These youngsters set the football world on fire at the continental championships.
An enthralling month of football came to an end as UEFA Euro 2020 reached its conclusion. Italy were deserving winners of the tournament and lifted their second title.
Moments of adversity, a nerve-wracking end to the group stage, shocking upsets in the knockout stages and some stunning goals, the Euros had it all. There were several breakout stars in the tournament. Leonardo Spinazzola, Joakim Maehle, Patrick Schick and Steven Zuber are some that come to mind. However, this competition has been a great platform for youngsters to show their talent over the years. Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney broke through at Euro 2004.
In 2016, UEFA introduced the Young Player of the Tournament award for the Euros. Renato Sanches was the young star of the tournament. The 18-year-old was instrumental in Portugal’s road to glory. Similarly, this time, the Euros were graced ny some incredible young talent.
Khel Now takes a look at five young players who rocked at Euro 2020:
5. Alexander Isak (Sweden)
One of the brightest talents from the Euro 2020 group stage, Isak was a joy to watch. He was touted as one of the players to keep an eye on and Isak did not disappoint. Although he ended the group stage without a goal to his name, the Swede notched two assists. His driving runs and incredible dribbling showcased his qualities. A strong, tall, yet agile striker is not something one gets to see every day.
Isak’s performances were one of the main reasons behind Sweden’s top of the table finish in Group E. His dribble against Slovakia was one of the highlights of the tournament. Sweden were unfortunate to have got knocked out in the Round of 16, but it was ultimately a successful Euro 2020 for them. Isak has signed a contract extension at Real Sociedad with a five-year deal.
4. Mikkel Damsgaard (Denmark)
Just like Denmark’s fairy-tale Euro 2020 campaign, it was a fairy tale month for Mikkel Damsgaard. After losing Christian Eriksen to an unfortunate accident, there were a lot of questions about Denmark’s creativity and attacking prowess. However, the 21-year-old who plies his trade for Sampdoria seized the opportunity with both hands. Denmark’s adversity gave birth to one of the players of the tournament.
Damsgaard scored two goals and provided an assist. Both goals were truly top drawer, including a stunning free-kick against runners-up England in the semi-finals. The attacking midfielder produced three Shot Creating Actions (SCAs) per 90 minutes and 11 for the tournament. Given the fact that he was almost always subbed off at the hour mark, Damsgaard produced some good numbers.
Liverpool, Tottenham and now Real Madrid are all reportedly monitoring the situation of the Danish youngster. Sampdoria, though reluctant to sell, have quoted a price of around €40m.
3. Bukayo Saka (England)
19-year-old Bukayo Saka was one of the stars of Euro 2020 and there is no doubt about his talent. He was a star for Arsenal throughout last season as well. Saka’s impact on England was telling. Southgate’s side began their Euro 2020 campaign with two dull games against Croatia and Scotland, scoring just one goal in that process. Saka’s introduction in the game against the Czech Republic changed things. England were a lot more threatening in their 4-2-3-1 system and the tenacious Saka was the catalyst.
He has been a valuable asset to Southgate – performing for the team at every beck and call. Saka’s blistering pace on the right wing and accurate crosses, proved to be trouble for oppositions. Southgate even started him ahead of the likes of Jadon Sancho. He provided the crucial assist to Engalnd’s equalizing goal in the semi-final against Denmark.
2. Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)
Not only is Gianluigi Donnarumma a Euro 2020 champion, but he was also adjudged the Player of the Tournament. The 22-year-old guided Italy to two consecutive penalty shootout wins, making some terrific saves in the process. His towering presence in goal made it difficult for the penalty-takers to pick a side and slot home.
Donnarumma is one of the best keepers in the world at the moment and he looks set to establish a strong legacy for himself in the Italian side. He has never conceded more than one goal in an international match since he made his debut as a 17-year-old. A record that speaks for itself.
He has joined PSG on a free transfer from AC Milan this summer and will play a big role in the French outfit’s quest for the UEFA Champions League.
1. Pedri (Spain)
The Young Player of the Tournament, Pedri, was one of the standout performers at just 18 years of age. A classic Spanish midfielder, Pedri looked dangerous every time he was on the ball. His clever movement and passing was a huge boon for the Spaniards. Pedri also had a sensational campaign with Barcelona, playing the second-most minutes in the whole team.
Not many doubted Pedri’s ability, but the youngster truly announced himself at Euro 2020. Comparisons with Andres Iniesta are a testament to his maturity at such a tender age. Pedri’s numbers at the Euros show how dominant he was in the middle of the park. With 68, he had the most passes into the final third. In terms of creativity and attacking threat, Pedri had 27 SCAs and five Goal Creating Actions (GCAs). He was joint-highest in both departments. Apart from his eye for a pass, Pedri also dribbled well, registering 29 carries into the final third.
Pedri’s presence in midfield was imposing. He also made the Team of the Tournament. He also made his way into Khel Now’s Team of Euro 2020. Pedri will be one to keep an eye on at the World Cup next year.