Euro 2020 will host some of the hottest young talents in world football. In this article, we take a look at 10 of the most promising ones.

Jude Bellingham, 2003 – England

Wyscout report: Jude Bellingham

There’s nothing normal in Jude Bellingham’s path to professional football so far. At 17, he already experienced a £26M transfer – the most expensive ever for a 17-year-old youngster. – As a first-team regular with Borussia Dortmund, a goal in a Champions League quarter-final (against future finalist Man City) and an honor usually reserved to football legends at the end of their career, his jersey with the number 22 retired by his former club Birmingham City FC. The last step has been the call-up to play the Euros, making him the youngest player in England’s squad and the second youngest of the whole tournament after Poland’s Kacper Kozlowski, three and a half months younger than him.

At least at the beginning of the tournament, Bellingham shouldn’t have a central role among the Three Lions – although he already became the youngest ever to play at the Euros, being subbed in at the 82nd minute of England’s opener against Croatia. In the past months, since his debut against Ireland in November, he’s almost never been a regular for Southgate. But in the only match played from the first minute before the European championship – the friendly match against Austria in early June - Bellingham played so well that many people now expect him to be played as a starter soon. But that’s not so easy. Henderson, Rice and Phillips provide balance and cover behind England’s most advanced lines, both vital skills to balance the Three Lions’ massive offensive talent. Bellingham, on the other hand, tends more to move around the pitch, helping to get the ball in the last third and running in the box. It’s really up to what kind of midfield Southgate wants to play with, either more balanced and control-oriented, or brave and supportive of offensive players. Whatever the case may be, for his very ability to change the tempo in the midfield, Bellingham can play an important role in this tournament, even if not playing as a starter.

Jérémy Doku, 2002 – Belgium

Wyscout report: Jeremy Doku

Belgium is the most experienced team at the Euros, with the highest average age of the tournament and the highest number of international caps in their 23-man squad. The only exception, and the only Under-23 player called by Roberto Martinez, is Jérémy Doku. It’s not a surprise. Doku debuted last November and he starts the Euros with a tally of eight games and two goals with the Red Devils- the same amount scored in the 30 matches played with Rennes in the last Ligue 1 season.

He arrived in France last October from Anderlecht, with great expectations around him. The transfer was quite expensive - €26M + bonuses- and he immediately forced himself into the starting XI, playing on the wing, both on the right and left flank. But he wasn’t very effective from an offensive perspective (only two goals and three assists in the campaign) and he mainly showed his ability to beat his man in 1v1s. After Mbappé, he’s the player who completed the most dribbles in Ligue 1. He’s not a starter for Belgium but with his electric style of play, his speed and his talent in 1v1s, he can change games even starting from the bench.

Nuno Mendes, 2002 – Portugal

Wyscout report: Nuno Mendes

There’s maybe no team in the Euros with fullbacks as good with the ball as Portugal. Cancelo and Guerreiro are two certainties (although Cancelo will miss the Euros after being tested positive for Covid-19, being replaced by Diogo Dalot), with the latter being a vital part of Borussia Dortmund’s possession and coming from a season with five goals and nine assists in Bundesliga. Behind them, there’s also Nuno Mendes, one of the best and most promising players in the recently crowned Portuguese champions Sporting Lisbon. Mendes has the softest left foot, he’s great at crossing, and has an amazing vision. He can carry the ball up the pitch, but he doesn’t need to reach the final third to create dangerous situations. He only needs to look up when still in his third and use his long passes.

Cristiano Ronaldo is well aware of that, as it was Nuno Mendes himself to assist him from the left flank for the infamous disallowed goal against Serbia at the end of March, when a fuming Portugal captain left the pitch, furiously throwing his armband to the ground.

Nuno Mendes' long pass against Serbia - Image created with Wyscout Playlist & Draw feature.

In a more recent friendly match against Spain, Nuno Mendes stood out with yet another long pass, this time from his own left half. A mid-air, curling pass that once again found Cristiano Ronaldo behind the Spanish line. The Juventus striker, though, failed to control the ball with his head and wasn’t able to shoot.

Nuno Mendes' long pass against Spain - Image created with Wyscout Playlist & Draw feature.

