Spain national team

The ESPN FC crew debate whether or not Harry Kane should start up front for England against Lithuania.

The European Championship's expansion to a 24-team tournament has a multitude of effects - one is that it effectively gives the major countries a free pass. Therefore, managers have more license to experiment and evolve their side with significantly less risk of failure.

Here are five fine talents still attempting to break into their country's first-choice XI - what chance do they have of overhauling more established names?

1. Marco Verratti, Italy

By this stage, we expected Verratti to be Italy's first-choice Regista, considering Andrea Pirlo had repeatedly stated his intention to retire after last summer's World Cup. The playmaker was convinced to extend his glorious international career when his old Juventus boss Antonio Conte took charge, however, and therefore Verratti is still playing second fiddle.

The duo can play together. They started in a three-man midfield alongside Daniele De Rossi in the World Cup opener against England - the Roma man sat deepest, with the two creators slightly ahead, dictating the play - and again versus Uruguay. In qualification for Euro 2016, however, Conte hasn't yet started them in the same side, suggesting he thinks the players are mutually exclusive in the deep midfield position.

Pirlo is still a wonderful talent, but by next summer Verratti might have overtaken him. Pirlo now increasingly struggles against high-energy opponents, to the extent that his absence from Juventus' recent trip to Dortmund was actually quite convenient.

The great thing about Verratti, meanwhile, is that the PSG midfielder combines that guile with the tenacity of Pirlo's old midfield colleague Rino Gattuso. Verratti needs to become more disciplined with his ball-winning, but it might be time he becomes Italy's midfielder leader.

If not, Verratti is still 22 and has time on his side. Considering players like Pirlo, Xavi Hernandez and Bastian Schweinsteiger became most revered around the age of 30, Verratti's peak might come in Euro 2024 ...

2. David De Gea, Spain

There is absolutely no question that David De Gea is now a better goalkeeper than Iker Casillas, but that won't be enough for Vicente del Bosque to hand him Spain's No. 1 shirt.

The key to Del Bosque's management of Spain over past seven years has been maintaining harmony within the squad. This hasn't always been easy, considering the number of world-class performers hoping for a starting spot, not to mention historic geographical divisions among Spaniards and a particularly tense recent Real Madrid vs. Barcelona rivalry. Winning helps, of course.


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