If one year summed up the highs and lows of Portuguese football, it was most definitely 2004. It was one for the underdog, an anomaly in many ways, going against the grain. That theme was both a blessing and a curse in an Iberian country that has punched above its weight for a very long time now.

The best way to demonstrate Portugal’s overachievement is by looking at the size of the country. Dwarfed in terms of land by neighbouring Spain, with a population of around 10 million people, they have been able to maintain a reputation as an elite side in Europe and across the world, with so many of their alumni enjoying legendary status within the beautiful game.

Twelve years ago, they showed their powers of fighting against more illustrious company on the club scene, and failing embarrassingly as the favourites internationally. At the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto stormed to victory in one of the most one-sided Champions League finals ever against Monaco. It was also one of the most surprising, because where AC Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United had all failed, Mourinho’s charges had succeeded, typically ruthless in their execution and embodying the image of their charismatic coach, who had announced himself to the watching world.

Just a month later, Portugal went into the European Championships under a wave of high expectation. Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari, fresh from leading his native country to the 2002 World Cup, was in charge, and with the competition set to commence in their own back yard amidst a backdrop of new and modern stadia, a first major trophy in their history was more than a possibility.

It made quite a change from the freedom Porto enjoyed on their run to a second major European title in as many years, having lifted the UEFA Cup in 2003. Pressure and expectation on a country that size could be construed as a little over the top, but Portugal were no strangers to excelling as a footballing nation despite the lack of titles, thanks to the plethora of hugely talented individuals produced over the years.

Immediately, when thinking back to that list, the name of Eusebio is mentioned. A striker with pace to burn and a devastating eye for goal in his heyday of the 1960s and 70s, the Mozambique-born icon led Benfica to the European Cup in 1962, not to mention eleven Primeira Liga titles.

On the international stage, the best he could muster was third place at the 1966 World Cup. But he set a precedent, and the squad of players at Scolari’s disposal was arguably stronger, dubbed the ‘golden generation’ by many. One that should have won something, but as is so often proven, football doesn’t work that way.

Luis Figo led this particular group; by now he was an old head who had demonstrated that he was perhaps the natural heir to Eusebio’s throne. What excited most was the opportunity to go one further, and the perfect mix of youth and experience gave balance to the squad. Deco, Porto’s main instigator, Manuel Rui Costa and an 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, the other man now worth mentioning in that Eusebio argument, were primed and ready.

Squads being assembled to make assaults on the international scene are nothing new, it happened before Portugal and has happened after, but there is always a tinge of sadness when it doesn’t quite reach it’s full potential. There is only a finite opportunity to do so with tournaments only coming round every two years.

Euro 2004 took the same route as that preceding Champions League campaign. Many of the perceived favourites flattered to deceive, with France dropping out at the quarterfinals along with England, and Spain, Italy and Germany falling at the group stages. The Seleccao were perhaps the only elite team to show up, allowing Czech Republic and eventual winners Greece to steal the limelight.

Defeat in the final left Scolari’s men embarrassed, frustrated and licking their wounds, squandering their best chance at silverware yet. It was only the mid-point of the most fruitful era in their history, but Figo was almost 32 and Rui Costa had turned that a few months earlier, their time was coming to an end. Four years earlier, they reached the semi finals in Belgium and Holland, the same stage they went home at two years later at Germany’s World Cup.

Rui Costa’s departure after the tournament perhaps allowed Deco and Ronaldo to shine, but no matter what was achieved later, not winning their own tournament with a squad at the height of its powers will always sting for Portugal.

Reputations may have been built further had they prevailed, too. In the case of Rui Costa, a great in his own right with Benfica, Fiorentina and Milan, memories have faded, more so than his career deserved. Nicknamed ‘il maestro’ in Italy, he was a victim of the team’s strength, failing to stand out as much as he should, never truly making his stamp.

As that squad separated, Portugal have maintained their aura in the game, but struggled to replicate performance overall. Ronaldo is now 31 and has carried the team as a leader in a way few can. His chapter is now closing, and young talent is emerging, but the romantic idea of that ‘golden generation’ relies on nothing but memories.

But that is what makes football great, the inability to predict what will happen. At their lowest ebb this summer, Portugal were finally able to break their duck by winning the European Championships in France. In the final, against the more superior hosts, they were able to exorcise their demons from that night against Greece by turning the tables. Victory was snatched in unlikely fashion, thanks to an extra time goal by Eder, a failed Premier League striker in the right place at the right time.

The legacies of Deco, Rui Costa and Figo will always be great, but that remarkable team will always have a question mark etched on it, showing Portugal are better suited as underdogs. Football doesn’t always follow the script.

About the author – Harry De Cosemo

Harry is a European football writer specialising in English, Spanish and Italian football. He has worked for a number of top publications including MARCA in English, uMAXit football, FourFourTwo and The Press Association.

twitter: @harrydecosemo


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This time last year Adam Nagy hadn’t made a senior appearance for club or country. Roll on twelve months and he’s now a key member of the Hungarian side that impressed during the group stages of Euro 2016. This was evident in Hungary’s last group game against Portugal. Bernd Storck decided not to risk him as he was carrying a yellow card and faced suspension for the last sixteen tie against Belgium.

His impressive performances in midfield caught the eye at the Euros were he played as a deep-lying midfielder in front of the defence. Nagy comes from a fustal background and his technical ability, intelligence and reading of the game makes this an ideal role for him. Even though he is predominantly right footed, he is also comfortable using his left foot and is developing a reputation for being two-footed.

Those that have been following his progress since he made his debut for Hungarian giants Ferencváros in July 2015 won’t be surprised that he’s suddenly shot to prominence. After all Bernd Storck gave him his debut for Hungary only 43 days after making his club debut. This didn’t come in a friendly game but a key Euro 2016 qualifier against Northern Ireland.

Since making his debut for Hungary he hasn’t looked back as he’s cemented his place in the team. In a crucial Euro 2016 play-off against Norway, Nagy put in a man of the match performance which many observers have said was his coming-of-age game. This led to the Hungarian media claiming that he’s one of the best young talents the country has produced since the Mighty Magyars of the 1950s.

