Marek Hamsik remains bullish about Slovakia's hopes of reaching the Euro 2020 knockout stage ahead of their final group game away to Spain.

Slovakia lost 1-0 to Sweden on Friday in St Petersburg, leaving them on three points from two games after defeating Poland 2-1 in their opening fixture.

Spain, who drew 0-0 with Sweden on matchday one, face on Poland in Seville on Saturday, before their final group clash with Slovakia, which will determine group placings.

"It's still open. We have to recover well," Slovakia star Hamsik said after the Sweden defeat.

"Spain are the group favourites and also contenders to win the tournament. It will be very challenging."

Sweden scored the game's only goal in the 77th minute from an Emil Forsberg penalty, won after a foul from goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.

The goal prevented Slovakia from taking a strong position in Group E, with Sweden moving into top spot on four points, ahead of Hamsik's side on three.

"It's a pity," Hamsik added. "If they hadn't scored from a penalty we would probably have got a draw, and it would have been a 'golden' point.

"We were a little more passive in the second half and we paid dearly for it."

Forsberg's penalty ended a run of 365 minutes without a goal for Sweden at the European Championship, marking their first since their opening game at Euro 2016 against the Republic of Ireland.

Sweden head coach Janne Andersson was delighted with his side's position after two games and praised Real Sociedad star Alexander Isak – who impressed and played a part in winning the decisive penalty with his pass for Robin Quaison.

"It's really good to see him on the pitch, he's a huge talent," Andersson said. "He's a young player who's still got a lot of room for improvement. I think there is a lot more to come from him. He played really well today."

It was an underwhelming day for England as they could not seal their place in the next round of Euro 2020, though Sweden moved a step closer to at least ensuring they do not go home early.

Nevertheless, Friday was not a day of great entertainment in the European Championship, with no team managing more than one goal among the three matches.

Only one of the three goals on the day was not a penalty, as Ivan Perisic made history when sealing a point for Croatia.

While the matches may not have set pulses racing, there was still plenty to talk about.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform takes a look at some of the best facts from across the day's games.

England 0-0 Scotland: Kane tame as Three Lions rendered toothless in rare draw

England failed to make sure of their qualification for the knockout phase as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Scotland, only the fourth goalless game in 115 official fixtures between the old rivals.

It was the first 0-0 draw between them since 1987, and the only one in 33 clashes at Wembley.

Similarly, England had only ever slumped to one other goalless draw at the new Wembley, that stalemate as far back as October 2010 when Fabio Capello's side were held by Montenegro.

Accentuating England's toothlessness was the fact Harry Kane managed only 19 touches of the ball, the fewest he has ever managed for the Three Lions in a game in which he has featured for more than 45 minutes.

The last time he had fewer touches for Spurs while playing for more than 45 minutes was against Manchester city in April 2018 (17 touches in 90 minutes).

Nevertheless, England can seal qualification with a point on Tuesday against the Czech Republic, and they can at least take solace in that this was their 14th clean sheet from their previous 18 matches, evidence that at least one area of the team is functioning properly.

 

Croatia 1-1 Czech Republic: Schick nets again as Perisic makes history with equaliser

Patrik Schick's bid for the Golden Boot received another boost as he scored a controversial penalty to open the scoring against Croatia, the Bayer Leverkusen striker subsequently becoming the first Czech Republic player to net three or more goals at a major tournament since Milan Baros (five) in Euro 2004.

Schick is also the first player to score each of his team's first three goals of a European Championship tournament since Mario Gomez for Germany in 2012.

But his spot-kick was cancelled out in the second half by Ivan Perisic, who made history in doing so.

The Inter winger became the first Croatian to score at four major international tournaments (2014 and 2018 World Cups, Euro 2016 and Euro 2020).

His powerful strike was his eighth in such tournaments, a figure that only Antoine Griezmann (10), Cristiano Ronaldo (10) and Romelu Lukaku (nine) can better among European players in the past four international events.

He is now just one behind Davor Suker's all-time record of nine goals across World Cups and the European Championship for Croatia.

Could he level the record in Croatia's pivotal final group game against Scotland?

 

Sweden 1-0 Slovakia: Isak a ray of sunshine in turgid encounter

St Petersburg was not treated to a classic as Sweden narrowly beat Slovakia at the Krestovsky Stadium, but Janne Andersson's men gave themselves a massive boost with respect to potentially reaching the knockout phase.

Emil Forsberg's second-half penalty ultimately proved decisive and ended a run of 365 minutes without a Sweden goal in European Championship tournaments, their most recent goal coming in their Euro 2016 opener.

That was their 23rd second-half goal in the history of the Euros, which equates to 88 percent of their total, the highest percentage of any side with at least three goals in the competition.

Once Sweden went ahead there looked to be little danger of a turnaround, as Slovakia – who had previously looked happy to settle for a point – failed to get a single shot on target, making them only the second team to fail in that regard after Turkey against Italy.

While it was by no means an exhilarating watch, Alexander Isak at least did his best to provide some entertainment.

The Real Sociedad forward completed six dribbles over the course of the match, the most by any player in a single Euro 2020 game and a figure unmatched by a Sweden player since 1992.

 

Sweden edged closer to the last 16 of Euro 2020 after a 1-0 victory over Slovakia in St Petersburg on Friday.

