From June 11 to July 11, the brightest stars of the ball come together this European summer for a European Championship on a continental scale. Perhaps the most desired edition, after its cancellation in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. France 24 selects nine key players in this competition.
With a year of delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Euro 2021 is here, disputed as well as 2020, in commemoration of the edition that could not be. For the occasion, the editors of France 24 have selected nine stars who could determine the championship on the continent.
- Cristiano Ronaldo: a leadership to defend
In 2016, at the time of a European Championship played in France, he led his team to the top. Namely: the first title in the history of Portugal. Five years later, Cristiano Ronaldo is hungry for more. He is the man of all records with the Lusitanian shirt – with 175 games and 104 goals – and has already warned even his French teammate at Juventus, Adrien Rabiot, “be careful with us.” A useless message a priori, since ‘les Bleus’ have not yet forgotten their defeat at home in the final against the Portuguese.
CR7 was just 19 years old when he won the final of Euro 2004 against an unbeatable Greece. Today, at 36, the five-time Ballon d’Or has numerous trophies to his credit for having been at Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juve itself. Although he is coming out of a difficult season with Vecchia Signora, the footballer does not stop being a feared adversary. His 36 goals in 44 meetings in Turin prove it.
Buteur ce soir, Cristiano Ronaldo n’est maintenant plus qu’à 5 buts to become the best buteur de l’histoire in national selection. 🔥
109 ⚽️ Ali Daei 🇮🇷
104 ⚽️ Cristiano Ronaldo 🇵🇹 🔺
84 ⚽️ Ferenc Puskás 🇭🇺
79 ⚽️ Godfrey Chitalu 🇿🇲
78 ⚽️ Hussein Saeed 🇮🇶
77 ⚽️ Pelé 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/q4VyRevNpT
– Actu Foot (@ActuFoot_) June 9, 2021
For his fifth Euro Cup, he is expected to be the leader of Portugal again, a country with which he could become the highest national marker in history. He is only 5 goals away. Although, the initial pulse does not look easy, with a group F made up of Germany, France and Hungary.
- Both De Bruyne and Belgium dream of the first title
It is one of the symbols of this Belgium full of talents, but always frustrated in the big events for never reaching the reward. For example? The 2018 World Cup in which he was in third position.
Could Kevin De Bruyne, who will celebrate his 30th birthday at the end of June, be his savior? Voted best player in the Premier League this season, Manchester City’s attacking midfielder is the brains of the Citizens and the Red Devils. Under the orders of Pep Guardiola, he has become one of the excellent footballers in the world. His aura was also enlarged with Belgium, especially after the other national star, Eden Hazard, declined in Madrid.
The question is: will KDB rebound from its recent setbacks? The number 7 for Belgium comes from a Champions League final loss against Chelsea. A final of which he only played the first hour, before leaving the field with his head down, with fractures of the nose and left orbit. These injuries forced him to undergo surgery. Thus, Kevin De Bruyne runs the risk of losing his rhythm.
- Kylian Mbappé, the hour of maturity?
Three years ago, Mbappé was the small diamond of ‘les Bleus’, world champions in Russia. At that time he was only 19 years old, despite showing an indisputable talent that came to be compared with the great Pelé. Today, the PSG attacker is simply one of the best on the planet. Irrepressible in Paris, he scored 42 goals last season, with great performances against Barcelona and Munich. The 22-year-old Parisian can show off having conquered the world with the French team. Europe is now your menu.
This summer of 2021 promises to be a new brand in its short career. In the first place, there is this European Championship with which he will seek victory for the national team, runner-up in the previous tournament. For this he will be able to count on Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema in the attack. Then it will be time to settle a thorny dilemma for the future. Since he only has one year left on his contract with PSG and Real Madrid looks at him with good eyes. A Euro on the prize shelf could make Kylian Mbappé a more attractive player.