Before Euro 2016 it was reported that Marseille had reached an agreement with the player but Ferencváros wanted to hold off any potential transfer until after the tournament because they wanted to see if they could drum up more interest in his services. It seems like they made the right decision because his value has now soared. Southampton and Benfica have now entered the equation and it looks like one of Hungary’s best players will be playing in a top European league for the 2016/17 season.





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Italy delivered the first truly stunning performance of Euro 2016, upsetting the odds to secure a well-worked 2-0 victory over Belgium on Group E’s opening night. Few, including Italian pundits and fans, saw the result coming. Antonio Conte had selected an ageing squad with little by way of star names but, despite widespread criticism of his squad choices, his tactics were perfect.

He then led the Azzurri to another win, this time over Sweden in their second game, to ensure progress as group winners. A much changed team lost to Ireland in the final group game. The Azzurri then outclassed Spain in the last sixteen before losing to World Champions Germany on penalties.

Italy’s performance in this summer’s championships has been better than expected, Conte is no longer the national team head coach; now that Italy’s tournament is over, he will move to London to take charge of Chelsea. His replacement will be Giampiero Ventura.

The 68-year-old’s name is not one that many outside of Italy will recognise, but he is hugely experienced and highly thought of in his home country. In short, there are plenty of reasons for the Azzurri to be excited about the future under Ventura’s auspices.

Tactical continuity in the post-Conte era

Perhaps the primary positive regarding Ventura’s appointment is that he is likely to build on a number of the tactical themes laid down by Conte. This is because the two coaches, whilst having vastly different levels of experience, are of a similar mindset.

Ventura, like Conte, is flexible when it comes to the basic shape he opts to utilise, something former Azzurri boss Cesare Prandelli commented on last October in an interview with Calciomercato, saying: “I love those coaches who can adapt their principles to the qualities of the players they have at their disposal, and it’s why I believe that the best coach in Italy today is Giampiero Ventura.”

Ventura also has similar preferences to the incumbent Italy coach; both men have experimented with a rather unique 4-2-4 shape in the past, but have settled more recently on the 3-5-2. This is the system in which Italy have operated at Euro 2016, and it is the system Ventura has used to good effect with Torino in the past three seasons.

He has organised the Granata side to circulate the ball effectively in the build-up between the three defenders and one defensive midfielder, while the outer central midfielders push up to support attacks as well as to apply pressure to opposition full-backs. The two wing-backs have often included one on the opposite side to their favoured foot, allowing them to drive inward and create overloads, while up front Ventura has tended to opt for one physical centre forward to lead the line, while another striker whirs behind and beyond.

This setup is extremely similar to that which Conte has used with Italy this summer. Consequently, the players should be well versed in Ventura’s principal tactical layout when he takes charge later this year.

Azzurri’s exciting future

One aspect of Ventura’s management that will particularly excite Italian football fans is his proclivity for blooding young players and giving opportunities to the untested. With Torino he was responsible for rejuvenating the careers of Matteo Darmian, Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile, all of whom went on to earn call-ups to the Azzurri and moves to Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund respectively.

He also worked wonders to turn around Kamil Glik’s fortunes; the Pole led his country’s defensive line expertly at Euro 2016. Additionally, the likes of Davide Zappacosta and Marco Benassi earned call-ups to Italy’s pre-Euro training camp having developed under Ventura’s tutelage.

This faith in youngsters and undervalued players is something that should allow the former Torino coach to instigate a change in Italy’s selection policy. While Conte has been conservative with his call-ups, Ventura may begin to mine the Azzurri’s youthful riches that Conte claims do not exist.

That talent pool includes 17-year-old Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, 21-year-old centre-backs Daniele Rugani and Alessio Romagnoli, 24-year-old regista Jorginho and 21-year-old forward Domenico Berardi, among others.

How Ventura’s Italy might line up at the 2018 World Cup

With such promise at his disposal, it is enticing to consider who may start for Italy should they qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia under Ventura’s guidance. He is known for his adaptability, which means that, while the 3-5-2 is popular right now, he could be open to changing that in order to maximise the qualities of his players.

Conte has occasionally opted for a 4-3-3 shape during his stint in charge and Ventura would be wise to do the same; this system allows Italy to make use of the high quantity of good wingers and inside forwards available at present.

38-year-old goalkeeping icon Gianluigi Buffon has confirmed that he will retire after the 2018 World Cup, meaning he is likely to keep his place between the sticks. In front of him, time is running out for the 35-year-old Andrea Barzagli and 32-year-old Giorgio Chiellini, though the latter could continue his partnership with Leonardo Bonucci going forward, with Rugani and Romagnoli as able deputies.

Alessandro Florenzi is, at 25 years old, maturing into a fine attack-minded full-back. His energy, tenacity and crossing capability make him a good long-term option for the right-back spot, though he will face competition from Darmian, who is only one year older. The Manchester United man could also compete for the left-back berth, though Bologna’s 22-year-old Adam Masina has shown real potential in this position.

Marco Verratti may have missed out on Euro 2016 through injury but at 23 he remains integral to his country’s footballing future, while Claudio Marchisio, still only 30, can also play a part going forward. Jorginho can be the deep-lying playmaker Italy are in need of as Andrea Pirlo settles into his late-30s, perhaps entertaining thoughts of retirement, while Benassi and Juventus’ Stefano Sturaro could inject dynamism in midfield.

On either side of the front three, Ventura will have a wealth of options to pick from, including Berardi, Federico Bernardeschi, Lorenzo Insigne, Stephan El Shaarawy and Giacomo Bonaventura. All are under the age of 26. And, up front, he may choose to call on Andrea Belotti, with the 22-year-old showing mobility, positional awareness and improved finishing in his debut season with Torino.

On the back of some good opening displays at Euro 2016, Italy’s present situation is good. But, with Ventura in charge and a talented crop of young stars making their way through the ranks, the future could be exceptional.

About the author – Blair Newman

Blair is a freelance football writer with experience of working for some well known publications, including FourFourTwo, Squawka and Bleacher Report. His main passions are Italian football and football tactics, and he also takes a keen interest in major European leagues and international football in general.

twitter: @TheBlairNewman


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Irish Passion

Roy Keane’s impassioned plea appeared to work it’s magic in stoking the fires in his player’s bellies. A performance full of desire and unwavering commitment saw Ireland set up a date against the heavily favoured home nation of France.

