Future Talent From The U21 European Championship
The European Under-21 Championship kicks off in the Czech Republic on Wednesday with the continent’s top future talent on show.
We all know about England’s young stars such as Harry Kane, Saido Berahino and Danny Ings, but what about the other seven competitors?
We take a look at a player from each of England’s rivals to look out for.
Vaclav Kadlec, Czech Republic
The hosts won the tournament in 2002 with a team featuring the likes of Petr Cech and Milan Baros, but are tipped to prop up Group A on home soil.
Much will rely on Vaclac Kadlec, the 23-year-old striker who has already won eleven senior caps.
Kadlec will miss the opening game through suspension, but he’s flourished following a return to Sparta Prague last winter on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt and the Czechs will be looking to him for goals in their crunch clashes with Germany and Serbia.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Denmark
Much is expected of this talented side in Denmark, with the dreaded term “golden generation” bandied about in relation to Jess Thorup’s exciting young team.
Key man Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will return to parent club Bayern Munich this summer after a successful loan spell at FC Augsburg.
He’s already won half a dozen caps for the senior team and the box-to-box midfielder has scored four goals in five games for the Under-21 side. The Danes will be relying on his creativity and dead ball expertise and they won’t be short of goals – scoring 38 in ten matches in their qualifying group.
Max Meyer, Germany
Germany start the tournament as favourites and it’s no surprise with a squad boasting the likes of Champions League winner Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Hoffenheim’s Kevin Volland and World Cup winner Matthias Ginter.
Despite only making two appearances in qualifying, much is expected of 19-year-old Max Meyer.
The Schalke winger has already been compared to Lionel Messi and Mario Goetze and was in Germany’s provisional squad for last summer’s World Cup.
Filip Duricic, Serbia
Undoubtedly talented, Duricic failed to shine on loan at Southampton last season so will use the tournament as a shop window for another move.
His chances have been limited at parent club Benfica, but he’s a key player in Serbian football – already winning 22 caps for the senior side at the age of 23.
With the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Lazar Markovic not in the squad the onus will fall on Duricic to provide a spark of creativity in a tough group.
Andrea Belotti, Italy
The Palermo striker scored six goals in qualifying and has just enjoyed a successful debut season in Serie A.
The 20-year-old will shoulder much more responsibility in Sicily next term, tasked with replacing Paulo Dybala, who’s joined Juventus.
The Italians have won this tournament on five occasions, and they’ll be reliant on Belotti’s goals if they’re to add a sixth title.
William Carvalho, Portugal
Carvalho will be no stranger to anyone who follows the transfer gossip pages, having been consistently linked with a move to the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United in recent years.
The 23-year-old will get a chance to showcase his talents in Portugal’s first match on Thursday against England, having just won the domestic cup with Sporting Lisbon.
The defensive midfielder has already won 13 senior caps, including two appearances during the World Cup in Brazil, and has stated recently that he’d welcome a move to the Premier League.
John Guidetti, Sweden
Sweden go into to tournament as 16/1 outsiders following an inconsistent qualification campaign.
Despite overcaming a talented French side in a play-off, much of the burden of expectation will fall on John Guidetti’s shoulders.
The 23-year-old striker is playing for a move, having been released by Manchester City and deciding not to make a loan spell at Celtic permanent. He will be hoping to add to his haul of ten goals in 18 Under-21 appearances to help secure a new club, with the likes of Udinese interested.