Who has the best young generation - France, England, Spain, Germany, Italy or Belgium?

A number of promising players will be hoping to forge a place in their national sides before Euro 2016 - Goal takes a look at the best and brightest...
Just two months after football's greatest prize was claimed by Germany, Europe's top nations are now turning their attention to Euro 2016.

Qualification for the finals in France begins this weekend as, for the first time, a total of 23 places are up for grabs to join the host nation in the tournament proper, where the fight to dethrone reigning champions Spain will be fought.

After a handful of high-profile international retirements following the World Cup, it could well be a new generation of stars which graces the finals in two years' time, and these youngsters will have the chance to stake a claim in their coaches' plans in the opening qualifiers over the next few days.

Below, Goal looks at the best and brightest young players (under the age of 23) who could be set to light up both qualifying and the finals for eight of the biggest names in Europe...

By Robin Bairner

The majority of the France squad that travelled to Brazil in the summer had a youthful, fresh look to it, and there is a plethora of young players waiting to break into Didier Deschamps’ squad. Indeed, many of them are already there.

Twenty-one-year-old Raphael Varane is regarded as one of the brightest prospects in the world at centre-back but will be pushed in years to come by Eliaquim Mangala, Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma and the highly-rated Aymeric Laporte, who is impressing at the highest level in Spain with Athletic Bilbao.

This formidable glut of centre-backs is complemented on the left by a number of exciting options, the most prominent of who is PSG’s Lucas Digne, although Monaco’s Layvin Kurzawa has correctly been winning rave reviews for his attacking displays from that area.

Right-back could be a more problematic area in the future, although Sebastien Corchia’s displays for Lille have been encouraging, albeit in a slightly more advanced role.

In goal, meanwhile, Zacharie Boucher and Maxime Dupe have been turning out regularly for Toulouse and Nantes respectively and look very mature prospects in a position that typically suits older heads.

Midfield is another area brimming with young talent. Head and shoulders above the competition, though, is Paul Pogba – already a world-class performer in his station aged only 21. Monaco pair Geoffrey Kondogbia and Tiemoue Bagayoko are also strong bets to be powerhouses in the decade to come. In a more creative capacity, Montpellier’s 20-year-old prodigy Morgan Sanson is performing to a high level in Ligue 1 on a regular basis and Lyon’s Clement Grenier remains a thrilling prospect, despite recent injury problems.

If Yaya Sanogo is France’s starting Under-21 option in a centre forward role, there is a potentially world-class presence breaking through in the form of Anthony Martial at Monaco, while Juventus’ Kingsley Coman has already displayed the hallmarks of being a star in Serie A. And then there are wingers Paul-Georges Ntep and Florian Thauvin – both are tremendous talents but need channelled in the correct way.

And all this without even considering Alexandre Lacazette and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, who are already in the senior squad.

By Joe Wright

Belgium's 'golden generation' of players enjoyed a run to the last eight of the World Cup and, given the rapacious conveyor belt of talent from the country, they could well find themselves contenders for glory at Euro 2016.

Established stars Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard remain short of their 23rd birthdays, while Adnan Januzaj could well have become one of the world's top attacking midfielders in two years' time. Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois also boasts incredible big-game experience despite his young age.

Elsewhere, Divock Origi seized the spotlight in Brazil to earn a transfer to Liverpool, while PSV attacking starlet Zakaria Bakkali could well be a household name by the time the finals come around. The flair of Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and strength of Michy Batshuayi will also be well worth watching in Ligue 1 this year.

On home soil, Dennis Praet of Anderlecht remains one of the brightest creative midfielders in central Europe, while Paul-Jose Mpoku of Standard represents a genuine goal threat from the heart of the side.

And that's before you consider Thorgan Hazard and full-back Jordan Lukaku, the two younger brothers of Belgium's biggest names, who were called up for the recent friendly against Australia.

By Joe Wright

Some of England's brightest young players were involved in the dismal World Cup campaign this summer and will be itching to kick on from Brazil.

The undisputed young star of the side is Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, who is already being touted as the man around whom Roy Hodgson should build his side due to his electric pace and trickery in attack.

Ross Barkley of Everton (currently injured) and Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere are three youngsters with senior international experience who could be key components of England's side ahead of Euro 2016, along with Manchester United defensive duo Luke Shaw and Phil Jones.

Elsewhere, Jack Butland - captain of the Under-21 side - remains England's brightest young goalkeeper, while John Stones, Jon Flanagan, new Tottenham signing Eric Dier and United rising star Tyler Blackett all have an eye on spots in defence - along with Arsenal's Calum Chambers.

Further forward, Southampton's James Ward-Prowse continues to impress in midfield, while it remains to be seen whether wingers Tom Ince and Wilfried Zaha can build on their undoubted potential and Ravel Morrison continues to battle off-the-field indiscretions.

Striking options are more limited - a worrying sign for England - but Saido Berahino will be out to impress after bursting onto the scene last season, with Harry Kane of Spurs and James Wilson of United in with an outside chance of senior call-ups in the coming months.

By Enis Koylu

Germany will enter Euro 2016 qualification with a pretty settled team, despite the retirements of World Cup winners Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm and Per Mertesacker this summer.

Two players eager to replace the Arsenal centre-back are Antonio Rudiger and Matthias Ginter, both of whom have made inroads into the international scene.

Leon Goretzka of Schalke is spectacularly talented and, though he is currently laid low with injury, he will be hopeful of a feature in Joachim Low's squad having made his international debut in May, while Christoph Kramer seems to have won the trust of the coach. Both will have chances, with Bastian Schweinsteiger struggling with injury.

