Ronaldo, Foden & Benzema Among Top Players to Watch at Euro 2020
Portugal will be led by Ronaldo as they look to retain their first piece of silverware which they won in 2016.
All set to be played a little over a year after it was originally scheduled, the 2021 European Championship will be played across the continent. For the first time in 60 years, the Euros will travel across 11 cities, starting in Rome and finishing at the Wembley in London.
Defending champions Portugal will be led by Cristiano Ronaldo as they look to keep hold of what was their first piece of international silverware. While that is on their agenda, Belgium’s golden generation led by Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku will hope they can live up to their reputations.
The international tournaments have often been acid tests for some of the best while many more have risen to the occasion.
The four-yearly tournament is always much anticipated and 2021 will be no exception, especially as the championship was delayed. With the players getting an extra year, in rather trying circumstances, to prepare, one expects some big plans to be in place - so who are the players to watch?
At the Euros, can one really look away from the Portugal captain? Talismanic in every sense of the word, Ronaldo proved his worth from the sidelines in the final in 2016, calling out instructions animatedly as they went on to win the title.
Ronaldo is already a legend in the tournament with the most appearances (21), and needs another goal to be the top scorer. He is currently level with Michel Platini (9) and has already scored in the most matches (7).
Ronaldo has had a strong season and he will no doubt be thinking of retaining the title, a something that only Spain have managed so far (2008 and 2012).
While the former Manchester City winger was having a stellar season at Dortmund in the previous campaign, the brilliant attacker is rather having a silent year compared to the previous years. Sancho, who has not found the goals as often as he would have liked at Dortmund this year, though has been in sublime form.
Since making his debut two years ago, the Englishman has represented the Three Lions on eighteen occasions having to find the back of the net on just three occasions.
An in-form Sancho will be a huge threat to the opposing team in the competition as he looks to make his mark in his first big international tournament.
While he was described as a “great talent” by the fellow Englishman and a spot competitor at the wing, Raheem Sterling, Sancho is expected to play a big role in the Three Lions attack at Euro 2021.
The Manchester City maestro has enjoyed a very successful campaign in the Premier League thus far and will be hoping to use that momentum to make his way into Gareth Southgate’s plans this summer.
The dynamic midfielder has played a number of positions under Pep Guardiola this season and seems to thrive wherever he is placed in the team.
Foden’s ability to play in more than one position makes it tougher to keep him out of England’s starting XI and with Sancho, promises plenty of fireworks.
He would not be under-pressure as he is not considered as one of the experienced players. This situation is similar to that of his position at Man City and might benefit him in terms of giving the full freedom to express himself.
22 years of age for any footballer is considered young, but more so when the position is that of a goalkeeper and definitely even more when the player is succeeding Gianluigi Buffon.
Donnarumma is already an experienced club level goalkeeper, making his debut incredibly at 16 years of age. He has been between the sticks for Italian side, AC Milan, for the past 6 years. He also has experience as the starting goalkeeper for the Italian national team. The tall keeper is all set to make his big move in the transfer market and will be keen to impress suitors during the Euros.
Absent for nearly 6 years from international football, Benzema was recalled to the French squad ahead of the Euros.
The Real Madrid forward missed the 2018 World Cup triumph and played no part in their run to the final in the last Euros in 2016 but has previously been an integral part of the French squad, who are looking to win back-to-back international tournaments.
Benzema has earned his place and found forgiveness from head coach Didier Deschamps only after scoring 20 goals and more in each of the last 3 seasons – one of his most prolific phases after 2007-08 with Lyon, in 2011-12 and in 2015-16 with Real Madrid.
Between his final appearance for France in October 2015 and the end of the 2020-21 domestic season, no French player has been involved in more goals within the top five European leagues than Benzema (144), one ahead of Kylian Mbappé (143).
Given all this, it is tough to imagine that Benzema will be left out, but France is a squad that bursting at the seams with attacking talent. The Euros is Benzema’s chance to remind Deschamps about his class, which does not read well for opponents.
Mbappe, Benzema and Antoine Griezmann with Paul Pogba pulling the strings in midfield – is a recipe that most defenders would rather stay away from.
With Holland’s Virgil van Dijk and Spain’s Sergio Ramos not coming for the Euros, the microscope will focus harder on Man City’s centre back Ruben Dias – credited for the turn around at the Etihad this season.
Dias’ season is not a flash in the pan and he will look to keep his form intact international as well. Dias won the Man of the match in the EURO nations league final two years ago against Netherlands while the likes Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva were at their peak and Portugal will be relying on the genius defender during the Euros for sure.
If Dias can hold up his end of the deal, it makes the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Ronaldo and Felix more dangerous.
One of the star players for Belgium, Eden Hazard has not been in the best of health and form since leaving Stamford Bridge for Spain.
The Belgium captain believes that all he needs is his confidence back and his team will be hoping that is sooner rather than later given the injury situation with Kevin de Bruyne.
One of the most creative players in forward positions, he can be extremely dangerous coming in from the left, running at defenders.
While the Real man has not had the best couple of years with injuries slowing him down, the Belgian think tank will hope the Euros is motivation enough. There is also the small matter of impressing Carlo Ancelotti, the new Real coach, who will be keeping a close eye on his new players during the summer.
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