In a tense final 10 minutes, Martin O’Neills side could have been forgiven for thinking they had blown their chances when Wes Hoolahan went clean through only to tamely pass the ball into the goalkeeper’s arms. However he made up for it a few minutes later by supplying a sublime cross onto the head of Robbie Brady who directed the ball into the back of the Italian goal.

Cue wild celebrations from the Irish supporters, who may I add seem to have lifted the whole spirit in France, particularly in light of the behavior shown from some of the other nations fans. They have gone from serenading a French woman to singing lullabies to a baby on a crowded train. As one bar owner in Paris put it , “Paris has been Morose since last year’s attacks. It does us good to see such happy people”.

What makes their performance even more impressive, was the fact that they were able pick themselves up from the 3-0 drubbing they suffered at the hands of Belgium. Many teams would have wilted under the pressure, particularly coming up against a team like Italy who had already demonstrated their tournament credentials by winning their two opening fixtures without conceding a goal.

The fact that hard man Keane was almost reduced to tears shows just how big a result this was for Ireland. However he did get his act together when he celebrated by strangling the goalscoring hero Robbie Brady.

On paper, the fixture against France looks like a mismatch, particularly when they can showcase talents like Pogba, Griezmann, Payet, Martial and Coman, to name but a few. However you won’t see a team perform with more passion than the Irish. And as the old saying goes, if they get a bit of ‘the luck of the Irish’ then who knows what could happen.

It’s onwards and upwards now for Ireland. Let just hope that last night’s heroics hasn’t taken too much out of the team and that they can produce a similar level performance against France at the stade des lumières in Lyon next Sunday.

About the author – Kevin Kirwan

Kevin has been playing Soccer Manager Worlds for 10 years and has an keen interest in the Premier League. He supports Manchester United and hopes that Mourinho can bring the glory days back to Old Trafford.



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If you’re good enough, you’re old enough – a cliché that feels as though it has been around as long as association football itself. But regardless of how tired a refrain it can sometimes sound, the adage holds true because it is rooted in the essence of the game.

One of the most uplifting spectacles of the game we love is when a young player is given an opportunity, and grasps it with both hands.

The international stage has long been home to such stories; from a 17-year-old Pelé who stole the show at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, through to Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo in Euro 2004 – when the eyes of the world are watching, the fearlessness of youth comes to the fore.

And in France this month, the UEFA European Championship could be host to another, if not several more, of these fairytale rises, particularly as there is a handful of youthful prospects who are considered surprise inclusions in their nation’s squad.

Marcus Rashford (England)

England’s Marcus Rashford is one such case. The 18-year-old Manchester United striker has enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom. Having only made his professional debut in February, England manager Roy Hodgson had previously stated that he would not be considering the inexperienced youngster.

But Rashford just kept doing what he does: influencing high-stakes games with crucial goals and masterful performances. And after a virtuoso display in May’s FA Cup final, Hodgson could no longer deny Rashford, and pencilled the teenager into his provisional Euros squad. A debut international goal in a friendly against Australia effectively assured the United man of his place in the final selection.

Emre Mor (Turkey)

Although born in Denmark and having played in the Danish under-19 side, 18-year-old winger Emre Mor has elected to represent Turkey at full international level.

Mor made his professional debut in November 2015 and, despite playing on 13 times at senior level last season, has recently been snapped up by Borussia Dortmund. So impressive has the tricky wideman been in his fledgling carer that he was included in Turkey’s Euro 2016 squad, and has already featured in two preparatory friendlies.

Though unlikely to start due to Turkey’s abundance of quality attacking midfielders, Mor has shown his readiness to contribute at the highest level, and will not be overawed if given the chance to show what he can do.

Oleksandr Zinchenko (Ukraine)

Oleksandr Zinchenko made his Ukraine debut against reigning European Champions Spain in October 2015, and in his second international appearance, the 19-year-old attacking midfielder became his country’s youngest ever goal-scorer, breaking the record previously held by the legendary Andriy Shevchenko.

The Ufa player is thought to be a target for Manchester City, as new boss Pep Guardiola overhauls his squad. But City will want to move quick to tie up a deal because Zinchenko’s star could be about to rise in France, and his price tag will follow suit.

Mariusz Stępiński (Poland)

Having represented Poland at every youth level – including playing a key role in his country’s run to the under-17 European Championship semi-final in 2012 – Mariusz Stępiński’s senior career did not take off as expected. The six-foot tall striker scored five goals in his two seasons at Widzew Łódź and, after being signed by Nurenburg and loaned out, only two in 25 appearances for Wisła Kraków.

But last season, after joining Ruch Chorzów, Stępiński came to life, scoring 15 goals and registering two assists in 36 appearances.

At Euro 2016, the 21-year-old will be deputy to Poland’s first-choice strikers Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik, and will be champing at the bit to show that he can translate his new-found club form into goals at international level.

Ante Ćorić (Croatia)

Many people were surprised to see that Barcelona’s teenage prodigy Alen Halilović was omitted from Croatia’s final squad for the Euros, especially following his impressive season on loan at Sporting Gijón in La Liga. But national team coach Ante Čačić opted to select a different 19-year-old in one of his attacking midfield berths.

Ante Ćorić was the man chosen, and not without good reason. The Dinamo Zagreb midfielder played 41 times last season, scoring five goals and assisting a further three. Despite his tender years, Ćorić has experience of playing at the highest level in the Champions League, so there will be no questions of his temperament at the Euros.

West Ham United are thought to be weighing up a £10 million offer for Ćorić, who, if given the chance to play alongside Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakiti in the Croatia midfield, will hope to prove himself deserving of such a price tag.

Milan Škriniar (Slovakia)

Sampdoria defender Milan Škriniar made his Slovakia debut against Georgia on 27 May this year,. Then, just three days later, Ján Kozák named the 21-year-old in his 23-man Euro 2016 squad.

