Euro 2020 is just days away now and so two of our WD writers decided to go head-to-head in naming an XI of players they’re looking forward to watching this summer. The only rule was a limit of one player per country but besides that, it was a no holds barred occasion between Jamie and Jozef. The pair of us chose the teams and now it’s up to you, there will be polls and chances to interact on our various social channels so please get involved!
Starting in goal and this was more a matter of filling the void really given that a player further up the field already took my Italian berth away. Kasper Schmeichel has been one of the most consistent Premier League goalkeepers in the last few years and I think he’s very underrated, he commands his area well and I always enjoy a side that boasts him between the sticks. The honourable mention goes to whoever starts for Czech Republic, either Sevilla’s Tomas Vaclik or Werder Bremen’s Jiri Pavlenka.
Onto the right side of defence and here are two players that battled it out for the Ligue 1 title this season. Firstly the victor, Lille’s Zeki Celik- he suited his side’s system well and has a fair few clubs across the continent on red alert. Celik will be playing alongside a club mate of Schmeichel’s for Turkey in the form of Caglar Soyuncu and the pair could be key if their side are to uphold their ‘dark horse’ status. Next to him is Kimpembe of PSG and France also have lofty expectations on their shoulders. The centre half was part of the 2018 side that lifted the World Cup but will play a more integral role this time around, he has proven his ball-playing ability time and time again after all.
Next, to John Stones, who makes this team for a different reason; I think if Maguire is absent then the Man City man could crumble under the pressure. His resurgence has come alongside Ruben Dias and I’m not convinced he can be the dominant of the two centre backs, a.k.a. he needs a Maguire or a Dias to thrive. The final defender is Portuguese fullback Raphael Guerreiro, a player who plays like more a flying wingback for his club side Borussia Dortmund. The contribution he can make going forward can’t be overlooked but it remains to be seen if he’ll play in that sort of role, or even start in the first place. Switzerland’s Kevin Mbabu and Connor Roberts of Wales just about missing out.
The point of this team isn’t to be functional and that is evident in this midfield selection, a trio that aren’t necessarily either defensive-minded or forward-focused. There are two Barcelona players here but starting with another Leicester City man, Belgium’s Youri Tielemans. They may have missed out on top four yet again but the Foxes were altogether very entertaining to watch, the peak being the club’s first ever FA Cup glory courtesy of a thunderbolt from Tielemans. His composure on the ball is truly breath-taking and I’m personally intrigued to see how he fares when surrounded by even better players; De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Lukaku etc.
On to the Blaugrana duo and as much disdain as I have for Frank De Boer as Netherlands manager following his disgraceful stints with Crystal Palace and Atlanta United, Frenkie De Jong will always be at the fore of my mind. Again he is a very graceful player as is clearly a trend in this triumvirate in the middle of the park, something which is expected of a Barcelona player. Then, last but not least is someone even younger, a true Spaniard, Pedri. It seemed like quite a low-key move when Ernesto Valverde agreed a deal for him with Las Palmas but the teenager is truly sensational. It is not guaranteed whether he’ll start for Luis Enrique with the likes of Fabian Ruiz, Ferran Torres and Pablo Sarabia all worth a mention to be honest. The same going for Russia’ Denis Cheryshev who was excellent at the last major tournament, Ruslan Malinovskyi of Atalanta and Ukraine and then Poland’s Piotr Zielinski who plays his club football alongside Fabian for Napoli.
Into the final third now and first in the Bundesliga where Serge Gnabry has had an indifferent season for champions Bayern Munich. The 25-year-old contributed to twelve goals but given the attacking dominance from Thomas Muller and of course Lewandowski, the former Arsenal man faded into the background somewhat. Germany maybe aren’t as strong in these areas which could see Gnabry play a more instrumental role, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner enabling Gnabry rather than the other way around. On the other flank is Italian Federico Chiesa- when Juve bought him from Fiorentina he wasn’t exactly a nailed-on starter but that has quickly changed. Recently Insigne and Ciro Immobile have been joined by Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi in the attacking three but I would still be surprised if Chiesa doesn’t start for Roberto Mancini, he is at his best in the big occasions.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury after a great season with Milan despite his age has seen many write off Sweden, but I wouldn’t be so hasty given that their next striker in-line can be just as effective. Club teammate at Real Sociedad Mikel Oyarzabal was in my consideration for this side, as was Ibrahimovic’s fellow Milan forward Ante Rebic but Alexander Isak is leading the line for my team. I think if the Swedes can go relatively deep into the competition then Isak is certainly an outside shot for Golden Boot, he’s quite a well-rounded middle man whose movement is often complimented well by the likes of Oyarzabal and Barrenetxea. Can set-piece specialist Seb Larsson along with Bundesliga duo Forsberg and Robin Quaison emulate this?
With Italy being a lot of people’s choice for this tournaments dark horse, a lot of the pressure will fall onto Gianluigi Donnarumma’s shoulders. Luckily, he’s six-foot-five, so those shoulders are massive. Reportedly on his way to PSG, he no doubt would love to arrive at the club sporting winner’s medals alongside potential future teammate Marco Verratti. Andreas Christensen will look to maintain his excellent form displayed in the second-half of the Premier League season in hopes to retain his place in the Chelsea team next season.
The final two defensive names are two sides of the same coin. Laporte renounced his right to appear for the French national team in favour of Spain after repeatedly being snubbed in the selection process, the most recent name to take that place? Jules Kounde. Laporte now will look to make a difference in the Spanish side after being given the immeasurably huge task of replacing Sergio Ramos in the squad. Kounde, however will be looking to make a huge statement at his first international tournament.
Two equally exciting talents make up the core of the midfield. Musiala has already made twenty-seven appearances for Bayern Munich and he’s still just eighteen years old. After making appearances for most of the England youth teams, this could well be the tournament he shows off what the Three Lions missed out on. Frenkie De Jong’s stock has begun to drop of late as people tend to associate Barcelona’s mixed form as everybody’s fault not named Lionel Messi. The reality is however, he’s still an elite level player, and will no doubt show it at Euro 2020.
Gareth Bale has the chance to keep up his hot run of form from the latter stages of the Premier League season, as fans of the Wales National Team will dream of repeating their 2016 tournament run. Jack Grealish. I’m not sure I have to say much more, quite possibly the most exciting player to watch not just in England but anywhere else across the globe. A wizard with the ball at the feet, he starts and we win, it’s that simple. Sporting his number seven shirt, he’s going to carry England to our first ever Euro’s trophy. It’s coming home!
For the attack there are two players who had excellent seasons, and then…. well then there’s Eden Hazard. Whilst Yilmaz and Orsic were off blasting goals and winning Ligue 1 and the Croatian Cup respectively. Hazard on the other hand, has soaked up the Spanish sun and failed to deliver much in the way of anything since joining Real Madrid back in 2019.
International duty offers a chance for all three to show off the full wealth of their abilities. Yilmaz and Orsic could well be the stars of the show for their sides and fire their ‘underdog’ sides into the latter stages of the tournament. Hazard could perhaps be instrumental in not only turning around his recent slump, but also firing Belgium to their first major trophy. Les Diables Rogues are currently the first ranked side in the world, so it could well happen.
Those are the two teams then- vote in the polls on our Twitter and over on our Instagram too! Reply to this tweet with who you yourself are wanting to keep an eye on this summer. Also, stay with us here at WD for thorough coverage throughout Euro 2020.