observers to be considering retiring after Euro 2020, but that could be a waste of a still-luminous talent and Ancelotti is sure to be closely watching.

Eden Hazard: Brilliant Belgian has been a Real disappointment

So often sparkling for Belgium and Chelsea in the past, Hazard has left Madrid supporters wondering what has happened to that fizz since he landed in Spain.

He started just seven games in LaLiga in the season just ended, a string of muscle injuries and a spell out with COVID-19 ruining his campaign.

When fit enough to feature, the forward's numbers have been way down on those that he produced – to take a pertinent example – during Belgium's Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

A fair way of assessing his figures is to look at how Hazard contributes for every 90 minutes he is involved with club and country, and the comparison between his displays in Belgium's run to reach this tournament and in 2020-21 at Madrid shows an alarming dip.

His chances created total per 90 minutes falls from 4.6 to 1.0, his number of touches of the ball slides from 95.1 to 73.8, and his dribbles attempted plummet from 7.4 with Belgium to 4.2 in Madrid's season.

His involvements in shot-ending sequences of play fall from 10.8 to 4.9 per 90 minutes, and analysis of goal-ending sequences shows his contribution drops from 1.9 with Belgium to 0.8 per 90 minutes with Madrid.

It bears remembering that Hazard has not had the run of games that would give him full match fitness. If Real Madrid fans want any succour, they can find it in his Belgium statistics and must hope the coming month sees the 30-year-old roll back his form a couple of years.

A fit and firing Hazard would be a huge asset to Ancelotti, who is expecting the former Chelsea star to have an impact next term.

"Hazard is a top player, he has had injury problems, and not shown his top potential yet here," Ancelotti said. "I believe he can do that next year, he wants to, is motivated."

 

Karim Benzema: Have France really missed him?

Nobody doubts Benzema's ability or his current form. Firing 23 goals for Real Madrid in LaLiga showed he is coming into Euro 2020 in great shape.

The thing is: few expected him to play any part in this tournament.

Off-field matters and an impending court case have seen Benzema frozen out by France, the 33-year-old sidelined from international duty since 2015 following allegations he had a part in a plot to blackmail former Les Bleus player Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema strenuously denies any wrongdoing and for the duration of Euro 2020 he will aim to show what France have been missing in his absence. They managed to win the 2018 World Cup without him, and reach the final of Euro 2016, yet coach Didier Deschamps has decided his team need Benzema's presence for the coming month.

It could be a masterstroke or could go disastrously wrong, with France a national team who have combusted before during a big tournament.

Benzema last year made the snippy remark that Olivier Giroud was a go-kart and he, by contrast, was a Formula One car, but now they are rivals for selection.

Squad harmony is vital at any major championship, and Benzema's presence brings that little extra frisson. This gamble could go either way. Watching him and France will be fascinating.

Marcus Rashford: Making his pitch for a better England

Manchester United striker Rashford has been a pandemic social justice warrior, emerging as an inspirational figure as he battled for school children to avoid food poverty.

There is so much to admire about the 23-year-old Mancunian, who has also faced – and faced down – appalling racism on social media.

It would take a cold, cruel heart to begrudge Rashford a major moment on the pitch now, and that could come with England over the coming weeks.

On the international scene since just before Euro 2016, Rashford is now fixtures-and-fittings within the Three Lions set-up, but he has still yet to score at a World Cup or European Championship.

Before June's pre-Euros friendlies he had 40 caps and 11 goals and will want to improve his so-so goals-to-games ratio, which is partly explained by the fact only 20 of those caps came as a starter.

Golden Boot winner Harry Kane carried so much of the scoring burden for England at the last World Cup, and sometimes it takes two. Rashford scored three times in Euro 2020 qualifying and is coming off a 21-goal campaign with United, scoring on average once every 197.76 minutes.

The man who is effecting positive change in the way many live their lives, influencing politicians and shaping a better future for millions, could now do his country a massive favour on the football field.

 

Scotland: They're back, thanks to Mourinho's former right-hand man

Few in the Scotland team are long enough in the teeth to remember the last time the Tartan Army descended on a major tournament.

It was 1998, with the Scots giving Brazil a major test in the opening game at the Stade de France. A draw followed against Norway followed the 2-1 loss to the Selecao, before a dismal defeat to Morocco meant the campaign ended in crushing disappointment.

Hopes have flickered and foundered in the decades since, but Steve Clarke, once an assistant boss to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, has led his team back to the big time.

With the likes of Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay and Che Adams, they possess Premier League quality, and two games Hampden promise to be nourishing for the soul.

Scotland is an expectant nation. That tends to end in intense disappointment at major tournaments, but optimism abounds as the games approach, the June 18 clash with England at Wembley ringed in the diary.

