By Temisan Amoye
As the European Championships continue across Europe, with the Quarter-finals set for Saturday, a couple of players have used Euro 2020 as a stage to display their skills, with eye-catching displays.
Some of them, the usual suspects such as Portugal’s goal machine, Cristiano Ronaldo who tops the goals chart, France’s Karim Benzema whose remarkable comeback to international football, saw him score four goals for Les Bleus, before facing a shock elimination to Switzerland in the round of 16, Lukaku and De Bruyne who have been instrumental to Belgium’s progress.
On the other hand, there’s a handful of relatively unknown names, who have shone excellently throughout the tournament, dropping match-winning performances, and putting a host of Europe’s top clubs on red-hot alert.
Those I have been impressed with include:
Joakim Maehle ( Denmark, Wingback)
Denmark have had a remarkable Euro 2020 tournament so far, from the unfortunate incident with midfielder Christian Eriksen in their opening fixture with Finland, which the Danes lost 1-0, to qualifying for the Quarter-finals, despite losing their opening two matches.
Attacking left wingback Joakim Maehle has been one of their standout performers, capable of playing on both flanks, his energetic displays on the left-wing have seen him emerge as an attacking threat with his dribbling and inside runs. His style of cutting inside and linking up has seen the Atalanta wingback become a threat inside the box.
The 25-year old has scored two goals this Euros, scoring the fourth goal in Denmark’s impressive 4-1 win over Russia, going on to complete the most dribbles in the game with five. He dropped another starring performance in the round of 16, scoring a superb effort and winning the most duels (9) in Denmarks 4-0 win over Wales in the knockout stage.
His performance so far, would no doubt rouse transfer interest, with Chelsea and Inter Milan linked with Maehle. With Hakimi off to PSG, a move to the San Siro could become a reality.
Maehle will be hoping he and Denmark continue their impressive Euro 2020 run as they face the Czech Republic on Saturday, July 3.
Donyell Malen (Forward, The Netherlands)
The 22-yeard old former Arsenal youth player has continued his impressive 2021-22 season, where he bagged 19 goals with 8 assists for PSV in the Eredivisie.
Despite coming off the bench in the Netherlands opening two fixtures, the pacy attacker showed his quality on the ball, laying down two assists for his team. His cameos off the bench got him rewarded with starts in the next two fixtures.
Assisting Denzel Dumfries in the 2-0 win over Austria, and squaring off Depay after a brilliant counter-attacking move by both players to score the Netherlands first in their 3-0 win over North Macedonia.
Despite a bad miss in the shock 2-0 knockout defeat to the Czech Republic, his Euro 2020 performance will add to an already solid reputation as a growing star, with a move very likely this season.
PSV manager Roger Schmidt seems resigned to the inevitable, speaking at a recent press conference, he said; “That’s how it goes in football, especially at PSV, we lose one or two good players every year.
“It has been clear to me for some time that Donyell and Denzel Dumfries are likely to leave. Actually last summer.
“I also take it into account and if they do stay, that is great. But we have to prepare ourselves that we will have to play without both next season.”
With the Dutch out of the Euros and Liverpool linked with Malen, PSV could be set to cash out on Malen, who they signed from Arsenal for 540,000 pounds in 2017.
Denzel Dumfries (Wingback, Netherlands)
Named after Hollywood legend, Denzel Washington, Dumfries has put in rave performances, with his marauding runs on the right wreaking havoc for teams this Euros.
The PSV captain emerged as a real attacking threat for the Netherlands throughout the tournament, scoring two goals in the process.
Dumfries scored a late winner when he powered in a header to give the Dutch a late 3-2 win over Ukraine, and scored the second in the 2-0 win over Austria. The 22-year old could have scored more, but for some questionable misses, missing three big chances this Euros.
In the 2-0 loss to the Czech republic, Dumfries was the most fouled (4) player, highlighting how much opposition see him as a threat, going on to win the most duels (10) in the match. Showing he can hold his own in a contest.
Dumfries who has featured unofficially for Aruba is being linked with European giants Inter and Bayern, with PSV resigned to losing him, the flying-fullback could be set for a blockbuster move this season.
Patrik Schick (Striker, Czech Republic)
Patrik Schick’s name has been around for sometime, but injuries and lack of consistency has seen the striker become some journeyman, playing for four clubs since his move from Sparta Prague in 2016, turning out for Sampdoria, Roma, RB Leipzig and now Bayer Leverkusen.
The 25-year old has shaken off inconsistency to constantly deliver for the Czechs in Euro 2020. His MoTM performance against Scotland in the group stage where he scored a brace, including a favourite for goal of the tournament signaled his intention to shine at the Euros
Schick has scored a further two goals, 37th minute penalty in the 1-1 draw with Croatia, and the second goal in the 80th minute, to put the final nail in the Dutch coffin.
With a Quarter-final tie against in-form Denmark, Schick will be hoping to continue his fine scoring form to secure a suprising Semi-final berth for the Czechs.
Manuel Locatelli (Mifielder, Italy)
The former AC Milan youth player has grown leaps and bounds since making a move to Sassuolo in 2018
During his early days at the San Siro, Locatelli was regarded as one of the moxt exciting youngsters in Italy and Europe as a whole but struggled to settle in an unsettled Milan side.
Moving to Roberto De Zerbi’s Sassuolo proved a masterstroke, as he found consistency and a suitable environment to develop.
Coming off an impressive personal 2021-22 Serie A season, Locatelli has taken to the Euros like duck to water, making two starts, and one sub appearance. Playing an integral part in Italy’s progression to the Euro 2020 Quarter-Finals.
An assured performance in the 4-0 demolition of Turkey, was followed up by a superb display against Switzerland, where Locatelli scored two brilliant goals and completed 90% of passes attempted in the Azzurri’s 3-0 win over Switzerland. Finishing off a counter-attacking move he helped initiate, and a long strike from outside the box.
Locatelli has been described as a complete and technical midfielder, with strong passing and vision, (Euro 2020 pass completion rate of 90%), tackling, and shooting abilities. His performance has already resulted in Arsenal making a formal offer for Locatelli, according to a Sassuolo director, with Juventus rumoured to hold a strong interest.
Honourable mentions: Domenico Berardi (Forward, Sassuolo), Alexander Isak (Striker, Sweden), Breel Embolo (Forward, Switzerland)