12 players who'll spark brilliance



Cristiano Ronaldo

forward, 31

Ronaldo recently became the first player in history to score more than 50 goals in six consecutive seasons – not bad for someone who supposedly hasn't had his best campaign with Real Madrid.

As Portugal's team has become less impressive, Ronaldo's impact at tournaments has waned – his most significant contributions were helping his country to the Euro 2004 final and the World Cup semi-finals two years later. But Fernando Santos’s team look notably better this time out, something even Ronaldo himself has acknowledged.

He's the favourite with some bookmakers to top the goal charts in France – and with potential cannon fodder in Iceland, Hungary and Austria coming up in the group, you can see why.

Kevin De Bruyne

midfielder, 24

Eden Hazard may have been regarded as Belgium's biggest star in recent years, but his poor season at Chelsea coincided with an impressive debut campaign for De Bruyne at Manchester City.

It's the former Wolfsburg man who is currently Belgium's form man and he'll hope to be similarly inspirational at Euro 2016. De Bruyne actually has an English mother but made his debut for Belgium in 2010 and scored against the USA at the World Cup in 2014.

Thiago Alcantara

central midfielder, 25

Although born in Italy to a Brazilian father – his brother Rafinha lines up for the Seleçao – Thiago represents Spain, the country where he broke through as a first-team player at Barcelona.

His talents were appreciated to such an extent that Pep Guardiola eventually swooped to take his former protege to Bayern Munich, where he has since won three straight Bundesliga titles.

Injury ruled Thiago out of the 2014 World Cup but he'll be ready to shine at his first major tournament, where Spain are one of the favourites for victory as they seek a third consecutive European Championship crown.

Anthony Martial

forward, 20

"Fifty million down the drain, Tony Martial scores again," is the chant at Old Trafford these days, in honour of a Frenchman who has been a resounding success since moving to Manchester United last summer. Many thought United were mad to pay such a huge amount for a player who had scored only 11 league goals for Monaco, but Martial has proved himself to be one of the most exciting talents in world football over the past 12 months.

Now the 20-year-old has the opportunity to shine for hosts France at the Euros, and you wouldn't bet against it – despite the fact that, when the squad was selected in mid-May, he was still yet to get on the scoresheet in eight appearances for his country. Martial is likely to play on the left of a front three and he'll be a real threat as he cuts inside and looks to wreak havoc.

Robert Lewandowski


The main man for joint hosts Poland at Euro 2012, Lewandowski was one of the poster boys of that tournament and netted its first goal against Greece.

Things rather fell apart from there as Poland crashed out in the group stage without Lewandowski netting again, but the striker's status has only grown from there. There were the four goals he scored for Borussia Dortmund in a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, then the move to Bayern Munich which has produced 67 goals in two title-winning seasons. Oh, and five goals in nine minutes after coming on as a half-time sub against Wolfsburg. Now that's what you call an impact.

Lewandowski was the top scorer in qualifying with a huge 13 goals in 10 games – albeit six of them came in two matches against Gibraltar – and is one of the favourites to be leading goalscorer at the tournament too.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic


"One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch," was Zlatan's typically modest reaction when Sweden failed to qualify for Brazil 2014.

Thankfully Sweden and Zlatan will be at Euro 2016 – almost entirely thanks to Ibra’s three goals in the play-off double header against near neighbours Denmark.

The 34-year-old scored the goal of the tournament four years ago, an acrobatic volley against Italy, and this may be his swansong at international level. Despite that, he's still as big a threat as ever – he netted 50 times during his final season with PSG, comfortably the best haul of his career.

Luka Modric

central midfielder, 30

Modric flourished at Real Madrid after the appointment of Zinedine Zidane as boss in January, and could be a key figure for a Croatia side who will believe they can be a surprise package.

Four years ago they found themselves in the same group as eventual finalists Spain and Italy, finishing a creditable third. This time they're with Spain again but they'll fancy their chances of edging out Turkey and the Czech Republic for the other qualification spot, then progressing from there.

Modric's tidy possession game could be crucial to that. Few players are more elegant and composed on the ball. On his day, the former Spurs man is a joy to watch.

Xherdan Shaqiri

forward, 24

Any man who has earned the nicknames 'The Magic Dwarf' and 'The Power Cube' during his career is a man that FFT appreciates. Shaqiri netted the only entirely left-footed hat-trick in World Cup history when he helped Switzerland into the second round two years ago, kicking off the treble against Honduras with a stunning strike from outside the box.

The stockily built forward is very much Switzerland's main creative force and, although he can be erratic, he can produce brilliance at any moment, from any distance.

Andres Iniesta

central midfielder, 32

This will be Iniesta's first tournament without his perennial sidekick Xavi, a double act that helped Spain to glory at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. Not a bad list.

But Iniesta doesn't need Xavi to shine – something he proved with Barcelona this season – and will be an important presence as the elder statesman of the current Spanish side. He may be 32 now but he’s still capable of delivering the killer pass and will play a major role in pulling the midfield strings.


Thomas Muller

forward, 26

Perhaps the most surprising statistic of Muller's career so far is that he is yet to score a single goal at a European Championship finals, having failed to find the net at Euro 2012 despite scoring 10 goals in two World Cups.

It's hard to see the Bayern Munich star drawing a blank again this summer. Muller usually delivers when the big games come around and Germany will fancy their chances of doing well on the back of their World Cup triumph two years ago.

Muller may not be the most graceful of players but he knows how to be in the right place at the right time – and one way or another the ball usually ends up in the net.

Marek Hamsik

attacking midfielder, 28

Few players show such supreme dedication to hair maintenance as Hamsik, and FFT waits with excitement to find out just what the Slovakian has planned for Euro 2016.

Mohawks aside, he can play a bit too, and he'll undoubtedly be Slovakia's biggest threat when they face England and Wales in Group B – indeed, he recently scored a cracker in their warm-up win over Germany in Augsburg.

Hamsik is a key man at club level for Napoli, runners-up to Juventus in Serie A in 2015/16, and a regular goal-getter from midfield.

Antoine Griezmann

forward, 25

Griezmann may not get quite the same attention as Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in La Liga, but gradually he has established himself as one of the finest talents in Europe.

The forward netted 30 goals in a season for the first time in his career during 2015/16, leading the line superbly for Atletico Madrid. His pace and finishing ability could be vital for France, particularly given that Karim Benzema won’t be involved at Euro 2016.