Italy: Blue skies again for Azzurri

It felt absurd that Italy should be absent from the 2018 World Cup, but they failed the meritocracy test of qualification when losing a play-off to Sweden.

That meant they were absent from football's great global gathering for the first time since 1958, and coach Gian Piero Ventura was swiftly given the heave-ho.

Enter Roberto Mancini, the former Inter and Manchester City boss who has led a scorching revival of the Azzurri, a team who won all 10 of their qualifiers and headed into June on a 26-game unbeaten run.

Wales, Turkey and Switzerland are the group-stage opposition for Italy, and the Turkey game in Istanbul gets the tournament underway.

They are a team perhaps without a superstar, but as Paolo Rossi and Toto Schillaci would attest, iconic Italian figures can emerge on the big stage.

Joachim Low: Hit for six, Germany go back to the future

After 15 years, Low will step down as Germany head coach following these finals. Many in Germany think he should have stepped aside already, but Low has powerful support within the DFB, the national federation.

A 6-0 defeat to Spain in the Nations League last November felt like an appalling nadir, with Germany outshot 23-2 in Seville and having just 30 per cent of possession.

Something had to change and it has, with Low summoning Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels out of the international exile he harshly imposed on the experienced pair over two years ago.

Low felt he could do without their talents but it proved a major misstep, and for Germany's sake they are back. What Low does next remains to be seen, but a strong Euro 2020 campaign with Germany would bolster his chances of landing any elite club job.

The 61-year-old was a World Cup winner seven years ago, but the most immediately telling part of his legacy will be written during this European summer.

Frank de Boer admitted there is still plenty of room for improvement in his Netherlands team after they needed a late equaliser to draw 2-2 with Scotland.

Memphis Depay's 89th-minute free-kick made sure the Netherlands avoided defeat in the friendly fixture between two nations preparing for Euro 2020.

The influential forward had also scored in the first half, his left-footed volley cancelling out Jack Hendry's opener for a Scotland team left shorthanded following a positive coronavirus case within the squad.

Substitute Kevin Nisbet restored Scotland's lead soon after coming on as the Dutch looked defensively shaky when lining up in a wing-back formation, though De Boer made clear the squad had little time to work on systems ahead of the match in Faro.

"Has the experiment with the 5-3-2 system failed? No, it has not," De Boer said in his post-match interview with broadcasters NOS.

"I'm not worried at all. We only trained on it once, only three times for 10 minutes. In addition, we also played 4-3-3 at the time.

"In addition, Georginio Wijnaldum and Frenkie de Jong only joined later.

"It seems clear that things need to get better. I saw a few good moments, but there were too few."

Trent Alexander-Arnold's participation in Euro 2020 appears to be in huge doubt after the England full-back sustained an apparent muscular injury against Austria.

England won 1-0 on Wednesday thanks to Bukayo Saka's first international goal, but a late injury for Alexander-Arnold may have spoiled the night.

Alexander-Arnold was left out of a previous England squad in March, but has made the 26-man cut for Euro 2020, with Gareth Southgate taking four right-backs.

Two of those right-backs – Kyle Walker and Reece James – were unavailable in Middlesbrough following their Champions League final exploits, so the Liverpool star got the nod.

However, in the closing stages, Alexander-Arnold pulled up after making a clearance with his left foot, and appeared to be clutching his thigh as he limped off the pitch, with England's medical staff then having to help him walk around the sidelines to the tunnel.

With England kicking-off their campaign against Croatia on June 13, Alexander-Arnold's prospects do not look good, but Southgate, who also has concerns over the fitness of Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire, will wait for a full diagnosis before making a decision on whether to replace the 22-year-old.

"We're going to have a look. It's obviously not good to see him come off in the way he did. We'll just have to assess him over the next 24 hours," he told ITV Sport.

"I think thigh, but the medical team are still assessing it really. We just have to see, it's not a good sign to see him have to walk off as he did, but we'll know more in the next 24, 48 hours.

"Let's see how Trent is, and we'll go from there. We don't know the full extent, so the last thing you want is to have to see him come off in the way he did."

Another player to provide something of a scare to England fans might have been Jack Grealish. 

The Aston Villa talisman missed a large chunk of the Premier League run-in due to an injury, but played over an hour before being replaced by debutant Ben White.

Grealish was seen with an ice pack on his right shin as he watched on from the stands, but the 25-year-old insisted he is fit.

"I've had an injury recently so to get 70 minutes under my belt, I'm glad," he explained to ITV Sport.

"It's not shin splints, actually, it's different to that, it's like a bit of stress on my shin, a different type of injury.

"I'm not concerned, I'm still aware of it, need to keep on top of it, do whatever I can to heal it after playing in these games, so that's why the ice was on."

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