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 sixth piece in the series looking at the potential key men in Group F.
Name: Marko Arnautovic
Club: Stoke City
It looked for a while like Arnautovic’s career was destined to crash and burn given all his off-pitch antics but he has excelled at Stoke and will be a key man for Austria at this tournament. 12 goals this season for Stoke and three for Austria in qualifying mean that Arnautovic is hugely important to Austria’s attack and his physicality and aerial presence give them something different. Despite his size, he is remarkably skilful and comparisons to Ibrahimovic aren’t too farfetched. He holds up the ball well and on his day he can be unplayable. He played all ten qualifying games and will feature regularly in France so there’s little doubt he will have a big impact.
Name: Balazs Dzsudzsak
If there’s anyone in this Hungary team who might be able to make them competitive in this tough group, it’s this guy. Dzsudzsak is Hungary’s talisman – a skilful left-winger with the perfect mix of confidence and ability and a desire to beat the man and drill in a cross. He scored one of the two goals that rivals Romania conceded in qualifying with a brilliant free kick and a lot of Hungary’s strength comes from set pieces. This is a tough group for the Hungarians and it will be to Dzsudzsak that the side look in order to achieve success as he will wear the captain’s armband.
Name: Eidur Gudjohnsen
Now here’s a blast from the past. It has been 20 years since Gudjohnsen’s Iceland debut and since then he has become their all time top scorer, won the Premier League with Chelsea, won the Champions League and La Liga with Barcelona, and now finds himself at Norwegian club Molde. Despite retiring from international football in November 2013, the Iceland veteran has returned and featured three times in qualifying, scoring once and he will join his teammates at Iceland’s first ever major tournament. He is 37 years old so it remains to be seen how effective he will be, but the Iceland coaches think he’s fit and hungry and he will certainly be looking to end his international career on a high. I’m sure he’ll roll back the years and score one or two to keep the Iceland fairy-tale story alive.
Name: Renato Sanches
Club: Bayern Munich
This guy is going to be a great player; he believes in himself and he has the talent to back it up. He can run forever and his runs are dynamic and powerful, while maintaining technical skill to ease past defenders. As he is so young (just 18 – dislodging Cristiano Ronaldo as the youngest Portuguese player to go to an international tournament), passes will sometimes go astray and he won’t look up enough, but he will learn a lot from this tournament. It seems that everything in his career has been accelerated and he has climbed up the footballing ladder faster that anyone I’ve seen for a long time. His first start for Benfica came in November 2015, his international debut in March 2016 and his €35 million move to Bayern Munich just two months later in May – just seven months to climb to the top. Now is his chance to get even higher.