Škriniar, a physically imposing centre-back, joined Sampdoria from Slovan Bratislava in January, and has only made three appearances for the Italian club. But with 77 appearances for Žilina in the Slovakian league already under his belt, as well as 14 under-21 caps, Kozák trusts Škriniar to add solidarity to his side’s back-line.

The expanded 24-team format of Euro 2016 has enabled nations who wouldn’t normally stand a chance of qualifying, to have their shot at tournament football.

And just as there will be lesser-established teams ruffling the feathers of their higher-level counterparts, there will also be a cast of young players, many of whom are far from household names, ready to snatch their chance at stardom.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications. Ryan’s musings on European football can be found here. 

twitter: @RyanBaldiEFB


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France have the chance to establish a new footballing dynasty with Euro 2016 victory

The 2016 UEFA European Championship will get underway when hosts France face Romania at Stade de France on Friday.

Didier Deschamps’ men are among the hot favourites to win this summer’s title and a quick look through Les Bleus’ squad illustrates why they are fancied by so many to claim their third continental crown on home soil.

The current French crop boasts the likes of Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, Juventus’ Paul Pogba, Paris Saint-Germain’s Blaise Matuidi, Manchester United’s Anthony Martial, West Ham United’s Dimitri Payet and Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris.

Deschamps’ group looks extremely balanced on paper. Added to the fact that they have been handed a favourable draw in Group A, France have the potential to go far in their own backyard.

The 47-year-old tactician’s squad already looks formidable but when you consider that Real Madrid pair Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho, Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma, Olympique Lyonnais duo Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir, as well as OGC Nice’s Hatem Ben Arfa are all missing, the hosts could be more formidable than they already are.

The crazy thing is that Les Bleus’ well of talent does not run dry there. In fact, if anything, that is only scratching the surface.

PSG pair Alphonse Areola and Adrien Rabiot, not to mention Borussia Dortmund’s teenage sensation Ousmane Dembele, Athletic Club’s Aymeric Laporte and Lyon’s Samuel Umtiti (who is actually in Deschamps’ Euro squad), are yet to make their senior debuts for the French senior side.

The likes of Inter Milan’s Geoffrey Kondogbia and Stade Rennais’ Paul-Georges Ntep only have a few caps to their name and the under-21 side is loaded with talents capable of making the step up to senior level in the near future.

France has an opportunity with this summer’s European Championship to establish a footballing dynasty that could last for many years.

If the hosts can hoist the Henri Delaunay trophy at Stade de France next month, there is a very good chance that we could see the same thing happen in Russia at Luzhniki Stadium in 2018, in England at Wembley in 2020 and perhaps even in Qatar at Lusail Iconic Stadium in 2022.

The likes of Griezmann, Pogba, Martial and Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman all should have at least three more major international tournaments left in them after Euro 2016, arguably more for the latter trio.

With so many top talents on the fringes of Deschamps’ squad or yet to be integrated into the senior setup at all, it is easy to see Les Bleus becoming the world and European order sometime in the next few years.

Germany may well win this summer’s tournament and add the European title to their world crown but France are the most likely side to wrest it away from them in the coming years, should that happen.

What Deschamps’ team needs now is experience; the experience of playing in big international tournaments like the Euro and the experience of going on deep run to the latter stages and possibly all the way.

Once the key younger members of this group have tasted that, the seed for future success will have been sown. All that will be left to do then is for Deschamps, or a similar figure, to harvest the glory that many of these phenomenally talented players are destined for.

The FIFA under-20 World Cup success of 2013, featuring the likes of Pogba, Zouma, Areola, Umtiti, Kondogbia and Lucas Digne was a taste of what should lie ahead of many members of this emerging generation of talent.

What France need now is for some of those players to acquire the necessary experience so that the next wave of gifted footballers can be brought into the senior setup. Once that happens, once Les Bleus enjoy that initial success, they should become a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

This summer’s European Championship on home soil is the perfect opportunity to take that next step and Deschamps’ men could then realistically target World Cup success in Russia after that.

Even if ultimate success does not await the French at Stade de France in July, it surely will not elude them for much longer. One thing is for sure, the future is bright and the future is Bleu.

About the author – Jonathan Johnson

Ligue 1 and French football journalist. Covering PSG in English. Work is published regularly on @EPSNFC,@br_uk, @YahooSportUK and @beINSPORTUSA.

twitter: @Jon_LeGossip


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Serie A has, in recent times, become an increasingly multinational league. For the first time in the league’s history, the 2015-16 season saw a match without Italian players in the starting lineups when Inter Milan took on Udinese in April. It comes as no surprise then that, despite the growth of this summer’s European Championships to accommodate 24 teams, over half of the nations involved will feature a player based in Italy.

Here we take a look at six Serie A players who are set to break out on the international stage for the first time at Euro 2016.

Federico Bernardeschi (Italy)

For the first six months of last season, Fiorentina were not only one of the most aesthetically pleasing teams to watch in Serie A, but were considered contenders for the Scudetto. Under Paulo Sousa’s auspices the Viola played beautiful passing football based on strong combination play and, while their title hopes ultimately proved optimistic, hope for the future was ensured through the individual displays of Federico Bernardeschi.

The 22-year-old showcased extraordinary tactical intelligence and versatility, playing in attacking midfield, on the wing and at both left and right wing-back, all while dazzling with his flitting dribbling skills. A fluid runner on the ball with a refined left foot, Bernardeschi made his Italy debut earlier this year and, in an Azzurri side bereft of top class strike options, his cutting movement and creativity could prove crucial to unlocking opposition defences.

Oscar Hiljemark (Sweden)

After failing to make much of an impact in Dutch football with PSV Eindhoven, Oscar Hiljemark joined Sicilian side Palermo for the relatively small fee of £1.88 million last summer. He arrived having just captained Sweden to 2015 European Under-21 Championship victory and wasted no time establishing himself with the Rosanero.

The 23-year-old central midfielder showed a good engine and a willingness to drive forward and support attacks, scoring four goals and assisting five while appearing in every single one of Palermo’s 38 Serie A fixtures. That form prompted Sweden manager Erik Hamren to recall the player into the national team fold, where he has retained his place for Euro 2016. In a team that relies heavily on Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s link-up play, Hiljemark’s runs behind opposition lines could come in handy.

