5 breakthrough stars who lit up Euro 2024 group stage

  • Euro 2024 has reached the last 16 after a thrilling group stage
  • Spain and Germany have been the tournament's most impressive teams
  • Plenty of wonderkids have shown off their quality
Euro 2024 has introduced the world to some unfamiliar players
Euro 2024 has introduced the world to some unfamiliar players / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA / Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images

Major international tournaments are normally the smartest place to play your best football as a wonderkid.

Many youngsters have stepped out of the shadows at the World Cup and European Championship in recent years, firmly establishing themselves as household names and often placing themselves front and centre in the shop window.

Euro 2024 is set to serve that purpose for a number of the continent's most promising starlets, many of whom are embarking on their maiden voyage at an international tournament.

While some of those to have shone brightest are already established professionals at big clubs, they have certainly enhanced their reputations in Germany.

Riccardo Calafiori (Italy)

Riccardo Calafiori
Riccardo Calafiori has excelled at the back / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

Those that keep a keen eye on Serie A will already know all about Riccardo Calafiori. An integral member of the Bologna side that defied expectations and secured Champions League qualification for the first time since the competition's reformatting, the centre-back has partnered Alessandro Bastoni during Italy's three group stage games.

The Azzurri have been far from flawless despite securing safe passage to the last 16 but Calafiori has shone at the heart of defence. Ignoring one extremely unfortunate own goal against Spain, the 22-year-old hasn't put a foot wrong.

Capable of playing as a left-back as well, Calafiori has been rock solid at the back, while also showcasing his ability to drive into midfield with the ball at his feet. His marauding run and excellent pass set up Italy's 98th-minute equaliser against Croatia in their final group match.

Having been linked with the likes of Liverpool and, most prominently, Juventus, Calafiori has done his chances of a lucrative switch to one of Europe's elite no harm.

Nico Williams (Spain)

Nico Williams
Nico Williams has been magnificent at Euro 2024 / BSR Agency/GettyImages

Calafiori's Italy were simply no match for Spain in Group B, with La Roja maintaining a perfect record in their opening three games. They may be yet to concede at this summer's tournament, but it's their tantalising forward line that is attracting most attention.

In particular, Athletic Club winger Nico Williams has dazzled. He was expected to be a transfer target for the continent's biggest clubs prior to Euro 2024 and his electric displays will have only intensified their pursuits of the 21-year-old.

Williams may be yet to provide a goal contribution at the championships, but those that watched Spain's opening two matches will have witnessed his immense threat. The fleet-footed forward terrorised the defences of Croatia and Italy, with poor Giovanni Di Lorenzo particularly traumatised by Williams' brilliance.

Fuelled by that desire to beat a man and then beat him again. few full-backs are going to be able to subdue the young superstar. Barcelona, are you watching.

Nicolas Seiwald (Austria)

Nicolas Seiwald
Nicolas Seiwald has shone in Austria's midfield / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages

Arguably, Austria have been the most enjoyable team to watch at Euro 2024. With no obvious world-beaters within their ranks, they have relied on togetherness, graft and Ralf Rangnick's tactical intelligence to qualify for the last 16 - something they did by finishing first above France and the Netherlands.

Key to their success has been their midfield and key to their midfield has been Nicolas Seiwald. The 23-year-old may not be as recognisable as Marcel Sabitzer and Konrad Laimer in the centre of the park, but he has been essential to the intensity with which Austria play.

The hard-working midfielder has been tenacious out of possession for Rangnick's men and relentless in recovering the ball, but has also been a chief creator in a box-to-box role for Euro 2024's dark horses.

Marc Guehi (England)

Marc Guehi
Marc Guehi has been England's standout player / Image Photo Agency/GettyImages

England have underwhelmed at Euro 2024, with the Three Lions netting just two goals in clashes with Serbia, Denmark and Slovenia. Despite winning only their opening match of the tournament, they still managed to top the group, and that was mainly due to their solid defence.

Chief in organising England's backline was the inexperienced Marc Guehi, with the Crystal Palace defender replacing the absent Harry Maguire in the starting lineup. Despite joining up with the Three Lions for his first ever major tournament, he has been the brightest spark in a dim England team.

With two clean sheets to his name already, Guehi has been a colossus at the back alongside John Stones. Most impressively, the 23-year-old has shown unbelievable composure on and off the ball, while his reading of the game and ability to step into tackles has proven incredibly useful.

No Maguire, no problem.

Arda Guler (Turkey)

Arda Guler
Arda Guler grabbed his first goal at the Euros in Turkey's opener / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Dubbed the 'Turkish Messi', Arda Guler is no stranger to the limelight. After breaking into the Fenerbahce first team as a teenager, the attacking midfielder swiftly earned himself a high-profile transfer to Real Madrid last summer.

An injury-strewn debut campaign in Madrid made adjusting to the move complicated, but a clean bill of health at the end of the season helped Guler put a run of games together. His form impressive, he took great confidence into the Euros with Turkey.

Already considered the nation's game-changer in the final third, Guler proved just that in Turkey's important opening match victory against Georgia. With the game tied, the midfielder bent a truly stunning effort beyond Giorgi Mamardashvili to inspire Turkey to a 3-1 victory. The 19-year-old is a truly special talent.