Liverpool Target Luuk de Jong And Four More Stars To Shine At Euro 2012
Yevhen Konoplyanka (Ukraine)
Attracting interest from numerous Premier League teams - including Arsenal and Liverpool - Konoplyanka looks set to be one of the young stars of the tournament. At just 22-years-old, the winger already has 18 international caps to his name, with an impressive return of five goals, averaging one every 3.6 games.
The type of player that will create something out of nothing, his footballing capabilities have seen him drawn comparisons to Lionel Messi. Currently dubbed Ukrainian football’s great new hope, given the time and space, Konoplyanka is one that can cause damage down either side of the pitch. Currently plying his trade with Ukrainian outfit FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, should he enjoy a prolific tournament, the Dnepryani, currently managed by former Tottenham Hotspur coach Juande Ramos, will struggle to keep hold of their prodigious wideman.
A player that would take particular interest to England fans, having been placed in Group D with the joint-hosts, the youngster is certainly one to keep an eye on. With the ability to cause serious damage on the flanks, Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole, should they start against the Eastern European side, will need to be on top of their respective games in order to keep the winger quiet.
Luuk de Jong (Holland)
Following the likes of Arsenal front-man Robin Van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of FC Schalke, Luuk de Jong is another Dutch striker to have had a prolific domestic season. The trio amassed an astonishing 117 goals between them, with the young FC Twente striker the lowest scoring of the three with 32.
Despite amassing an impressive total domestically, the 21-year-old is unlikely to start for Holland this summer. Head coach Bert van Marwijk tends to favour a 4-3-3 formation, and with Huntelaar’s impressive 48 goals this season, the powerful Schalke man is likely to spearhead the attack with Arjen Robben and one of either Van Persie or Dirk Kuyt in support.
However, that doesn’t mean de Jong won’t be called upon if needed. The player himself may only have seven international caps to his name, and one goal to match coming in the 2-0 win over Finland last September, but it doesn’t mean he hasn’t got the ability to cause havoc from the bench. At 6ft 2, he has the aerial threat about him to cause damage during the competition, especially late on when defences are tiring.
RVP, Huntelaar and de Jong amassed an astonishing 117 goals between them last season, with the young FC Twente striker the lowest scoring of the three with 32
Should Holland have qualified by the last game, however unlikely considering their group opponents, then fans can expect to see de Jong undertake the role that Huntelaar will surely fill when the Dutch kick off their campaign against Denmark on Saturday. Not a player to be taken lightly, despite his frail physique, the striker, given the chance, will look to make an impact during his time in Polkraine.
Christian Eriksen (Denmark)
The young Dane isn’t adverse to the pressure of a wider audience having already been linked with a move to one of Europe’s heavyweights in recent months. Another impressive campaign with Ajax has seen Christian Eriksen mooted as one of the stars of Euro 2012 and the expectations to succeed this summer are huge.
After being widely tipped to leave the Eredivisie champions last summer, the 20-year-old opted to remain in Holland with Ajax reaping the rewards of his loyalty, as Eriksen ended the season with eight goals and 21 assists in all competitions. The impressive return has only raised interest in his signature, with many vying to secure a deal prior to Fridays kick off.
Similar in style to Konoplyanka, the potential for Eriksen to emerge as one of the star performers of the tournament is massive. Comfortable on the wing or just behind the strikers, it is the form and star factor of soon-to-be-Chelsea-winger Eden Hazard that has seen the young Dane, seemingly, slip under the radar as one of Europe’s emerging talents.
A big money move certainly beckons for the Ajax ace, be it before or after the tournament. However, if Eriksen lives up to the hype this summer in Polkraine, the Dutch side will be able to dictate the market and, in effect, auction off the youngster, should they decide to sell. One major factor could be whether they are willing to, possibly, lose captain Jan Vertonghen and the Dane in the summer transfer window. Nevertheless, the much-talked-about midfielder is certainly one to keep an eye on this summer.
Marvin Martin (France)
Somewhat of a late bloomer to the international scene, being the oldest of the five players on the list at 24-years-old, Marvin Martin is a player that has snuck under the radar. Having only made his debut a little over 12 months ago, in the 4-1 win over Ukraine as a second half substitute where he netted twice and assisted for Younes Kaboul to score, Martin could be one of the surprise packages at the European Championships.
Having arrived at current club Sochaux in 2002, the young midfielder came through the ranks of the Ligue 1 outfit before making his debut in 2008. Now a fully fledged starter for the side based in Eastern France, the Frenchman is often called upon to break down even the most stubborn of opposition with his excellent vision and pin-point passing accuracy.
Often compared to Tottenham Hotspur’s Luka Modric due to his slight frame and lack of height, Marvin is technically very good on the ball and will often ensure the opposition is put to sword should he be given the chance. However, despite his impressive showings for Les Lionceaux, the diminutive schemer is unlikely to command a starting place in the France squad this summer, with Samir Nasri, Alou Diarra and, when fit, Yann M’Vila preferred by head coach Laurent Blanc.
Having only made his debut a little over 12 months ago, in the 4-1 win over Ukraine as a second half substitute where he netted twice and assisted for Younes Kaboul
Yet, should he be given the opportunity, Martin will be looking to take full advantage of the occasion and showcase his capabilities to the football fans viewing the tournament this month.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (England)
Much like Theo Walcott at the World Cup in 2006, Arsenal team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be perceived as the shock call-up by new manager Roy Hodgson. With the former West Bromwich Albion boss causing a stir by not including Michael Carrick and Micah Richards in his travelling 23-man squad, the young Gunners startlet looks to have secured his place on the plane without so much as a whimper from the media.
With just two England caps to his name and only 18-years-of-age, the winger is perhaps the player with the least expectation riding upon his shoulders in the Three Lions squad. He arrived at the Emirates Stadium last summer in a deal that could rise to £15m, and Oxlade-Chamberlain spent just the solitary campaign in the Southampton senior squad before Arsene Wenger opted to move for the youngster.
And despite often being overlooked by the Frenchman, the England man has looked a constant threat when called-upon by Wenger, especially in the latter half of the season. Ending the season with just four goals and three assists in 26 games, a majority of which came from the bench, he still managed to earn many plaudits due to an impressive run of form, especially in Europe.
Unlikely to start under Hodgson, the winger’s explosive pace and frightening ability to run at his man with speed and reason will see the Ox become a key member of the England team in Polkraine, especially from the bench. The England coach needs to ensure his time at the Euro’s isn’t wasted, much like Walcott’s in Germany six years ago, and should the need arise, be confident that the 18-year-old can be the player to change any game in the blink of an eye.
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