Players to watch at Euro 2016

Players to watch at Euro 2016

Euro 2016

Players to watch at Euro 2016

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A standout performance in a major tournament has the ability to alter the career of a player.

Plenty of established stars and newcomers to the international scene are set to take France by storm over the next month in an attempt to improve their status at their current club or make a move to one of the continent’s top club sides.

Here’s a look at the top players to watch throughout Euro 2016:

PAUL POGBA (FRANCE)

Paul Pogba’s every move will be watched over the next month as he tries to lead France to a tournament title on home soil.

The 23-year-old, who enters Euro 2016 with 31 caps, will be thrust into a leadership role on a squad that contains only three players with over 50 international appearances.

Since France have a few strong defensive-minded midfielders in their squad, Pogba should be able to move forward more in support of an attack led by Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann.

The pressure will be on Pogba and his teammates to thrive late in the competition since Les Blues haven’t moved past the quarterfinal round at the Euros since 2000.

EDEN HAZARD (BELGIUM)

Euro 2016 arrives at a pivotal point in the career of Eden Hazard.

The 25-year-old experienced a drop off in production during his last club season at Chelsea, and he is in danger of getting lost in the excitement that surrounds the other impressive young stars in the Belgium squad.

If Hazard regains the form he had in his first three seasons at Chelsea, Belgium has the potential to challenge for the championship in France.

JOE HART (ENGLAND)

Plenty of attention will be focused on the performance of the England attack, but how Joe Hart fares in net could be as important to the success of the Three Lions in France.

Hart will be playing behind an inexperienced back line chock full of Premier League talent looking to make their mark on the international stage.

It may take some time for the England defense to build chemistry during the competition, which means Hart could be called upon more than he wants in the group stage.

Given England’s history in major competitions, Hart may be asked to make a few big saves in a penalty shootout as well as the Three Lions look to reach the final four of an international competition for the first time since Euro 1996.

MESUT OZIL (GERMANY)

If Mesut Ozil can produce 19 assists in the Arsenal attack, imagine what he’ll do with the plethora of attacking talent in the Germany squad.

The 27-year-old, who is now one of the senior members of Joachim’s Loew squad, will have the scoring prowess of Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze, Mario Gomez and others around him for the next month.

If he extends his form from the club season into Euro 2016, Ozil could be one of the top players in the 24-team tournament. A free-flowing attack could be exactly what the Germans need to secure their second straight major tournament title.

CRISTIANO RONALDO (PORTUGAL)

Cristiano Ronaldo has won every trophy imaginable at the club level, but he is still seeking his first major international winners medal.

Portugal has experienced more success at the Euros than they have at the World Cup during Ronaldo’s time in the squad as they have reached the final eight in each of the last three continental tournaments.

With the failure to advance out of the group stage from the 2014 World Cup still fresh in some minds, Ronaldo must lead Portugal on another deep run at the Euros. If Portugal win their group, they would have to go through England and Spain to reach the championship match.

GARETH BALE (WALES)

Ronaldo’s Real Madrid teammate enters Euro 2016 with a different set of expectations.

Getting out of the group stage would be considered a success for Gareth Bale and Wales, who face Russia, England and Slovakia in Group B.

Thanks to the tournament expansion to 24 teams, Bale and his teammates have an opportunity to secure a spot in the knockout phase with as few as three points. With Bale in command in attack, that goal is achievable for Chris Coleman’s men.

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