10 Exciting Young Players To Keep Track Of At Euro 2012

By Chris Wright

Woo! Young guns having some fun, crazy ladies keep ’em on… *ahem*. Here’s our list of the top ten tyros we’ll be watching with great interest over the course of the European Championships this summer. Starting, as is custom, with number one…

1. Kevin Strootman, Holland: Coming in off the back of an impressive season with PSV, Strootman is primed for a good showing in Poland and Ukraine but, as the Dutch midfield is rather clogged up with more experienced options, he may be left providing ‘competition’ at best – which is a damn shame. Holland coach Bert Van Marwijk has already lauded Strootman’s passing abilities and he’s not wrong; the 22-year old has a fine range. Couple that with a tall, sturdy physique, exceptional ball rentention and incredible vision and you’ve got yourself a humdinger of a midfield casserole.

2. Christian Eriksen, Denmark: Hardly a secret anymore, the Danish waif – rejected by Chelsea in 2008 for being ‘too weak’ – has since blossomed into a coveted commodity in European footballing circles with Ajax. Sprightly, skillful and creative, the 20-year old attacking midfielder from Middelfart (stop sniggering at the back) comes with the Dennis Bergkamp seal of approval – which makes him okay by us. Will no doubt be mentioned in passing with most of the continent’s elite should he put in an eye-catching shift or two in Poland and Ukraine.

3. Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Greece: Having gone from strength to strength since making his Olympiakos debut aged just 15, Schalke’s lantern-jawed centre-half is coming into the tournament off the back of a rock solid season in the Bundesliga – forming a dynamic defensive pairing with the more adventurous Joel Matip which sees 20-year old Papadopoulos providing the unwavering muscle with definite shades of Vidic.

The statuesque Greek centre-half has come a long way in his short career; becoming the youngest player to ever play in the Greek league (15 years, 283 days) and making the UEFA European U19 Championship team of the tournament aged just 16  before making the move to the Bundesliga.

4. Marvin Martin, France: With the increasingly patchy Yoann Gourcuff deemed to be not worth the gamble by coach Laurent Blanc this summer, France’s central play-making duties may well be handed to 24-year old Sochaux midfield hub Martin – a man who has been attracting swathes of Premier League attention for a good while now due to his ability to just keep things ticking along nicely before threading that pass.

While we’re here; He may be positively middle-aged in footballing terms, but 26-year old French right-back Mathieu Debuchy is also pretty much nailed on to have his profile boosted at the Euros too – especially as first-choice Bacary Sagna is crocked for the duration.

5. Marco Reus, Germany: The Germans have an enviable flock of young, flitting attacking midfielders at their disposal, with Mario Goetze and Andre Schurrle (not to mention Mesut Ozil!) also in contention for a place on this list. However, we’ve plumped for 23-year old Reus simply because he’s the most aggressively direct of the three. There’s a good chance he won’t get a game given his competition, but Reus is fleet of foot, has a smooth technique and certainly ‘likes to have a go’ – definitely worth keeping an eye on should he be handed a few minutes to impress here and there.

6. Andriy Yarmolenko, Ukraine: One thing is almost guaranteed; at some point before England play Ukraine, the camera will settle on 22-year old Yarmolenko warming up and the old ‘young man who carries the hopes of a nation’ spiel will probably be trotted out, what with Ukraine being the co-hosts and all.

Andriy Shevchenko has formally recommended him to AC Milan this summer, which is a fairly good mark of his talent all things considered. Skillful, versatile (can play on the left or through the middle) and a dab hand in front of goal – he’s pretty much the gilded prince of Ukrainian football as things stand along with highly-prized ambidextrous full-back Yaroslav Rakitskiy, who you may also want to keep ’em peeled for.

7. Ilkay Gundogan, Germany: Slightly deeper in Germany’s midfield will hopefully sit 21-year old Ilkay Gundogan – who, we have to say, we are huge admirers of here at Pies given our penchant for the classy, understated midfield patroller. A far more expressive, adventurous and tidy player than Sami Khedira, but without the high-profile employers. Again, the Dortmund spoiler isn’t overly likely to get a chance this summer as he probably isn’t quite ready for a starting berth in a major tournament, but we sincerely hope Jogi Loew gives him a run-out or two.

8. Alan Dzagoev, Russia: It’d be remiss not to mention Dzagoev as he represents Russia’s brightest beacon as far as their next generation is concerned. Still only 21 despite having been around for yonks now, Dzagoev is usually deployed as an advanced attacking midfielder-cum-No.10 (he’s better off when he drifts in from the flanks) and was Russia’s top-scorer in qualifying. Clever, intricate and adept from set-pieces. He’s a pleasure to watch and is willing to do the graft and put the hard yards in, the only reservations being a slight slump in form over the past several months and a niggling toe injury.

