5 rising stars at Euro 2012
|BettingExpert/Betfair Euro 2012 blog correspondent entry profile|
|James McNicholas writes for both Gunnerblog.com and Threeandin.com|
|Twitter : @gunnerblog|
|Website : Gunnerblog.com|
Around this time of year, almost every newspaper or magazine will come complete with a ‘Bluffer’s Guide’ to Euro 2012, allowing even the most casual of fans to talk with authority about the players on display in Poland and Ukraine. The usual suspects will doubtless crop up: Xavi, Rooney, Özil, Benzema and the rest. You won’t find those stellar names here. In this piece, we’re looking at the men whose career trajectory could take a sharp upwards curvature during and after the Euros. These are the players who sparkle with as-yet-unrealised potential, and for whom a good tournament could see them explode in to the world elite.
Mathieu Debuchy, Lille & France
In the days after Bacary Sagna suffered a broken leg which ruled him out of this summer’s Championships, Debuchy was named by many pundits as his likely replacement in the French XI. That does the Lille full-back a disservice: all the signs suggest that Laurent Blanc was preparing to start with him anyway. Debuchy announced himself on the international stage with a marauding display in the 2-1 friendly victory over Germany back in February. Defensively, he was impeccable, but it was going forward that he made the most impact, creating both of France’s goals with surging runs down the flank.
The cagier, more cautious nature of international football has long lent itself to attacking full-backs, and Debuchy is very much part of that tradition. Debuchy has already been linked with Manchester United, Newcastle and Valencia. If he carries his recent club form in to the Euros, it will soon be even more difficult for Lille to hang on to him.
Yann M’Vila, Stade Rennais F.C. & France
When Yann M’Vila looks back at his overflowing scrapbook for the 2011-12 season, there’ll be a few headlines he wishes he hadn’t made. In his second season as a Rennes regular, he has suffered setbacks both on and off the pitch. On the field, he’s been guilty of overcomplicating matters: M’Vila is comfortably Rennes’ most talented midfielder, and as a consequence has found himself trying to take on more responsibility than is necessary. As he says himself, “I'm so concerned about trying to play a killer pass I have been forgetting about my defensive work”.
His struggles haven’t been helped by a number of off-field issues, including a run-in with the police, but nothing should cloud the plain truth: when M’Vila keeps it simple, he is one of Europe’s best holding midfielders. When he first broke in to the France team, he described his playing style as the sum of three basic components: “control, pass, mark”. Stick to those principles, and M’Vila could emerge as one of the stars of the summer.
Robert Lewandowski, Borussia Dortmund & Poland
The co-hosts hopes of progressing beyond the group stage rest predominantly with the powerful Dortmund striker. At the start of this season he was only expected to play second fiddle to Lucas Barrios at his club, but an injury to the Paraguayan handed Lewandowski a shot in the first-team. He hasn’t looked back. His outstanding form has kept him in the side for the entire campaign, as the spearhead of a Bundesliga-winning frontline.
He’s a man who enjoys the big occasions too: after an audacious back-heeled goal in the title-deciding clash with Bayern, he followed up with a hatrick against the same side in the German cup final this weekend. A European Championship in his home nation could not have come at a better time.
Rui Patricio, Sporting & Portugal
With experienced stopper Eduardo falling out of favour at both Genoa and latterly Benfica, there was briefly something of vacuum in the Portugese goal. That space has been filled by Sporting’s Rui Patricio, who picked up five caps in the qualifying campaign and is now ready for his first major tournament. Portugal find themselves in a tricky group with Germany, Denmark and Holland, meaning the 24-year old will be face-to-face with some of Europe’s top marksmen in Robin van Persie, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Mario Gomez. The Marrazes-born shot-stopper isn’t in the least bit intimidated, though, saying, “Every game is a test. We will give everything to win and we shouldn’t fear any of our adversaries. We are going there to win.” Bold statements, certainly, but the signs are that Rui Patricio has the talent to back up the talk.
Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle United & France
It’s notable that three players from a largely unfancied France squad make this list. If France are the tournament’s wild card, then Hatem Ben Arfa is the potential Joker in the pack, sneaking in to the provisional squad at the last minute after a fantastic late run of form.
After missing the first-half of the season with an ankle problem, he has returned to become an integral part of Newcastle United’s ultimately ill-fated push for Champions League football. The icing on the cake was a remarkable goal against Bolton, in which he turned his man inside his own half before accelerating past challenge after challenge to score past Adam Bogdan. It was a strike which put Ben Arfa on many people’s radar - including, crucially, Laurent Blanc.
Ben Arfa isn’t expected to start, but then he wasn’t expected to make the squad either. The Joker could yet prove to be France’s trump card.
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