Elseid Hysaj (Albania)

It’s fair to say that most spectators expect Albania to be one of this summer’s primary whipping boys, with Gianni De Biasi’s side drawn in a tough group alongside hosts France, as well as Switzerland and Romania. However, the quality of the Albanian squad is not to be dismissed out of hand; they have some highly gifted players in their ranks, and Elseid Hysaj is arguably the best of the lot.

The 22-year-old arrived at Napoli last summer as he followed coach Maurizio Sarri from Empoli. And, early in the campaign, it became clear that he would be occupying the team’s right-back position ahead of the more experienced Cristian Maggio. A solid defensive full-back and a direct runner in the attacking phase, Hysaj has since emerged as one of the best young players in the league, and his performances this summer could go a long way to deciding whether Albania’s defence holds up to the rigorous scrutiny of a major international finals.

Ciprian Tatarusanu (Romania)

When Norberto Neto departed for Juventus last summer, Fiorentina already had a more than adequate goalkeeping replacement lined up in Ciprian Tatarusanu. The towering 6’6” Romanian had alternated with Neto the previous season and took no time adjusting to being a first team regular in 2015-16. With good reactions and strong shot-stopping combined with a composed presence on the ball, he was a perfect fit for Paulo Sousa’s style of play, building out from the back.

The 30-year-old has never been to an international tournament before, but he is integral to Romania’s chances of surprising at Euro 2016; he kept seven clean sheets in qualification and was named his country’s footballer of the year in 2015. Building on a good season at club level, Tatarusanu could use this summer as a stepping stone to bigger things late in his career.

Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia)

Sassuolo’s sixth-place Serie A finish and subsequent qualification for next season’s Europa League was one of the main storylines in a thrilling 2015-16 campaign, and Sime Vrsaljko was one of the main protagonists in its development. The Croatian right-back was in superb form for the Neroverdi, encompassing all that is expected of the modern full-back.

Wearing his team’s number 11 shirt, his attacking surges, overlapping and underlapping, dribbling and crossing were key components in Sassuolo’s attacking play, and as a result the likes of Napoli and Liverpool have been linked with the 24-year-old. With captain Darijo Srna set to start at right-back for Croatia this summer, Vrsaljko will have to bide his time or take up the left-back role, but either way it’s hard to imagine him not making a mark on this summer’s tournament.

Piotr Zielinski (Poland)

After breaking into Udinese’s first team as a teenager several years ago, Piotr Zielinski seemed to struggle under the weight of expectation that comes with being a highly rated, and sought after, prospect. That was until the 2015-16 season, where he shone at Empoli under the watchful eye of Swiss coach Marco Giampaolo.

Playing on the right of a diamond midfield, the 22-year-old’s energy, dynamism and creativity were vital to his team’s ability to build good possession and progress the ball into attacking areas. His form with the Tuscan club deservedly led to a recall into the Poland national team who, under Adam Nawalka, qualified for Euro 2016 from a tough group featuring Germany, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland. The Poles are seen as one of the dark horses for this summer’s tournament, and Zielinski could be their breakout star.

About the author – Blair Newman

Blair a freelance football writer with experience of working for some well-known publications, including FourFourTwo, Squawka and Bleacher Report. His main passions are Italian football and football tactics, and he also takes a keen interest in the major European leagues and international football in general.

twitter: @TheBlairNewman


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With the domestic season coming to a close across Europe, attention and anticipation is beginning to turn to the upcoming European Championship in France.

The tournament, which takes place every four years, will commence on 10 June in the Stade de France, as the host nation take on Romania.

Didier Deschamps’s side are the current favourites to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy when the competition closes on 10 July. Other fancied teams include reigning champions Spain, World Cup winners Germany and the usual cast of established footballing nations like Italy, Belgium and England.

This year’s incarnation of the tournament will, for the first time, feature an expanded cast of 24 nations, opposed to the usual 16. This has meant that some countries who usually fall in the qualifying stage, will now be represented in the finals.

The greater number of teams means that there is added potential for some giant-killing upsets. And aside from the odd freak result that often occurs during knockout competitions, there are a few teams who could be considered dark horses, with the potential to go further than many would expect.


This Austria side is one built on solidity. Having qualified unbeaten (nine wins and one draw) and top of a group which included Russia, Sweden and Montenegro, Marcel Koller’s men conceded only three goals.

Despite still being only 23-years-old, Bayern Munich player David Alaba has already amassed 42 caps for the Austrian national side. The Vienna-born star is undoubtedly Austria’s key man. Despite playing as a left-back with his club – and being perhaps the best player in the world in that position – Koller has utilised Alaba in the centre of midfield. This has proven to be a shrewd move, as Alaba possesses all of the requisite technical ability to operate as a midfielder, and his energy and experience has driven Austria to Euro 2016 qualification.

Ahead of Alaba, the main creative force of Koller’s side is Werder Bremen playmaker Zlatko Junuzović. The 28-year-old former Austria Wien player acts as the main supply-line to FC Basel forward Marko Janko, who was his nation’s top scorer in qualifying with seven goals.

Austria’s Group F opponents Portugal, Iceland and Hungary should provide little resistance to their progression to the knockout stages, at which point they will be a side no one will relish facing.


Chris Coleman’s Wales side is designed with the express intention of squeezing every last drop of productivity from their star man, Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale.

Although the Welsh Dragons can rely on the likes of Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and Swansea City’s Ashley Williams to add quality and experience, Bale is their not-so-secret weapon.

The 26-year-old former Tottenham Hotspur player, since progressing from left-back in his early career, has largely been a winger at club level for some time now. But Coleman has constructed a system which gives Bale licence to roam, finding space and causing damage wherever he sees fit.

And the move has been an unqualified success, as Bale netted seven goals during qualification to fire Wales to their first major tournament since 1958.

In their group, Wales will face off against England Russia and Slovakia. Despite having the competitions fourth favourites England to contend with, this Welsh side, powered by the irrepressible Bale, will fancy their chances.


Poland boast the top scorer through all of qualification among their ranks, and arguably the deadliest marksman on the planet. Bayern Munich’s 27-year-old striker Robert Lewandowski is set to take the European Championship by storm this summer, coming off the back of the most productive season of his career.

