Get to know the rising stars of Europe as we guide you through the 10 best young players to watch in the UEFA Euro 2020! Here are my personal recommendations of Under-23 players that needs your attention for the UEFA European Championship 2021.
Originally due to be held last summer, the Euro 2020 was postponed to the summer of 2021 because of the pandemic outbreak. With the tournament kicking off on the 11th of June 2021, the UEFA European Football Championship 2020 is just days away and the excitement surrounds us with the prospect of watching the best stars in Europe fighting for the European trophy.
The UEFA Euro 2020 is destined to become a real festival of football. Here we can experience the best young players in Europe at the biggest stage. Forget about Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo, the Euro 2020 will be the first International competition where new legends are born, which kids will fondly remember with passion like we embraced Youri Djorkaeff, Zinedine Zidane, Jürgen Klinsmann, Marco van Basten, Gary Lineker or Zlatan Ibrahimovic to our hearts by buying a shirt with their name on the back.
For the Euro’s, we got a great number of young players who are destined to become the most important figures in the footballing world throughout the next 10 to 15 years. Some can already be described as world stars, such as Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz, Kylian Mbappe, Matthijs de Ligt, Gianluigi Donnarumma and João Felix, whilst others are rising stars who are destined to take the world scene in the next few years – unless they are able to do it this summer!
With the kickoff of the UEFA Euro 2020 just days away, it is time to look at the rising stars of Europe by looking closer at the best young players under the age of 23 to watch out for in the UEFA Euro 2020! Here we’ll look away from the most experienced stars like the ones mentioned above but instead look at some Under-23 talents that can rise to fame in the summer of 2021.
The 10 Rising Stars of Europe that can lead their nation to glory
Dejan Kulusevski (21) – Sweden
Sweden’s best performance in the European Championship is their fourth-place finish on home soil in 1992. Then Tomas Brolin and Jan Eriksson guided their country to an honorable achievement. With Brolin as joint top scorer in the tournament with 3 goals back then, Sweden needs to rely on Alexander Isak (21) or Dejan Kulusevski in the absence of Zlatan in order to replicate that feat for the Euro’s 2021.
Since breaking through at Parma for the 2019/2020 season which resulted in the Best Young Player Award in the Serie A, Dejan Kulusevski has kept impressing in the 2020/2021 season after moving to Juventus. With 7 goals and assists throughout 47 appearances, Kulusevski is ready to impress for Swedish National Team. So far, he’s only managed to score 1 goal in 12 appearances, but I believe he’ll able to improve that tally for the Euro’s.
Style of Play
Dejan Kulusevski is one of few attacking outlets in the Swedish squad capable of play in almost every position in the attacking unit. Whether he’s selected as a striker alongside Marcus Berg or Alexander Isak, as right winger, central midfielder (as a Mezzala), or an attacking midfielder, if a formation change is needed of Janne Andersson moving from 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1, Kulusevski got the versatility to comfortably play in a number of positions.
Kulusevski brings first and foremost unpredictability and flair into an aging Sweden side and could resemble Emil Forsberg style of play. The hard-working Swede stands out for his vision and smartness with the ball – able to create space for others by dribbling and holding up play before making through balls or placed shots in the corner of the net.
Dejan Kulusevski is one of many candidates for the Young Player of the Tournament award 2021!
Nuno Mendes (18) – Portugal
Portugal might have come in the group of death! Facing both title challenger France and Germany, Portugal might have a hard time reaching the 2nd round. Apart from these two huge clashes, another intriguing aspect with Portugal will be watching if João Felix (21), Pedro Gonçalves (22) and Nuno Mendes can help a talented Portuguese side lift the trophy for the second consecutive time.
Even though Nuno Mendes will fight for the left back position against Raphaël Guerreiro and might not be given too many minutes, Nuno Mendes is filled with potential and great abilities to help the National team.
The young Sporting Lisbon wingback got the quickness and technique of a winger as well as the defensive qualities in terms of positioning, tackling and interceptions to fulfill the role requirements in both defensive transition and attacking transition. In possession of the ball, his ability to take on the opposition by dribbling past them and get into opportunities for crossing or shooting has not gone unnoticed. With Manchester City a real admire of his talent, Nuno Mendes might make the move to the biggest stage in Europe this summer.
Bagged with incredible technique, agility and flair, Nuno Mendes is basically the new breed of wingbacks required to the modern football game -both able to cover the entire flank as well as having the attacking capabilities to do what past wingers had to do.
Becir Omeragic (19) – Switzerland
Becir Omeragic is one of the up and coming central defender wonderkids in Europe at the moment. The FC Zürich defender got his National team debut in October 2020 against Croatia. With an hamstring injury keeping him out of the World Cup Qualifications earlier in March 2021, Omeragic was trusted with a role in the back three formation by Vladimir Petkovic against Lichtenstein June the 3rd.
