The Hipster’s Six

Who could emerge as a hero and lead their nation to unexpected glory at Euro 2020?

By Daniel DeFalco

Sub-edited by Riley Taylor

Image credit: Ian Wilson via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

With the 16th European Championships just over three months away, fans of participating nations will begin to dream of watching their players walk out at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, July 12 in the competition’s final.

Major football tournaments are always highlighted in the sporting calendar. Some of the world’s greatest players contend for national and personal glory on the biggest of stages.

Euro 2020 is no different. Players such as Eden Hazard of Belgium, Kylian Mbappe of France and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal are set to appear in search of European triumph.

But major tournaments can also act as an opportunity for traditionally less-successful nations to send shockwaves throughout the footballing world and reach unpredicted heights, just as minnows Greece did at the 2004 championships.

Overtime are taking a look at one player from the lowest UEFA ranked country in each group who could raise a few eyebrows and be a key man for their nation.

Group A – Turkey – Cengiz Under

The 22-year-old is regarded as one of the hottest prospects in Serie A and could be the difference if Turkey are to reach the knockout phases for the first time since 2008. In an injury-hit 2019/20 campaign, he has three goals in 15 games for his club but with silky dribbling skills and an eye for goal, a fully fit Under will cause plenty of problems for defences. Having received his first call-up in 2016, the former Istanbul Basaksehir man has scored six goals in 19 appearances for his country and found the net against world champions France in a Euro 2020 qualifier last June.  

Group B – Finland – Teemu Pukki

The Finnish Sports Personality of the Year 2019 played a pivotal role in Finland qualifying for their first-ever major football tournament. The Norwich City man scored twice against Liechtenstein last November as the Huuhkajat booked their place at Euro 2020, taking his qualifying tally to 10 goals. If Finland are to progress to the Round of 16, it’s highly likely that Pukki, the nation’s second-highest goal scorer behind Jari Litmanen, will be their catalyst. With clinical one-touch finishing and a tireless work ethic, the 29-year-old is a complete striker who knows where the back of the net is.

Group C – Austria – Marcel Sabitzer

With eight goals and five assists this season, the RB Leipzig midfielder has been one of the Bundesliga’s standout performers this season. At just 24-years-old, Sabitzer already has 41 appearances and seven goals for his country and holds a senior position in the Austrian ranks. He has appeared in all of Leipzig’s league games this campaign and has earned rave reviews because of his dependency and maturity in the middle of the field. Austria will need to rely on Sabizter in their upcoming group game against the Netherlands, where he will face a midfield showdown against Frenkie de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Group D – Czech Republic – Patrik Schick

Since joining RB Leipzig on loan from Roma at the beginning of the season, Schick’s career has been given a new lease of life. With seven goals in 15 league appearances, the Czech has formed a formidable strike partnership with Timo Werner and will hope to carry his good form into the Euros. The 24-year-old found the net four times in Euro qualifying and he will need to be on top form in June when his side face World Cup 2018 semi-finalists England and Croatia. Schick is highly-rated in his home country and won the Czech Talent of the Year award in 2016.

Group E – Poland – Piotr Zielinski

With striker Robert Lewandowski often grabbing the headlines, Zielinski’s performances for Poland can go under the radar. But the 25-year-old has 51 appearances for his country and has made the attacking midfield position his own. The Napoli man only played 45 minutes of football at Euro 2016 but after a huge progression over the last four years, will be hoping to showcase his talent with goals and assists at this year’s tournament. Zielinski, who has represented Poland at every age group from under-15 level, has played every game for Napoli this season and was rumoured to be a transfer target for Liverpool in January.

Group F – Germany – Kai Havertz

After Germany’s dismal World Cup 2018 campaign, coach Joachim Low will be aiming to pick a squad balanced with experience and fresh enthusiasm. Luckily, Die Mannschaft have a group of promising young players to breathe new life into the squad: one of whom is 20-year-old Havertz. At such a young age, the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder is experienced at both domestic and international level. He has 110 Bundesliga appearances along with 30 goals and made his seventh cap for Germany against Estonia last October. If Germany are to stand any chance of overcoming France and Portugal in Group F, their crop of youth will need to stand tall.

For more football content check out Eliot Goodyer’s feature on Carlos Tevez.

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