9. Sotiris Ninis, Greece: Not the kind of player you’d immediately associate with the Greek national team, 22-year old Ninis is a spindly, tricksy winger with pace coming out of his you-know-where. After excelling at Panathinaikos (becoming their youngest ever captain at one point), a move to Manchester United was thought to be on the cards once upon a time – but he joined Parma with a strange lack of fanfare or competition for his signature back in March. He’s currently struggling with a shoulder knack (presumably from all the juggling?) but all the signs suggest he’ll be fit for the tournament.

10. Jetro Willems, Holland: Here’s our wildcard entry. A buccaneering beefcake of a left-back from PSV, 18-year old Jetro has the kind of dynamic name that suits his style. He only made his full international debut a few days ago, but with Wilfred Bouma and Erik Pieters nursing injuries, the Dutch left-back spot is up for grabs. We’re guessing a more senior compatriot will deputise (Stijn Schaars is favourite to drop in), but Willems is certainly pushing. He’s also the youngest player to be going to Euro 2012 being, as he is, a few months younger than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He was born in 1994, how depressing is that?

Any young’ns you’re looking forward to seeing in Poland and Ukraine this summer Pies fans? Shoot…

Posted in Euro 2012, Featured, International football, Photos, Top 10s & lists

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  1. I hate to be the one to tell you but... says:

    Guidetti ain’t going to Polkraine

  2. zoff says:


  3. Gormee says:

    Didn’t gudetti not make the Swedish squad?

  4. Jesse says:

    Julian Draxler? probably wont get on though,

  5. Per says:

    Don’t think Draxler made the final squad.

  6. June says:

    balotelli, mario gotze, afellay…where did they go..

  7. frank says:

    yep draxler is a huge talent but too young, he was cut from germany squad. gundogan and reus will definitely get playing time, theyve been two of the most impressive in pretournament.

  8. Tim says:

    In a way that hopefully doesn’t make me sound like a paedophile, exciting youngsters are the best thing about watching other international games (especially in qualifying/group games).

    Massively excited about Eriksen, he looked brilliant at Old Trafford when Ajax beat Utd. Also Dzagoev, who I think put himself on the map a season or two ago against Utd too.

    A few years ago I thought Marat Izmailov looked like being a superstar, and I’ve read that he’s started to deliver now. He’s probably 24/25 but I think he could be a standout player again.

    Finally, I’m disappointed Iker Munian won’t be there but Javi Martinez in Spain’s squad should kickstard a £20m tug of war.

  9. 22 says:

    I know hes 26, but this could be Paul McShanes big breakthrough

  10. EddieH says:

    Rasmus Elm. Massive in AZ during the season. Probably even in a starting lineup for Sweden. A good game against Ukraine and anything can happen.

  11. Michael says:

    What about Necid of the Czech Rep?

  12. skinnyhipppo says:

    Strange there’s no mention of The Ox.

  13. David says:

    No Alex Oxlade Chamberlain??

  14. Mr Sensible says:

    It’s pretty embarrassing how shit England’s midfield is compared to Germany’s.

    Ozil, Goetze, Kroos, Muller, Schweinsteiger, Gundogan, Khedira, Reus and Bender (not including his bro).

  15. Jesse says:

    @per right you are he was cut

  16. #brian says:

    James McClean!

  17. dom says:


  18. Krsta says:

    Javi Martínez & Jordi Alba for Spain. With the absence of Thiago Alcantara they are among the youngest (if not THE youngest) in the Spain squad (23 years). Massive talents for the future, albeit they are a bit too experienced (Martínez is already a WC winner) to be considered “talents” at this Euro.

  19. Nuno says:

    Izmailov got a nagging knee injury. He is a very good player, but it’s tough to come back from such injuries.
    As a portuguese, I’m hoping for none of the German, Dutch and Danish youngsters to shine, although we ain’t got much of our own to show (only Nelson Oliveira, striker from Benfica, but he won’t play)

  20. Terry Shedingham says:

    Ilkay Gundogan looks like an ancient Egyptian princess

  21. Sjakie Meulemans says:

    @ 22: So true.

  22. deadrave says:

    expecting kyriakos papadopoulos to be one of the best Center backs in the world in the near future

    i hope ninis does well at euros, shame he is injury prone :s

    excited about reus ;D

  23. human.gps17 says:

    Yann Mvila, Alex OxladeChamberlain, Rasmus Elm, Ivan Perisic, James Mcclean, Fabio Borini, Jordi Alba, Mario Gotze, Luuk Dejong, Robert Lewandowski… etc. take your pick

  24. JFalcon says:

    Giannis Fetfatzidis!

  25. sean says:

    I guess I’d better get buying before their prices are jacked up in FIFA…

  26. Anonymous says:

    @ Teddy Shedingham:

    wow, that’s just… incredible.

  27. Mario says:

    He scoored 22 goals in Bundesliga!!! He’s amazing player!!!

  28. Chris says:

    The biggest talent is left home by Van Marwijk. Adam Maher. In about two years he is going to be the next big thing.

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