After beating Poland on matchday one, Stefan Tarkovic's side knew another victory would secure their place in the next round before their final group game with Spain.

But it was Sweden who produced more of a consistent attacking threat – certainly compared with their goalless draw with Spain, when they had just 15 per cent of the possession – as they sought to avoid going four consecutive European Championship games without scoring.

Alexander Isak was their most threatening player and it was the Real Sociedad striker's clever throughball that saw Robin Quaison fouled by goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, allowing Emil Forsberg to win the contest from the penalty spot.

There was little ambition shown by either side in a first half in which the only shot on target occurred after three minutes, Sebastian Larsson's deflected effort from the edge of the box proving a comfortable save for Dubravka.

Slovakia enjoyed more of the possession but were not prepared to commit too many to the attack, while Sweden seemed content to wait for their chances.

Their first real openings came just before the hour mark. Ludwig Augustinsson's header from Larsson's cross was superbly saved by Dubravka, with Marcus Danielson nodding over from the resulting corner.

Isak at last came to life in the final 30 minutes, heading narrowly over before testing Dubravka with a good right-footed shot from the edge of the box after a strong run.

It was Isak's first-time pass that saw Dubravka commit and bring down Quaison, allowing Forsberg to slot home from 12 yards and end a 365-minute wait for a Sweden goal at the Euros, their last coming against the Republic of Ireland five years ago.
 

What does it mean? Sweden take charge of Group E

With four points from two games, Sweden will now go into their final group game with Poland in a strong position to reach the next round.

Slovakia stay on three points and will be overtaken by Spain should they defeat Poland, who must avoid defeat if they are to finish in the top two.

Isak at last provides the spark

After a deeply uninspiring first half, it was Sweden who began to take more risks after the interval as Isak became increasingly involved.

The striker completed six dribbles, the most by any player in a single game at this tournament, and provided the moment of inspiration that led to the penalty.

Slovakia pay for caution

Slovakia seemed to have the game more or less under control in the first half, but they did not match Sweden's improved intensity after the interval.

Their possession dropped from 61.4 per cent to 54.5 per cent from the first half to the second, while they failed to manage a shot on target throughout.

What's next?

Sweden face Poland in St Petersburg and Slovakia meet Spain in Seville, with each game on June 23.

Slovakia will seek to build on a famous opening-game triumph over Poland at Euro 2020 when they face Sweden on Friday.

Stefan Tarkovic's side sit proudly atop Group E after a 2-1 win in St Petersburg on Monday, with the in-form Milan Skriniar's goal decisive.

It represented just a second victory at a European Championship for Slovakia, who are enjoying a six-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

After those joyous celebrations at the start of the week, Tarkovic has had to contend with the unwelcome distraction of two coronavirus positives within the camp.

Defender Denis Vavro and a member of staff are the duo affected but Tarkovic said UEFA protocols had been followed "to avoid the spread of the infection", with the pair now in self-isolation.

A win would send Slovakia through to the knockout phase but they face a Sweden side who secured a surprise result of their own in holding Spain to a goalless draw.

Janne Andersson's men showed practically no desire to attack as Spain dominated the ball, enjoying 85 per cent of possession.

Sweden clocked up just 162 passes against Spain's 917, while forward Marcus Berg exited proceedings after 69 minutes having touched the ball only 17 times.

The dynamics in this game, which will again be in St Petersburg, are altogether different and the Swedes will be under pressure to get on the front foot.

The omens do not bode well for Sweden, who have lost their second match of the group stage at each of the last four major tournaments.

However, those games were against Spain, England, Italy and Germany.

It was honours even the last time these two sides met as they shared a 1-1 draw back in 2018.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sweden – Alexander Isak

Despite Sweden being so thoroughly outplayed by Spain, Isak did manage to make a positive impression and might, in fact, have scored. His shot bounced off the knee of Marcos Llorente and struck the post, while the Real Sociedad forward laid on a glorious chance for Berg, who fluffed his lines.

Slovakia – Milan Skriniar

Inter centre-half Skriniar might once have been considered an unlikely match-winner, but after failing to score in his first 37 international outings he now has three goals in his past four appearances for Slovakia. Skriniar also led the way for his team in touches (69), clearances (10) and blocks (two), as well as winning five duels against Poland.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the first meeting between Sweden and Slovakia at a major tournament (European Championship and World Cup).

- Slovakia have never beaten Sweden in their five previous encounters (D3 L2), with their last four games never producing more than two goals.

- Slovakia have won two games in total at the Euros – one against Russia in 2016 and another against Poland last time out, which took place in Russia; their match against Sweden will also be held in Russia.

- Following their 2-1 victory against Poland on MD1, Slovakia will be looking to win their opening two games at a major tournament for the first time.

- Sweden have failed to score in three consecutive matches at the Euros – their final two group games in 2016 and their opening match against Spain last time out. They had only failed to score three times in their previous 18 games at the tournament before this.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique and his players leapt to the defence of Alvaro Morata after he was booed in their frustrating 0-0 draw with Sweden at Euro 2020.

Morata squandered Spain's best chance of their Euro 2020 Group E opener when he fired wide with just Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen to beat on Monday.

