With the start of this summers European Championship just over a week away, this piece takes a look at some of the younger players that could well be the surprise stars of the tournament.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, England, 18.
Still only 18, but Oxlade-Chamberlain appears to have the physique and ability of an
experienced Premier League player. Arsene Wenger, not exactly known for splashing out, spent £12 million on the teenager, which should put into perspective how highly he rates the young midfielder. Despite his limited game time this season, impressive performances have shown he is ready for the big stage and Roy Hodsgon has indicated potentially a more central role for the youngster who seems comfortable playing anywhere across the attacking line. In his international debut against Norway he showed confidence and a willingness to receive possession in pressured situations, certainly not showing any signs of nerves. His pace will no doubt cause problems for the most experienced of opponents – and although he may not start, he will be a great option from the bench for Hodgson.
Mario Gotze, Germany, 19.
With already 13 senior international appearances, it is hard to think of Gotze as a new boy to footballs world stage. However the attacking midfielder is still only 19 and this summers European Championship will be his first major tournament. He links play well in the final third and contributes his fair share of goals, whilst offering versatility across the midfield. Gotze has already been linked with a host of Premier League clubs but remains a Borussia Dortmund player – a big summer for him could change this.
Yann M’Villa, France, 21.
M’Villa is only 21 but has already made over 100 appearances in the top flight of French
football, with Ligue 1 club Rennes. He is a modern day defensive midfielder – physically impressive and efficient with and without possession. Current manager Laurent Blanc handed M’Villa his debut in 2010, and since then the midfielder has kept his place in a French team very much rebuilding after a disappointing World Cup in South Africa.
Christian Eriksen, Denmark, 20
The midfielder has already made nearly 80 senior appearances for the current Eredivisie Champions, Ajax, scoring 13 goals in that time. Eriksen was named man-of-the-match in his country’s home defeat against England – but was noticeably complemented by opponents on the day. He has since became the youngest Danish player to score a goal in European qualification. A technically gifted and strong player, despite his small stature. Certainly a player for the future but one that may also prove influential in Ukraine.
Mario Balotelli, Italy, 21.
The striker that has split opinions in the Premier League this season.
Some love him, some hate him – but no one can question his talent. Twenty-one years old but with a portfolio of on-an-off-pitch incidents that would be substantial for the most ill-disciplined of professional footballers, all eyes will be on Balotelli’s behaviour in Ukraine. But, as he has proved this year, no one can doubt his ability and having been given the no.9 shirt for the international campaign – maybe this summer will be one of maturity for the often-troubled star. He averaged almost a goal every other appearance for Manchester City this season – despite often having to come on as a substitute. Good figures for a first season in the Premier League.
Who do you expect will take Euro 2012 by storm this summer? Have your say with a comment or a tweet @pitchsidetalk. Appreciate your support!
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