The European Championships in France kick off this month and we here at unCOVered are very excited. We thought it would be useful to come up with a list of players to keep an eye out for.
Enigmatic and immensely talented. Paul Pogba has been known to many English football fans since he was released by Manchester United a few years ago. He left due to United not meeting his ambitious wage demands. Sir Alex Ferguson cited his attitude as a reason for letting him go. Since then he has scored some extraordinary goals and made some sublime assists for his team mates.
If you had said twelve months ago that Jamie Vardy would be in the England squad for the Euros with a Premier League winners medal around his neck then I’d be wanting to know what naughty sauces you were on! But that is where we are. Surely a starter for England alongside Harry Kane and his presence has made us question whether Wayne Rooney will get a starting place. He’s tenacious and relentless. Let’s hope he’s having a party in Paris come July 10th.
Antione Greizmann (France)
A European Under-19s champion in 2010, his senior international debut was delayed until 2014 because the French Football Federation banned him for a ‘nocturnal excursion’ while on Under-21s duty. After encouraging displays at the last World Cup, he has become the leader of his country’s attack keeping the likes of Olivier Giroud and Anthony Martial at bay. He’s had a great season for Atletico which ended in dramatic defeat in the Champions League Final.
Nico Elvedi (Switzerland)
A promising centre-back who can also play on the flanks, he made his debut for FC Zürich at the age of 17. He moved to Mönchengladbach in 2015 as one for the future but after the departure of manager Lucien Favre he got his chance and has been a regular for the most of this season.
A promising young attacking midfielder who could be the surprise package at the tournament. Has had a great season in his homeland with Steaua Bucarest and made his international debut this season, where he promptly scored the only goal in 1-0 win. Not a bad debut for your country. He’s widely expected to leave Steaua in the summer with the Romanian club hoping to get €10m for the playmaker, the Euros could be his shop window to showcase his talents.
This exciting young midfielder has just completed a move to Bayern Munich in a deal which could rise to £60m and will be looking to impress his new side during the tournament. At 18 years old, he’s the second-youngest player at the tournament and currently holds four caps for his country. He’s a flamboyant box-to-box midfielder and has got a cracking shot on him. Keep an eye on his progress over the next few years.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Germany)
Ter Stegen may be second-choice keeper for both club and country but the Barcelona man is highly rated as the next top goalkeeper. While Manuel Neuer is expected to be No.1 for the World Champions during the tournament, don’t be surprised if Ter Stegen gets at least one run out. He’s athletic, very composed, commands his defence well and is more than capable of the odd spectacular flying save.
Arsenal’s new signing was an Under-17 World Cup winner in 2009 and made his debut for Basel at the age of 18. He then played his first game for Switzerland at the same age when Ottmar Hitzfeld selected him for the qualifier against England at Wembley. He joined Mönchengladbach in 2012 and was the team’s captain before his move to the Emirates earlier this month. Likely to play against his brother Taulant Xhaka who opted to represent Albania, in Switzerland’s first game of Euro 2016.
Alli’s rise to international football is almost as impressive as Vardy’s. After impressing for Spurs last season he was quickly promoted into the England senior set-up as a teenager last autumn and has not looked back, quickly establishing himself as a key, energetic member of Hodgson’s team. He can operate as a No10 or in one of the wide positions of a midfield three, and provides the side’s forward thrust and energy. Scored his first senior goal against France and was outstanding in the win in Germany. If England are going to do well in the tournament, Alli could be a key man.
The main man for a Welsh team that has qualified for its first major tournament in nearly 60 years. He’s very quick, immensely skilful and has a left foot that can turn a ball into a ballistic missile. If Wales are going to get out of their group this summer, Bale will have to be the driving force behind them.
Brother of Everton striker and fellow Belgium squad-member Romelu, Jordan Lukaku is a very talented left-back and if you believe the rumours may soon be joining his bro in the Premier League. He’s quick and powerful with a wondrous left foot. He’ll be bothering right-backs for years to come.
After firing Wigan back into the Championship by winning the League One title, Solihull-born Grigg has almost snuck unnoticed into the Northern Ireland squad for the Euros. Grigg has made only seven senior appearances for Northern Ireland and did not feature at all during the qualifying campaign but is often an option for boss Michael O’Neill from the bench due to his pace and goal-scoring abilities. But as the tune goes… Will Grigg’s on fire, your defence is terrified (nana na na nanana nananananana)
Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco (Belgium)
By any standards, Ferreira-Carrasco has enjoyed a rapid rise for club and country. Just over a year ago he had still yet to make his debut for Belgium’s senior team but a goal in Monaco’s surprise 3-1 victory at the Emirates against Arsenal in the Champions League catapulted him into the limelight. A €20m move to Atlético Madrid followed last summer, where he has continued to excel for Diego Simeone’s side, scoring the equaliser after coming off the bench in the Champions League Final. Now considered to be one of the brightest talents in the squad, he is seen as one of the players the Red Devils can rely on for the next decade. Fun note, after scoring in the Champions League Final, he ran to kiss his girlfriend, who is Noémie Happart, who was crowned Miss Belgium 2013.
This little winger is considered one of the hottest prospects in Europe and currently plays for Danish side Nordsjaelland where he’s has enjoyed a brilliant season. Manchester City are keen to add him to Pep Guardiola’s squad for the new season and Mor may use this tournament as a chance to showcase himself to potential suitors. His style is similar to that of Lionel Messi and he likes to keep the ball close to his feet and beat players with either a deft touch or a blast of sudden pace. An exciting player.
Wernbloon is one of those players that never stops running and never stops tackling. He has a capacity to wind up his opponents and certainly adds bite to the Swedish midfield when he plays. He made a huge impression on his debut for CSKA Moscow in 2012, having arrived from AZ Alkmaar. After a game against Real Madrid in the Champions League, the Spanish press commented that “He was tougher than Chuck Norris and took no prisoners.” High praise indeed.
The Arsenal full-back has finally broken in to the Spanish side after impressing in the Premier League and Champions League this season. He’s very quick! Did you know he recently broke the Arsenal club record for quickest 40-metre sprint? The former owner of that record was Theo Walcott. He’s still only 21 and is on the radar of a certain FC Barcelona. He’ll not only keep left wingers at bay but he may cause the odd left-back some issues at the other end too.
Nagy was written off as a footballer aged just 12, but stuck at it, and a few years later started to impress at the Portuguese VSI football academy. Last season he became a starter for Hungarian champions Ferencváros and should have a big impact for the national team in the coming years. He’s a tricky midfielder in a similar mold to a David Silva. He’s got an eye for a through-ball so keep a look out.
Will any of these players be the next James Rodrigues and light up the tournament? This is just a peek and what could be in store over the next month. It’s going to be a feast of football and we’re all invited. Who do you think will win the Euros? Who do you think will get the furthest out of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland? Let us know in the comments below or on social media.