European U21 championship players to watch include Hughes and Sisto
The 2015 European U21 championship kicks off in the Czech Republic on Wednesday, with players from the eight competing nations hoping to follow in the footsteps of previous Golden Player winners.
Andrea Pirlo, Luis Figo and Juan Mata all made a name for themselves in the last of European football's age-group competitions.
A fair number of players on show are already household names due to their appearances for well-known clubs in the major European leagues.
The likes of Bernardo Silva, Harry Kane, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Max Meyer and William Carvalho have therefore not been included in the list below, which seeks to highlight five of the lesser-known players who will be seeking to impress in the Czech Republic.
Johannes Geis | 21 | Central midfielder | Germany
Geis is a wonderfully slick distributor from the base of the midfield, whose performances for Mainz 05 last season attracted interest from the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Lazio and Schalke. A Germany international at every age group from U16 up, he will be tasked with initiating his team's attacks as Horst Hrubesch's side seek to regain the crown they last won in Sweden in 2009.
The 21-year-old passed the ball further on average (25.4 metres) than any other midfielder in the Bundesliga last season while also boasting the best long-ball completion percentage (32.8 percent). Yet he also showed himself capable of contributing further up the pitch, with four goals and three assists. He looks set to solidify his status as one of the most interesting midfield prospects in Europe over the coming weeks.
Will Hughes | 20 | Central midfielder | England
Hughes has been in the England U21 set-up since 2012 and has earned himself a prominent place in a group largely populated by Premier League players. The Derby County midfielder scored a very well-taken goal in the second leg of the playoff victory over Croatia that secured England's place in the Czech Republic and will hope for opportunities to impress further in front of a continental audience this summer.
With bleached-blond hair and a lovely left foot, the 20-year-old is hard to miss. While he is still not quite at the stage where he is able to run the game on a consistent basis in the highly physical environment of the Championship, he has shown himself to be capable of taking charge at 21 level.
Iuri Medeiros | 20 | Forward | Portugal
There is a seven-strong Sporting contingent in Portugal's squad and among the likes of Carvalho, Carlos Mane and Joao Mario a less well-known product of the Lisbon club's academy is a prospect. Medeiros is yet to make his first-team debut for the Lions but he has represented Portugal at every age group from U15s upwards and comes into the tournament on the back of some promising performances on loan at Arouca.
The 20-year-old is a tricky winger who strikes the ball very well off his favoured left foot. He has excellent close control and is capable of whipping dangerous balls into the area from both open play and set pieces. He impressed off the bench in the friendly defeat to Czech Republic in March and will hope to be given further opportunities to demonstrate his ability this summer as a part of a very talented group of players.
Daniele Rugani | 20 | Central defender | Italy
Rugani is strong and steady centre-back who made an excellent impression during his debut top-flight campaign on loan at Empoli. The Lucca native is a classically styled defender who rarely takes unnecessary risks and goes about his work in a focused and composed manner. He played every minute of every match in Serie A last season, without picking up a single yellow card.
In February, then-Empoli coach Maurizio Sarri described the 20-year-old as a player who has got everything required to be a star. A return to Juventus looks to be on the cards for next season, but first he will have an important role to play alongside Roma's Alessio Romagnoli in the centre of defence for an Italy side who hope to go far in the Czech Republic.
Pione Sisto | 20 | Attacking midfielder | Denmark
Sisto comes into the tournament on the back of helping FC Midtjylland to their first ever Danish league title and he can be fancied to make a big impact in the Czech Republic. The celebratory tribal dance his Ugandan parents performed at the news conference to announce his first call-up to the U21s last December was matched by his debut hat trick in a 7-1 thrashing of club side Dinamo Bucharest.
The 20-year-old is a quick and unpredictable winger or attacking midfielder, whose elusive dribbling and eye for goal saw him notch eight goals and three assists for his club last season. Denmark national team coach Morten Olsen has likened him to Christian Eriksen, while a number of major European clubs are reported to be interested. Impressive performances this month could persuade one of them to act.
Nick Dorrington is a freelance football writer. Twitter: @chewingthecoca.