With the final squads for all 24 participants of the 2016 European Championships now known, we now have a clear picture of what each team is packing. Here are a few youngsters who many might not be overly familiar with but should be aware of. Most of these players will not be in the starting 11’s of their teams this summer but do possess the ability to make an impact if given the chance.
Ante Coric – 19 years old – Dinamo Zagreb – Croatia
The exclusion of 19 year old Alen Halilovic from Croatia’s final 23 man squad was quite a surprise but his absence does not mean Croatia will be without young attacking talent. In Ante Coric, Croatia have another gem of a midfielder capable of stealing the show. Dinamo Zagreb have a tradition of producing and developing top midfield prospects. In recent years we’ve seen the likes of Modric, Kovacic, Halilovic pass through the club and Coric, the 2015 Croatian Hope of the Year, is next in line. He’s established himself as a key figure in the Dinamo team over the last two seasons but the youngster who is frequently compared to a young Modric won’t be at the club much longer. He won’t be a starting player for Croatia at the Euro’s but if the opportunity presents itself I would place my money on Coric seizing it and impressing all onlookers.
Breel Embolo – 19 years old – FC Basel – Switzerland
The Swiss Dynamo is already one of the most highly rated young strikers in the world. Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund have all been credited with watching him and he’s already seen a €27m bid from Wolfsburg for his services rejected. He’s been a regular feature for Basel over the last two Championship winning seasons where he has scored 30 goals in 86 appearances and it is likely that his time at the club is coming to an end. Blessed with power and pace, Embolo is comfortable in both a wide role or up front. His ability to beat defenders is impressive while his hold up play and ability to bring others into play should not be underestimated. Embolo will likely be used as a wild card option off the bench and that is a role he can excel in.
Jordan Lukaku – 21 years old – Oostende – Belgium
Most of us will be familiar with Romelu Lukaku but his younger brother Jordan could be poised to make an impact at the upcoming Championships. Unlike his older brother, Jordan is a left back who enjoys attacking from deep. Belgium have suffered a defensive crisis of sorts in recent weeks and while the younger Lukaku brother will still be expected to be back up to Vertonghen for the left back spot, Belgium are just one injury away from potentially turning to him. Wilmots has hinted that the younger Lukaku’s lack of experience at this level is the only reason he is reluctant to give him the starting birth right now but if push comes to shove, Jordan has the skill set and ability to prove Wilmots wrong.
Piotr Zielinksi – 22 years old – Empoli (on loan from Udinese) – Poland
Depending on who you believe, this cultured midfielder will be teaming up with Jurgen Klopp at Anfield in the near future. Zielinski has just completed two impressive seasons on loan at Empoli and his parent club Udinese look set to make a pretty profit on the money invested into signing him. It will likely be Zielinski who shoulders the creative responsibilities of his team. A capable dribbler with an eye for a through pass. if Zielinski clicks, the likes of Milik and Lewandowski up front should have their fair share of chances to put away.
Elseid Hysaj – 22 years old – Napoli – Albania
This 22 year old right back has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last few seasons. Like Zielinksi above, his success began at Empoli under Maurizio Sarri. He followed Sarri from Empoli to Napoli at the start of the 2015-2016 season in a deal that made him the second most expensive Albanian ever and he hasn’t looked out of place once. His performances for Napoli up and down the right wing have reportedly led to interest from Bayern Munich who are now considering what life without Philipp Lahm will be like. Hysaj will be a key figure for Albania in what will be their first major tournament and if he puts in the type of performances he had for Napoli this season, then it won’t be long until we see Hysaj makes another step up.