Euro 2016: who to look out for. Groups A and B

With only a couple of weeks to go until Euro 2016 kicks off in France, AFEfootballnews takes a look at who could prove vital for their countries at the early anticipated tournament. Here are the captain’s of the nation’s and the stars of groups A and B who could shine, as well as the youngsters who could make names for themselves.

GROUP A:

Albania
Captain:
Lorik Cana

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The man who once spent a rather unsuccessful season on loan at Sunderland is a national hero in his country, having captained them for many years now. As a Center Back, he commands the defence well and was one of the main reasons for Albania’s qualification into the tournament.

One to watch:
Ergys Kaçe

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The 22 year old Midfielder who plays for Greek side PAOK can light up games with the ball at his feet. His electric pace and precise passing will cause headaches for the oppositions defence. The fact that he’s only 5’3 also means that he has a low center of gravity, which means he’s able to turn and break quickly.

Wonderkid:
Rey Manaj

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Manaj, a 19 year old striker, may have only made two appearances thus far for his country, but its clear that he has a bright future ahead of him. Inter Milan have kept him on the books at the club and the Euro’s could be a chance for him to show his true potential.

France
Captain:
Hugo Lloris

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Having had yet another season full of spectacular performances for Tottenham this season, Lloris will be looking to captain his country to glory on home turf this summer and has a great chance of doing so! He brings experience to a side of promising youngsters.

One to watch:
Paul Pogba

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Dubbed as the next big thing in the footballing World, Pogba has shone through for Juventus since his departure from Manchester United during the Fergie era. His ability to control the Midfield with his passing and tackling abilities, as well as his tendency to score from long range, has placed him as France’s key player in recent times, having even been ‘young player of the tournament’ at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It’s his time to shine!

Wonderkid:
Anthony Martial

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Some would argue he hasn’t quite lived up to his potential at Manchester United this season, but in fairness he hasn’t had a terrible one either. There have been times where he’s shown what he’s capable of, for instance, when he scored on his Premier League debut against Liverpool. Keep an eye on him this summer, as he could be surprisingly vital for France.

Romania
Captain:
Razvan Rat

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One of Romania’s most capped players of all time, Rat is a highly reliable Right Back who is now plying his trade in Spain with La Liga side Real Vallecano. West Ham fans may remember him from his loan spell at Upton Park in 2014.

One to watch:
Gabriel Torje

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Once dubbed “the Romanian Alexis Sanchez” by fans of Serie A outfit Udinese, winger Torje was destined for big things, having been named Romanian Footballer of the Year in 2011. Since then his career has filtered a little having been loaned out in the past four season by Udinese, but nevertheless, the 26 year old is considered to be a key player for his country and tends to orchestrate their attacks.

Wonderkid:
Florin Andone

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An Impressive 22 goals in 49 games for his club, Cordoba, who play in the second division of Spanish football, has seen 22 year old Andone called up to the national side. So far he’s earned himself 5 caps, scoring once, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be looking to add to that in France.

Switzerland
Captain:
Stephan Lichtsteiner

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Having been a vital part of Serie A giants Juventus’ team for quite some time now, it seems Lichtsteiner is just as important for Switzerland too, having captained them through their Euro qualifying campaign. Deployed as a Right Back, he’s just as good at attacking as he is at defending.

One to watch:
Granit Xhaka

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Having recently completed a £30 million summer move to Arsenal, Xhaka, a defensive midfielder, will be looking to prove his worth at the tournament in France. He’s a player who can cut up the opposition’s attack with his excellent interceptions and also start an attack for Switzerland with a key pass of his own. Held in high regard by many, keep an eye on him this summer as he could be a key player in the Premier League next season.

Wonderkid:
Breel Embolo

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Tearing it up in the Swiss league for Basel, the 18 year old is one of the hottest young prospects in Europe right now. He has been compared to Chelsea legend Didier Drogba due to his physical stature, aerial presence, wicked turn of pace and great finishing. He’s one for the future for sure!