If Petkovic continues to use the 3-4-1-2 formation, Omeragic who got experience playing in the right fullback role might be in the starting line-up against Wales. The 187cm tall Swiss defender could be described as a modern ball-playing defender. Comfortable with the ball at his feet, able to bring the ball out of defense coupled with great technique and ability to make those important key tackles and interceptions, there won’t be long until he moves to a bigger club.
I love his style of play due to his aggression, work rate and energy on the field, often moving forward into the attacking transitions or doing a vital role in pressing the opposite player and closing them down quickly to regain possession before the ball moves inside.
Will this be the summer where the big clubs gets their eyes on this wonderful versatile defender? With great performances in the Euro’s, I believe so!
Jeremy Doku (19) – Belgium
While the Belgium Euro 2021 squad looks like a candidate to lift the trophy, many of its players are reaching the latter stages of their career. As one of the youngest players in the tournament, Jeremy Doku is one of few who is expected to be in the starting line-up. As a winger in the 3-4-3 / 3-4-2-1 the young Rennes player has impressed at the National team in recent season – providing 2 assists and 2 goals in 7 appearances.
With sublime technique, lots of trickery and unpredictability to dazzle the opposing marker’s, Jeremy Doky’s quickness and ability to get past his marker can be what’s needed to give space for Lukaku to bag in goals and eventually lift the Golden Boot.
The former Anderlecht Academy player who thrives in the Inverted Winger role got immense skills that has struck me in awe a number of times. With the ability to curl the ball in the far side corner, Doku doesn’t shy away from creating chances for himself by moving inside the penalty box and use some quick tricks to get the space needed to struck the ball in the net.
How many goals and assists will he eventually record in the Euro’s 2021? Let me know in the comments!
Andreas Skov Olsen (21) – Denmark
What happens in Denmark’s opening match against Finland might seal the faith for the Danish National team and their chances to qualify for the 2nd round. One important player for Denmark in their most important matches to secure vital points are besides Christian Eriksen and Mikkel Damsgaard (20), Andreas Skov Olsen.
Coming through the ranks of FC Nordsjælland, Andreas Skov Olsen quickly left Denmark after impressing in the Superligaen for Italian Bologna. He received his National team debut in October 2020 and has since then scored 3 goals, made four assists in just 224 minutes of play over 6 appearances!
In one of the three World Cup Qualification matches in March 2021 he scored 2 goals in 35 minutes against Austria, while he recorded 2 assists against Moldova in 45 minutes 3 days earlier.
The right inside forward is skilled at stretching play and take on his fullback as he moves the ball wide before cutting inside. While he’s used energy and quickness to move the ball into the center of the pitch, as he enters zone 14 he shows composure and anticipation by making powerful placed shots that is out of goalkeepers reach.
Couple his goalscoring capabilities from the edge of the box with crosses from byline and you’ll have a player who can both create chances from wide areas and create chances for himself that might be what’s needed for Denmark to take all the points.
Jude Bellingham (17) – England
Gareth Southgate got a real headache ahead of the Euro’s. With a young and highly talented squad, England goes into the European Championship as one of the title challengers. Their attacking line-up seems highly devastating, especially considering the form Phil Foden, Harry Kane and Mason Mount have been in this season. Then you got Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka (19).
One who shall balance the creativity and flair provided from the front four/five is Jude Bellingham alongside Kalvin Phillips or Declan Rice.
Since getting his first team debut at Birmingham at the age of 16, Jude Bellingham moved to Borussia Dortmund despite all major clubs attracted his service. The young English midfielder has the versatility to play as a winger, but has shone in the centre of the park as a box to box midfielder or Mezzala this season.
In fact, Bellingham could be described as a complete midfielder – both able to use vision and passing technique to set up others into goalscoring opportunities, as well as being excellent with the ball at his feet – using dribbling and strength to hold onto the ball and eventually get out of pressurized situations where space is limited and the team is fragile for quick counters.
With 4 goals and assists in 46 appearances, you may wonder if the 2020/2021 season has worn him out and that Southgate may opt for more experienced players. What we do know is that his energy and dynamism, alongside work rate and aggression, can help England to regain possession in the middle of the park for quick counters. Couple that with his smart movements and ability to get into the opposition area – we got a modern midfield star at the age of 17(!) in the making!
Mykola Shaparenko (22) – Ukraine
Ukraine might not have the easiest group to qualify from, but their got a decent squad with a mix of decent talents and experienced players residing in the home premier division. Apart from Shakhtar goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin they got a few Dynamo Kyiv wonderkids in their ranks. I’m thinking of Mykola Shaparenko Viktor Tsygankov (23), Vitaliy Mykolenko, Illya Zabarnyi and Mykola Shaparenko.
Read More | Viktor Tsygankov – Ready for a big move? by Total Football Analysis
Given the number 10 shirt for Ukraine, Mykola Shaparenko can play as both central midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 formation or as an attacking midfielder in 3-4-2-1 formation used against France in the World cup qualifications in March 2021, which they drew 1-1.
