Five players to look out for in France..

As everyone is aware, the Euros or indeed any major tournament offers the chance for up and coming young talent to really announce their talent to a huge audience. You hear stories about these players every tournament – just take a look at the World Cup in Brazil. A young James Rodriguez wowed crowds and earned a huge move to Real Madrid and elevated his career to new heights on the basis of a single tournament. Who could be this years stand out youngsters? Here are five potential candidates I see having the potential to really break onto the big time, along with a rating showing the likelihood of this happening.

Breel Embolo – Switzerland

For FIFA lovers, this name may not come as a huge surprise to you. Rated highly in the virtual world at least, the frontman really does appear to have a great deal of potential in his game. Any striker that can combine both pace and power to good effect usually manage to cause a number of issues for the defenders paid to eliminate this threat. Embolo appears to have these traits already at a young age – with his ability already having attracted the attention of top clubs like Wolfsburg, who bid 27 million Euros for the youngster in January. The only potential drawback is his side Switzerland who may not reach the latter stages of the tournament.

BOY WONDER RATING – 2*

Renato Sanches – Portugal

The man who’s already raised a number of eye brows this year following his high profile move to German giants Bayern Munich. Sanches is a very versatile midfield and can be deployed in a range of roles across the midfield – combining attacking flair with energy and work-rate to match. This synergy of abilities has led to Sanches emerging as one of the hottest young talents across Europe. Portugal are however a squad undergoing somewhat of a transition, meaning it may be one tournament too early for Sanches to prove his worth. He’ll be a big threat though, that is for sure.

BOY WONDER RATING – 3*

Harry Kane – England 

Although most people already have heard of the Spurs frontman – the Euros may well be the tournament that really lifts Harry Kane to the next level. Having already proved a number of doubters wrong by not falling foul of ‘second season syndrome’ Kane is one of the best upcoming forwards in the world game in my eyes. English fans always love an old fashioned number 9 up top and Kane already appears to be the next one to fit that bill if his performances for club and country so far are to be believed. With a strong Spurs contingent behind him, you already feel this tournament could well be made for Kane to make himself an English legend already at such a tender age.

BOY WONDER RATING – 5*

Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku has really made a name for himself already in the English game. His performances this year in a stuttering Everton side have been nothing short of exceptional at times. Having watched him in the game against Bournemouth, it’s very rare for such a young player to have the intelligence and confidence that the big man possesses. Belgium undoubtably dissapointed at the World Cup in Brazil so when you combine the desire to right a few wrongs with the experience and development in Lukaku’s game, I feel this could be a massive tournament for the big Belgian. I’m aware he’s 23, but I feel this is the tournament where he really could prove he deserves the big move he’s been linked with this campaign.

BOY WONDER RATING – 4*

Anthony Martial 

Having already proved a selection of doubters (including myself) wrong following his big money move to the red side of Manchester last year – Martial could well hit the next level on home soil in the Euros. With Karim Benzema ruled out not through injury but through a series of legal misdemeanors – the stage may well be set for Martial to be the main man for the host nation. Under the assumption Mourinho will have huge funds to improve his new United squad, Martial will no doubt be keen to prove his worth to the Special One.

BOY WONDER RATING – 4*

 

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England Squad Reaction

Earlier today, Roy Hodgson finally announced his final selection of players who’ll represent the country in the forthcoming Euros. A lot of opinion has been circulating across social media and if the reaction is to be believed, it’s the worst ever decision in the history of human civilisation, managing to overtake the decision of the German people to elect a new chancellor in 1933. Has Roy lost the plot? Has he made the right decision? For me, it is the latter. Here is why.

The first selection issue that has aggravated a selection of supporters is the exclusion of Danny Drinkwater. The main argument for his inclusion for most people is his exceptional season for the Champions Leicester. Jack Wilshere has been included and Drinkwater has been dropped, and for me that is the right decision for a selection of reasons. Firstly, natural talent. Jack Wilshere does apparently have knees made of soggy Weetabix and ankles made of glass but on his day you’d have to go a long way to find a more naturally talented central midfielder than him. I voiced my opposition to the suggestion of his inclusion whilst he was unfit. However he seems to have got over the injuries that have plagued him this year. He’s been more consistent in the warm up games and has looked like his old self. An interesting point I saw earlier on Twitter is this: can you see Robert Huth being included in the German squad over Mats Hummels because of one exceptional season? When you take this into consideration, his inclusion does seem a lot more reasonable. In fact if anyone deserved to be dropped for Drinkwater I’d cast my vote for either Lallana or Henderson. Each of whom have hardly set the squad alight in the last couple of games (incidentally neither has Drinkwater.)