The former Borussia Dortmund striker has (at the time of writing) scored 41 times in 49 games this season. Lewandowski is the complete striker: he’s fast, moves intelligently, heads well, can sniff out tap-ins and score from any angle.

Backed up by the likes of Dortmund pair Jakub Błaszczykowski (who spent this season on loan at Fiorentina), Łukasz Piszczek and Sevilla’s sought after defensive midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak, Lewandowski can rely on a strong supporting cast.

Having progressed from what was widely considered the toughest of all the qualifying groups (their opponents included world champions Germany, Scotland and Ireland), Poland will be unafraid of their Group C rivals in the finals. They will again face Germany, as well as Northern Ireland and Ukraine. A difficult task, but with Bayern’s number 9 up front, Poland will be confident that they can score against anyone.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications. Ryan’s musings on European football can be found here.

twitter: @RyanBaldiEFB


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There were no huge surprises when Germany manager Joachim Löwe announced his 27-man provisional squad for this summer’s European Championship. The usual cast of superstars like Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer, and Borussia Dortmund’s departing captain Mats Hummels, were all included.

So too were some trusted members of Die Mannschaft’s 2014 World Cup winning side, such as Toni Kroos, Lucas Podolski and captain Bastian Schweinsteiger.

If eyebrows were raised at the exclusion of Dortmund left-back Marcel Schmelzer, they were soon followed by a resigned shrug, as Löwe has overlooked the BVB player for the best part of two years now, despite there being no other outstanding full-back candidate to justify his absence.

But, just to keep things interesting, there are a handful of young up-and-comers who, given the right platform, could launch themselves into the wider footballing conscience.

Julian Weigl, Joshua Kimmich and, in particular, exciting wingers Leroy Sané and Julian Brandt.

Despite only having one cap between them, Sané and Brandt have produced the kind of performances over the last Bundesliga season that Löwe simply couldn’t ignore.

Schalke 04’s Sané has drawn interest from both Manchester City and Manchester United, with City rumoured to be weighing up an offer in excess of £30m, as they hope to make the 20-year-old the first signing of the Pep Guardiola era at the Etihad.

Athletic pedigree runs in the family for Sané: his father is a former Senegalese international footballer, and his mother is a former German rhythmic gymnastics champion. So with those genes, a career in professional sport was never too much of a stretch for Sané junior.Playing predominantly on the right-wing – though also comfortable on the left, or centrally as a number 10 – Sané has been a key player for Schalke this season, making 42 appearances in all competitions, scoring nine times and registering seven assists.

In addition to being blessed with blistering pace and crowd-pleasing dribbling skills, Sané is also a confident finisher. Several times this season he has expertly manufactured a pocket of space for himself inside the opposition’s penalty area, and tucked away a neatly slotted effort. Although he only has one senior international cap to his name, Löwe clearly values Sané’s game-changing abilities, and should find room for him within the final 23-man Germany squad.

Despite having made more Bundesliga appearances than Sané (65 compared to the Schalke man’s 47), Brandt’s rise to prominence took a little longer. But as the season drew to a close, the Bayer Leverkusen youngster came into his own. Between 20 April and 30 May 2016, Brandt went on a run of scoring in six consecutive Bundesliga matches, becoming the first player to do so since Dieter Müller 42 years ago.

Perhaps not quite as quick across the ground as Sané, though by no means a slouch, Brandt’s major calling-card is his phenomenally quick feet. The 20-year-old is able to wriggle away from fastidious markers and move into space in a way that is not possible for the vast majority of players.

Typically deployed on the left-wing for Leverkusen, Brandt will regularly switch sides with right-winger – and fellow Euro 2016 Germany squad member – Karim Bellerabi. Brandt possesses an acute eye for a killer pass and, in recent months, has evidently developed his finishing to a level where, when presented with a scoring chance, a goal feels like a mere formality.

Having closed out the Bundesliga season with six goals and three assists from his final seven games, if selecting a squad on current form, Brandt would be assured to play a key part for his county at Euro 2016.

The fact remains that only 23 men will be making the trip to France in June, so four members of Löwe’s provisional 27-man squad will have to be cut. And one or both of Sané and Brandt could be among that unfortunate number, especially considering their inexperience at international level. But both young men have out-performed most of their more-senior peers this season, and are more than deserving of a place in the final squad.

With the eyes of Europe, if not the world, on the European Championship this summer, the stage is perfectly set for Sané and Brandt to elevate themselves to the status of the continent’s elite.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications. Ryan’s musings on European football can be found here. 

twitter: @RyanBaldiEFB



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Part 3 of Tom Curren’s “Predicting the Breakout Stars of Euro 2016” series, and he highlights three more players to watch. If you’ve not read Part 1 or Part 2 then we recommend reading them.

Aleksandr Golovin (Russia)

Russia are no strangers to showcasing talented youngsters at the European Championships; four years ago, a 21-year-old Alan Dzagoev lit up the big stage with a number of sparkling performances. Europe’s biggest clubs were all notified and subsequently linked with the attacking midfielder but, now 25, Dzagoev still plies his trade in his home country with CSKA Moscow – the club at which young Aleksandr Golovin is writing headlines.

At just 19, comparisons between Golovin and Dzagoev don’t end with just their clubs. They’re both midfielders (though Dzagoev is far more attack-focused) and the former, just as the latter did in 2012, has a fantastic chance to put himself on the transfer lists of the world’s biggest sides by performing in the European Championships.

Though he’s only very recently broken into the senior Russian side Golovin has already scored two goals for his country – one being a wonderful volley against Lithuania that followed a sublime piece of chest control – meaning he has forced himself into contention for a place on the plane to France. Very clearly a supremely talented technician, Golovin might well find himself starting in midfield as Russia look to circumnavigate a tricky group that includes England and Wales.

If he does perform well during the group stages, expect Golovin to receive prolonged media attention in England. However, it would probably be unwise to take any prospective Premier League links seriously at this point; like Dzagoev four years ago, Golovin is likely to remain in Moscow as he continues to develop.

