With the Euros under way and with many players not only looking to perform well for their nation, but also catch the eye of a few potential suitors and make a name for themselves, I thought I’d pick out the best players to look out for, with this fifth piece in the series looking at the potential key men in Group E.
Name: Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco
Club: Atlético Madrid
You might recognise Carrasco from this season’s Champions League final in which he scored the equaliser that took the match to extra time- clearly he’s not afraid of the big occasions. He has blossomed under Diego Simeone at Atlético and his zealous directness, pace and desire to humiliate fullbacks has given the Rojiblancos an extra element. It was his goal for Monaco in the Champions League against Arsenal that brought him to the attention of fans everywhere and he has slowly staked his claim for a spot in a Belgium squad not lacking in talented attackers. He is certainly one for the future but will feature frequently off the bench in this tournament, just as he did in Belgium’s opening game defeat to Italy last night. His desire to beat his man makes for some highlight-reel moments and he will have an important part to play if Belgium are to fulfil their potential.
Name: Emanuele Giaccherini
Giaccherini is an interesting one. If you’ve only seen him as a Sunderland player then you’ll wonder how on earth he makes it into the Italy squad, but at Juventus he was far more impressive and Antonio Conte has a lot of faith in him. He is small, quick and skilful – the latter trait earning him the nickname ‘Giaccherinho’ – and fulfils his defensive responsibilities within Italy’s 3-5-2 system effectively. He is versatile enough to play anywhere in midfield and played centrally on occasion in Juventus’ invincible 2011-12 season under Conte. He scored against Belgium in Italy’s opening game in this tournament, controlling a long pass from Bonucci and calmly slotting it home, and this certainly won’t be the last piece of skill that he displays at Euro 2016.
Republic of Ireland
Name: Wes Hoolahan
Club: Norwich City
As well as having one of the funniest surnames at the tournament, Hoolahan also has a hugely important role in this Ireland side. He is their main playmaker and makes everything happen when he gets on the ball. His goal against Sweden yesterday was testament to his technical ability, curling the ball into the corner to put Ireland ahead. He combines brilliantly with the likes of Shane Long and provided the assist for Long’s crucial goal in the 1-1 draw with Poland in qualifying. He is a member of the Football League Team of the Decade and will be the man at the heart of any success Ireland achieve at this tournament, dictating play and living up to his nickname – “Wessi” (The Irish Messi).
Name: John Guidetti
Club: Celta Vigo
Obviously you also have to keep one eye on Zlatan Ibrahimovic who will no doubt do something amazing at some point. However, Guidetti also has bags of talent and, despite never breaking into the Manchester City team, he has always been a goal scorer and a colourful character. 20 goals in 23 games for Feyenoord and an Under-21 European champion, Guidetti is a fan favourite in Sweden, so much so that the band Badpojken made a song in his honour called ‘Johnny G (The Guidetti Song)’ which reached number 1 in the Swedish charts. He’s no stranger to scoring against big teams at club level, having got on the score sheet for Celta Vigo against both Atlético Madrid and Barcelona and will be looking to establish himself as an important player at this tournament.