Spain had dominated the match in Seville as they made 917 passes and enjoyed 85 possession, but lacked a cutting edge in attack.

Morata was even subjected to boos and whistles by a section of Spain supporters, having failed to register any of his three attempts on target before he was substituted in the 66th minute.

"He has the personality to endure it and I would more like [him] to be applauded," Luis Enrique told a post-match media conference. 

"Morata is a great player who does things well in attack and defence.

"I have heard the whistles for Morata but then he was applauded off. He does a lot for the team and he is used to these situations so I do not think it will affect him."

Spain midfielders Marcos Llorente and Pedri also backed Morata, who has not scored in his last four international matches, to come good.

"Today he was not lucky in the face of goal, but he will be," Llorente said.

"I don't think the whistles are good. Anyone who was inside would like to be supported and applauded.

"We've got two group games left and the support of our fans is a great help."

Pedri added: "We can all fail, we all do. He [Morata] works a lot for the team and that can be seen on the field. He needs support. I tell people to keep trusting us, we are a great team.

"We created so many chances that I'm sure the goals are coming. I know there will now be good video analysis to see why it is we didn't score."

Luis Enrique felt the playing surface at Seville's La Cartuja stadium hampered his players in front of goal.

He said: "What we try to do is to generate scoring chances, the field was not helping much. If you haven't noticed the players have complained. 

"We have generated chances, we haven't scored them."

There was more drama on day four of Euro 2020, although the pace of the tournament slowed just a little in Seville.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia claimed precious wins before attention turned to Spain and Sweden, the two presumed favourites in Group E.

But neither team had the imagination to forge a breakthrough, even if Spain were completely dominant.

That stalemate features as Stats Perform reviews the action with the best Opta data.

 

Scotland 0-2 Czech Republic: Schick shocks Scots from record-breaking range

Patrik Schick's brilliant brace at Hampden Park gave the Czech Republic their first win over Scotland since October 2010.

The Bayer Leverkusen striker's double was the first from a Czech player at a major tournament since Tomas Rosicky against the United States at the 2006 World Cup, while Milan Baros managed it at Euro 2004 versus Denmark.

Schick's second was particularly special, lobbing 36-year-old David Marshall – Scotland's second-oldest player at a major tournament – from 49.7 yards, the longest distance for a goal at the Euros since records began in 1980. It surpassed Torsten Frings' 38.6-yard effort for Germany against the Netherlands in 2004.

That strike took Schick to eight goals (and two assists) in his past nine international starts, but the headed opener alone might have been enough.

Scotland have now failed to score in five of their seven Euros matches and five of their past six opening matches at major tournaments. They have lost five of those six, too.

 

Poland 1-2 Slovakia: Same Lewy woes but new pain for Szczesny

Poland's big names endured frustrating outings in a 2-1 defeat to Slovakia that means they have now won just one of their past 10 opening matches at major tournaments.

Milan Skriniar's third goal in four appearances for Slovakia settled the Group E fixture, but Poland had been on the back foot since Wojciech Szczesny's 18th-minute own goal.

He became the first goalkeeper to put through his own net at a European Championship, while Grzegorz Krychowiak's subsequent red card made this one of only two examples of a team at the Euros scoring an own goal and having a player sent off in the same game (also Czechoslovakia versus the Netherlands in 1976).

Szczesny had been the most recent Poland player dismissed at a major tournament back in 2012.

Karol Linetty did equalise for Poland 32 seconds into the second half – the second-fastest goal after half-time, behind Marcel Coras for Romania against Germany in 1984 (21 seconds) – but another off day for Robert Lewandowski harmed their hopes of victory before Skriniar's strike.

Lewandowski has scored with just two of his 35 shots for Poland at major tournaments, failing to register a goal with any of his 17 attempts since netting against Portugal at Euro 2016.

 

Spain 0-0 Sweden: Luis Enrique's side luckless in Seville

Spain will wonder how they did not earn all three points against Sweden in the tournament's first goalless draw.

La Roja dominated 85 per cent of the possession, attempted 917 passes and completed 830 of them. All three figures are records since 1980.

Luis Enrique's side were frustratingly profligate and Spain have now won just one of their past six opening matches at major tournaments.

The only positive was an 11th Spanish clean sheet in their past 14 games at the Euros, with this remarkably the first time Sweden – who showed little attacking ambition – have drawn a blank in a Euros opener.

They have now failed to score in three consecutive games in the competition, though, and failed to show how they might end that run against Slovakia on Friday.

We've wondered throughout the build-up whether Spain are realistic contenders to win Euro 2020. After Monday's goalless draw with Sweden, it feels like we're no closer to an answer.

La Roja began their quest for a record fourth European Championship title in the hot evening air of Seville's La Cartuja stadium, the sparse crowd in fine voice, the players looking sharp, their early passing as crisp as Luis Enrique's brilliant white shirt.

Yet so soporific was the heat, humidity and patient midfield build-up that, come the 90th minute, you'd have forgiven every fan in the stands for nodding off.

That's not to say this was a poor performance from Spain. Rather, it was what we have come to expect over the past 15 years: authority in possession bordering on totalitarian, swarming opponents on the rare occasion the ball got away. Sweden completed two passes in the Spain half in the opening 20 minutes and ended the contest with 14.9 per cent of the ball, easily the lowest recorded figure at this tournament since at least 1980. Unfortunately for Spain, they never looked uncomfortable.