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GROUP B:

England
Captain:
Wayne Rooney

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Some England fans don’t even want to see Rooney at the Euro’s thanks to the rise of Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane, but in recent big tournaments he has always proved to be a key player for the Three Lions. Whether Hodgson will keep him as captain or even play him at all, remains to be seen but one things for sure, he can be a game changer!

One to watch:
Harry Kane

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The Premier Leagues top scorer and a constant menace in front of goal, the Tottenham striker has been on red hot form all season long and will be looking to continue his hot streak for his country.

Wonderkid:
Dele Alli

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The Central Midfielder was recently voted “Young player of the year” at the PFA awards and has broken onto the scene in spectacular fashion this season. His talent has shone through for the national team too in fine performances against France and Germany in friendly matches. Expect a lot from him in France this summer!

Russia
Captain:
Roman Shirokov

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A tough tackling Midfielder who always gives his all out on the field, Shirokov will be spearheading Russia’s attempts to get out of a rather tough group. Slovakia, Wales and Russia are all fairly equal in terms of quality, and the captain will be trying his best to make them see that they have a decent chance of getting out of the group. His playmaking abilities could be the difference for the Russians this summer.

One to watch:
Aleksandr Kokorin

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Easily the most dangerous man in the squad in terms of getting the goals, Kokorin is a tall, strong Striker who has a great scoring record in the Russian League as well as for the national side. Currently playing for Dynamo Moscow, he’s the target man for the Russian’s and if anyone’s going to score for them it will most likely be him.

Wonderkid:
Aleksandr Golovin

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Not many wonderkids seem to be coming through the ranks of Russia at the moment, but Golovin looks like he has the potential to be a decent player. Small and quick, he makes the perfect winger who can whip in the crosses for the likes of Kokorin at the Euro’s.

Slovakia
Captain:
Martin Skrtel

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No stranger to fans of the Premier League, Skrtel is a tough nut of a Center Back who has captained his country for several years now. He’s a no nonsense defender who is great in the air and is never afraid of a challenge. Slovakia know that they’re up against it in group B, but with Skrtel leading the back four, they’re bound to be quite solid in Defence.

One to watch:
Marek Hamsik

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Arguably one of the best players in recent memory to not play at a major tournament, Hamsik who plays his club football for Napoli in Serie A is a fans favourite for both club and country. A Central Midfielder, recognised by many for rocking his bonkers Mohawk, he is a game changer who’s vision, precise passing and box to box running may just come in handy for Slovakia. Oh and his long range strike in their 3-1 win over Germany recently was world class!

Wonderkid:
Ondrej Duda

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In truth, there aren’t many “young” players in the Slovakia squad so this wasn’t really a choice!
21 year old winger Duda plays for Legia Warszawa in the Polish Ekstrakalsa league and has so far earned himself 7 caps for his country, scoring once, although you never know, he may just perform well for the Slovak’s on the big stage.

Wales:
Captain:
Ashley Williams

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Wales only conceded five goals on their way to qualifying for the Euro’s and Williams was a big part of that Impressive record. A Defensive wall, he organises his fellow defenders well and is now considered by many to be one of the best Premier League defenders whilst playing for Swansea. If Wales are to qualify from Group B, then Williams and co. will have to be at their very best defensively.

One to watch:
Gareth Bale

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Easily Wales’ best player, Bale scored 8 of Wales’ 12 goals in qualifying and when he’s in form, so is the rest of the team. For Wales he is often deputised as a striker (due to their lack of clinical finishers) and he’ll be looking to be a cult hero and guide his team to a rather unlikely victory over their English rivals this summer. Attacking wise he’ll be expected to be one of the biggest threats at the Euro’s.

Wonderkid:
Tom Lawrence

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Lawrence burst onto the international scene during Wales’ final Euro qualifying campaign match against Andorra in October 2015 and has been a regular feature since.
Currently playing for Premier League champions Leicester (although he spent last season on loan at Cardiff City and thus missed out on a medal!) Lawrence is a winger/striker who is great at running forward with the ball and so don’t be surprised to see him start games for Wales in France.

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