Euro 2016: who to look out for. Groups C and D

Part two of AFEfootballnews’ Euro focus takes a look at the stars of groups C and D …

GROUP C:

Germany
Captain:
Bastian Schweinsteiger

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Despite being somewhat of an injury prone flop in his first season at Manchester United, Schweinsteiger is still considered valuable to his country, even being handed the leading role in the squad.
There’s no doubting that he’s experienced, having played at 4 World Cups and heading for his fourth European tournament, so his leadership could prove vital for Germany’s hopes of success this summer.

One to watch:
Mesut Özil

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Arsenal’s player of the season ended the Premier League campaign with an astounding 19 assists and there’s no doubt that he’ll be Germany’s main creative man in midfield this summer.
If the 2015/16 season is anything to go by, then put your money on Özil earning a place in the “team of the tournament” come July.

Wonderkid:
Leroy Sané

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The Schalke winger is tipped for big things, having been linked with several big money moves to Premier League clubs recently. Quick and a great dribbler of the ball, he could add something different to his country’s attack in France.

Poland
Captain:
Robert Lewandowski

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The Bayern Munich hitman is the main man for his country in terms of goalscoring and this year he’ll be wearing the captain’s armband too. Deadly from almost anywhere, Lewa strikes fear into the hearts of many defenders nowadays.

One to watch:
Grzegorz Krychowiak

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The engine of this Polish side, defensive midfielder Krychowiak just never stops running after the ball, always looking for ways to win the ball back and start another attack for his team. After recently winning the Europa League with Sevilla, he’ll be looking to guide his country to great things at the Euro’s.

Wonderkid:
Arkadiusz Milik

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Seen as Lewandowski’s apprentice, Milik has an impressive goal record, scoring 21 in 31 appearances for Ajax since joining in 2015 and 10 in 24 appearances for his country. If he’s given the chance, either as a partner for Lewandowski or off the bench, he may just surprise a few!

Northern Ireland
Captain:
Steven Davis

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A bit of a hero in the eyes of the Northern Irish fans, Davis is now a veteran of the game. After cementing his place in the heart of Southampton’s midfield a few seasons ago, he’s really proved to be vital, both as a creator and a goal scorer. His experience is pivotal for his country.

One to watch:
Kyle Lafferty

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Never really settled down at any club (having played for 8 in his career), but for Northern Ireland, 28 year old striker Lafferty has always played a huge role. 17 goals in 50 appearances is a decent tally and his goals in their qualifying camping saw Northern Ireland qualify for their first ever European Championship.

Wonderkid:
Paddy McNair

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The Manchester United center back has had a mixed season, as he probably hasn’t made as many appearances as he’d have like to for the club, but he may just be given a starting place at the Euro’s.
Confident on the ball, he has the makings of a great defender, he just needs to be given game time to grow into his potential self.

Ukraine
Captain:
Anatoliy Tymoshchuk

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He may look like Robbie Savage, but in truth, this man is a Ukrainian footballing legend.
Now at the ripe old age of 37, there’s no doubting that this will be his last major tournament. Tymoshchuk has made 142 appearances for his country, and in December of 2011, he was named the best footballer in the history of Ukraine, ahead of the mighty Andriy Shevchenko. If anyone has the experience of playing internationally, its this man!

One to watch:
Yehven Konoplyanka

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Like Krychowiak of Poland, winger Konoplyanka recently lifted the Europa League trophy with Sevilla and he is definitely his country’s biggest threat in terms of attacking the opposition’s goal. A creator, as well as a goal scorer, he’ll be the difference for Ukraine.

Wonderkid:
Viktor Kovalenko

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A 19 year old attacking midfielder, Kovalenko plays his club football for Shaktar Donetsk in his homeland and big things are expected from him. The fact that he’s been selected for a big tournament at such a young age gives you some idea of just how highly Ukraine rate him already.