Julian Draxler has a World Cup winners' medal to his name but still has it all to prove at international level, having spent much of his Germany career playing second fiddle to more experienced names. He'll have Schalke team-mate Max Meyer breathing down his neck for a berth in attacking midfield, though.

Successors to Klose seem to be few and far between, but Kevin Volland is another to have made his international debut against Poland in May. Elsewhere, Maximilian Arnold and Timo Werner have impressed at Bundesliga level and could be eyeing a spot in France in two years' time.

By Carlo Garganese

Italy’s young jewel is PSG star Marco Verratti. The 21-year-old controls and directs the play in midfield like Spain legend Xavi and can be expected to reach a world-class level by the time of Euro 2016.

Also in midfield, Napoli’s Brazilian-born Jorginho is a classy regista from a deep-lying position, while Roma’s Alessandro Florenzi has the energy and tenacity to be a regular part of the Italy set-up - though he first needs to nail down a spot at Roma. Juventus-owned Stefano Sturaro ticks all the boxes – a complete midfielder who is making great progress at Genoa.

The peninsula boasts a whole host of promising attackers. Sassuolo pair Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza – the latter of whom enjoyed a fantastic Azzurri debut against Netherlands on Thursday – look set for big things and should return to Juventus sooner rather than later. AC Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy is back from injury and has all the explosive qualities to be a top player. Roma’s Mattia Destro, Sampdoria’s Manolo Gabbiadini and Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne ensure that Italy have plenty of young forwards to keep an eye on.

Following the trend of most nations, Italy have fewer defenders to count on. Milan full-back Mattia De Sciglio rarely gets beaten by his man and has a bright future ahead of him. Elsewhere there are no guarantees, although Roma-owned Alessio Romagnoli and Empoli’s on-loan Juventus centre back Daniele Rugani (defender of the year in Serie B last term) have the talent.

In goal, Genoa’s Mattia Perin, Chievo’s Francesco Bardi and Cesena’s Nicola Leali are all Serie A starters already, but perhaps  the most exciting prospect is Udinese’s 18-year-old Simone Scuffet.

By Stefan Coerts

Netherlands’ most promising youngster is arguably PSV star Memphis Depay. The winger impressed at the 2014 World Cup and has started the new season in fine form as he looks to further boost his reputation.

Meanwhile, in defence, Feyenoord defender Terence Kongolo is ready to make a name for himself after breaking into the first team in Rotterdam last season, while Manchester City’s Karim Rekik - currently on loan at PSV - is also one for the future. Other promising youngsters at the back include centre-backs Joel Veltman and Virgil van Dijk, with Jetro Willems an option at left-back.

Ajax's Davy Klaassen - who was voted Eredivisie talent of the season in 2013-14 - Chelsea's Marco van Ginkel (on loan at AC Milan), Feyenoord starlet Tonny Vilhena and PSV playmaker Adam Maher are arguably the biggest standout names in midfield and all have a lot to offer going forward, while Twente youngster Kyle Ebecilio could also be a surprise candidate for Oranje in a slightly more withdrawn role.

In attack, Spartak Moscow winger Quincy Promes and Feyenoord star Jean-Paul Boetius have the ability to take on their direct opponents before sending in a dangerous cross from the wing, with PSV striker Jurgen Locadia and Luc Castaignos of Twente the forwards to keep an eye on.

By Ben Hayward

Spain’s so-called ‘golden generation’ is approaching its twilight following the international retirements of Carles Puyol, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and David Villa, but there is plenty more talent in the youth teams.

Continental champions at Under-21 and U-19 level in recent years, La Roja can expect a bright future.

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea impressed against France in Spain’s friendly defeat on Thursday, while Real Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal was the pick of his side’s players at the Stade de France, Barcelona’s Marc Bartra was an unused substitute in Paris and Real Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez is another alternative in central defence. Left-back Juan Bernat could also challenge for a place in the squad following his summer move from Valencia to Bayern Munich.

In midfield, Koke looks primed to take over the Xavi role, while former Golden Boy winner Isco and Valencia striker Paco Alcacer both came off the bench against France and should also play a big part in Spain’s future.

Athletic Club forward Iker Muniain - still just 21 - will be hoping for another chance soon and former Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata will look to make his mark as well following a summer move to Juventus, while Bayern’s Thiago Alcantara should have a big role if he can stay clear of injuries.

Real Madrid forward Jese should play a part in future, along with Barca pair Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu – currently both on loan at Sevilla.

Back at Camp Nou, strikers Munir El Haddadi and Sandro are just breaking into the first team and could also be involved by the time Euro 2016 comes around.

By Peter Staunton

Sporting's William Carvalho has emerged as a central midfielder of distinction and is now a key part of Paulo Bento's Portugal set-up.

Sanjin Prcic has just been signed by French club Rennes and is widely tipped as Bosnia-Herzegovina's next star in waiting.

Croatia's talent production line continues to produce with Marcelo Brozovic and Mario Pasalic expected to start for Niko Kovac's side in qualification.

Bayern's Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is the latest Danish talent on show in the Bundesliga and is now established in the senior national team set-up.

Serbia will be counting on prolific young forward Aleksander Mitrovic for goals as they aim to qualify.

Stromsgodset's 15-year-old sensation Martin Odegaard has caught the eye of clubs around the continent and may feature for Per Mathias Hogmo's side in Norway's qualification campaign.

Elsewhere, Latvia's young striker Valerijs Sabala will cause trouble while Simeon Slavchev of Bulgaria is a promising midfielder.

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