Andrei Ivan (Romania)

It looks like Petr Cech won’t be the only scrum-capped player at this years European Championships; Romania’s flying teenager Andrea Ivan also wears the distinctive headgear, though that’s where the similarities between him and the big Czech goalkeeper end.

Ivan is one of Europe’s hottest properties despite his tender age of 19; the attacker has already been scouted heavily by Barcelona, and figures of up €4million are being discussed. It’s not a particular surprise that Ivan is interesting the Catalonian giants, as the tall forward possesses many qualities that are often discussed in relation to Barcelona and their famous La Masia academy. He’s quick, he’s great with the ball at his feet and he has more tricks up his sleeve than your average street magician – if he does arrive in France, expect fireworks.

Ivan is still very raw, which is reflected in his meagre three caps thus far. His final ball and decision making are questionable at times, and he probably doesn’t score enough goals for a player who’s supposed favourite position is centre-forward.

However, his unpredictable nature might be to his benefit as he looks to secure a place on the plane to France. As a smaller nation and one who find themselves in the host’s group, Romania might look to include an ‘x-factor’ in their squad; that’s something Ivan absolutely possesses, and his participation at the tournament would add a real sense of dynamism to a group that France are expected to breeze through with ease.

Jordan Lukaku (Belgium)

Yeah, you’ve heard that name before.

The brother of Everton’s Romelu Lukaku just might be the answer to Belgium’s recurring and damaging full-back problem; Red Devil’s boss Marc Wilmots has almost exclusively played centre-halves in Lukaku’s position for years, which has meant his side has lacked the explosiveness a true specialist brings to that role for a long time. Though Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld are all fine players, they all lack the dynamism, speed and skill that Lukaku offers.

The pressure on Belgium to perform at this tournament is far greater than many might expect – the so-called ‘golden generation’, which features some of Europe’s finest players, has so far underwhelmed – which is why Wilmots may be reluctant to play Romelu’s 21-year-old brother in France. That may well prove to be a mistake.

Though Jordan is a defender, there are shades of Romelu’s game in everything he does: in the way he powers past people, in the bag of tricks he often deploys to beat a man, in the speed at which he crosses the ground. Though Jordan has not yet made the leap to one of Europe’s biggest sides in the way Romelu did, he’s been biding his time, nurturing his talent wisely at Oostende, where he’s guaranteed to start.

This summer may well be the opportunity Jordan Lukaku needs to put himself in the shop window of the Premier League or beyond and, should Marc Wilmots take the plunge and start the flying full-back in place of one of his ageing centre-halves, expect the younger brother to perform.

About the author – Tom Curren

Writer & freelancer. Author & editor of scoutedfootball.com, a website dedicated to comprehensively profiling those whom the mainstream football media might miss.

twitter: @tomocurr


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Has it really been four years since we watched Spain, basking in the glory of a majestic Xavi Hernandez, romp their way to European Championship glory?

Alas, in the intervening time Europe has lost Xavi and Spain’s stock has plummeted. The finals in France will, this year, be ruled by the next generation of stars; whether any of them go on to define the tournament as the Catalonian maestro did remains to be seen.

One thing is for sure, though: there will be superstars unearthed at this tournament. We have taken a stab at predicting the kids who might just do it on the biggest stage this summer.

Federico Bernadeschi (Italy)

Federico Bernadeschi is very quickly becoming respected as one of Italy’s premium young talents. Though national coach Antonio Conte has seemed somewhat reluctant to flood the Azzurri with too many young players at once during his waning reign, Italy are beginning to realise that they have a wealth of talent at their disposal, with Bernadeschi’s name climbing rapidly towards the top of that list.

The Fiorentina forward is a creator at heart, which could stand him in good stead when competing for a place in Italy’s starting eleven this summer. Though the Azzurri’s current talent pool is seemingly limitless and they possess a huge number of gifted strikers capable of putting the ball in the back of the net – Lorenzo Insigne, Graziano Pelle, Simone Zaza, Stephan El Sharaawy and Eder could all be competing for a starting berth in France – they do lack a creative force capable of carving out chances in the first place.

That’s where Bernadeschi could make his mark. The 21-year-old displays remarkable ball retention and a consistent and deadly eye for a killer pass every week in Serie A, meaning he could play the role of provider alongside any of Italy’s talented goal-scorers.

Though his involvement in Italy’s friendly drubbing by Germany – during which Conte experimented with a young front three – might have hurt his chances of initially starting in the tournament proper, Bernadeschi will no doubt be knocking on the next Chelsea manager’s door if the Azzurri find themselves struggling to break down defences as the competition progresses.

Victor Lindelof (Sweden)

Unlike many of the players on this list, Victor Lindelof is almost guaranteed to start in the tournament. The 21-year-old has recently burst onto the scene to cement himself as one of Sweden’s first-choice defenders, and it would be a surprise not to see him feature heavily in their campaign.

Lindelof’s rise to national side regular has been facilitated by his recent run in Benfica’s first team. The Portuguese side are one of Europe’s form teams right now, and the Swedish centre-half has been resplendent at the heart of their defence.

Accustomed to playing as a defensive midfielder as well as at the back, Lindelof’s ball-playing abilities are are the heart of what makes him so attractive as a centre-half. He’s also strong, great in the air and very quick, meaning his passing ability doesn’t overshadow his grasp of the basics of defending. He also possesses excellent technique, making him a real threat from set-pieces; so if Sweden don’t hit Zlatan’s head with the first ball, they have an able alternative to aim for.

Though Lindelof has only very recently made his debut for Sweden, if he finishes the season with Benfica as strongly as his current performances suggest, we could be seeing a lot of him in France.

Viktor Kovalenko (Ukraine)

Kovalenko rose to fame last year after claiming the Golden Boot at the U-20 World Cup; surprising for an attacking midfielder whose usual contribution comes in the creation of goals, rather than in the scoring of them.

That’s not to say the Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder is a stranger in front of goal. In the mould of Belgium’s uber-talented Kevin De Bruyne, Kovalenko’s ability to finish off moves as well as start them means he’s rocketing into Ukrainian first-team plans and is highly likely to feature at the tournament.

Kovalenko is a master of the chipped through-ball, and has the rare ability to seemingly spot runs before they’re even made; a trait made famous by Spain’s David Silva. If he’s given a chance to prove his worth in France, then potential link-ups with compatriots Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka could make Ukraine a real force going forward.

About the Author – Tom Curren

Writer & freelancer. Author & editor of scoutedfootball.com, a website dedicated to comprehensively profiling those whom the mainstream football media might miss.

twitter: @tomocurr


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Recognized as the sole successor of the Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro by both FIFA and UEFA, Serbia has always been proud of its football history.

Semi-finalists of the 1930 FIFA World Cup, two-time UEFA European Championship runners-up in 1960 and 1968, and the 1960 Summer Olympics gold medallists, Serbia boast a long and rich football tradition.

Serbia has been long renowned for its raw football talent, which has steadily yielded fascinating results at youth ranks. Most recent history has seen Serbian Under-19 national football team being crowned European champions in Lithuania in 2013, as the golden generation of players lead by the 21-year-old Newcastle United striker Aleksandar Mitrovic defeated France 1-0 in the final to lift the European trophy.

The latest of the formidable results by the glorious generation of Red Star’s Luka Jovic and Marko Grujic was recorded this year in New Zealand where Serbia Under-20 national football team became the world champions, having beaten the tournament’s favourites Brazil 2-1 in an exhilarating match which was solved after extra time.

This year’s title has been Serbia’s second FIFA U-20 World Cup crown, after the triumphant year of 1987, and it has also served as the definite confirmation of the nation’s talent and passion for the game.

However, much to the contrast of their young colleagues, the Serbia senior squad has been depressively disappointing over the last 15 years, failing to qualify for any major tournament since the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

With the experienced manager Radomir Anti? at helm, Serbia went into the tournament as the dark horses.

A star-studded squad with some of the members such as Branislav Ivanovic and Aleksandar Kolarov still actively involved, Serbia opened the campaign with the surprising 1-0 victory over Germany, but had ultimately failed to go past the group stage, having been beaten by Ghana 1-0 and Australia 2-1 respectively, to finish the campaign last in the group.

Demise of the Serbian national team began with the sacking of former Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona manager Radomir Anti?, two games into the Euro 2012 qualifying process which was subsequently rendered yet another – chronic even – disappointment, as Serbia failed to qualify for the European Championships, making it at the time 12 years since the last involvement in the competition.

Lost confidence, poor atmosphere and the lack of healthy team-spirit have all been the main deficiencies of the Serbian national team during this period. Unfortunately, little has changed since.

Current AC Milan manager Siniša Mihajlovi? was expected to shake things around as he was appointed the national coach in 2012, but his unique and unorthodox methods, most notably his famous expulsion of Adem Ljaji?, who refused to sing the national anthem, marked the entire spell which ended in yet another disappointing failure to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

With their seventh coach since 2010, Serbia began the new era in 2014 opting to go for their former assistant, caretaker and Serbia U21 coach Radovan ?ur?i? taking over from Dick Advocaat two games in the new qualifying cycle for the Euro 2016.

With the team valued at €176.95 million and some of the star names such as the captain Branislav Ivanovi?, Aleksandar Kolarov, Nemanja Mati?, Dušan Tadi?, Lazar Markovi? or Aleksandar Mitrovi? at his disposal, Radovan ?ur?i? was expected to lift the team-spirit and restore the lost confidence in the players he used to work with at younger levels of the national team.

Experiments with foreign managers Javier Clemente and Dick Advocaat did not prove successful, Serbian FA opted for ‘the man of the people’ who had the complete understanding of the players’ needs and requirements.

Impatient for the glamorous squad to finally start producing worthy results, the fans have been putting a lot of pressure on the national team. Somewhat quite reasonably, considering the individual quality to the Serbian squad.

With 82% of the players plying their trade abroad, Serbian internationals were expected to share the same determination and effort they displayed week in and week out as the key-members in their clubs. However, lack of resolve, motivation and dedication were recognized as the main problems by the Serbia faithful.

The problems are rooted much deeper, though, and players were not the only ones to take the blame.

As the country of many issues, Serbia failed to pass the adequate sports laws that would regulate the football scene, still engrossed in the socialists’ rules and regulations. Poor infrastructure and strong hooligan base have been the deteriorating factors as well.

With huge pressure on their back and nation’s pride at stake, Serbian national team opened their UEFA Euro 2016 qualifiers with a 1-1 draw against Armenia and notorious game against Albania which was abandoned after a drone was flown into the Partizan Stadium, creating chaos on pitch.

Serbia were deducted three points that were originally awarded to them by the UEFA, went minus two points at one moment in their group and eventually succumbed to their old illnesses.

Lack of determination, will and desire were followed by the predictable tactics and obsolete playing style from Radovan ?ur?i?, ending the group stage with only four points from eight games.

It has now been 16 years since Serbia last made it to the European Championships, and the latest disappointment has had a huge impact on both the players and the management as well.

Getting to the bottom of the nation’s chronic failure will require deep structural analysis from the Serbian FA which are at the moment blaming the players for their most recent uninspiring showings on 13th November against Czech Republic. Serbia were dealt a huge 4-1 blow in their friendly visit, and it seems as if the Czech debacle has been the final straw.

The game was followed by the incident involving Fiorentina’s Nenad Tomovi? and Newcastle United’s Aleksandar Mitrovi? who were blaming each other in the locker room for the poor showings in Ostrava.

The atmosphere in the squad has hit the rock bottom, and even the ever calm and composed Nemanja Mati? threatened to quit the national team after the latest defeat.

Chelsea midfielder publicly shared his disappointment, claiming that there is no use in wasting his efforts when other players lack the willpower to perform at the highest level and to represent their country with honour and courage.

Hoping to turn the new page following the Euro 2016 bid debacle, the Serbia’s new dawn has quickly seen dark clouds once again setting upon the national football team which is preparing to enter the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying cycle with a huge elephant in the room.

And for the past 15 years no one has yet been able to get that elephant out.

About the author – Miloš Markovic

Sports journalist from Serbia, Editor in Cheif at Sportske.net and contributor to FutbolgradLive. Worked with Inforstrada and FIFA covering Serbia’s international games during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

twitter: @milosemarkovicu


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