- King Harry Kane in search of a coronation
Some years ago, Harry Kane was considered a lightning bolt, a player who could shine only for the duration of a season. That was seven years ago. Since then, the forward has proven to be much more than that, with both Tottenham and England. In Russia, the Englishman ended up being the top scorer in the World Cup, with six goals. With Spurs he was also the top scorer in the Premier League three times – 2016, 2017 and 2021. No one doubts that Kane is one of the best goal hunters in Europe.
On the record side, on the other hand, the British captain has still not achieved one. The ‘Three Lions’ continue to chase a first title, after their 1966 World Cup victory. And with Tottenham the result is no better, with a lost Champions League final being his biggest trophy of 2019. Thus, Harry Kane could soon find himself elsewhere, in a more ambitious club, according to several British media. Before that happens, you need to shake up some nets in the Euro.
- The unexpected return of Karim Benzema
It is the return that many people did not trust until last May 18. That somewhat crazy day, the rumor grew, after an argument with coach Didier Deschamps who asked him to join the French. It was in the afternoon when the confirmation came from the mouth of the national team coach. Thus, Benzema returns five and a half years after being one of ‘les Bleus’. And with him on the list of 26, France presents itself with an attractive line of attack.
Invincible at Real Madrid for twelve years, the former Lyonnais has taken on a new dimension at the peak of his 33 years. Cristiano Ronaldo has left, also Gareth Bale, and now it is he who dominates the meringues attacks. It could be said that he is the one who heads the entire Madrid club. This 2020-2021 season he has once again demonstrated his leadership as an effective striker, with 30 goals and 9 assists in 46 games. Banned against Euro 2016 in which the team was runner-up, absent from the formation when it touched the roof of the world in 2018, Benzema has the opportunity to live his final national consecration.
- Thomas Müller, the other name returned
For a long time he believed that he would follow this Euro as a mere spectator. Crossed out by coach Joachim Löw after Germany’s defeat at the 2018 World Cup, Müller has found his place in the Nationalmannschaft, the German soccer team, after a two-year absence. In his last chance at the head of the team, the German coach could not get rid of the attacking midfielder and his experience and efficiency – 39 goals in 102 international matches.
At 31 years old, the 2014 world champion is undisputed with the Bayern Munich jersey. The Bavarians, the European champions, may have been eliminated in the Champions League quarter-finals, but they achieved their ninth consecutive league title thanks to 11 goals and 18 assists from Thomas Müller.
- Robert Lewandowski: from Golden Boot to Euro Top Scorer?
He is currently the best 9 in the world. He comes off a phenomenal season with Bayern Munich, in which he achieved the record for matches in a single Bundesliga season, 41 in total, thus unseating the legend Gerd Müller, with 40. No one doubts that Robert Lewandowski intends to impress in this Euro.
Captain of Poland for six years, the 32-year-old is the most international, with 118 tournaments and a great scorer with 66 goals. Lewandowski is essential for the Biało-Czerwoni (‘white and red’). Maybe too much, since the Polish team seems helpless. With a forward like this, everything is possible, of course.
- Burak Yilmaz, the ‘kral’ of the bulldogs
It was key to the conquest of Lille in the French championship. With 16 goals and five decisive passes, he has been one of the most important offensive footballers in the north. The ‘kral’ or ‘king’ Yilmaz, as they call him, arrives in top form for their selection.
At 35 years old, Yilmaz is going to taste his first major competition with Turkey, 15 years after his first match in red and white, on April 12, 2006 against Azerbaijan (1-1). After a career that has had its ups and downs in the national team, the hour of grace of the former Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş could be this tournament. Also for Turkey, absent in the 2018 World Cup.
Author of an exemplary season with Olympique Lyonnais (OL), the Batavian forward could not have been in the Euro that he played in 2020, due to a torn cruciate ligament in his knee in December 2019. His participation in the competition would have been impossible.
But since the injury of compatriot Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay has become the orange leader. He has been winning regularly to become essential today, being also the best passer in the qualifying rounds of his group, with 8 offerings to his teammates.
After the drama of the Netherlands’ absence from Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, the spearhead of the Batavians is eager to show that the national team is back at the highest level of world football.