Guerreiro is likely to start at left fullback for the tournament but as he’s not always 100% reliable from a physical perspective, Nuno Mendes may have his chances, even if only for a few minutes from time to time.

Adam Hlozek, 2002, Czech Republic

Wyscout report: Adam Hlozek

In the context of the Czech league, Adam Hlozek looked simply unstoppable. In 19 matches played in his campaign with Sparta Prague – he lost 4 months for a foot injury – he scored 15 goals and served seven assists. In total, he contributed to 22 goals, the highest number in the league, he’s been the best goal scorer and the fourth-best assist man, even by playing half season.

Hlozek's assist against Lille - Image created with Wyscout Playlist & Draw feature.

It’s impossible not to be impressed by these numbers and in fact, Czech manager Jaroslav Silhavy called him up for the European Championship. So far, though, he only played three matches – only one as a starter, against Slovakia last September. The starting forward is Schick, and Silhavy can also count on Krmencik and Vydra, both very technical but not so strong from a physical perspective. Hlozek, on the other hand, is a polished striker from a technical standpoint, he can move a lot and also play on the wing. He’s ambitious and can produce moments of pure bright, spectacular goals and complex assists like the one with his back heel against Lille, in his only 45 minutes played in the Europa League last season. Maybe he won’t be able to get noticed in the European Championship, but Hlozek has everything that the Czech team needs: technique, ambition and energy.

Jurrien Timber, 2001 – Netherlands

Wyscout report: Justin Timber

In other circumstances, Jurries Timber wouldn’t likely become part of the Dutch defense so quickly. But injuries played a major role. The knee injury suffered by van Dijk last October, de Ligt’s more recent muscular problem, the various setbacks suffered by Blind recently. De Boer’s change of system also played its part – from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2, other than being heavily criticized in the country. The central role in the middle of the defense has then been taken by Timber – with no little surprise, as he took advantage of other players’ injuries to debut with the senior national team, playing the last two friendlies before the Euros against Scotland and Georgia.

Even if he played 88 minutes in the 3-2 win in the opener against Ukraine, it’s not sure whether Timber will retain his position as a starter. In theory, de Ligt, de Vrij and Blind should be the first choices for the position, but Timber was already preferred over more experienced defenders like Aké and Veltman. He showed clean passing and bravery in possession, also building up in advanced positions, all vital skills for a right halfback in a three-man defense. He plays for Ajax and he became a starter there in the second half of the season. It will be interesting to see if he will retain his position as a starter once all his older teammates have recovered.

Billy Gilmour, 2001 – Scotland

Wyscout report: Billy Gilmour

It hasn’t been an easy season for Billy Gilmour. He almost never played for Chelsea – also because of a torn meniscus which forced him to lose the first months, and also because of the impressive level of the competition in the midfield: Kanté, Jorginho and Kovacic alternated in the two-man midfield mostly used by Tuchel. But he was still called up for the Euros by the Scottish manager Steve Clarke, who played him in the two friendlies played before the tournament against Netherlands and Luxembourg.

On both occasions, Gilmour started from the bench. In the last minutes, playing as an inside-forward against the Netherlands and at the beginning of the second half against Luxembourg, playing in front of the defense but in a peculiar situation: against a modest opponent who was one man down for a red card. Scotland kept possession almost the whole half and Gilmour had all the time to build up every play.

Billy Gilmour's position against Luxembourg - Image created with Wyscout Playlist & Draw feature.

It’s not a likely scenario for the Euros. Clarke prefers to have more solid midfielders defensively to play in that position and Gilmour – other than being the rookie, has other skills, unique ones in the Scottish squad. He builds the play, covering a lot of ground to give options to his teammates. Qualities that are poorly valorized by a team who like to use long passes, not passing much by the center of the pitch. But Gilmour is the brightest talent of Scottish football and Clarke, by calling him up, wanted to give him a signal and give him a chance. If he’ll be looking for some quality for his team at the Euros, he knows who to call.

Ethan Ampadu, 2000 – Wales

Wyscout report: Ethan Ampadu

Since he replaced Ryan Giggs, Wales’ new manager Robert Page gave his team a clear shape: three at the back, two center-mids, two wingers and a quick and dynamic offensive line, able to be dangerous in transition. Within this new system, Ethan Ampadu is one of the pillars, equally reliable when he plays as one of the three center-backs or one of the two midfielders, the position in which Page played him the most.

