Coming into Euro 2020 this year, two teams very clearly arrived with a veritable golden generation making up their squads: France and Belgium.
Still, though, plenty of teams fancied their chances, especially those buoyed by wonderkids.
Not to ignore the fact that France are focused on one of these top young stars, 22-year-old Kylian Mbappé, the sheer volume of future stars who cut other high-powered teams is awe-inspiring.
Portugal boast the likes of João Félix, Nuno Mendes, and Pedro Gonçalves, Spain arrive with Pedri and Ferran Torres, and Italy have fully transitioned to Gianluigi Donnarumma in net.
Two teams, in particular, have gone heavy on incredibly highly-rated under-22s, and while both were in the mix for a deep run, Euro 2020 might end up being a proving ground for these next-gen stars.
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England Youth Talents
Somewhat famously, England has been bringing younger star players and giving them game time in major tournaments. Gareth Southgate sought to change this and is living up to his word.
His first call came in the dull affair that was the first match of England’s campaign, a 1-0 win over Croatia, which saw him start Manchester City’s latest golden boy, Phil Foden.
Tipped as one of the top players to watch 2020 Euros-wise, Foden has enjoyed a fantastic season.
For England, he has not looked out of place in a starting role.
Helping to make him look at home is the surrounding cast of mostly under-22s who bring energy to the team.
The likes of Mason Mount, Bukayo Saka, Declan Rice, Reece James, Jadon Sancho are all very much in consideration for minutes and not just to make up the numbers.
Sancho, the most coveted talent of the group, wasn’t picked for the 1-0 opening win, but that speaks more to the strength and depth of the team and that three players have to miss out on each match.
The Netherlands Bouncing Back
After missing out on some key tournaments, experiencing a lack of identity and experience as the nation rebuilt from the ground-up, the Netherlands has come roaring back.
Spurring the resurgence of the Oranje is a selection of 22 outfield players who boast an average age of 26-years-old.
That average would even be slightly lower if 24-year-old Donny van de Beek didn’t have to pull out with an injury.
Headlining the group are two players that Barcelona want to sign in 2021: Matthijs de Ligt and Ryan Gravenberch.
De Ligt is already a cemented starter for one of Europe’s elite, Juventus, despite being 21-years-old, and Gravenberch is one of the headline acts of Ajax’s latest batch of incredible young talents.
Joining them are the likes of Jurrien Timber, Owen Wijndal, Cody Gakpo, Donyell Malen, and Teun Koopmeiners.
What’s perhaps the most striking about this selection of talent is the fellow young stars who didn’t make it.
Despite being around for the internationals in 2020, Myron Boadu, Mohamed Ihattaren, and Justin Kluivert didn’t get into the Euro squad.
That’s not to mention the likes of Sven Botman, Steven Bergwijn, Noa Land, and Calvin Stengs, who have the talent to be in contention for the national team soon, if not already.
England was rated alongside the likes of France and Belgium to win the tournament, and the Netherlands came in as a dark horse contender.
Still, the best may be yet to come from these wunderkind-powered sides – especially with the World Cup being just around the corner.