It was very similar to the goalless draw with Portugal in the warm-up game in Madrid. It also bore a likeness to a match almost exactly eight years ago, when Vicente del Bosque's side started their Confederations Cup campaign against Uruguay in which they had 92 per cent of the ball in the first nine minutes.

The difference that day was the passing had a purpose. They scored twice but should really have got more, and they only conceded through a spectacular Luis Suarez free-kick. How Luis Enrique would love to have his old Barcelona striker in this side.

These days, there is no Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso or Cesc Fabregas in midfield, no roving David Silva and David Villa in attack. It is accepted that this Spain can't do things in quite the same way as that remarkable squad that won consecutive European Championships either side of the 2010 World Cup. They're not expected to play the same way.

The problem here was that they seemed to try.

Spain completed 419 passes in the first half alone, the highest figure in the opening 45 minutes of a European Championship game since at least 1980, but conjured only three shots on target. Alvaro Morata wasted the best opening, skewing a shot wide after a rare mistake in the redoubtable Sweden rearguard.

 

In the second half, that shot count dropped to two on target, both of which came in injury time: a soft header from Gerard Moreno and a snapshot from Pablo Sarabia. The clearest chances fell Sweden's way, the excellent Alexander Isak miscuing a strike onto Marcos Llorente and the post, and Marcus Berg somehow scuffing wide with the goal at his mercy.

Again, this was not a horrible display of the kind produced at the 2014 World Cup, when Spain opened with a 5-1 loss to the Netherlands. Their control was practically absolute and, had Morata and Koke shown more first-half composure, the contest could have been over at half-time. As with the Portugal match, when Morata hit the bar in the final seconds, the difference between a win and a draw was slim. This is also the team that put six past Germany last November, so it's hardly the time for panic stations.

The problem is that nobody quite seemed sure what to expect from Spain before these finals, and this was hardly a convincing explanation. Even with Sergio Busquets sidelined and Sergio Ramos watching at home, the ghosts of the old guard permeated this performance – a performance dictated by tradition rather than fresh ideas.

Spain began Euro 2020 with a frustrating 0-0 draw against Sweden as their lack of cutting edge in attack was borne out.

Luis Enrique's side enjoyed long spells of possession - a staggering 85% - and had the best of the chances, in the Group E encounter in Seville, but could not find a winner.

Alvaro Morata was guilty of squandering Spain's best opportunity when he fired wide with just Robin Olsen to beat.

An obdurate Sweden side executed their tactical plan to stifle Spain superbly and did threaten at the other end with Alexander Isak hitting the post.

Spain initially looked to open the game from wide areas as they clocked up the passes with Sweden completing just two passes in the opposition half inside the opening 20 minutes.

A teasing cross from Koke brought Spain their first real chance as he picked out Dani Olmo only for a superb diving one-handed save from Olsen to keep out his close-range header.

Koke whistled a shot just past the post with an angled effort struck with the outside of his boot, but should have done better on the half hour when he lifted a shot over the bar from a good position.

A mistake by Marcus Danielson let Morata burst through on goal, but with Olsen rushing off his line the striker curled his shot wide while Olmo went close again from long range.

Sweden flickered into life moments before half-time when a rare foray forward saw Isak's shot bounce off the knee of Marcos Llorente and strike the post.

Spain's play lacked intensity in the second half and some trickery by the impressive Isak created a golden opportunity for Marcus Berg on the hour, but he fluffed his shot from close range.

Olmo saw a shot blocked by Danielson, but Spain were unable to rediscover their tempo and failed to really test Olsen as the game meandered to a stalemate.

Gerard Moreno could have won it with a header from fellow substitute Pablo Sarabia's clever cross inside the six-yard box, but Olsen saved instinctively with his legs. 

Then at the death Sarabia failed to get a clean touch on a dangerous ball into the box with the goal at his mercy. 

Luis Enrique has insisted Spain do not have a lack of leaders in their group in the absence of captain Sergio Busquets.

Barcelona midfielder Busquets will miss Spain's opening Euro 2020 match against Sweden in Seville on Monday after testing positive for coronavirus.

The 32-year-old is one of the key figureheads in La Roja's squad, which is the youngest in the tournament, but Luis Enrique is confident others – including himself – can fill the void.

"We do not lack leadership," he said at a news conference ahead of Spain's Group E opener against Sweden on Monday. 

"The 23 others are going to lead because they are the ones that make the decisions on the pitch. 

"I'm going to lead from the sidelines, too, as all coaches do. If a coach doesn't lead, that's a bad sign.

"But in this national team everyone has to lead on the field. They have to carry this out. Our strength is the group and we are prepared."

Spain have won only one of their last five opening matches at a major tournament, beating the Czech Republic 1-0 at Euro 2016.

La Roja's last game at a tournament was their last-16 defeat to Russia on penalties at the 2018 World Cup, but Luis Enrique is optimistic of success at Euro 2020. 

"I'm not worried – we are ready," he said. "Until the contrary is proven, I'll continue to think we can compete at the highest level.

"What I'm telling you is not a lie; I really believe it. I'm still confident.

