With the European Championship's starting soon, I decided to look at each squad and see what talents were going to be on show for the tournament.
A mixture of both known and unknown players that could light up EURO2012 if they perform. Each squad was looked into and the best prospect, in my opinion, was analysed with a short video clip available to see how they play. All feedback is welcome.
Alan Dzagoev – Russia
Likened to Czech Republic’ Tomas Rosicky during his earlier years as a player, Dzagoev is key to Russia’s chances at the tournament. Following his debut season in the Russian Premier League he was awarded he was awarded the Best Young Player in the League award, from this he broke into the national aide and made his debut against Germany as an eighteen year old becoming the youngest player ever to play for the senior side. Although he is only twenty-one he is seen as an experienced player in the side as he has already played one hundred and fifty three games for CSKA Moscow and appeared in eighteen games for the national side. If Dzagoev plays well then Russia may repeat the feat of 2008 and reach the semi-finals of the tournament.
Highlights of Dzagoev's career so far.
Giannis Fetfatzidis – Greece
Often nickname the Greek Messi, Fetfatzidis – or ‘Fetfa’ as he is nicknamed by fans – currently plays for Olympiacos in the Greek Super League. Similar to Messi, when he joined his current club’s youth academy he was put on growth hormone treatment in an attempt to make him taller so he could make it as a professional. Standing at 5ft5, two inches shorter than Messi, he has great ball control and skill and this was on show during this seasons Champions League and scored the winner against Marseille in the group stage.
A compilation of highlights can be found here.
Rafal Wolski - Poland
The nineteen year old midfielder is only in his first professional season as a player for Legia Warsaw but he has already shown his potential with his remarkable dribbling, passing and shooting technique. Legia finished third in the league with Wolski making twenty five appearances and scoring six goals over the season. He was named in the provisional squad in early May and was the only uncapped player in the squad, he then went onto make his debut against Latvia in a friendly later in the month.
Watch highlights of his season here.
Petr Cech – Czech Republic
The thirty year old goalkeeper is going into the tournament in probably his best form of his career so far after having a successful campaign with Chelsea having won the FA Cup and Champions League. Cech will be looking to add to his ninety caps during the tournament as he is seen as the number one goalkeeper in the country. Cech was instrumental in Chelsea’ Champions League campaign and made numerous world class saves in the semi-final versus Barcelona before saving three penalties, one in extra time and two in the penalty shootout, in the final against Bayern Munich. If he’s on form in the group stage, Czech Republic have an outside chance of qualifying from the group stage from what seems one of the easier groups of the tournament.
Highlights of his 2011/2012 season.
Nelson Oliveira – Portugal
Portugal have lacked a good quality striker since the days of Nuno Gomes and Pauleta but seemed to have found one with potential now with Nelson Oliveira. He was a scoring machine in the youth teams he played in before making his league debut for Rio Ave aged eighteen. He was on loan last year at Pacos de Ferreira, but lacked the clinical touch finishing with five goals in thirty games. Described as a mix between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sergio Aguero, he scored four goals in the 2011 U20 World Cup and helped Portugal reach the final before losing to Brazil in extra time. Benfica have already ensured that they will get the most out of him by inserting a €30million release clause in his contract. Although unlikely to start in the tournament, Paulo Bento will maybe put him on for the last twenty minutes of a game if a goal is needed.
‘Nelson Oliveira – Future Star’.
Marco Reus – Germany
Reus made his breakthrough in German football as a nineteen year old for Borussia Monchengladbach in the 2008/09 season. In August 2009, he shot to fame thanks to a fifty metre solo run that ended up a goal against Mainz in the Bundesliga – since then he became a prolific goalscorer for the club. He was selected for the national side in 2010 for a friendly against Malta but had to pull out due to a leg injury, Reus then made his debut for the national side in 2011 in a match versus Turkey. Since then he has gone on to make six appearances in the national setup and scored one goal in a recently friendly versus Switzerland. He recently announced that he was to re-join childhood club Borussia Dortmund for the 2012/13 season.
Compilation from his latest season in the Bundesliga.
Kevin Strootman – Holland
The Dutch are delighted with one of their latest talents after he impressed in the Eredivisie for PSV Eindhoven following his €13million duo move from FC Utrecht with Dries Mertens. He made his international debut in the friendly versus Austria last year replacing Theo Janssen. He is most notable for his ability to pick key passes in games and the coach of the national team Bert Van Marwijk is known to be an admirer of Strootman saying his vision was one of his best assets. Strootman may find games at EURO2012 limited depending on the tactics Holland play as the squad is full of midfield talent such as Nigel De Jong, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart.
‘Kevin Strootman – The Future of the Netherlands’.
Christian Eriksen – Denmark
Touted as the new Michael Laudrap by many pundits in the game, Eriksen is one of the hottest prospects in the game. Eriksen plays in the classic number ten role behind the striker and can pick out many killer passes in the game. He has been involved in every level of youth football in international football before being called up to the main squad in February 2010, making his debut against Austria becoming the fourth youngest debutant in the senior squad since Michael Laudrup. He was selected in the squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa at the tender age of eighteen and played in two games against Holland and Japan before Denmark were eliminated in the group stages. The European Championship will be the perfect stage for Eriksen to showcase his talent this summer and could well improve his market value.
