By Andrew Discenza
Every four years the top national team managers flock to England with the goal of calling home some of their top players. Soccer365 Andrew Discenza takes a look at some of the English Premier League players that will feature this summer in Poland and Ukraine.
Petr Cech’s Champions League heroics are just the latest installment of an accomplished career. The stopper has been massive between the posts for Chelsea this season, and if he keeps up his current form the Czechs might be a tough nut to crack.
Tomas Rosicky has shown flashes of brilliance for Arsenal this season, and the tried and tested international will be Michal Bilek’s playmaker calling the shots from midfield.
Wojciech Szczesny did admirably as the final line of Arsenal’s questionable defense, and the host’s slim hopes may well rely on the mature 22-year-old being at his best.
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John Heitinga was rock-solid at the back for Everton this year, and will form the foundation of the Oranje’s defense. One of the key components of a very physical spine of the team.
Nigel de Jong will attempt to erase the hideous impression that his violent play left in the minds of all watching in 2010. Featured irregularly for Manchester City, but he can be one of the most effective in the world at the destructive, defensive midfield position.
Whether Rafael Van der Vaart plays in a more midfield role or not, he will be a constant threat to the opposing goal. An out-and-out striker for Tottenham, he seemed capable of pulling a rabbit out of his hat at any moment.
Robin Van Persie is one of the world’s most in-form strikers, and there is no doubt that his goals will be instrumental for the Dutch. Reached landmarks both for the calendar year and the season with Arsenal while carrying them to third, and will hope to replicate his feats in Poland & Ukraine.
Daniel Agger may not have had a standout season with Liverpool, but he will be a central figure at the heart of the Danish defense.
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Raul Meireles was a revelation for Chelsea this season, a consistent and versatile performer in midfield. In the dual role of hard-nosed tackling and forward-thinking creativity, he could be the vital balance in the Portuguese squad.
Nani had an up-and-down season with Manchester United but there’s no doubting his raw ability. Look out for the 25-year-old to score a golazo or two and link up with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Juan Mata & David Silva are much in the same position, as they will be fighting for attacking midfield positions long dominated in Spain by Xavi and Andres Iniesta. But the injury to David Villa means that Vincente Del Bosque may take a creative approach, and use either player in a more forward role. Silva’s silky footwork and ingenious vision were a joy to watch for Manchester City this season, while Mata single-handedly earned Chelsea points with equally good assists and goals.
Fernando Torres has been the subject of much ridicule since his big-money move to Chelsea, but there are signs that he may be returning to top form. The goal against Barcelona would have done wonders for his confidence, and he’ll be looking to repay Del Bosque’s faith with another decisive Euro performance.
Why always Mario Balotelli? Firstly, with Giuseppe Rossi out and Antonio Cassano a question mark, the Manchester City striker will likely bear the burden going forward. Secondly, although undoubtedly an ill-tempered and misguided narcissist, the 21-year-old has the potential to score those few crucial goals that Italy will need to advance.
Republic of Ireland
Shay Given is a long-time veteran of the Premier League, and after a consistent season with Aston Villa he will be ready to perform for his country. Look for a spectacular stop or two against big-name opposition.
Richard Dunne will marshall the Irish defense with his aerial prowess and experienced covering. An impressive figure at the back, he and Given could well make up a formidable defensive pairing.
Shane Long & Kevin Doyle will be the two relied upon for finding the back of the net in Poland & Ukraine. Doyle has long shown flashes of finishing ability at the highest level, while Long will be out to prove that the hype surrounding the 25-year-old is well deserved.
Luka Modric will be the central figure for Croatia in the tournament. A midfield maestro for Tottenham, he is like a brilliant conductor orchestrating the players in front of him. Don’t look for dazzling stats - instead find a metronome in the middle of the park.
Nikica Jelavic had a glorious first half of the season at Rangers, and picked up right where he left off upon arrival at Everton. Seeming to have the striker’s touch in abundance, he popped up time and again to find the net, scoring a vital 9 goals in 10 starts for David Moyes’ men.
Sebastian Larsson proved himself a free-kick genius in the Premier League this season, scoring a few scintillating goals and chipping in with a couple assists as well. Even more prolific for his national squad, look out for Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to fight over dead-ball situations.
Joe Hart must live up to his billing as the best Premier League keeper for England to stand a chance. A miracle-worker for Manchester City at times, Roy Hodgson will be expecting him to be airtight in goal.
John Terry must now deal with the loss of Gary Cahill to injury. Likely to be partnered by Joleon Lescott or Phil Jagielka, and neither have had a steady season. The hardened Chelsea veteran will have to show every inch of his quality to stop Europe’s best attackers.
Scott Parker similarly will have to cope without the injured Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard. Tottenham’s evergreen holding midfielder will need to step up as Hodgson’s only viable option in that position.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has shown moments of genius with Arsenal that could lead him to be young player of the tournament. Or he could simply flame out.
Ashley Young could be the number 10 to fill in for Wayne Rooney. Inconsistent but at times nearly unplayable for Manchester United, his cutting edge will be called upon in the group stages.
Andy Carroll must leave a mediocre Liverpool season behind him and perform on the international stage. His stature is ideally suited for the Euros, and he just may have hit form at the right time.
Wayne Rooney is suspended for the first two matches, but he remains England’s best hope to advance in the competition. We know what he can do on the international level, and Three Lions fans will be hoping to see him wheeling off in celebration.
Gael Clichy is poised to overtake Patrice Evra as left back for Les Blues. The Manchester United man had a questionable season for club and country, while Clichy has been stellar for Manchester City. Look for his influence from one end of the field to the other.
Samir Nasri has had an understated but top class season with Manchester City. Intelligent on the ball and rarely wasteful, he will be a stronghold of possession in midfield.
Flourent Malouda didn’t feature heavily for Chelsea this season, but expect him to be a crucial figure in Poland & Ukraine. Reliable in a French team that has been anything but as of late, he is a sure bet for Laurent Blanc’s side.
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