European U21 Championship top five players to watch

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Since it's formation in 1978 the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Petr Cech and Juan Mata have all helped play a leading role in helping their respective countries to glory in the European U21 Championship.

So following the commencement of this summer's edition in the Czech Republic we look at five players who will be hoping to write their names into footballing folklore.

For all the participants it is an opportunity to define their careers and kick on for the future. Who will take the chance?

Harry Kane

This season has been nothing short of a dream come true for Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane. From being a virtual unknown at the start of the campaign the young forward went on to notch 21 goals in the Premier League.

It him the highest scoring Englishman and the second highest overall in the league, a feat which was only bettered by Manchester City's Sergio Aguero.

Kane went on to win the PFA young player of the year award following his exploits for Tottenham and also made his senior debut for England in late March, scoring in a friendly win over Lithuania.

Having already scored five goals in qualification for the U21s Kane will be hoping to cap off his breakthrough season by bringing home the silverware this summer. The boy from Chingford will have a significant say on how far the English will go to winning the tournament for the first time since 1984.

Marc Andre ter-Stegen

It's not often that a Champions League winner would find himself featuring in an U21s tournament. However less than two weeks after starting in Barcelona's triumph over Juventus in Berlin, Marc Andre ter-Stegen will be lining up for Germany's U21s as they attempt to taste success in the tournament for the second time in six years.

Though he has yet to make a league appearance for the Catalonian giants the German shot stopper featured in every match for Barca in both of their successful Copa Del Rey and Champions League runs.

Ter Stegen joined Barca from hometown club Borussia Monchengladbach for £9.7 million last summer and has been labelled by some experts as the understudy to Manuel Neuer in the senior German setup. Neuer himself was a winner of the U21 Euros with Germany in 2009, when they defeated England 4-0 in the final of the tournament.

At the same time Ter Stegen was busy winning the European U17 Championship with Germany and will be hopeful of a similar result again as he attempts to write his own name into the history books of German football.

Carlos Mane

Once described as the new 'Cristiano Ronaldo' following his senior debut for Sporting Lisbon in 2013, Carlos Mane could prove to be one of the stars of this year's European U21 Championship.

Blessed with great pace and skill the Portuguese winger scored seven goals in 35 appearances for Sporting this season, helping the Lisbon giants win the Taca de Portugal. 

However despite this success Mane has experienced an injury hit career to date and has so far struggled to live up to the potential that has surrounded him since his breakthrough two seasons ago.

On the other hand with the likes of club team-mate William Carvalho and Monaco stalwart Bernardo Silva alongside Mane in their ranks, Portugal will be among the favorites for glory at this year's tournament. The only question is can the man of which so much was and still is expected step up to the plate and finally deliver, with the eyes of the world watching on?

Saido Berahino

Alongside Harry Kane and Danny Ings, West Bromwich Albion's Saido Berahino completes what is arguably the strongest attacking lineup at this summer's European U21 Championship.

Now a regular for the Baggies, Berahino scored 20 goals in 45 appearances for West Brom this season which has led to the Berundi born striker becoming one of the hottest English prospects in recent years.

Berahino was top scorer with 10 goals in the qualification phase of the U21s Euros, beating off competition from the likes off Ajax's Arkadiusz Milik and Juventus' Alvaro Morata for the accolade. 

Having scored a combined total of 63 goals this season the pressure will be on for England's forwards to spearhead their team to success this summer, with Berahino in particular looking to impress ahead of a potentially busy summer and season to come for the young forward.

Pierre emile Hojberg

Named Danish U17 player of the year in 2011, Bayern Munich's Pierre emile Hojberg is another young talent who will be hoping to use this year's tournament as an opportunity to impress his superiors back at the Bavarian club.

Following his move to Bavaria, aged just 16 from Brondby IF in his native Denmark, Hojberg struggled initially to establish himself in a highly talented midfield at Bayern, that contains the likes of Xabi Alonso and Bastian Schweinsteiger among others.

As a result this led to the Dane enjoying a successful loan spell at FC Augsburg for the second half of last season. The highlight of which was assisting the winning goal against Bayern in an eventual 1-0 win for Augsburg. 

Already a full international with Denmark, Hojberg will be looking to utilise that experience this summer as he bids to play a starring role in helping his home nation claim the silverware for the first time in their history.

Who are you excited to see at the Euro U21 Championships? Let us know below!

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Tottenham Hotspur
Saido Berahino
England Football

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