"Our match plan will always be the same. We have clear objectives in attack, to generate as many chances as possible and to dominate the rival.

"When defending we must press as high as possible to win the ball back. I hope that come tomorrow night we can find a good rhythm and maintain our levels."

Sweden are taking part in their seventh European Championship finals and enter the tournament on a five-match winning run that has seen them keep four clean sheets.

Luis Enrique is expecting a tough opening test at Estadio Olimpico de la Cartuja before meetings with Slovakia and Poland.

"Sweden are a team that play direct. They have strong, quality players, even if they are going to be without Dejan Kulusevski," the Spain head coach said.

"We are going to try to focus on our strongest areas.

"The first game helps set the pulse for the competition. It is not easy for many reasons, but we are hopeful we can be at our best."

There are question marks over who will start in goal for Spain, though Luis Enrique is not giving anything away in terms of team selection on the eve of the match.

"David de Gea, Robert Sanchez or Unai Simon – one of those will play," he said.

Monday's meeting will be the fourth between the two sides at a major tournament, with Spain winning twice – most recently at Euro 2008 – and Sweden winning the other.

Spain will look to put their fraught preparations behind them when they begin their Euro 2020 campaign against Sweden on Monday.

The past week has been one of real uncertainty for La Roja following Sergio Busquets' positive test for coronavirus.

The senior squad were forced to isolate, with back-up options summoned from holidays to take part in a parallel training bubble in case of further infections, while the Under-21s took to the field for last Monday's final warm-up friendly against Lithuania.

Diego Llorente returned what was later confirmed to be a false positive test and, thankfully for coach Luis Enrique, there were no further cases.

Llorente, who was applauded by team-mates after returning to training, said: "The reception was one of the most special things that has happened to me.

"It's a sign of the unity the whole team has. The team is very united, and that reception was something I didn't expect."

Fostering unity in the side has been of paramount importance to Luis Enrique, especially amid the consternation back in the capital over his decision not to include Sergio Ramos, or indeed any Real Madrid players, in his squad.

The former Barcelona boss has a mixture of experience and uncertainty at this level as he bids to lead Spain to a record fourth European Championship triumph and third in the past five tournaments.

They begin Group E in Seville against Sweden, who have lost the previous two meetings at major championships and kept only one clean sheet in their previous 12 games against Spain.

Janne Anderson's side have lost six of their past eight games at the Euros, their only win in that run coming against France back in 2012. They scored just once at Euro 2016, too – and that was an own goal from Republic of Ireland defender Ciaran Clark.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Spain – Thiago Alcantara

With Busquets missing at least against Sweden, it may well fall on Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara to operate as dictator-in-chief in the Spain midfield.

He completed 51 of 56 passes in the friendly draw with Portugal on June 4, exactly the same number as Busquets, so the shift in role should not prove too disruptive.

Sweden – Alexander Isak

The loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to injury before the tournament means the Sweden goalscoring burden is firmly on the shoulders of Alexander Isak.

The Real Sociedad striker scored 17 times in LaLiga last season but only has two senior international goals since 2019.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This is the fourth meeting between Spain and Sweden at a major tournament (World Cup and European Championship), after World Cup 1950 (3-1 to Sweden), World Cup 1978 (1-0 to Spain) and Euro 2008 (2-1 to Spain).
- Spain have reached the knockout stages of the European Championship in five of their past six participations, the only exception coming in 2004 when they were eliminated in the group phase.
- La Roja have lost only two of their previous 16 games at the European Championship (W11 D3) with those two defeats coming in their last two matches (against Croatia and Italy, June 2016).
- Spain's last 37 goals in the European Championship finals have all been scored from inside the box. Their last attempt to be scored from distance was Raul's strike against Slovenia in the group stages of the 2000 edition.
- Sweden are taking part in their seventh European Championship. In fact, since their first participation as Euro hosts in 1992 – which remains their best performance (semi-finalists) – they have qualified for every tournament except 1996.

Euro 2020 is just days away, and that means the rumour mill is about to go into overdrive.

International tournaments always represent something of a showcase for clubs seeking reinforcements and this year will be no different, even if the impact of the pandemic means spending may not quite reach levels of old.

There will be several players eager to impress at these finals: some will be long-term targets out to justify the hype, while others will be seeking a new challenge as contracts begin to wind down.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform has compiled a list of some of the candidates vying to be front and centre of this particular shop window...

 

Belgium: Jeremy Doku

One of Belgium's less-known attacking stars, Jeremy Doku was directly involved in 10 goals in the Jupiler League by the time he was 18 years and 115 days old, a record bettered only by Romelu Lukaku.

Previously wanted by Liverpool, the Rennes forward could become a target for Jurgen Klopp – thought to be exploring new attacking options – should he be given the chance to impress by Roberto Martinez.

Croatia: Bruno Petkovic

"Bruno Petkovic has to be at Euro 2020 what [Mario] Mandzukic was in Russia," said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic last month. No pressure, then.

Still, the Dinamo Zagreb forward impressed in last season's Europa League with four goals in nine starts and could represent a relatively low-cost option in the market.

England: Jadon Sancho

The star performer as Borussia Dortmund won the DFB-Pokal final, Jadon Sancho was the first English player since David Beckham 20 years ago to register at least 10 assists for three seasons in a row in Europe's top-five leagues.

Manchester United continue to be mooted as the winger's most likely destination should he leave Dortmund, but a star turn at the Euros could trigger a bidding war among some of the biggest clubs.

France: Jules Kounde

Getting into the France starting line-up is no easy task these days, but Jules Kounde could well force Didier Deschamps' hand given the qualities he brings to centre-back.

An accomplished stopper, the Sevilla man is also impeccable on the ball: he made 887 forward passes in LaLiga last season, the most of any outfield player. Little wonder that Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all been linked.

Germany: Florian Neuhaus

Given he has been linked with Bayern Munich for months now, Florian Neuhaus must be doing something right.

The 108th Germany debutant under Joachim Low, the Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder could well find himself in high demand in the transfer window should he earn a regular spot at the Euros.

Italy: Manuel Locatelli

The heartbeat of a vibrant Sassuolo side, Manuel Locatelli in January became the first Italian player born after January 1, 1998 to record 10 Serie A assists.

Juventus are considered his likely next destination, but there are reports of interest from the Premier League, which would likely only increase in number should he shine at the Euros.

Netherlands: Memphis Depay

It appears likely Memphis Depay will leave Lyon for Barcelona on a free transfer, but, as long as that deal is not concluded, other clubs may sense the chance to snap up the forward.

Depay just became the first Lyon player to register at least 20 goals and 10 assists in a single Ligue 1 season since at least 2006-07 and looks like one of the Oranje's form players.

Poland: Kacper Kozlowski

At just 17, Kacper Kozlowski has established himself in the Pogon Szczecin first team, something made all-the-more remarkable given he was badly injured in a car crash in January 2020.

Although a name not well known outside Poland, the midfielder has been scouted by Manchester United and interest across the continent could well pick up after this tournament.

 

Portugal: Nuno Mendes

Considered one of Portugal's brightest prospects, Nuno Mendes has already been linked with the Manchester clubs after shining for Sporting CP.

Interest in the 18-year-old is only likely to increase should he perform well at the Euros, especially if he ousts Raphael Guerreiro from the side, and Sporting would surely be prepared to sell for a handsome fee.

 

Russia: Denis Cheryshev

Zero goas in 21 games for Valencia in LaLiga last season underlined a frustrating spell for Denis Cheryshev at club level.

The 30-year-old was Russia's star performer at the World Cup three years ago, though, and the Euros offer a good chance to tempt any possible suitors as he considers his future.

Spain: Pau Torres

Pau Torres was at the heart of Villarreal's Europa League triumph. In fact, he made nine appearances without being dribbled past, a single-season tally only bettered twice in the competition's history.

The centre-back has made it clear he is happy at the club, but strong performances for Spain could tempt suitors including Manchester United to test Villarreal's resolve to keep him.

Sweden: Alexander Isak

Linked with Barcelona during the season, Real Sociedad's Alexander Isak broke Zlatan Ibrahimovic's record for most goals by a Swede in a single LaLiga campaign by scoring 17 in 2020-21.

With Ibrahimovic missing these finals due to injury, 21-year-old Isak has a good opportunity to impress on the international stage.

Switzerland: Denis Zakaria

With his contract expiring next year, Denis Zakaria could be a more affordable midfield signing for any clubs willing to tempt Borussia Monchengladbach into a sale.

The 24-year-old offers great variety to the Switzerland midfield and English sides are expected to be watching him closely at these finals.

Ukraine: Ruslan Malinovskiy

Ruslan Malinovskiy is another Atalanta player to catch the eye under Gian Piero Gasperini. He was directly involved in a goal every 94 minutes in Serie A in 2020-21, the most of any midfielder to play at least 15 times.

Now 28, this could be his best chance to secure a significant transfer should he decide to leave Bergamo, and there have been rumblings of interest from Chelsea.

Wales: Gareth Bale

With 11 goals in 10 Premier League starts in 2020-21, Gareth Bale registered the best minutes-per-goal ratio (84) of any of the competition's top goalscorers.

He is returning to Real Madrid following his loan at Tottenham and Carlo Ancelotti appears keen to keep him, but heroics for Wales could encourage suitors to bid.

After a year's delay, Euro 2020 will finally get under way when Italy take on Turkey in Rome on Friday, June 11.

Some of the world's top talents will be on display in the month-long tournament, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane.

But away from the elite players, there are a clutch of others looking to overshadow those aforementioned names and leave their own mark on the pan-European competition.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform picks out eight under-the-radar stars – those that would not necessarily be considered as one of the favourites for individual honours before a ball is kicked – ahead of the tournament.

 

Federico Chiesa (Italy and Juventus)

Juventus may have endured one of their worst campaigns in recent memory last time out, but Chiesa can hold his head up high after impressing in his first year at the Allianz Stadium.

He was the man for the big occasions, scoring a couple of goals in January's league victory over Milan and the winner in Juve's Coppa Italia triumph against Atalanta.

The 23-year-old was a regular threat down both flanks ​– only Benevento forward Riccardo Improta (77, 29.87 per cent) had more open-play crosses in Serie A last season with a higher success rate than Chiesa (69, 27.54 per cent).