‘The Danish Wonderkid’.
Javi Martinez – Spain
Just as the rest of the world think they are safe as the Spanish team’s older players come to the end of their careers, they produce a fresh batch of talent ready to light up the international stage. Javi Martinez is one of them. With Carles Puyol ruled out of the tournament, he may be forced into the centre back role rather than his preferred central midfield role. He led Spain’s U21 team to the 2011 U21 European Championship in Denmark and has gained seven international caps for the senior side. He has also been tipped to be a future Spain captain. Martinez has been superb for Athletic Bilbao all season and showed what he is capable of during the games against Manchester United in the Europa League. Many top European clubs are interested in signing him but his €34million release clause may prove a stumbling block.
‘Javi Martinez – Compilation 2011/12’.
Fabio Borini – Italy
Borini moved to England at the age of sixteen to sign for Chelsea and was made the first choice striker for the reserve team. He was the top goal scorer with ten goals in eleven appearances. In an attempt to find first team football he was loaned out to Swansea in 2011 scoring six goals in nine appearances. He joined Parma permanently in the summer of 2011 but was immediately loaned out to Roma for the season. His form in Serie A impressed national coach Cesare Prandelli and he was called up to the senior squad for the friendly versus USA in February 2012. He is the youngest member of the squad for EURO2012 being only twenty one years old.
Highlights of the 2011/12 season.
James McClean – Ireland
At the same time as the Republic of Ireland secured a win against Armenia in the qualifying stages, James McClean is on the losing side as his Derry City team lose two nil at Waterford in the Irish second tier. Fast forward a year and he has signed for Sunderland before making his debut on New Year’s Day against Manchester City. He is a controversial pick for the EURO2012 squad as he rejected a call up to the Northern Ireland senior side to enable him to play for Republic of Ireland, his preferred choice. He made his debut against Czech Republic as a substitute for Aiden McGeady in February 2012 before making his first start against Bosnia-Herzegovina in May 2012.
A compilation of his time at Derry City and Sunderland.
Sime Vrsaljko – Croatia
Along with Mateo Kovacic, he is seen as the future of Croatian football. He is the youngest member of the squad for EURO2012 at the age of twenty but don’t let that fool you – he has appeared in sixty five games for club and country since his professional debut aged 17. Vrsaljko had played in every level of youth football for Croatia before making his full international debut against Czech Republic in a friendly in 2011. With Vedran Corluka being the main right back for the senior squad, his appearances will be limited but is definitely one for the future.
Compilation of his time at Dinamo.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – England
A gamble by Roy Hodgson to select the eighteen year old for the tournament, it brings back memories of the 2006 World Cup when Theo Walcott was selected as a seventeen year old without making an appearance for the Arsenal first team. However, unlike Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain has made a number of appearances for the Arsenal first team and has impressed in the Champions League especially where he became the youngest English goal scorer in the competitions history. Oxlade-Chamberlain made his full international debut in the friendly versus Norway in May 2012 and followed it up with a starting appearance against Belgium in another friendly. He is known for his pace and powerful playing style and will cause a big problem for defenders when he gets put on for the last quarter of games.
Highlights from the 2011/12 season.
Olivier Giroud – France
A late bloomer in French football, Giroud got his chance in 2010 when he signed for Montpellier. For most of his career he played in the lower leagues of French football and in 2009 he was the Ligue 2 top goal scorer whilst playing for Tours. The 2011-12 season was a very good one for Giroud who won the league with Montpellier and scored twenty one league goals during the campaign, his performances were rewarded with him being selected in the team of the year and receiving a nomination for Ligue 1 Player of the Year. He made his international debut against USA coming on as a substitute. Giroud has established himself as the back-up striker to Karim Benzema, and should the chance arrive, he will grasp it with both hands and have no problem with performing at the highest international level.
Olivier Giroud’ 2011-12 Season.
Andriy Yarmolenko – Ukraine
As a youngster, Yarmolenko was compared to the Ukraine great Andriy Shevchenko by many journalists, a huge compliment at the time as Shevchenko was one of the top strikers in the game. He made his international debut for Ukraine in a friendly in September 2009 and has gone on to make twenty appearances for the national side. The Dynamo Kiev striker can play as a left winger or a striker and is known for his physique, powerful shot and his speed. He will look to lighten up EURO2012 for the co-hosts with his flamboyant approach with skills that are similar to Cristiano Ronaldo. In the last season, he scored eighteen goals and got sixteen assists for both club and country.
‘Andriy Yarmolenko – Ukranian Genius’.
Ola Toivonen – Sweden
The PSV striker had a fairly successful season in the one just gone with him scoring twenty four goals in the campaign. He scored in the Dutch Cup Final against Heracles in a three nil win which brought an end to a four year trophy drought for PSV. He was prolific in the U21 squad with thirteen goals in twenty eight appearances and scored a superb free kick against England in the 2009 U21 European Championships. His full international debut came against Venezuela in January 2007 in a two nil defeat, he has since gone on to make twenty four appearances and scoring six goals during his time with the senior squad. Toivonen may play some games during the tournament depending on the form of the other striker Johan Elmander as Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be the main striker for Sweden.
Ola Toivonen –Swedish Sensation.