Whilst all eyes were, somewhat understandably, fixed on the action in France, there was another, perhaps less appreciated, International tournament playing out on European soil this summer.
The UEFA European Under-19 Championships is not only a proxy qualifying route to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, but also a fantastic opportunity to check out some of the most promising talent the Continent has on offer.
The tournament didn’t fail to disappoint, with some scintillating team performances that eventually saw France crowned the victors. Below we’ll profile five stand-out individuals from the tournament, but first a run down of how some of Europe’s bigger nations faired.
So much was expected from hosts Germany this summer but surprisingly they could only finish third.
One silver lining was beating traditional rivals The Netherlands on penalties in the play-off after a terrific 3-3 draw. Germany’s stand out player was Phillipp Ochs, and to a lesser extent, Schalke defender Phil Neumann who looks a real prospect.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, got off to a blistering start – crushing Croatia in their first game – but then dropped right off the pace with losses to England and France.
Led by the excellent Abdelhak Nouri, his two goals wasn’t enough and the Dutch will not compete at next summer’s World Cup. There was reasons for hope however as Laros Duarte, Sam Lammers, Jari Schuurman and Steven Bergwijn look destined for stardom.
England where the only side that won all three games under the tutelage of ex-Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd but their defensive problems cost them a place in the final.
They failed to keep a clean sheet in all four games and lacked the ability to defend for 90 minutes, however Reece Oxford is extremely talented at the back and you can see why West Ham United are so intent on holding out on him.
Also impressive where Chelsea’s Isaiah Brown and Dominic Solanke who scored four of England seven goals between them. Honourable mentions also for Tottenham’s Joshua Onomah and Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles also gave impressive performances for The Three Lions.
Eventual champions France where just too good for everyone and despite losing to England in their opening game in which they dominated for large parts.
They didn’t feel sorry for themselves and steamrolled over all challenges and scored 15 times in the tournament, which was 8 more than second place England and Portugal who were both on seven goals scored respectively.
With a negative approach similar to their senior team counterparts, Italy made the final largely down to the penalties by full back Federico Di Marco.
They scored just five goals in five games and four of them were from the full-back, hardly eye catching stuff. Manuel Locatelli was another player that stood out, but the Italians where certainly second best in the final.
Below are the top five who stood out at the tournament, but it may just be worth remembering the names of the following – Josip Brekalo of Croatia and Portugal’s Buta and Joao Carvalho; all were excellent for their respective countries.
Kylian Mbappe (France)
The French had a ridiculous array of talent on show in Germany and who you could easily pick them all out, but the one that shone over them all was Kylian Mbappe.
The Monaco forward is extremely talented and has ridiculous pieces of skill. He can play through the middle but is more comfortable moving out wide and taking on defenders. He scored five goals and supplied one assist, but stats aside his ability on the ball is brilliant and a joy to watch.
Jean Kevin-Augustin (France)
The Paris Saint Germain forward is looking up at the football world and saying “come and get me” and after his performance in Germany, you can see why.
Very quick, two footed and an eye for hitting the target, he finished the competition as top scorer with six goals from twelve shots. His movement and link up play with partner Kylian Mbappe was outstanding, as they interchanged and dragged defenders all over the pitch.
With Zlatan Ibrahimović now gone and a new manager in place, Augustin certainly has the chance to prove his worth at club level.
Federico Di Marco (Italy)
The Italians didn’t have much in the final third and that was more evident when their full-back scored four of their five goals.
The Inter Milan player has a wand of a left foot and put in cross after cross but to no avail.
He’s quick, positionally very good and his reading of situations is impressive, there isn’t many promising modern day full backs out there but he is certainly one.
Steven Bergwijn (Netherlands)
He exploded onto the scene in his country’s opening game against Croatia with a superb header and then a terrific solo goal in which he initially picked the ball up his own half.
They would be the only two goals he would get but his all round game play was outstanding and looks the real deal. The PSV forward is comfortable anywhere across the attacking line and his energy and power is one for defenders to be afraid of.
Philipp Ochs (Germany)
He was the host’s best option in the final third throughout the competition and scored four goals in four games, including a hat-trick against Portugal in the group game.
The Hoffenhiem attacker is technically gifted, has great balance and a great eye for the goal. The German has a bright future ahead of him and the question will be asked that how long Hoffenheim can keep hold of him.