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The hidden gems who could emerge at Euro 2012‏

The hidden gems who could emerge at Euro 2012‏

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Goal.com picks out the previously unheralded stars of the forthcoming competition in Poland and Ukraine, where they will be aiming to make themselves household names

By Robin Bairner

Many of the Euro 2012 headlines will be written by the usual suspects, with the likes of Arjen Robben, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo expected to take top billing. But the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine also offers a platform for some lesser lights to announce themselves on a greater stage.

All of the so-called ‘top’ nations have their firmly-established stars, well-known to the wider public, but there are a host of unsung heroes playing for the underdogs, desperate to gain the status of Theodoros Zagorakis, who was named Uefa Player of the Tournament at Euro 2004 when he powered Greece to unthinkable success.

Goal.com examines a number of rough diamonds waiting to shine this summer, hoping they can replicate such an achievement.

ALAN DZAGOEV


If he can shake off the effects of a broken toe from which he has been suffering, CSKA Moscow's Alan Dzagoev is likely to be a key player for the Sbornaya and will fight to regain his place on the right flank from recently recalled Sporting winger Marat Izmailov.

The skilful 21-year-old has been followed by rumours of interest from English and Spanish clubs since he made his debut for Russia aged 18, and those whispers may start to become louder should he turn in a couple of eye-catching performances in Poland and Ukraine.

Although he could technically be playing Under-21 football still, the player of Ossetian descent has already reached the 20-cap mark for his country and is set to be a stalwart for Russia in years to come. This could be his first major step to legendary status in his homeland.

THEO GEBRE SELASSIE

Theo Gebre Selassie looks set to have a big tournament. The Slovan Liberec right-back will be a guaranteed starter for the Czech Republic, despite his relative inexperience at this level. He scored five goals in 30 games for the Czech champions and was the standout performer this season.
 
He is quick, strong and very direct. Crucially, the 25 year-old is always looking to attack but never neglects his defensive duties.
 
Gebre Selassie has made dramatic improvements over the last two seasons and has grown in confidence since his difficult time at Slavia Prague as a youngster. As a result, he is almost certain to leave Liberec after the European Championship and a strong performance in Poland and Ukraine could just set him up for a big move.

ANDREAS GRANQVIST

At 27-years-old, Andreas Granqvist is at a fairly late stage in his career to make his international breakthrough, which had been on the cards for so long.

After making his Allsvenskan debut in 2004 with Helsingborgs, he joined Wigan on loan in January 2007. However, it was not until he joined Dutch side Groningen in 2008 that he started to fulfil his potential, eventually earning him a contract with Serie A outfit Genoa three years later.

A versatile defender who can switch between right-back and central defence, Granqvist  had been on the fringes of the Swedish national team for a number of years until he made his debut on September 7, 2010, when he scored five minutes into the match against San Marino in a Euro 2012 qualifier. He has not looked back since, and this summer represents his first chance to impress on a major international stage.

JAMES McCLEAN


James McClean will be Ireland's ace in the pack. The Derry-born winger has courted controversy with his outspoken views on participating in underage matches with Northern Ireland and has attracted a huge amount of attention due to his form for Sunderland in the Premier League.

It has already passed to media folklore that McClean was playing for Derry away at Waterford in Ireland's second tier while the national team were beating Armenia in Yerevan in the first match of Euro 2012 qualification.

Since then, the 23-year-old has gone from strength to strength, gaining popularity for his excellent performances in England, where he burst onto the scene with the Black Cats by scoring six times in his debut season. After making such a profound impact at club level, it is hoped he can replicate this explosion for the Boys in Green, for whom he has made only two prior appearances.

LUDOVIC OBRANIAK

After his winter move from Lille to Bordeaux, midfielder Ludovic Obraniak is ready to stamp his mark on the tournament in his grandfather's homeland. Since making his double goal-scoring debut for the White Eagles in a 2009 friendly against Greece, he has become a permanent fixture in the national team under Franciszek Smuda.

Heeding a warning from the coach, Ludo's move to south-west France in search of first-team football has quickly reaped benefits as he became a key member of the Bordeaux side that finished fifth in Ligue 1 - scoring four times in the process and starting to muscle his way into the kind of spotlight his talent deserves.

With a role alongside Kuba Blaszczykowski, Maciej Rybus and Robert Lewandowski, the 27-year old Obraniak could be the string-puller in the Polish attack.


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