Jovic headlines young stars at Under-21 European Championship

By Sports Desk June 15, 2019

Luka Jovic was officially unveiled as a Real Madrid player on Wednesday, and Los Blancos' new striker is one of the headline names taking part in the Under-21 European Championship.

The tournament starts on Sunday, with Poland taking on Belgium before hosts Italy face Spain; Jovic's first taste of the competition will come when Serbia play against Austria in Group B on Monday.

But Jovic is not the only young star who is looking to shine at this event, with Manchester City's Phil Foden likely to be a key cog in England's midfield, while Sandro Tonali is one of Italy's brightest prospects.

And, ahead of the tournament, we have taken a look at the main players who will be looking to make an impact for each side.

GROUP A

Belgium – Yari Verschaeren (Anderlecht)

Anderlecht are no strangers to a teenage star becoming a key man; think Romelu Lukaku, Aleksandar Mitrovic or Youri Tielemans. Verschaeren is the next such prospect and his form has been so impressive that he could feature for Belgium at this tournament, despite being just 17. He is not yet capped at under-21 level, but that will soon change in the coming weeks for the silky attacking midfielder.

Italy – Sandro Tonali (Brescia)

Despite only turning 19 last month, Tonali has already established himself in Brescia's first team. He was a revelation in Serie B in 2018-19, helping his side to the title and subsequent promotion. A technically gifted midfielder who has been likened to Azzurri great Andrea Pirlo, Tonali is sure to be central to most of the host nation's play throughout the competition.

Poland – Sebastian Szymanski (Dinamo Moscow)

While many players at this tournament might hope to earn a move with their performances, Szymanski has already done that. Dinamo Moscow paid a reported €5.5million to Legia Warsaw for the talented playmaker just a few weeks ago, having emerged as one of the primary talents in the Ekstraklasa. A fine dribbler, agile and possessor of great vision, the 20-year-old – who was in Poland's preliminary squad for last year's World Cup – will be key for his side.

Spain – Dani Olmo (Dinamo Zagreb)

Dinamo Zagreb have a fine reputation for developing young players and Olmo is the latest. The winger left Barcelona at 16 to move to Croatia and it appears to be working out, having established himself as a key player. Good on the ball and an able goalscorer, Olmo might not be one of the household names in Spain's squad, but that could be about to change.

GROUP B

Austria – Dario Maresic (Sturm Graz)

Although critics say Maresic did not enjoy the best of seasons at Sturm Graz, the centre-back is impressively experienced for a 19-year-old, having been around the first-team since he was 16. A fine ball-playing defender, Maresic has often been linked with German and English clubs – this might be his best chance to impress yet.

Denmark – Joachim Andersen (Sampdoria)

Robert Skov's goals will be vital if Denmark are to make a splash in Italy, but they will also need to be solid at the back – that's where Andersen comes in. Signed from Twente in 2017, the Sampdoria centre-back enjoyed a breakout season in 2018-19, catching the eye with his ability to play out from the back. Arsenal are reportedly interested, but an impressive tournament could see his price tag continue to rise.

Germany – Alexander Nubel (Schalke)

Among the players going head-to-head with Jovic in the group stage will be Nubel, who enjoyed a breakthrough season with Schalke in the Bundesliga, unseating Ralf Fahrmann. Nubel made nine appearances in qualifying, conceding just seven goals and keeping five clean sheets, and could well be on course to prove himself as Manuel Neuer's heir apparent.

Serbia – Luka Jovic (Real Madrid)

Jovic's sensational form for Eintracht Frankfurt has earned the 21-year-old a mega-money move to Madrid. The former Benfica youngster scored 27 goals in all competitions for Frankfurt last term, and has also netted twice for the senior international team. With seven goals in qualifying, and riding the crest of a wave, Jovic will be aiming to drag Serbia deep into the competition, and he certainly has the talent to do so.

GROUP C

Croatia – Lovro Majer (Dinamo Zagreb)

The second Zagreb player to feature on this list, Majer's style of play has drawn comparisons to that of Luka Modric, who of course led Croatia to the World Cup final at Russia 2018. But Zlatko Dalic's team is an ageing one, and midfielder Majer, who made his international debut in 2017, could well be in line to play a key part in the senior squad in years to come.

England – Phil Foden (Manchester City)

There has been plenty of clamour for Foden to get more first-team opportunities at Manchester City in recent seasons, but Pep Guardiola has understandably taken his time in introducing the 19-year-old into a side that swept up four domestic trophies last term. Foden was a huge part in England winning the Under-17 World Cup in 2017, and Aidy Boothroyd is almost certain to turn to the playmaker to be England's creative fulcrum in their bid to win silverware.

France – Houssem Aouar (Lyon)

From one current City player, to a youngster that has been linked with a move to the Premier League champions. Aouar has been a consistent performer since establishing himself in Lyon's side during 2017-18, and is sure to be the one France look to supply the firepower for his club-mate Moussa Dembele. The 20-year-old, who is an exceptional passer, also thrives on getting among the goals, scoring 14 times in all competitions for Lyon over the course of the past two seasons.

Romania – Florinel Coman (Steaua Bucharest)

Winger Coman reportedly has a €100m release clause in his contract with Steaua Bucharest, whom he joined in 2017. A tricky, quick player with an eye for goal - he scored 12 across all competitions last term - he is without a doubt Romania's shining light heading into the tournament.

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