8 of Europe’s brightest young players who need to impress in the international break
1. Michy Batshuayi (Belgium, 22)
Only Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Alexandre Lacazette have netted more often than Marseille’s Batshuayi in Ligue 1 this season, an achievement that is likely to see him climb up an international centre-forward pecking order that also features Romelu Lukaku, Divock Origi and Christian Benteke.
The 22-year-old, who has scored in both of his previous Belgium appearances in wins over Cyprus and Italy, is a powerful runner and excellent finisher who is capable of causing problems for the most accomplished of centre-halves.
Batshuayi powers home against Italy
He’s only scored three in his last 16 club outings, which may have affected his confidence. Still, with Benteke scarcely featuring for Liverpool, he’ll know the door is ajar. Belgium's game with Portugal may have been cancelled, but he'll have had the chance to show why he should be in contention during training.
2. Andre Gomes (Portugal, 22)
Things haven’t been too rosy at Valencia this season, with Gomes falling victim to the turmoil surrounding the club. But while the Portuguese has generally been unable to repeat the tremendous displays he routinely turned in last term, he remains one of the most talented up-and-coming midfielders in Europe.
Despite still only being 22, Gomes has a well-rounded repertoire of attributes: the former Boavista and Benfica trainee possesses the creativity to dictate play, the positional sense and physicality to break it up, and the energy to drive forward and play more of a box-to-box role.
Portugal will continue with their usual 4-3-3 formation this summer, leaving Gomes to battle it out with the likes of Joao Moutinho, William Carvalho, Danilo Pereira, Renato Sanches, Adrien Silva and Joao Mario for one of the three available slots in Fernando Santos’s first-choice midfield.
3. Federico Bernardeschi (Italy, 22)
Bernardeschi has primarily been deployed out on the right flank for his club, either as an attacking wing-back in a 3-4-2-1 or a winger higher up the pitch in a 4-2-3-1. He’s given the license to drift inside and combine with his team-mates or take shots at goal with his stronger left foot.
Bernardeschi netted this goal past Guingamp last season
The young wideman is also capable of playing on the opposite side of the pitch and even as a No.10, with his versatility likely to endear him to Azzurri head honcho Antonio Conte this summer.
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4. Jonathan Tah (Germany, 20)
The centre-back is enjoying a terrific campaign at Bayer Leverkusen and has taken advantage of injuries to Benedikt Howedes and Jerome Boateng to secure a place in Joachim Low’s latest Germany squad.
Tah has already been compared to Bayern Munich defender Boateng because of his athleticism, aerial prowess and range of passing, with his speed across the ground and ability to bring the ball out from the back vital qualities for a central defender who is aiming to become a regular part of an international side that generally dominates possession and employs a high defensive line under Low.
The former Hamburg stopper and Fortuna Dusseldorf loanee, who has reportedly been watched by Bayern Munich scouts throughout this season, looks destined to reach the very top.
5. Vincent Janssen (Netherlands, 21)
The Eredivisie’s leading goalscorer has spearheaded AZ’s challenge for a Europa League spot this season, netting 20 goals in 28 appearances to stake his claim to be the Netherlands’ principal striker going forward.
With Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar both the wrong side of 30, and the Dutch having already begun the process of building for the 2018 World Cup after inexplicably failing to qualify for the 24-team Euros, 21-year-old Janssen and PSV frontman Luuk de Jong, 25, will expect to be given an opportunity to impress when Danny Blind’s charges take on France and England in the coming days.
6. Kingsley Coman (France, 19)
The Bayern Munich man’s splendid showings for the German champions this year have been rewarded with another call-up to the France squad to face the Netherlands and Russia, with Coman poetically describing the honour of representing his country as “ideal for the heart”.
The former PSG man, on loan at Bayern from Juventus, is looking to add to the two caps he won against Germany and England
The former PSG man, on loan at Bayern from Juventus, is looking to add to the two caps he won against Germany and England last year ahead of this summer’s tournament on home soil.
Although there is fierce competition for places in France’s frontline – Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, Anthony Martial, Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac are also in Didier Deschamps’ squad for the upcoming friendlies – the speedy and tricky winger may be quietly confident of sneaking into the former Marseille boss’s first-choice XI in time for the Euros.
The tricky Coman has impressed for Bayern
A return of six goals and 10 assists in 25 Bundesliga and Champions League games for Bayern, knocking his parent club out of Europe in the process, won’t have done his chances any harm.
7. Renato Sanches (Portugal, 18)
Like former club colleague Gomes, Benfica midfielder Sanches is pushing for a starting role at Euro 2016. Before that he’s likely to win his first Portugal cap against Bulgaria, with boss Fernando Santos insisting this week that he hasn’t yet made any firm decisions about his final 23-man group for France.
Sanches has reportedly attracted the attention of Manchester United with his performances this season, with the powerful and technically adept midfielder recently linked with a £46 million move to Old Trafford.
8. Thorgan Hazard (Belgium, 22)
Eden’s younger brother swapped Chelsea for Borussia Monchengladbach following a season-long loan spell with the German outfit in 2014/15, and is now looking to become a permanent part of the Belgium squad after failing to win a single senior cap since his debut as a 20-year-old in May 2013.
Now just days away from his 23rd birthday, it’s time for Hazard to push on for both club and country, and although the Red Devils' international against Portugal was called off, the former Lens man would have been looking to impress the coaching staff ahead of the game in Brussels.
A forward capable of playing anywhere across the frontline – much like his elder sibling – Hazard has been labelled the best backup option to Kevin De Bruyne in the No.10 role by manager Marc Wilmots.