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Paul Merson says: Eberechi Eze could be breakout superstar at Euro 2024

Published on Jun, 12 2024

In his latest Sky Sports column, Paul Merson says England and Crystal Palace forward Eberechi Eze could be one of the breakout superstars at Euro 2024.

Read on for the Magic Man's thoughts on Eze potentially taking the Euros by storm, England's squad, the Three Lions' chances of winning Euro 2024 - and why the pressure is on Southgate this summer...

 
England's final 26-player squad for Euro 2024

Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Dean Henderson (Crystal Palace), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal).

Defenders: Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Man Utd), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City).

Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Kobbie Mainoo (Manchester United), Declan Rice (Arsenal), Adam Wharton (Crystal Palace).

Forwards: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), Cole Palmer (Chelsea), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa).

'Eze could be breakout superstar at Euros'

Image: Eze was handed his first England start against Bosnia

Going forward England have so many options. The problem for Southgate will be getting those options right. If he doesn't get them right, England will be up against it.

 

It's hard to pick the forward line.

Saka never lets his country down when he plays. Eze just glides past players and looks like the X-factor.

 
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At tournaments, you always get a player who comes out of the blue and becomes a superstar. We've seen it at World Cups and Euros over the years.

 
 

For me, Eze could be that player.

 

 

 

Gareth Southgate explains the reasons behind the inclusion Harry Kane, Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney in his final 26-player Euro 2024 squad

But Southgate has to find a solution to get his key attackers on the ball. There's no point in playing these games and Stones and Guehi are touching the ball more times than players like Foden, Saka, Eze, Palmer or Bellingham.

England have to find solutions to get these players on the ball. Hopefully they can find a way to do that because I believe they can win the Euros.

Next Up: Euro 2024's potential breakout stars

As part of Sky Sports' Next Up series, we take a look at 10 young players that could have a breakout tournament at Euro 2024.

Pressure on Southgate

In my lifetime, I honestly thought England would never win a tournament but I look at the squad Gareth Southgate has picked and the players he's left behind, if we don't win it, I don't see us ever winning a tournament.

This is the best opportunity England have had in such a long time.

I know we've had some unbelievable teams and players along the way, but football can all be about timing.

If you look at some of the other countries now like Spain, Italy and Germany, they aren't filled with world-class players.

 

Paul Merson joins the Three Lions Club to discuss what it means to play for England, penalties and playing under Glenn Hoddle.

We've got one of the best strikers in the world in Harry Kane, we've got Phil Foden who is one of the best players in the world full stop, Jude Bellingham is one of the best in the world and Declan Rice is one of the best in his position. I'd go as far as to say Kyle Walker is one of the best right-backs in the world.

 

We have players who are the best in the world in their positions.

Southgate needs to win this tournament. There's no planning for the next World Cup or anything like that, he needs to bring the trophy home.

 

Southgate has made some big decisions.

Harry Maguire was a certainty to play. He never lets England down.

 

Jack Grealish's omission is also a big shock. I know people have said he hasn't played a lot this season but when he was fit, Pep Guardiola played him in the big games for Manchester City.

Grealish is reliable and tournament football is different.

The 150-odd caps of Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish and Harry Maguire, no other country at the Euros could leave them out. They would walk into every other squad at the Euros without a doubt, and they’d probably play. Paul Merson
 

Football is a funny game, though.

There's no Marcus Rashford either. For me, Rashford is a massive miss. I know he hasn't played well this season just like Grealish, but they are players that when they get hot, they are hot.

At the start of the season, even four or five months ago, you'd have said there is absolutely no way the likes of Grealish, Maguire, Rashford and James Maddison would be left out.

I'm quite shocked with Southgate at the moment, but fair play to him. They are big decisions and now we'll have to wait and see as to whether they are the right ones.

 
'The players who have missed out will be devastated'

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson:

“The players that have missed out will be devastated.

“I expect England to win the tournament and as a player, you’d want to be involved, especially with England’s brilliant chance to win it.

“You’d want to be part of history and that’s what will be difficult for the players missing out.

“We are one of the favourites. For me it’s between England and France and I’d actually be quite shocked if we didn’t win it.”

  • 'Devastated' Maddison: I thought I would have a place
  • Analysis: Why overlooking Grealish is a big mistake

Could a lack of experience prove costly for England at the Euros?

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England's Declan Rice says there's no bitterness from the players left out of Gareth Southgate's final 26-player squad

The shock is Southgate has 100 per cent gone on form.

Usually, Southgate goes with tried and tested players, who he knows what they are going to do for him in tournaments. They normally also have a lorry-load of caps.

But this time he hasn't done that. Fair play to him, Eberechi Eze's playing well, Cole Palmer's playing well and the lad Adam Wharton is a phenomenal player as well. Southgate has thrown them in and fair play to him.

However, international football is different and playing in big major tournaments is different to playing week in, week out in the Premier League.

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The Guardian's Jonathan Liew and The Independent's Miguel Delaney discuss whether Gareth Southgate was right to leave out Jack Grealish from his 26-player Euro 2024 squad

Only time will tell if a lack of experience could be costly for England at this tournament.

Over the last 20 years, we've gone to tournaments with a squad full of caps but come away empty-handed.

This time Southgate has gone for more off-the-cuff type players like Palmer, Eze, Wharton and Kobbie Mainoo. He's gone for the unexpected players, who will not be as well known and could shock a few countries.

I would have taken Grealish, Rashford and Maddison. X-factor wins you tournaments.

Seven-and-a-half out of 10 over 38 games wins you the Premier League but nines out of 10 win you tournaments. Look at Chelsea, they didn't have consistency in the league and ended up sixth, but they did have days where they hit the nine out of 10 and it meant they had decent runs in the cup competitions.

New-look England as 13 stars cut

Exactly half of the players in Gareth Southgate’s 26-man squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have not been included in his England squad for Euro 2024, only a year and a half later.

The unlucky 13 are: Harry Maguire, Jack Grealish, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Nick Pope, Kalvin Phillips, Eric Dier, Conor Coady, Mason Mount, Ben White, Callum Wilson, James Maddison.

'England still a worry defensively'

Image: Merson believes Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi should partner John Stones at the heart of England's defence

I like Marc Guehi but playing for England at a tournament will be a different experience for him.

He plays for Crystal Palace who don't generally have a lot of the ball. The Palace defence is generally under a lot of pressure, and they defend on the edge of the penalty area. There's a lot of defending to do and you are always busy.

However, for England, he's going to be playing in these games and we are likely to have 70 per cent of the ball in these group games. You've got to be alive and switched on the whole time.

In international football, if you switch off for half a second the ball will be in the back of the net and you'll be punished.

I do like Guehi and I'm pleased he's been given this chance. I would go for him and John Stones as starters, but defensively I do worry for England. We are not the greatest at the back.

 

'Wouldn't be a surprise to see exceptional Wharton play'

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Declan Rice heaps praise on England teammate Adam Wharton after the Crystal Palace midfielder made Gareth Southgate's 26-player Euro 2024 squad

I'm a massive fan of Wharton.

He's an exceptional talent and I'm not shocked Southgate has included him.

He gets the ball, and he gives it. He sees a pass and sees it very quickly. He never really gets caught on the ball.

He's a dream for the likes of Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Eze. He'll get the ball and give it to them with the minimum of fuss.

He reminds me of a young Gareth Barry. He plays the simple pass that a lot of players don't play.

I wouldn't be surprised if he played with Declan Rice and Bellingham in England's midfield with Foden, Saka and Kane as the front three.

 
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