That ability to both create and score goals, plus his never-say-die spirit – best embodied by his three goals in two legs of the Champions League last-16 knockout defeat to Porto – means he is already a fan favourite in Turin.

"He tries to ignite the fans at home on the couch to let them feel the game like the players in the pitch," former Juve striker Fabrizio Ravanelli told Stats Perform. 

"He always sends a strong message to Juventus fans, the true DNA of Juventus of never giving up like it says in the motto: 'Till the end'."

 

Alexander Isak (Sweden and Real Sociedad)

Whisper it quietly, but Sweden may have a new superstar forward emerging to rival the legendary figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Isak's 17 strikes in 34 league appearances for Real Sociedad last season saw him become the Swede with the most goals in a single LaLiga campaign, surpassing Ibrahimovic's 16 for Barcelona in 2009-10.

He may be tall and blessed with great technical ability, but Isak is a lot different to Ibrahimovic – ruled out of Euro 2020 with a knee injury – in terms of his playing style.

And with clubs such as Barcelona and Manchester City reportedly keeping a close eye on the 21-year-old, it may well be one day that other youngsters from the Scandinavian country are described as 'the next Isak'.

 

Unai Simon (Spain and Athletic Bilbao)

Luis Enrique has not shied away from putting his faith in youth at the expense of those who have been there and done it, with veteran centre-back Sergio Ramos arguably the most high-profile omission from any squad at Euro 2020.

That is also true between the sticks, where 23-year-old Athletic Bilbao stopper Simon has usurped David de Gea to take control of the number-one spot.

Unlike Manchester United keeper De Gea and Chelsea's Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has not made the cut for Spain, Simon played regularly for his club side in 2020-21.

Indeed, the only Spanish goalkeepers to play more minutes last term in Europe's top five leagues than Simon (3,330) were Alex Remiro and Fernando Pacheco of Real Sociedad and Deportivo Alaves respectively.

Simon saved 63.3 per cent of the shots he faced in LaLiga in 2020-21, compared to 65.22 per cent for De Gea in 26 Premier League games, and the six-cap keeper will need to be at his best if Spain are to banish their demons from the 2018 World Cup.

 

Jamal Musiala (Germany and Bayern Munich)

Musiala switched international allegiance from England to Germany four months ago in the same week he became Bayern's youngest Champions League goalscorer at the age of 17 years and 363 days.

Despite strong competition for places, Musiala featured regularly for the German champions last season with 35 appearances in all competitions, albeit the majority of those outings being as a substitute.

The former Chelsea product made his first two appearances for Germany in March's World Cup qualifiers and only adds to a plethora of options available to Joachim Low in the final third.

Musiala may not be considered a regular just yet, but the stats suggest Low should perhaps consider using the youngster from the beginning of games.

Bayern's win rate increased from 62.5 per cent without Musiala in their side in the Bundesliga last term to 73.1 per cent with him, while their average goals for climbed from 2.5 to 3.0, and their passing accuracy in the final third went from 72.4 to 74.1.

Not so much a lucky omen, but a player who is clearly already good enough to make a telling impact on even the biggest sides.

 

Marcus Thuram (France and Borussia Monchengladbach)

No nation boasts a collection of forwards quite like France, who can call upon Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Wissam Ben Yedder, Thomas Lemar, Kingsley Coman, Olivier Giroud and the returning Karim Benzema.

What chance does Borussia Monchengladbach forward Thuram have, then, of ousting any of those players from the side?

While the 23-year-old may not be used as a regular starter, he will provide an intriguing option for spoiled-for-choice head coach Didier Deschamps to choose from off the bench for group games against Germany, Portugal and Hungary.

Thuram, the son of World Cup winner Lilian, certainly knows how to make the most of his minutes on the field and has the ability to score via a range of different ways.

All eight of his Bundesliga goals last term were scored inside the box, but they were shared between his right foot (three), left foot (two), head (two) and other means (one).

In fact, he was one of just nine forwards to start 20 games or fewer in Europe's top five leagues last season and still score more than once with his right foot.

 

Aleksandr Golovin (Russia and Monaco)

Monaco midfielder Golovin was plagued by injuries and illness in 2020-21 but still played a starring role in Monaco's unlikely Ligue 1 title bid that went down to the final game.

The 25-year-old found the net five times and set up nine more in 21 appearances, three of those goals coming in one game against Nimes in early February.

That made Golovin the first Russian to score a hat-trick in Europe's top five leagues since ex-Fulham striker Pavel Pogrebnyak in 2012.

He is undoubtedly the key creative talent in the Russia squad and, in a group that contains a defensively-strong Denmark and Belgium, plus Finland, it will likely be the Monaco man that holds the key to his side's hopes of progression.

His effectiveness with set-piece deliveries could be particularly vital.

 

 

Yusuf Yazici (Turkey and Lille)

Lille's incredible Ligue 1 triumph was down to a collective effort, but a few players certainly stood out for the shock title winners.

Look no further than breakthrough star Yazici, whose return of a goal every 153.71 minutes was the fourth best of any midfielder with at least five goals in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21, trailing just Joe Willock, Lars Stindl and Musiala.

The 24-year-old scored seven league goals in total and netted the same amount in the Europa League, where Lille made it to the knockout stages before being eliminated by Ajax.

