The future is now. Between France and Germany, the next-door neighbors boast an absurd collection of the world's best up-and-coming talent, some of whom will be forced into the spotlight as they prepare to play the biggest international match of their young lives. France has a new generation lead by Paul Pogba that has stolen nearly all the headlines up till now, but with a minor injury crisis on their hands, the spotlight is firmly on Germany's own golden generation to make the step up to the next level.
France boasts an absurd number of quality young players, with their talisman, 23-year-old "Pogboom" leading the way. Alongside him though, 25-year-old Antoine Griezmann has been arguably Les Bleus', and the tournament's best player, leading the way with four goals for his team. Also 25, Leicester's three-lunged Premier League-winning midfielder N'Golo Kante made his France debut this year, while Euro 2016's fastest player, Kingsley Coman is France's youngest player at 20 years old and has already won a staggering eight trophies during his time with Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich. Fellow 20-year-old Anthony Martial has had a less-than-stellar Euro 2016, but the impassive attacker's quality is undeniable. 22-year-old central defender Samuel Umtiti rounds out France's impressive youth brigade, whose future looks bright whether success in this tournament is on the cards or not.
France could put together more than half of a starting XI entirely of players 25 years old and younger and not suffer much of a drop. Stretch deeper into their various players who just missed the team and a France team of youngsters could still make a run at the Euros. Their depth is undeniable, and their top end young talent even more impressive .
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In Pogba, Coman and Martial in particular, they have a core of players who look prepared to make the leap to truly world class. It's a young generation only matched by Germany's new crop of sensational up-and-comers.
In 2012, Loew had the beginning glimpses of Germany's current framework, with Mesut Ozil, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze, and Toni Kroos all beginning to truly find their feet with the national team. This tournament though, all eyes are on 20-year-old revelation Joshua Kimmich. Philipp Lahm's heir apparent, and Die Mannschaft's newest star, Kimmich has made the right back spot his own. This is when he's not turning out in the midfield or in central defense.
Emre Can found a home in midfield under new Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp at just 22 years old last season and appears set to be a fixture for the Reds. Can's physicality and energy in midfield coupled with impressive passing range make him an intriguing option for the Germans, and he's the closest like-for-like replacement for the injured Sami Khedira.
Perhaps the most exciting option for Loew is wunderkind Julian Weigl, who, in the unlikely scenario that Bastian Schweinsteiger is unable to start, could be a surprise inclusion in the first eleven after wowing Bundesliga audiences with his performances in the heart of midfield for Dortmund. Just months after his Bundesliga debut, Weigl set a league record with 214 individual touches during a match, and boasts supernatural accuracy with the ball, holding a 91.6% passing record over his 42 matches in a Dortmund shirt. Also just 20 years of age, Weigl has never started in a competitive match for Germany, but his performances for BvB earned him his spot in Loew's 23, and they could just earn him a start in the biggest match of his life.
France and Germany are traditional powers, dominating European soccer for decades. And they were two of the favorites coming into this Euros. But it wasn't just for the established superstars. It was for the mind-boggling array of young talent, which is only figures to get better going forward. But before the two sides worry about the future, there is the present. That means booking a spot in the Euro final. And with both sides still working to find consistency and balance, it may just come down to the kids to decide who earns the right to play for a European championship.
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