8 possible Breakout Stars to look out for at Euro 2020

The European Championships always throws up surprises, from Denmark’s triumph in 1992 to Wales reaching the semi-final at the last tournament. Most of the focus might be on the heavyweight nations like France and Germany, but with 24 teams at Euro 2020, there are plenty of future stars dotted around the other nations who could make a name for themselves.

If not for injury, Hungary’s Dominik Szoboszlai or North Macedonia’s Ilija Nestorovski could have been the breakout stars who helped their countries shock some of Europe’s giants. But plenty of other teams have match-winning players who are not yet household names across the continent. Here are some of the top young names to look out for.

Sasa Kalajdzic (Austria)

Kalajdzic announced himself to Germany this season, smashing in a goal roughly every two games for newly promoted VfB Stuttgart. His sixteen goals were the most he’s scored in a season, and he’ll probably have to replicate that in 2021-22 before larger clubs really take notice. His aerial threat will certainly attract teams looking for a target man, but he is also good with his feet. With Austria having a very good chance of reaching the knockout stages, the 6 foot 6 inch forward, who is the tallest player in the Bundesliga, could end up adding to the three goals of his fledgling international career.

Vitaliy Mykolenko (Ukraine)

Ukraine could be one of the dark horses of Euro 2020. With ten players from Dynamo Kyiv and seven from Shakhtar Donetsk, squad cohesion could make them more than the sum of their parts, but those parts are decent enough by themselves. Ukraine topped a qualification group featuring Portugal and Serbia, and have recently got decent results against Spain and France.

Their win at the 2019 Under-20 World Cup suggests they have some quality players in the pipeline too. Vitaliy Mykolenko missed that tournament through injury, but is one of the most promising players in that group, having been named as one of the Golden Talents of Ukraine in each of the past three years.

The 22-year-old left back already has several seasons of experience at Dynamo Kyiv, and even played at center back against Barcelona and Juventus in the Champions League as well as on occasion for the national team. His teammate at Kyiv, central midfielder Mykola Shaparenko is another young player to keep an eye on.

Alexander Isak (Sweden)

Real Sociedad were one of the surprises of the La Liga season this year, winning the previous season’s Copa del Rey (delayed for a year due to the pandemic) and eventually finishing just outside the Champions League places.

A big part of their success was Swedish forward Alexander Isak, who scored more goals this season than Antione Griezmann. The 21 year-old has been around for a while, making his debut for AIK at just 16 before moving to Borussia Dortmund. His time at Dortmund didn’t go to plan, but this season at Real Sociedad he has started to show what he can do. Without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden will be more reliant on Isak to continue his strong club form into Euro 2020.

Jeremy Doku (Belgium)

Time might be running out for Belgium’s golden generation who hit their peak at Russia 2018 and only have this tournament and Qatar 2022 for a shot at a trophy. But there are a few young talents coming through to replace them, including 19-year-old Jeremy Doku, who joined French side Stade Rennais for a club record fee last fall.

Roberto Martinez has used Doku on either wing, and as a second striker, so even if he doesn’t start every game, he will still have a chance to make an impact on the tournament, especially if Belgium go far in the knockout stages.

Alex Kral and Adam Hlozek (Czech Republic)

West Ham United already have two Czech players in Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek, but there are lots of rumors that they could add to their Czech contingent this summer. They’ve been closely linked with 23-year-old Spartak Moscow midfielder Alex Kral, who David Moyes has described as having “a great mentality” and “lots of energy”.

The Hammers are also among several clubs reportedly interested in 18-year-old forward Adam Hlozek who bagged 15 goals in 19 league games for Sparta Prague this season. Hlozek has only played twice for the national team so far, but is in the squad for Euro 2020, and head coach Jaroslav Silhavy said that Hlozek “certainly has a chance to make the starting lineup.”

Kacper Kozlowski (Poland)

The youngest player at the tournament, Kozlowski might not be a starter for Poland, but the 17-year-old Pogon Szczecin midfielder is already seen as the next big thing of Polish soccer, and is on the radar of many of Europe’s top clubs. His 20 appearances for Szczecin this season is impressive not just due to his age, but also because he broke his pelvis and several back bones in a serious car accident last year.

Orkun Kokcu (Turkey)

Turkey rarely qualify for tournaments, but when they do, they tend to do well, finishing third at the 2002 World Cup and 2008 European Championships. This year, their young, talented squad could be an outside bet. AC Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu might be the star of their midfield, but coming up right behind him is Orkun Kokcu.

Already a key player for Feyenoord at just 20 years old, Kokcu is attracting attention from some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Once he starts adding a few more goals and assists to his all-round play, Kokcu could really start to make heads turn.

Valeriy Fursov