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Ones to Watch at the Under 21s European Championship


Ones to Watch at the Under 21s European Championship

The Under 21s European Championship in Romania and Georgia got underway this week, In what looks set to be an incredibly exciting tournament. Almost every squad is filled with regular top-flight players and some of them are even filtered down from the men’s national team to compete for silverware.

Therefore, selecting only a handful of players was extremely tough, especially with so much already established talent on show.

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Joao Neves: Portugal

Portugal have a very strong squad going into the tournament with the likes of Pedro Neto, Nuno Tavares and Andre Almeida. However, who has shone recently is one of the youngest players in the team, Joao Neves, who was just 16 when the qualifiers took place.

The Benfica prospect has already tasted first-team football at his domestic club, featuring 17 times in the Liga Portugal and even scoring against rivals Sporting recently. He is a very smart player and despite his small size and height of 5ft8 he often contests for the ball frequently with tenacious tackling. The midfielder has endless energy and a no-nonsense approach, he loves to get stuck in. The 18-year-old is very busy on the field, whether it be in an attempt to regain possession or get on the ball in possession.

Furthermore, Neves’ game revolves around the press. For the young midfielder in particular, Pressing is a huge strength of his, as well as his ability to keep the ball under pressure and almost be press resistant himself. He is also technically secure for a player of his age.

Micky van de Den: Netherlands

Micky van de Den’s breakthrough season just concluded with German outfit, Vfl Wolfsburg. The Dutch centre-half started 33 games at just 22 years-old and his first real campaign in the Bundesliga has led to plenty of transfer rumours already. Additionally, Van de Den will captain his nation at the U21 Euros which highlights his leadership qualities.

When watching the left-footed defender, his Insane speed and acceleration instantly stands out. Not only does it mean he can recover quickly unlike most defenders, but it also allows him to be aggressive and proactive with his defending. Therefore he can take risks when attempting to read the game, as well as enter duals all over the pitch which helps his team spring forward in transition.

Due to his playing experience at left-back, he is extremely composed and willing to take risks with both his passing and dribbling, which are mostly progressive. The 6ft4 star fits the mould perfectly for a modern-day CB and if he continues to perform, he will have a brilliant career.

Oihan Sancet: Spain

Fans of La Liga will be extremely familiar with Oihan Sancet of Athletic Club and he will be featuring at the Euros as a 23-year-old. This is due to the tournament rules which states a player can feature in the championship, as long as they were 21 at the time of the qualifiers.

Sancet is an extremely versatile player who is tactically developed way above his age. He has featured as a number ten but his best role is probably as a High box-to-box midfielder. The number eight has a unique skill set that combines height with dribbling and technique. He has a lethal strike also and often finds himself in and around the box.

Depending on the opposition’s defensive set-up, he also has the capability to start attacks by dropping deep to receive the ball. He can hold off defenders with his stature, strength and Incredible close dribbling.

Additionally, an attribute that is prevalent in Sancet’s game is his power, which allows him to complete more progressive carries and retain the ball. He has a very decent passing range also and he is quite complete for the current system he plays in. A move away from Bilbao won’t be happening any time soon, however, after recently signing a new eight-year contract extension.

Bradley Barcola: France

To put into perspective just how insanely talented the France squad is this tournament, they could probably field an XI that could compete in the Premier League. Michael Olise, Khephren Thuram and Maxence Caqueret are just a few players in the team, but a prospect who deserves recognition is Olympique Lyon’s Bradley Barcola.

The young winger was a key player in Lyon’s push for European football next season, he ended the campaign with five goals and 8 assists in only 1431 minutes. Many of his assists came directly because of his natural 1v1 dribbling technique. He emulates the movement of Napoli’s Kvaratskhelia, bouncing off others and creating close combinations to get to the touchline and cross or have a strike at goal.

Barcola has also added goalscoring traits such as arriving in the box from wide to his game, like Raheem Sterling and Sadio Mane. Moreover, he shows great maturity and confidence for a 20-year-old, yet his only downfall currently is the lack of power in some areas such as ball striking; which has hindered him in front of goal.

Giorgio Scalvini - Italy

At just 19 years of age, Giorgio Scalvini is the latest Italian Centre-half hoping to join the long list of Azzuri defensive legends. Since being trusted to start in the Serie A for Gasperini’s Atalanta, he has been irreplaceable on the left-hand side of a back three.

This position lends itself perfectly to Scalvini’s best attributes such as his ability to defend in wide areas and 1v1 scenarios. The 6ft4 defender also excels at tackling and his anticipation of the game is top-notch. Another side of Scalvini’s game is his ability to progress the ball and remain composed under pressure. He mainly progresses the ball through dribbles rather than line-breaking passes but his overall game is so well rounded.

Furthermore, he plays the same position under Italy U21 boss, Paolo Nicolato, as he does at Atalanta. Scalvini has also featured for Italy’s men’s squad this year, starting against Malta in a 2-0 victory and if he lives up to his potential, we could see him in a list alongside Fabio Cannavaro, Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi.