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With this month's tournament in Denmark about to kick-off, Goal.com eyes 10 of the players who will be looking to enhance their reputation and prove themselves as potential stars

FEATURE
By Adam Scime

The Uefa European Under-21 Championship begins June 11 as eight teams vie to win the final on June 25 - Belarus, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Iceland, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine.

While 2009 winners Germany failed to qualify for the event this time around, plenty of players who featured in the last edition have already budded into superstars, examining that year's winning squad alone - Mesut Ozil and Manuel Neuer are now two of football's biggest stars, playing at powerhouses Real Madrid and Bayern Munich not even two years after their success in Sweden.

This year's tournament promises to display more young stars, some already well-known, and some in the making, who will gain recognition for their performances in the European youth competition.

Goal.com highlights some of the best and brightest, running through 10 players to watch out for in host nation Denmark.

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN | Denmark

Age:  19
Club: Ajax
Position: Midfielder

An important part of Ajax's title winning side in 2010-11 and already with World Cup experience from South Africa under his belt, Eriksen is a hot commodity. Praised as the next great player for his country, Johan Cryuff has suggested he could reach the level of Danish legends Michael and Brian Laudrup. Who is to say he can't do even better?


ANDER HERRERA | Spain

Age: 21
Club: Athletic Bilbao
Position: Midfielder

Spain have a plethora of talent and stars at their disposal at this tournament, but one flying under the radar is Herrera. Having already secured a move to Athletic after his positive performance for Real Zaragoza, the Basque-born playmaker has plenty of individual skill and moves superbly around the park - able to pierce defences with a clever run or an exquisite pass.


PHIL JONES | England


Age: 19
Club: Blackburn
Position: Defender

The 19-year-old Blackburn centre-back looks set to join Manchester United in the coming weeks and will be looking to make clear why Sir Alex Ferguson is willing to pay £16 million for his services. With leadership skills that defy his tender age, Jones will be pivotal to England’s chances.


VACLAV KADLEC | Czech Republic


Age: 19
Club: Sparta Prague
Position: Striker

Goalscoring is what Kadlec does best, having the feat of finding the back of the net on his debuts for both the Under-21 and the senior team. The youngster has been touted as the best talent to emerge from the country since Tomas Rosicky and Pavel Nedved, and will be hoping to live up to that tag and catch the eye of some of Europe's bigger clubs.


JUAN MATA | Spain


Age: 23
Club: Valencia
Position: Winger

Mata is one who needs little introduction. If not for Spain's embarrassment of riches Mata would be a regular starter in the senior team as he seamlessly can switch from midfield and attack. The graduate of the Real Madrid youth academy arguably had his best season yet in 2010-11 with Valencia and is considered a good bet to be top-scorer.


PAVEL NEKHAYCHIK | Belarus


Age:  22
Club: BATE Borisov
Position:  Midfielder

A very important player for Belarus eternal champions BATE Borisov, Nekhaychik is very experienced at the highest level, having played in the Champions League group stage against Real Madrid and Juventus in 2008 and starred in the Europa League in the last two seasons. Nekhaychik is a versatile midfielder with a great vision and a decent eye for goal as his three strikes in the qualifiers exemplify.


YAROLSAV RAKITSKIY | Ukraine


Age: 21
Club: Shakhtar Donetsk
Position: Defender

It's hardly surprising Rakitskiy is touted as the next big thing in Ukrainian football, as he made a place in central defence of the Ukrainian champions his own in the last two seasons. Young Player of the Year in 2009, he is not only strong and blessed with exceptional positional sense, but also good with the ball and capable of brilliant long passes. Some say he is similar to team-mate Dmytro Chygrynskiy, but fans have hope Rakitskiy will turn out to be much better.


XHERDAN SHAQIRI | Switzerland


Age: 19
Club: Basel
Position: Midfielder

His goal against England in a Euro 2012 qualifier in September showcased just how good the Swiss star is at such a young age. A player with plenty of quickness, and fantastic with the ball at his feet, he produces a lethal left-foot strike and his playing style is comparable to wing-wizard Arjen Robben.


GYLFI SIGURDSSON | Iceland


Age:  21
Club: Hoffenheim
Position: Midfielder

Iceland beat out a massively fancied Germany side to emerge from the qualification process and Sigurdsson, who has senior caps, played a vital part scoring five times in five appearances in the qualification process. He was hugely influential in his first season in the Bundesliga, and the player is expected to punish opponents as he is a dead-ball and long-range shooting specialist.


DANIEL STURRIDGE | England


Age: 21
Club: Chelsea
Position: Striker

Having just finished a loan spell in which he scored eight goals in 12 games for Bolton, Sturridge will travel to Denmark in confident mood. One of the most natural finishers on display, the 21-year-old has every chance of racking up goals with service from the likes of new Liverpool signing Jordan Henderson.



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