Football: 10 youngsters likely to shine at Euro 2016 in France

With just over two months to go before the start of the Uefa European Championship in France, the race to make the final squads for their countries at Europe's premier football tournament is heating up.

While managers have usually gone for the tried-and-tested senior players for big international tournaments like the Euros, history has shown that having youth in the team can be a positive. Some of these young players did their chances of making the final squad no harm in the international matches over the weekend, with Tottenham Hotspur duo Harry Kane and Dele Alli impressing in England's shock win over the mighty Germans.

The Straits Times looks at the top 10 young players to look out for at Euro 2016.

Dele Alli


England's Dele Alli in action in the international friendly match against Germany on March 26, 2016 PHOTO: REUTERS

England's hopes of making an impression could rest on the shoulders of this young man who turns 20 only next month. As one of the breakout stars of this season's English Premier League, he has inspired a youthful-looking Spurs side to second place in the table.

So far, Alli has looked like the complete midfielder with his ability to play as a box-to-box midfielder or in the creative No. 10 role. In his latest outing with the Three Lions, he proved that he could translate his formidable club form onto the international stage by putting up a fine display against the Germans, and England fans will be looking to him to end their years of hurt in major tournaments come June.

Alen Halilovic


Croatia's Alen Halilovic (left) in action with Israel's Almog Cohen in the international friendly match between Croatia and Israel. PHOTO: REUTERS

Currently on loan from Barcelona at La Liga outfit Sporting Gijon, the 19-year-old Croatian has impressed, with three goals and five assists in 28 appearances for the club.

Tipped to be the next Lionel Messi, the fleet-footed attacking midfielder has already made eight appearances for his country and he could be crucial to Croatia's hopes of doing well in the European Championship after being bundled out at the first round in 2012.

William Carvalho


Sporting's midfielder William Carvalho (right) vies with Porto's forward Vincent Aboubakar (left) in the Portuguese League football match between Sporting CP and FC Porto, on January 2, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

The 23-year-old, who plays primarily as a defensive midfielder, is so highly-rated that it comes as a surprise to many that he is still plying his trade with modest Sporting Lisbon in Portugal.

Carvalho made his international debut in Portugal's crucial World Cup play-off match against Sweden more than two years ago, where he came off the bench to successfully disrupt the Swedes' attacking momentum and helped Portugal reach the World Cup Finals. He has since gone from strength to strength and has already acquired 16 caps for his country. Euro 2016 in France will be his second major tournament and Portugal's hopes of progressing far could well depend on this midfield powerhouse.

Kingsley Coman


Kingsley Coman making the V for victory sign in Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines, outside Paris, on Nov 10, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

He made headlines when he came off the bench to inspire Bayern Munich to a comeback win over his parent club Juventus in the second round of the Uefa Champions League two weeks ago.

Despite being part of a hugely talented Bayern squad, he has impressed manager Pep Guardiola enough to grant him 20 appearances so far this season. While the speedy winger has just two appearances for the French national team, his opportunities will only increase if he can maintain his form.

Harry Kane


England's striker Harry Kane takes part in a training session at the Tottenham Hotspur training ground in Enfield, ahead of their international friendly football match against Netherlands. PHOTO: AFP

Critics wrote him off, saying that he was a flash in the pan, especially after he went 748 minutes without a goal at the start of the season. But after 31 league games, he has proven the naysayers wrong, with his 21 goals making him the current top scorer in the English Premier League.

The 22-year-old has also impressed on the international front, with four goals in nine appearances. And England manager Roy Hodgson will have a tough decision to make about whether to stick with the ageing Wayne Rooney as his main striker for the European Championship or to take a gamble on the in-form Harry Kane.

Jonathan Tah


German Jonathan Tah reacts during the international friendly football match between Germany and England in Berlin, Germany, on March 26, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

The 20-year-old defender made his first appearance for Germany when he came off the bench last weekend in their match against England. And if his career continues in the same upward trajectory, that will not be the last that fans will see of him.

He has also been an integral part of his club side Bayern Leverkusen this season, leading them to their current sixth position in the Bundesliga. Belonging to a new breed of ball-playing centre-backs, he is seen as the future of the German national team and could dislodge the likes of established defenders Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels if he keeps up his form.

Alvaro Morata


Alvaro Morata of Juventus celebrates after scoring a goal in the Italian Serie A match between Torino FC and Juventus FC at Olimpico stadium in Turin, on March 20, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

With 35-year-old Athletic Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz being Spain's most impressive striker this season, Juventus' Alvaro Morata must see this as a real chance to stake a claim for the main striking role for his country.

When Real Madrid sold him to the Turin club, they included a buy-back clause in his contract and this speaks volumes of how the Spanish giants views his potential to grow as a player. Having been included in seven of the last nine Spanish squads he has been available for, the 23-year-old will be hoping to add to his eight appearances. And if he does live up to his undoubted potential, he could end up becoming one of the breakout stars in summer.

Stephan El Shaarawy


Roma's forward Stephan El Shaarawy reacts during the Uefa Champions League football match against Real Madrid on February 17, 2016, at the Olympic stadium in Rome. PHOTO: AFP

The hugely talented 23-year-old striker has enjoyed a resurgence of late, having joined Roma on loan from AC Milan in January for the rest of the season. Having been troubled by injuries in his career so far, he looks to have revived his career with five goals in six matches in the Italian capital. With 17 international caps, El Shaarawy will be hoping to continue his recent fine form and be a key part of Italy manager Antonio Conte's plans for Euro 2016.

Julian Draxler


Wolfsburg's midfielder Julian Draxler (centre) reacts after scoring during the Uefa Champions League football match between Gent and Wolfsburg at Ghelamco Arena, on February 17, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

The 22-year-old winger has already had a taste of playing at a major tournament after he appeared for Germany in the 2014 World Cup. After moving to Wolfsburg from Schalke in the summer, he has continued to shine, with five goals in 19 appearances.

Draxler also played an integral role in Wolfsburg's maiden run to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, scoring twice and creating another in the round-of-16 tie against Gent. While it will be a challenge securing a first-team spot in a star-studded Germany squad for Euro 2016, he will be ready to grasp any opportunities given by head coach Joachim Leow.

Romelu Lukaku


Everton's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku celebrates after their second goal in the English FA cup quarter-final football match between Everton and Chelsea, on March 12, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

The big Belgian forward once said that his biggest childhood hero was Chelsea's legendary striker Didier Drogba. And this season, he has been scoring at a rate that even the Ivorian would be proud of. In 37 appearances for Everton in all competitions, the 22-year-old has already notched 25 goals.

After he made known his desire to play Champions League football next season, he has been linked to some of Europe's leading clubs such as Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund. Armed with 42 appearances for his country, Lukaku is also no stranger to the international stage. But having only netted only once in his last major international tournament in 2014, Lukaku will be eager to make amends and the stage could be set for him to shine in France.