Ampadu played as center midfielder - Image created with Wyscout Playlist & Draw feature.

At the Euros, is likely for Ampadu to be played in the midfield – although he didn’t start at all in the opener against Switzerland – and that he will be requested to protect the space in front of the defense, a zone that Wales cover with great care, starting from the offensive line, which directs the opponent build up on the flanks by playing tight. Ampadu moves in vital spaces for Wales’ defensive effectiveness, and he must be ready to cover possible gaps in the lines, if an offensive winger loses his 1v1 or fails to recover, or if a center back is drawn out of position. His performances will be very important for the solidity of the system and therefore for Wales’ tournament itself.

Giacomo Raspadori, 2000 – Italy

Wyscout report: Giacomo Raspadori

The reasons for Giacomo Raspadori’s surprising call up for the Euros aren’t to be found in his last season’s numbers. Raspadori only played as a starter in the last part of the campaign, he hasn’t scored much (six goals) and before May, he was never even discussed as one of the possible players for Italy. It was clear that Immobile and Belotti would’ve alternated in the heart of the Azzurri’s attack, and the most plausible third option was Kean, which has the same age as Raspadori, but much more experience. He played for big clubs like Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain and debuted with the national team in 2018, other than being able to play both as a center-forward and offensive winger.

Raspadori is way less experienced, less adaptable but has qualities that Mancini was looking for and hasn’t found with Immobile, Belotti and Kean. Those of a striker who’s not only capable of link-up play, but also to be involved in possession. He knows how to play away from the defensive line and pass the ball, skills that he fine tuned by playing with Sassuolo, a team which is used to keeping the ball and attacking organized defenses, thus sharing some tactical principles with Italy. The hierarchies of the Italian offense are clear, but Belotti and Immobile always struggled to keep up with expectations with the national team, guaranteeing the same performances they had with their clubs, and Raspadori seems fit to take the lead of a team that wants to dominate possession and attack tight spaces. On paper, he shouldn’t play much but he could be Italy’s unexpected hero.

Alexander Isak, 1999 – Sweden

Wyscout report: Alexander Isak

Without Ibrahimović, who had to give up on the Euros due to a knee injury, the most hyped Sweden attacker is Alexander Isak, who just finished a season with 17 goals with Real Sociedad. Isak is tall and technical and – for these features - he’s often been compared to Ibrahimović himself. He actually is a quick and slim striker, who loves to run vertically and open on the left flank, where he can either cross or cut to the center to pass the ball behind the defensive line.

Isak's through pass against Russia - Image created with Wyscout Playlist & Draw feature.

He doesn’t attract all balls as Ibra does, he’s less able to be a link for teammates to rely on when moving up the pitch, but has superb control at high speeds and he can gain his team lots of space by carrying the ball, also having impressive ‘eureka’ moments. He’s more than a striker for transitions in open spaces, he can also take the ball in the final third and serve through passes behind the defensive line. He hasn’t always been a starter for Sweden but he’s the best striker of the team and his performances will have a certain impact on the team’s path at the Euros.

(Keep an eye out for an upcoming Scouting Time episode focused on Alexander Isak!)

Mykola Shaparenko, 1998, Ukraine

Wyscout report: Mykola Shaparenko

Shirt number 10 and always on the move to touch the ball to create new lines of passing, Mykola Shaparenko is the inside-forward that gives Ukraine’s possession continuity, as he wants to manage every possession that passes in his zone. He mainly plays on the left but covers a huge part of the pitch, he can receive the first pass from the center backs and then follow the play up to the opposite third, continuously engaging his teammates around him, and moving just afterward to close the give-and-go.

In the last season, he won all national silverware with Dynamo Kyiv: the championship – scoring 4 goals and serving 3 assists, the Ukrainian Cup and the Supercup. With the national team, he played as a starter most times in the past months but the Ukrainian manager – football legend Andriy Shevchenko, has a lot of options for his midfield and eventually, Shaparenko could play less than expected (he was subbed in at the 64th minute in the loss against the Netherlands). Ukraine has a young and qualitative team and in that context, a player like Shaparenko – able to increase and enhance the connections with his teammates, could play a vital role to let others around him shine.

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