Camavinga, Moukoko and Fati: The uncapped 'Next Generation' stars set to benefit from Euros delay

By Sports Desk June 12, 2020

For Eduardo Camavinga, Ansu Fati, Phil Foden, Joshua Zirkzee and Youssoufa Moukoko, a delayed European Championship may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

The 24-team tournament, which was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, was due to start on Friday. Instead, it will now begin on June 11, 2021.

There is a strong likelihood several nations will have different starting line-ups in 2021, with new stars tipped to emerge.

Using Opta data, we take a look at those uncapped youngsters who might benefit from the Euros being moved back to next year.

 

EDUARDO CAMAVINGA

The central-midfield axis of Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante was well-established during France's run to glory at World Cup 2018, though, due to injury, neither man featured regularly in the Euro qualifiers as Didier Deschamps utilised Corentin Tolisso, a bit-part player for Bayern Munich, and Moussa Sissoko, who will soon turn 31.

Teenager Camavinga shot to prominence by dominating in a win over Paris Saint-Germain as a 16-year-old in August. His assist in that game makes him the youngest player to be involved in a goal across Europe's top five leagues this term, and he has since established himself as a regular for high-flying Rennes.

His 64 tackles in Ligue 1 this season is more than any other midfielder in the major European leagues, while he played more than three time as many minutes (2,112) as any other under-18 player in those divisions prior to the COVID-19 suspension.

Already a France Under-21 international, Camavinga has been linked with a move to Real Madrid and, based on his current trajectory, it is easy to see him muscling his way into Deschamps' plans.

 

ANSU FATI

The youngest goalscorer in the history of the Champions League was granted Spanish citizenship in September and it appears only a matter of time before Fati is a senior La Roja international.

There were reports that the Barcelona forward, who was born in Guinea-Bissau, would have been included in the preliminary Spain squad for the March friendlies that were ultimately cancelled.

There were no teenagers in the most recent Spain squad so, at 17, Fati can use the extra time to convince Luis Enrique he is a special case worthy of a regular spot in his selection.

After all, only Lionel Messi (110) and Luis Suarez (125) in the Barca squad have better minutes-per-goal ratios than Fati (202) this season, while the fearless and gifted teenager averages the fourth-most dribble attempts (2.38) per match among Blaugrana players.

PHIL FODEN

You have to be pretty decent if Pep Guardiola has called you "the most talented player" he has ever coached.

Although there have been only fleeting glimpses of Foden in a Manchester City shirt, he has certainly made an impact. In his 11 starts this term, Foden's had a hand in nine goals (seven assists, two goals), while he also has the best minutes-per-assist record (155) across all competitions of Premier League players to have played more than 1,000 minutes.

Regular playing time will surely be less of an issue for the 20-year-old once David Silva departs after the 2019-20 season.

The Spaniard's heir-apparent Foden has already caught the eye for England Under-21s, and might have made the cut for Gareth Southgate's squad in 2020 anyway, but both club and country will have earmarked the classy midfielder for a breakthrough campaign next year.

JOSHUA ZIRKZEE

The enforced break could be considered both a blessing and a curse for Bayern Munich's young Dutch striker Zirkzee.

An injury to Robert Lewandowski had resulted in the 19-year-old starting Bayern's previous two Bundesliga games before the suspension and, having needed just three minutes to score his first two league goals earlier in the season, he was seemingly set to enhance his reputation in the following weeks.

But the season hiatus put paid to that and Lewandowski was fit to return when the campaign resumed, with the Pole typically lethal since. But that doesn't take away from the fact Zirkzee is Bayern's third-youngest Bundesliga goalscorer, as he lays the groundwork for a potential breakthrough season in 2020-21, either at Bayern or on loan elsewhere.

Having only represented Netherlands as high as Under-19 level so far, Zirkzee still has a way to go to force his way into Ronald Koeman's senior squad for competitive fixtures, but another year of development will surely aid his case, particularly given the Oranje's lack of established options in the striker role.

YOUSSOUFA MOUKOKO

A name that may be unfamiliar to many outside of Germany, though perhaps not for much longer given the goalscoring record Borussia Dortmund's 15-year-old prodigy has.

