Verratti, Zaha & the youngsters to watch out for at the Euro Under-21 Championship

There will be some top talent on show in Israel as some of the continent's best young players look to make their mark in the eight-nation tournament
By Chris Myson

While there is no World Cup or senior European Championship to entertain us during the summer of 2013, there is still plenty of international action to keep football fans occupied.

As well as the Confederations Cup in Brazil, the Euro Under-21 Championship gets underway in Israel on Wednesday with Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Russia, England, Italy, Norway and the hosts making up the eight-nation tournament.

The competition has traditionally served as a productive breeding ground for some of the continent's most impressive young players who later go on to enjoy success at senior level and this year's edition will hopefully be no exception.

Although David de Gea and Isco are in Israel for the event there are few other established top-level European competitors, with the squads generally made up of prospects who are yet to hit the heights of Champions League regulars or full international recognition.

Here, Goal looks at some of the youngsters who potentially have a big future ahead of them and can use this tournament to propel their own profiles to similar levels around Europe.

Daniel Carvajal - Spain

Only a year ago, Daniel Carvajal left Real Madrid having failed to make a single first-team appearance. Twelve months later, he is on his way back to the Santiago Bernabeu being tipped as a future starting right-back for both club and country.

His successful season in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen has already prompted Madrid to activate their €6.5 million buy-back clause on the 21-year-old defender and the tournament in Israel could be the latest step in a career which now looks to be upwardly mobile.

Goal's Spanish football expert Ben Hayward believes he is destined to surpass current right-back occupant Alvaro Arbeloa at domestic and international level, saying: "Right-back is something of a problem position for both Real Madrid and the Spanish national team.

"Arbeloa is a decent player, but probably the weak link in both sides. Carvajal now has a real chance to stake a claim in both teams. He really has looked the part playing in Germany."

Stefan de Vrij - Netherlands

The Netherlands' long-standing weakness at the highest level has been their lack of top quality defenders but the Oranje hope that is all set to end with the emergence of Stefan de Vrij.

Already club captain at Feyenoord and capped by the senior team, 21-year-old De Vrij will be the bedrock of the Dutch challenge for the tournament in Israel, with a number of their squad having already picked up full international experience.

Dutch football expert Stefan Coerts says: "The young defender is already one of the most sought-after players in Europe in his age category. He is unlikely to leave his current side any time soon after inking a contract extension with Feyenoord earlier this season but he should have a big future ahead of him."

Matthias Ginter - Germany

Another stopper featuring in the tournament with their star on the rise is Germany's 19-year-old prospect Matthias Ginter.

Unlike De Vrij, who has already played at senior level for the Netherlands, Ginter has yet to even receive a Germany cap at U21 level, having only previously played for the under-19s until now.

The versatile defender has established himself as a regular in the Bundesliga for Freiburg and finished the season in fine form. He will now be looking to use this tournament to enhance his international chances having been relatively unused in Germany colours thus far.

Lorenzo Insigne - Italy

Despite being a regular for Serie A runners-up Napoli over the last 12 months, pint-sized attacker Lorenzo Insigne is yet to establish a consistent place in Cesare Prandelli's senior squad, with only one cap to his name so far.

He would have still been in contention for the senior side's Confederations Cup squad in Brazil, but will instead get the opportunity to further his claims in this competition, having already proven himself as a prolific goalscorer at under-21 level in the past.

Speaking ahead of the event, Insigne said he was delighted to have gained selection and believed the Italians should be targeting a place in the final due to the strength of their squad, with the starlet likely to line up as part of an attack that also includes Fabio Borini and Mattia Destro.

Bernd Leno - Germany

While De Gea is the star goalkeeper on show in Israel, Bernd Leno is another shot-stopper tipped to make it to the top of the game in the years ahead.

Germany are hardly short of quality between the sticks, but Leno will use this tournament to further enhance his own rapidly-rising reputation in a bid to get into the frame for full selection ahead of next summer's World Cup.

German football expert Enis Koylu says: "Leno arrived at Bayer Leverkusen a virtual unknown but soon displaced former Germany No.1 Rene Adler from the starting line-up with a string of fine performances.

"He will be hoping to use the under-21 tournament to underline his credentials and seal a place behind Adler and Manuel Neuer in Joachim Low's squad for Brazil 2014."

Adam Maher - Netherlands

One of the flair players to watch at the championship will be Netherlands' Adam Maher.

The prodigious 19-year-old attacking midfielder - who possesses excellent technique and an eye for goal - has already outgrown current club AZ and looks set to be a fixture for the senior national side going forward.

Stefan Coerts adds: "The attacking midfielder has been in fine form throughout the season and will be keen to add some international silverware to his trophy cabinet after guiding AZ to the KNVB Beker at club level back in May.

"Maher has been linked with a number of European giants in the past few months, but seems destined to move to Ajax or PSV this summer."

Marco Verratti - Italy

One of the biggest talents on show during the competition is Paris Saint-Germain starlet Marco Verratti.

The former Pescara starlet has played for Italy at under-19, under-20, under-21 and senior level and will look to show he is a cut above the other young players on show in Israel.

Such has been the rapid rise of the creative midfielder's talent, there has even been talk of Carlo Ancelotti taking him to Spain should he move to Real Madrid this summer.

Italian football expert Kris Voakes is looking forward to seeing him star at the tournament, saying: "A 16-year-old debutant in the third tier, 17-year-old regular in Serie B and then 19-year-old mega-money purchase for one of the world's richest clubs. Still only 20, Verratti seems destined for super-stardom.

"His astonishing rise has been one of the feel good stories on the peninsula over the last couple of years.

"Verratti is being earmarked as the natural heir to Andrea Pirlo, and should the Juventus man suffer an injury or loss of form between now and next June, the PSG midfielder will surely be the first Prandelli will turn to."

Wilfried Zaha - England

Wilfried Zaha has been playing in England's second tier this season but will see the spotlight on him increase dramatically over the next 12 months.

Manchester United swooped to snap up Zaha for €18m in January and loaned him back to Crystal Palace for the final six months of the campaign.

Fresh from helping Palace to victory in the Championship play-off final at Wembley, the talented winger will aim to be England's standout performer for the tournament in Israel.

A successful campaign for Stuart Pearce's side should provide him with perfect momentum to kick-off his United career under David Moyes next season and potentially force himself into Roy Hodgson's senior plans ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.

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