Let’s take it back to England in 2018: the sun is shining, beers are flowing, and an undeniable sense of football seriously coming home was coursing through every Englishman and woman’s veins as Gareth Southgate’s penalty box-queuing England side took their country to the FIFA World Cup semi-finals.
The gutting feeling of being knocked out of that World Cup semi-final is something that we don’t want to look back on. But with every cloud, comes a silver lining. One that brought a feeling of optimism, one that has made us realise that we do indeed have one of the most exciting England teams in generations.
But as we move into the next major international tournament, the country is asking: will, and can England win the Euros? Who knows. But one thing we can admit is that we are very excited and optimistic. This time around we’re playing on our home turf, with our own fans and supporters that will let Harry Kane know if he needs to square the ball in the final minutes. Football is definitely coming home, but will it be England’s to keep?
We’re intrigued here at BODA HQ, and as much as we love fashion, football is a major part of the office camoradory. We have taken a look into some of the most exciting players to look out for across the competing teams. From tricky wingers, goal-poaching strikers and brick wall-blocking defenders: here’s our predictions for who will be the stars of Euro 2021.
Phil Foden, England
If you’re an avid football fan, then you would’ve been aware of Phil Foden for some time now. The 20-year-old has officially burst onto the scene in regular fashion at Manchester City, and since his impressive season this year, he has been tipped to be England’s answer for success. The Stockport Iniesta was originally forecasted to become Man City legend, David Silva’s carbon copy, but he’s been quick to show his game is much different.
After playing on the wing for most of his appearances in the Premier and Champions League this season, his dynamism and underappreciated pace make him a difficult task for any defender.
On an international level, Phil led England’s Under 17’s to a World Cup win in 2017, showing his extreme potential throughout the competition. The goal-scoring midfielder is top class. He’s one to watch this time around, and now channeling his inner Euro ‘96 Gazza vibes with his new silver hair, it’s surely written in the stars?
Ruben Dias, Portugal
Before you ask, no this isn’t a Manchester City appreciation blog. Although it may as well be after introducing this latest addition to our list. Ruben Dias has been the answer to all of City’s problems in defence this season. Just turning 24 years old, Dias has quite comfortably filled the boots of Vincent Kompany in recent times, showing that he is playing way above his age.
His maturity and athleticism stand him apart from the rest, he has the ability to make his partner better: this makes a good defender a world-class one. Leading Benfica to a league title before his transfer to Manchester City, he proved that he is a leader in the dressing room, and this, partnered with the same energy on the pitch, points him out as a serious contender for player of the tournament if Portugal play to their potential.
Kai Havertz, Germany
After making a big money move from Bayer Leverkusen last summer, Chelsea midfielder Kai Havertz made a slow start to life in England. But since the introduction of their new boss,Thomas Tuchel, the German youngster has been in sterling form.
He’s been tipped to be a huge star for the German national team this Euros, with his quick feet, special awareness and an eye for a great pass and goal being seen as the perfect replacement for the missing German magic from Mesut Ozil.
Havertz is playing with a lot of confidence right now, and off the back of his Champions League final winning goal recently, a few more crucial goals could be coming his way very soon…
Pedro González López (better known as Pedri), Spain
Here’s a player that has been doing his thing under the radar in recent times, but he’s not one to be ignored. Pedri is one of Barcelona’s next-big-things. He’s catalan through and through and agreed his first professional deal with the club having already been a Las Palmas first-teamer at 16 years old. Over the 2019-20 season, he clocked up more minutes for Las Palmas than anyone else, playing 36 games.
His style of play is exciting, too. He plays between the lines, he’s hungry for the ball and is very impressive when under pressure. So much so, Lionel Messi is among those enormously impressed by the youngster’s approach to the game. The Messi-Pedri link-up has been exciting in Barcelona colours also, with Pedri happy to use some of the space that Messi creates between the lines, especially on the left.
We’re tipping Pedri to have a class Euros this time around.
Alexander Isak, Sweden
The era of Zlatan Ibrahimovic stealing the headlines in a Sweden shirt may appear to be coming to an end - and for those worrying about who is going to fill that Swedish void up top, it looks like you’ve found your answer. The 21-year-old, Alexander Isak, has been in impressive form at club level during the 2020-21 campaign, scoring 16 times in 33 La Liga appearances for Real Sociedad. The striker started his career at Bundesliga side, Borussia Dortmund, but since his move to Spain, he’s managed to score 32 in 88 appearances in all competitions.
He’s grabbed attention from Barcelona this transfer window, too, with the Catalans seeing Isak as the ideal alternative to Dortmund star Erling Haaland, as the pair both play with similar explosiveness and a clinical eye for goal.
Keep your eyes on Isak this Euros...
Burak Yilmaz, Turkey
After spending a decade and a half mostly in his homeland, the Turkey international centre-forward got the chance to move to a top-five European league with Lille in the summer of 2020, aged 35. Playing a career that seems like it’s in reverse, Yilmaz has been a crucial part of Lille’s title-winning triumph in France as they finally beat the curse of PSG domination.
Their recent title was their first since 2011, with Yilmaz scoring 16 goals across the campaign, the majority of those coming in the most crucial games of the season. Many French football fans pin the Lille success on the back of the forward, describing his late resurgence into the one of the pinnacles of European football as somewhat of a fairytale.
As a sucker for a big goal in a big game, keep your eyes on Yilmaz for all the drama.