Moukoko netted for the 34th time in his 20th Under-19 Bundesliga game in March, setting a record for the competition, having scored 50 in 28 appearances at U17 level last season.

A Euros this year would have definitely come too soon for Moukoko but Lucien Favre wants the Germany youth international training with his first team soon, and following a regulation change, he will be able to make his debut when he turns 16 in November.

By this time next year, a man already on Joachim Low's radar may just be a long shot for Die Mannschaft's senior team too.

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    He might have a winners' medal in his pocket at the end of his first LaLiga season, but Eden Hazard is in no mood to spare himself.

    Long touted as a potential marquee signing for Real Madrid, the Belgium star made the move to the Santiago Bernabeu for an initial €100million last June.

    However, by the time Zinedine Zidane had masterminded a post-lockdown overhaul of Barcelona to claim the title, the dream had long since turned into something of a nightmare.

    "We have won the title collectively this year, considering it has certainly been the worst season of my career individually," Hazard told France Info after injury woes – most notably a broken foot that required surgery – restricted him to 16 top-flight appearances.

    He scored once in 1,086 LaLiga minutes and has failed to find the net in five Champions League appearances for the 13-time winners so far.

    The peculiarity of this elongated season means a chance to salvage something arrives on Friday in familiar surroundings.

    Madrid are 2-1 in arrears ahead of their last-16 second leg against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. If a remontada is to become reality, they will probably need an individual to step up and produce something truly special – particularly considering talismanic captain Sergio Ramos is suspended.

    It was another Belgian, Kevin De Bruyne, who stole the show in the Spanish capital back in February as he majestically created Gabriel Jesus' equaliser before dispatching the winner from the penalty spot.

    Although firm friends throughout their gilded careers, it is hard to imagine the distinction of being Belgium's outstanding footballer lying elsewhere sitting too well with the lavishly gifted Hazard.

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    In December of the 2016-17 season, City and Chelsea were neck and neck at the top of the Premier League when the Londoners travelled north.

    De Bruyne hit the crossbar from point-blank range with the hosts 1-0 up and then Hazard took over, the master conductor as Antonio Conte's Blues took apart Pep Guardiola's men on the counter-attack. He scored the game-sealing goal in a 3-1 victory as a disintegrating City finished with Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho sent off.

    In the return match at Stamford Bridge, Hazard netted a brace in 2-1 win that put Chelsea on the brink of the Premier League title.

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    There is no suggestion that, at 29, Hazard will not be able to scale such heights again. Whether he can this week, however, is another matter.

    Zidane seems to be as in the dark as anyone else.

    "I think Eden had little [injury] problems recently because, when he finished playing [against Villarreal], he had problems; he didn't end well," he told reporters after Hazard's final appearance of the LaLiga season in Madrid's penultimate match.

    In the final six games of the campaign, the after-effects of Hazard's injury woes restricted him to 70 minutes on the field. The outing against Villarreal accounted for 62 of those.

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    It can't be that hard, surely?

    "He had the ball and I've closed him down and he's kind of dipped his shoulder to go to the right and gone back on the left," Lescott explained to Stats Perform News.

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    THE MISSING PRIZE

    Friday's Champions League last-16 match with Real Madrid could be his last for City. If Pep Guardiola's side are able to capitalise upon their 2-1 first-leg advantage, it will be on to Lisbon and the mini-tournament to conclude the closing stages of this season's competition.

    Over the course of 10 trophy-laden seasons in Manchester, Silva has played an integral role in each of the club's four Premier League successes. The first of those, secured in unforgettable fashion in 2011-12, was the club's first top-division title in 44 years. The previous season, Silva played a part in Yaya Toure's winning goal against Stoke City in the FA Cup final that ended a 35-year trophy drought.

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    Another golden era ran roughly parallel in Spain colours, with Silva a cap centurion as part of arguably the finest international team of all time. A rare header in the final of Euro 2012 against Italy set up a 4-0 win, further evidence of a handy knack on showpiece occasions.

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    "Not that many people have been lucky enough to be in his presence outside of football and I can confirm that he speaks English very well!"

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    Despite that reluctance to speak publicly too often, Silva has received plenty of warm words over recent weeks. Players and pundits alike have queued up to declare him a great of the Premier League era.

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