Shaparenko got his National debut all the way back in 2018 but is still yet to make his first National Team goal. Despite of lacking goals, Shaparenko’s playmaking abilities and ability to win the battle for possession in the centre of the park will be crucial. Here’s a team player who can thrive in between the lines, connecting the defensive unit with the offensive by setting up others for chances.
Will his first goal come against North Macedonia or will Tsygankov take the spotlights?
Jurriën Timber (19) – Netherlands
Netherlands have finally qualified for the Euro’s again and this time we’re fortunate to meet a number of great wonderkids that we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the next 10 years. Apart from Matthijs de Ligt (21), Ryan Gravenberch (19), Cody Gakpo (22), Donyell Malen (22) and Teun Koopmeiners (23), manager Frank de Boer gave debut to Jurriën Timber on June the 2nd.
Alongside four other Ajax players and four other former Ajax youth Academy players, Jurriën Timber is the last in line to play for the Dutch National team. Timber is a versatile defender who can play in all roles within the defensive unit, either he needs to play as a wide central defender in a 3-4-3 or as a wingback in 4-3-3.
He got his Eredivisie debut in March 2020 and have since then recorded 31 appearances. Upon the last year he has shown great defensive abilities alongside determination and work rate required to win the battle of possession and avoid letting the ball enter the most dangerous areas of the pitch. His tackling, bravery and ability to get stuck in and close down players makes him into a difficult defender to come up against.
In possession of the ball he’s fairly quick and possesses great technique and balance to keep possession of the ball and create space for others by dribbling past opponents or use tempo shifts and agility to get out of limited spaces.
Timber often tends to cut inside from the wing in order to play through balls and key passes to inside forwards/wingers on the opposite flank and enter the final third with the ball at his feet – something that often cause chaos in the opponent’s defensive marking strategies.
Watching Timber play ooze control in all phases of play – always doing what’s right to regain possession or retain it.
Kacper Kozlowski (17) – Poland
Receiving his international debut for Poland in March 2021 against Andorra and have only played less than 45 minutes in total for Poland, Kacper Kozlowski might not be the destined for the Polish starting line-up in the Euro’s but is one who might get some minutes against Slovakia and Sweden depending on how the group stage looks.
Kacper Kozlowski is an attacking midfielder coming through the ranks for Pogon. He received his debut for Pogon in the 2018/19 season and have since then recorded 15 goals, 13 assists in 64 apperances (Youth League and Cups included).
The Polish wonderkid can provide some necessary dribbling and flair to create chances for Lewandowski. The question is which formation Paulo Sousa will adopt and whether Brighton’s Jakub Moder (22) better fits the team’s strategical tactical changes from match to match. So far, Moder – a young deep-lying playmaker or defensive midfielder has suited Sousa’s formation shifts better, as Poland has used anything between 4-4-2 to 3-4-2-1 depending on the opposition.
Pedri (18) – Spain
The 2020/2021 season has been a personal great for the young Spanish wonderkid – labelled to become the new Andres Iniesta. Getting his Barcelona debut in September 2020 before eventually scoring his first goal for the club a month later, all eyes are on Pedri at this Euro. Fighting for a place in the starting line-up against worldclass playmaker Thiago, Pedro González López might be the creative midfielder Spain needs to cast Sweden, Poland and Slovakia aside. On the paper it shouldn’t look as a major problem, but my worries are if Spain manages to eventually hit the back of the net.
Pedri, who came from Las Palmas to Barcelona before 2020 season, can play both as an left winger, attacking midfielder and a central midfielder – much like Andres Iniesta. The Barcelona wonderkid possesses the flair of Messi, the sublime technique of Xavi/Iniesta, the dribbling and agility of Messi (again) and the passing abilities of Xavi. He’s simply a genius with the ball – able to get out of tiny spaces with body feints and trickery that makes spectators in awe.
Can Pedri be the playmaker Spain needs to reach the final, or will the 2nd round be an obstacle yet again?!
Ethan Ampadu (20) – Wales (Chelsea) – Central Defender / Defensive Midfielder
Orkun Kokcu (20) – Turkey (Feyenoord) – Central Midfielder
Tomas Suslov (18) – Slovakia (Groningen) – Attacking Midfielder
Reece James (21) – England (Chelsea) – Wingback
Alessandro Bastoni (22) – Italy (Inter Milan) – Central Defender
Eljif Elmas (21) – North Macedonia (Napoli) – Attacking Midfielder
Billy Gilmour (19) – Scotland (Chelsea) – Central Midfielder
Jules Koundé (22) – France (Sevilla) – Central Defender
Josko Gvardiol (19) – Croatia (RB Leipzig 01.07.2021) – Central Defender
That’s it for now! I hope you have enjoyed our overview of the best young players to watch for the Euro’s 2020! Let us know in the comments who you are the most excited about for the European Championship!
Let the festival of football begin!