Many nations are betting on youth at the European Championship, giving promising youngsters a chance to shine in France.
Some of the top nations have included up-and-coming players in their squads for this month’s tournament, with some giving up experience to make way for young talent.
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque left out of his squad veteran forwards such as Fernando Torres and Diego Costa to open up space for the uncapped Lucas Vazquez. Germany coach Joachim Loew named a few young midfielders as well as exciting attacking playmaker Leroy Sane. England and Portugal are betting on a couple of 18-year-old teenagers – Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford and newly signed Bayern Munich midfielder Renato Sanches.
Some of the youngsters will be making the trip to France mainly to gain experience, but many will end up getting a chance to show off their talent and help their teams succeed.
Here are some of the promising stars to watch for at the European championship:
LEROY SANE (GERMANY)
The 20-year-old attacking midfielder returns to the national team after making his debut last year. The agile player had a breakthrough season with Schalke, impressing with his dribbling, as well as his ability to work as a playmaker. Sane attracted headlines when he debuted in the Champions League by scoring a goal against Real Madrid last year. The youngster is the son of former Senegal star Souleyman Sane, who had a distinguished career in Germany, and Olympic rhythmic gymnastics medalist Regina Weber.
MARCUS RASHFORD (ENGLAND)
After a tremendously fast rise through Manchester United’s youth squads, the 18-year-old established himself as the team’s No. 1 striker, scoring eight goals in 17 appearances. He scored for the club in his debut both in the Premier League and in the Europa League, as well as in his England debut. He made the England squad despite coach Roy Hodgson having plenty of options to choose from in attack, being named the team’s fifth forward for the tournament in France.
RENATO SANCHES (PORTUGAL)
The 18-year-old midfielder became Portugal’s youngest ever player to be called up for a major tournament with the senior squad, surpassing the mark previously held by Cristiano Ronaldo. A product of Benfica’s youth teams, he made it to the top squad this season and earned a transfer to Bayern Munich for 35 million euros ($40 million). Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said the club had been following Sanches for a long time, calling him a ”dynamic and technically skilled midfielder who’ll add even more strength to our team.”
LUCAS VAZQUEZ (SPAIN)
The uncapped Lucas Vazquez was the surprise addition to Spain’s squad, making it to the team instead of veterans Diego Costa and Fernando Torres. The 24-year-old forward impressed with Real Madrid while replacing regular starters when they had to deal with injuries late in the season. The speedy forward showed his cool when he scored one of the penalties in the shootout that gave Real Madrid the Champions League title against Atletico Madrid.
FEDERICO BERNARDESCHI (ITALY)
The 22-year-old Federico Bernardeschi had a strong season with Fiorentina, scoring important goals in the Europa league. The playmaker is from Carrara in northwestern Italy, the same hometown as Gianluigi Buffon, who talks highly of the playmaker. The veteran goalkeeper recently said Bernardeschi is one of the ”brightest talents” in Italian soccer. The striker also has been complimented for playing well as a winger even though he is more used to playing behind the forwards in front of midfield.
SAMUEL UMTITI (FRANCE)
Lyon central defender Samuel Umtiti made the team in part thanks to Raphael Varane’s absence because of a muscle injury. The 22-year-old can also play as a left back, and his versatility helped him earn a spot in the squad even though coach Didier Deschamps called up Sevilla defender Adil Rami to the list of reserves after Varane was injured. The youngster has already been linked to transfers to teams such as Tottenham, AS Roma and Barcelona.
DELE ALLI (ENGLAND)
Voted as England’s young player of the year, the 20-year-old Dele Alli made an instant impact in the Premier League, scoring 10 goals and earning 12 assists with Tottenham after being picked up from third-division club MK Dons. He got some unwanted rest at the end of the season after being banned for three matches for punching an opponent. Touted as one of the best up-and-coming players England has seen in a long time, the quick attacking midfielder is expected to add some much-needed excitement to Roy Hodgson’s squad.