As Europe’s most coveted football tournament kicks off on Friday, all eyes will be on these forwards who are superstars for their clubs but await to mark their stamp on national glory:
Ever since Luis Figo’s retirement, Ronaldo, who made his international debut in 2003, has become Portugal’s talisman. Currently their all-time leading goal-scorer, the 31-year-old also has the responsibility of captaining the side. The forward inspired the Iberian team to the semifinals in the last edition and how far the team goes this time around will largely depend on the Real Madrid superstar. The big question surrounding him is how
fresh he will be, having played in the Champions League final just days ago, where he did not seem to be at 100 per cent. Luckily for Portugal, they have been drawn in a relatively easy group consisting of Austria, Hungary and Iceland.
Ibrahimovic has been instrumental in earning Sweden qualification to Euro 2016, scoring 11 goals, three more than the rest of his teammates put together. At times during the qualification campaign it seemed like the striker single-handedly won them matches, like in the play-off against Denmark where he scored three goals over two legs. Those performances will go some way to compensate for his inability to inspire Sweden to the 2014 World Cup, where they lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal in the play-off.
The Bayern Munich striker’s style of play is not easy to explain, but in his own words, Mueller is a Raumdeuter – an interpreter of space. The 26-year-old does not have searing pace or dizzying dribbling skills, but has an unnatural ability to find space and then finish with clinical precision, a quality that won him the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup and the Silver Boot four years later. While it has been often said that he does not look like a footballer at all, much less a striker, Mueller has been an integral part of the German national team, scoring nine goals in nine Euro 2016 qualifying matches. Not surprisingly, he has earned 71 caps for Germany at just 26 years of age.
Even as the media is abuzz with rumours of him attracting the interest of Real Madrid, the striker will have to single-handedly shoulder the burden of helping the Polish national team do well at the Euros. The Bayern Munich hitman was part of the last edition too, but could do little as Poland finished last in their group. This time around though, he has created a reputation as one of Europe’s most feared strikers. He had an excellent qualifying campaign, ending as the highest goalscorer with 13 strikes. His form even led to national coach Adam Nawalka proclaiming, “I wouldn’t swap him for Ronaldo or Messi.”
Bale has lived in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow at Real Madrid ever since his big-money move from Tottenham Hotspur three seasons ago. However, for Wales he is the biggest star. In fact, the team’s first appearance in the finals of the European Championship was largely due to the 26-year-old, who scored seven out of their 11 goals in qualifying, besides assisting two more. How much Wales rely on him and Aaron Ramsey was evident when they could not win any of their three friendlies after sealing Euro 2016 qualification, losing two and drawing one.
With Karim Benzema’s omission from the France squad, a lot of responsibility will be on Griezmann’s shoulders. The forward can play on the wings or down the middle. His debut for France happened only two years ago as he was banned for a year for visiting a Paris nightclub ahead of a crucial U-21 Euro 2013 qualifying play-off. His pace and his quality with the ball soon earned him a national team call-up after the ban ended.