5 Players to watch out for at the Euros

The Euro 2020 Championship is being held across Europe for the first time in the competition’s 60-year history, with 11 host cities in total.

As the event kicks off on Friday, June 11 — the Euro was postponed because of the Covid crisis last year — Norma Astrid Godinho/Rediff.com introduces you to 5 brilliant footballers expected to light up the competition.

Matthijs de Ligt

Matthijs de Ligt comes into the Euros with a load of expectations — the centre-back, at 19 ,led Ajax to the Champions League semi-final in the 2018-2019 season before a move to Juventus made him the most expensive defender after a record deal of 75 million euros ($84.39 million).

Since his Ajax debut in 2016, de Ligt has gone on to become one of Europe’s top defenders with his strength, anticipation and ability on the ball.

A mainstay in Juventus’s defence, Dutch Coach Frank de Boer will expect de Ligt to bring his responsibility and style into the national team. And in the absence of the injured Virgil van Dijk, the onus will be on de Ligt to stay fit and ensure the Dutch a safe passage into the knockouts.

 

Phil Foden

Foden has been at the heart of Manchester City’s superb season where they won the EPL and FA Cup titles while reaching the Champions League final.

The 21 year old will bring his technically sound and aggressive game into the Euros for Coach Gareth Southgate’s England team who face Croatia in their opening group game at Wembley on June 13.

For a player who can be used in multiple roles — he can either play wide in a three-pronged attack, in an orthodox central midfield role or even as a ‘false nine’ — Foden brings in the X-Factor for England.

 

Pedri

 

Spain and FC Barcelona’s Pedro Gonzalez Lopez — or Pedri as he is more commonly known — has done well to shine the light on himself despite sharing pitch space with Lionel Messi up front.

Since his arrival at Camp Nou last year, the midfielder has made his mark by weaving his way through opposition defences and feeding balls to Messi or scoring them himself.

A technically gifted player with nimble feet, the tenacious 18 year old will be an asset to Luis Enrique’s Spain.

 

Joao Felix

Defending champs Portugal have one solid new talent in their ranks — Joao Felix.

Since Atletico Madrid the splurged 126 million euros on young Benfica forward in the summer transfer window of 2019 — even though he hasn’t had much game time with injuries and COVID-19 infection laying him low — the 21 year old has been impressive.

Versatility is his strength. He can play on both flanks or as the main striker. At Atletico as well as in the Portugal national team, his best game has been advertised while playing as a link between the midfield and the strikers.

With Portugal Coach Fernando Santos preferring a front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Diogo Jota and Bernardo Silva, it is possible that Felix will be used in that role — as a feeder.

Felix would like to remind us that even though he is a pass master, he has a penchant for scoring goals and will be one to look out for.

 

Kai Havertz

The 21 year old, who was brought by Chelsea from Bayer Leverkusen last year for a reported 70 million pounds, scored the winner in Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League victory over Manchester City last month.

And the young German, with a place in the national squad in mind, hopes that Germany Coach Joachim Loew would have taken note of his performance.

On Monday, June 7, Havertz played a major role in Germany’s 7-1 mauling of Latvia in a warm-up tie. He provided two assists and forced an own goal while playing at a dizzying pace.

Germany are in Group F alongside France, Portugal and Hungary and have their task cut out if they have to go deep into the tournament. Havertz will need to provide sparks of inspiration when handed a chance.

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