The second major story is the inclusion of both Sturridge and Rashford. Again, I’d agree with this decision from Roy. I’ve explained in previous posts why I think Rashford is worth the risk (https://mattjoyblogs.com/2016/04/18/why-rashford-may-be-worth-the-risk/) and again for me Sturridge fully fit is a huge threat going forward. Fitness is always an issue, but you just have to look at the goal Sturridge managed to bag in the Europa League final. Not many people in English football could have not only the audacity but also skill to score a goal of that calibre. A lot of people have argued that Michail Antonio could have been taken instead of one of these players. I agree Antonio has had a truly exceptional season. But unfortunately for him Hodgson doesn’t play a wide formation normally, and thus selecting Antonio may have been a bit of a waste of a space. Certainly I can see Antonio being in Hodgson’s plans after the Euros, but you can’t really change your tactics to accomondate a single player so for me – good call Roy.

The last question really is the midfield. Although no inclusions aside from the one in the first paragraph have been raised you do have to wonder how we will line up in the centre of the park. For me you do have to have Wayne Rooney in the middle of the park. His experience and quality is obvious to me and anyone who believes he’s not a threat any more for me is incorrect. I think Eric Dier has to be in there to provide the steel protecting the somewhat questionable back four. I’d then have Jack Wilshere (fitness dependent) alongside Rooney in the centre of the park – and then Dele Alli in the number 10. Alli for me provides a freedom and creativity we haven’t had at such a tender age for a fair number of years. Not to mention Alli has already established a fantastic link with Harry Kane, who I’d hope will be our main man in France.

That’s all from me today – expect a lot more posts in the coming weeks ahead of the big kick off. COME ON ENGLAND!

 

 

Why Rashford *MAY* be worth the risk.

With the European Championships fast approaching, speculation is beginning to grow about who is going to fill those spaces on the short flight to France. One name that seems to be popping up more and more is that of youngster Marcus Rashford. Should he really be taken to the Euros at such a tender age however? Well – the jury seems out on that issue, however if he manages to get a couple more in the remaining games – here are 3 reasons why I’d CONSIDER taking him.

1 – OTHER OPTIONS

You’d of thought that at the moment, most people would have three forwards already in their minds for who they’d select for the Tournament. Vardy and Kane seem certainties, and Daniel Sturridge seems to have overcome persistent injury issues for the moment and appears to be playing much like his old self. The last place on the plane is one of debate. The main player who seems to dividing opinion is all-time record goalscorer Wayne Rooney. Would I take Wayne? Well, it’s all dependent for me on how he finishes the season. You cannot criticize his record for the national side, or for United for that matter – but is “reputation” enough to go by? For me, it has to be combined with current form and how he’d fit into the squad. Rooney wouldn’t be the sort of player you’d want to come off the bench to make an impact – he simply isn’t that sort of player. Rashford’s energy and style of play would suit being an ‘impact’ player more effectively. As for Danny Welbeck – I’m sorry, but he hasn’t done enough this campaign for one reason or another to take. I know his record for England is very respectable, but you can’t take him based on that alone.

2 – “Bursting” onto the scene

When you look at some of England’s most successful strikers in the last 15-20 years, two of those really made their name at a tender age in a big international tournament. Michael Owen terrorised defences in the 1998 World Cup, and only an unfortunate injury stopped Wayne Rooney in his tracks at the Euros 12 years ago. Rashford has that opportunity this year. He doesn’t seem intimidated by the big stage, he has similar confidence levels to the aforementioned players – and given he’d probably be fourth choice striker, pressure on him wouldn’t be too overbearing. He’s definitely a player for the future, should he keep up the form he’s shown so far in his United career, but why not give him a go to demonstrate his potential? He’d certainly play with a lot more freedom than Rooney for example, who’s performances at major tournaments is always scrutinized beyond belief. Rashford could give it his best shot, knowing full well the expectation will be on others to get the goals for the side.

3 – Quality

Contrary to the more cynical footballing supporters, I genuinely believe Marcus Rashford does have a natural ability and eye for goal that could well be developed with good management to make him a top class player. His strike against West Ham in the FA Cup showed not only his self belief to attempt it in the first place, but also genuine striking ability to finish with such class. One or two goals can be seen as a flash in a pan, but the consistent high level of goals he’s scored so far could well be rewarded with an England call up. One thing is for certain, if his call up for the Euros isn’t – and that is his ability to be in the right place at the right time, his ability to run and finish and a run of form he’s shown since his first call up – is no accident. I’m not trying to say he’s the best thing since.. Well, Harry Kane? But I do believe he’s shown excellent ability so far – and I can’t see how you’d call up Welbeck or Rooney over him BASED ON CURRENT FORM.

The question on everyone’s lips is whether Roy Hodgson will indeed pick a player based on form or on proven ability. If it was form, Rashford should be in the squad. However, given the fact Hodgson has hinted his hope that Jack Wilshere will be fit for the tournament, I’d expect it to be on reputation. If he doesn’t get the call up, a follow up of this run of form next season may well build up his reputation so even Roy can’t ignore him for Welbeck.