That includes a couple of three-goal hauls in the group stage as he became the first player to score an away hat-trick against Milan in all competitions since Rivaldo in October 2000 for Barcelona.

With experience of scoring in big matches and winning silverware with rank outsiders, Yazici will now be looking to guide many people's dark horses Turkey deep into Euro 2020.

 

Ryan Gravenberch (Netherlands and Ajax)

A member of the Netherlands' Under-17s European Championship-winning squad in 2018, Gravenberch has gone from strength to strength in the three years since and is now a regular in Ajax's central midfield.

Gravenberch also has two Eredivisie titles and two Dutch Cups to his name to go with that age-grade continental triumph, all before he even turned 19 last month.

The teenage talent, another product of Ajax's fabled academy, made his senior international debut earlier this year and has a chance of starting – or at least playing a prominent part in – the Oranje's quest for a second European Championship crown.

If nothing else, Gravenberch will certainly bring a level of calmness to the Dutch midfield.

He had a pass accuracy rate of 87.21 per cent in the Eredivisie last season – the only midfielders younger in Europe's top five leagues to play 20 or more times with a better return were Pedri (87.66) and Lucas Gourna-Douath (87.29). 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not feature for Sweden at Euro 2020, head coach Janne Andersson has confirmed.

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic broke down in tears at a media conference on Monday after revealing his return to the Sweden squad has not been easy for his family.

The Milan striker was recalled by Janne Andersson for this month's World Cup qualifiers against Kosovo and Georgia, plus the friendly with Estonia, paving the way for him to potentially play at Euro 2020.

He celebrated his first call-up in nearly five years by posting a picture on Twitter of himself in a Sweden shirt with the caption: "The return of the God."

Ibrahimovic, who turns 40 in October, is Sweden's all-time leading scorer with 62 international goals, the last of those coming against Denmark in November 2015. 

Speaking at a media conference on Monday, an emotional Ibrahimovic revealed the difficulty of leaving his family to join up with the national team. 

"I had Vincent [his son] here, who was actually crying when I left him. But it's okay...," he said, before breaking off in tears.

"This takes time away from my family and it's not an easy thing. If you have two kids crying every time you leave them, it's a bit hard. I'm human, even though I'm Superman.

"They are very proud."

Ibrahimovic has impressed in Serie A this term with 15 goals in as many matches, and the ex-Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain striker believes he can still make an impact on the international stage.

"I'm just a piece of the puzzle, among many pieces. I'm here to do better, if Janne thinks I can,” he added.

"If you ask me, I'm the best in the world, but that doesn't help me much here. I've promised to decide matches, so now it's up to me!

"I'm just glad I'm here. I'm proud, I'm not demanding anything and I want nothing. I just want to contribute what I can. If Janne felt I cannot contribute or do what I have to do, then we wouldn't be here.

"As of today, I want to keep going as long as I can. I don't want to regret anything when I stop. That thought came into my head after the injury [in 2017].

"You should continue as long as you can with what you love. Football is what I want to do; that's what I love.

"I am who I am. But I'm not here to have my own show."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic insists he is deserving of his place in the Sweden squad, even if he is no longer the same player he was when last representing his national side in 2016.

The Milan striker was recalled by Janne Andersson for this month's World Cup qualifiers against Kosovo and Georgia, plus the friendly with Estonia, paving the way for him to potentially play at Euro 2020.

He celebrated his first call-up in nearly five years by posting a picture on Twitter of himself in a Sweden shirt with the caption: "The return of the God."

Ibrahimovic, who turns 40 in October, is Sweden's all-time leading scorer with 62 international goals, the last of those coming against Denmark in November 2015. 

And having also impressed in Serie A this term with 14 goals in as many matches, the ex-Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain striker believes he can still make an impact.

"I don't want to be considered and called up for what I did before, but for what I can give now," he told the Swedish Football Association's official YouTube channel.

"I can't be the player I was five, 10, 15 or 20 yeas ago. Now, I have a completely different physique and a completely different game.

"But I keep a very high level. You don't have to worry. I'm not on the squad list because my name is Zlatan and I'm Ibrahimovic.

"It's because of what I add to the squad and what I have achieved. I think I deserve it."

Andersson previously ruled out a recall for Ibrahimovic, but his stance changed following a "great conversation" with the 116-cap ace in November.

Asked about those discussions with Andersson, Ibrahimovic said: "It was very positive. We examined everything and drew a line on everything that is the past. 

"We spoke with respect among ourselves. We were able to talk to each other.

"I recognise that mentality in myself. When you're a footballer at a certain level and you've the chance to represent your country it's the greatest joy there is to be able to do so. 

"It is with pride and honour that I will wear the national team jersey."

Ibrahimovic returned to Italian football in December 2019 after a two-season spell in MLS with LA Galaxy and has scored 27 goals in 41 games in all competitions.

Twenty-four of those goals have come in 32 Serie A appearances since returning to San Siro, a tally bettered only by Romelu Lukaku (30 goals in 45 games), Ciro Immobile (31 goals in 44 games) and Cristiano Ronaldo (44 goals in 42 games).

Sweden's players are due to gather on Monday ahead of their home qualifier against Georgia on March 25.

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