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U21 European Championship: Five players to shine in the Czech Republic

Sergio Oliveira
Sergio Oliveira will look to make his mark at Porto after impressing.

A dramatic end to the under-21 European Championship group stages saw underdogs Sweden reach the semifinals at the expense of both Italy and England. An 89th minute equaliser from substitute Simon Tibbling against Portugal meant that Hakan's Ericson's side set up an all-Scandinavian battle with Denmark in the final four courtesy of their head-to-head record against the Azzurrini, whom they came from behind to beat with 10-men in the group B opener.

Meanwhile Germany's inability to beat hosts Czech Republic in a game that also ended 1-1 will see the favourites face a well-fancied Portugal side, and it was yet another disappointing campaign for the Three Lions. Gareth Southgate's side finished last of their group for the second tournament running, with yet another inquest set in motion as to the state of the international game in England.

There will be plenty of Englishmen staying out in the Czech Republic until the final, however, with the majority of Premier League clubs sending scouts to keep a watchful eye on the emerging young talent on the continent. With so much potential on display, brings us the top five players from the group stages that may well have piqued some interest. 

5. Jan Kliment (Czech Republic)

Despite an overall WhoScored rating of 7.71 being heavily reliant on a hat trick in the hosts' 4-0 thrashing of Serbia, forward Jan Kliment will have also drawn attention with a lively display in the tournament's curtain raiser against Denmark. Needless to say the 21-year old's treble in gameweek two was enough to earn him the highest rating of any player in a single match in the group stages (10) but he may not have even featured were it not for his encouraging performance against the Danes in the absence of the suspended Vaclav Kadlec.

Kliment, who tends to play on the wing for mid-table Czech outfit Jihlava, displayed great work ethic and pace in his three appearances, mustering the most shots (eight) and creating the most chances (five) for Jakub Dovalil's side. With a further 1.7 dribbles and 1.3 tackles per game he may have entered the tournament as an unknown entity to most but will be leaving it having made an impression.

4. Jannik Vestergaard (Denmark)

Despite the fact that he only signed for Werder Bremen from Hoffenheim in January, Denmark U21 captain Vestergaard may well have gained a number of suitors this summer. The centre-back performed admirably upon his arrival at the Weserstadion -- securing a WhoScored rating of 7.32 over 15 league appearances -- and has carried his impressive form into the summer, garnering a team-high score of 7.72 as Jess Thorup's side topped Group A.

The commanding defender netted Denmark's opening goal of the tournament as they came from behind to beat the Czechs and picked up WhoScored's man of the match award with a rating of 8.14 in a 2-0 win over Serbia to ensure their place in the semifinals. Winning three aerial duels per game along with the same average when it came to both tackles and interceptions, Vestergaard led by example for his side and will no doubt have attracted admiring glances in the process.

3. Bernardo Silva (Portugal)

Although he is one of only a few players that Monaco seem completely opposed to cashing in on this summer, that won't have stopped a number of Europe's big hitters from casting an eye over Bernardo Silva. They'll likely have been suitably impressed too, with the playmaker proving to be one of the real stars of the tournament so far -- somewhat expectedly so -- with a WhoScored rating of 7.80.

The 20-year-old may not have registered a goal or an assist thus far for a Portugal side that have arguably been most impressive in terms of their defensive organisation and composure on the ball, but he has been the real spark. An 88.4 percent pass accuracy suggests an impressive maturity in possession, while a monumental tally of 21 successful dribbles was a full 10 more than any other player in the group stages.

Bernardo Silva (right) has been one of the stars of the tournament.

2. Ondrej Petrak (Czech Republic)

Regardless of narrowly missing out on a place in the semifinals, midfielder Ondrej Petrak is the second Czech Republic player to star in this list with a Whoscored rating of 7.84. Operating from the deepest position in a midfield three, the Nurnberg youngster was the only player to register more than one assist in the group stages (two), though it was the way in which he performed his defensive duties that will most appeal to scouts at the tournament.

The 23-year-old completed nine tackles over his three appearances, while only England's Nathaniel Chalobah made more interceptions (11) during the group stages. After a thoroughly disappointing mid-table finish for his club, another season in Bundesliga II awaits the midfielder, though his performances this summer could see a move to one of Europe's top leagues.

1. Sergio Oliveira (Portugal)

Among a midfield that boasts the likes of Sporting duo William Carvalho and Joao Mario, along with teenager Ruben Neves, Portugal U21 captain Sergio Oliveira was somewhat overlooked ahead of the tournament. That certainly shouldn't be the case now, however, and having spent the last two years on loan at Liga Sagres outfit Pacos Ferreira, it will be interesting to see Porto's stance on the 23-year-old and whether he is accommodated in their plans following Casemiro's return to Real Madrid.

Having earned the highest rating of any player in the Euro U21 group stages (8.05), as the only player to receive more than one WhoScored man of the match award -- against Italy and Sweden -- interest in the central midfielder's services may well be mounting. Oliveira made four more key passes (11) than any other player -- all of which came from open play -- while averaging 63.7 passes per game overall and dominating central areas to win 13 of 18 aerial duels.


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