GROUP D:

Croatia
Captain:
Darijo Srna

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Right back Srna made his international debut in November 2002 and in 2009, he became captain.
By now, he is the most capped player in the history of the Croatian national team, and has represented his country in the 2006 and 2014 FIFA World Cup tournaments, as well as UEFA Euro 2004, 2008, 2012 and is now heading for France this summer, hoping to lead a decent looking Croatia side on to great things.

One to watch:
Mario Mandzukic

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The Juventus striker has been Croatia’s main man up front for many years now, and is deadly in the air as well as in the box, if anyone’s going to be on the end of Modric and Rakitic’s through balls then it’ll be Mandzukic.

Wonderkid:
Alen Halilovic

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This kid is a real talent. Dubbed the “next Luka Modric” (not just for the long blonde hair!), Halilovic was snapped up by Barcelona at a young age and looks like he could definitely play for the first team in the future. A central midfielder with great vision and passing, he looks like being a world class player as he matures within the game.

Czech Republic
Captain:
Petr Cech

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The Premier League’s “Golden Glove” award winner had a brilliant debut season in goal for Arsenal during 2015/16 and will be looking to organise his defence just as well at this summer.
One of the most experienced players within the Czech squad, Cech has made 120 appearances for his country so far and has been there first choice keeper for over a decade now.

One to watch:
Vladimir Darida

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A creative spark in midfield, Darida now plies his club football trade for Hertha Berlin in Bundesliga, having previously been at Freiburg. He has 33 appearances so far and will most likely add to that number this summer as he’ll most likely partner Rosicky in central midfield.

Golden Oldie:
Tomas Rosicky

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Having just announced that he’ll be leaving Arsenal after a decade at the club, “Rozza” will now be looking to impress at the Euro’s in order to find a new club at next season. At 34 years old, he brings the experience to a midfield of a country that so badly needs it, and despite his injury hampered career, he’s always pulled through for the Czech’s.

Spain
Captain:
Iker Casillas

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Although he’s now at Porto after leaving Real Madrid last year, Casillas is still preferred in goal ahead of the formidable David De Gea and is one of the most experienced players in this new look Spanish squad. With the likes of Alonso, Xavi and Torres being left out of the squad, Casillas’ is the golden oldie that the younger players can turn to for leadership.

One to watch:
Alvaro Morata

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Having left out Torres, Costa, Alcacer and Rodrigo, Spain will have to turn to Juventus striker Morata for the goals. Having been linked with Arsenal for months, there’s no doubting that Morata is a decent finisher of the ball and may just be a dark horse when it comes to being a contender for the Euro’s top scorer award.

Golden Oldie:
Aritz Aduriz

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Imagine going to your first major tournament at 35 years old!
Aduriz is a goal machine who plays for Athletic Bilbao, and despite only having 5 international caps to his name, he’s shown no signs of slowing down, that’s why he’s been picked for his national side ahead of much younger players. Scoring goals for fun in La Liga last season, Aduriz may just surprise many!

Turkey
Captain:
Arda Turan

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Having not featured much for Barcelona (due to their transfer ban in the first half of the 2015/16 season) since his move from Athletic Madrid, Turan will be out to prove that he’s still a world class player. For Turkey he’s arguably the most important player in the team, as he’s the one who orchestrates their attacks, and scores goals as well as assisting.
Point to prove, so watch out for him in France!

One to watch:
Oguzhan Özyakup

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Formerly of Arsenal, the central midfielder now plays for Besiktas in the Turkish league and like Turan, he’s instrumental in creating chances for his team. He’s part of what’s arguably the strongest looking Turkish midfield in recent history and he and his team mates will be looking to guide his nation through what looks like being a fairly tough group.

Wonderkid:
Hakan Çalhanoglu

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Another member of Turkey’s decent midfield, Çalhanoglu is a free kick expert, regarded by many as the best set piece taker in the world (seriously, take a look at his goals for Bayer Leverkusen on YouTube!).
The 22 year old is yet another creative player who’ll be looking to run the show for the Turks.

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