London – Serge Gnabry (Germany)
Deemed not good enough for West Bromwich Albion by Tony Pulis less than two years ago, Gnabry’s move to Bayern Munich last week after he activated a clause in his contract with Werder Bremen showed that Arsenal may have been hasty in their decision to let him to leave. The 21-year-old scored 11 times in the Bundesliga last season and will be a major threat in attack for a German side missing the injured defender Jonathan Tah. Borussia Dortmund’s new signing Mo Dahoud will provide thrust from midfield, while the Mainz winger Levin Öztunali is one of several players in the squad who won the Euro Under-19s in 2014.
Sandro Ramírez (Spain) The coach Albert Celades called up several players who have already been capped by the seniors, including Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio and Atlético’s Saul Niguez, for a tournament they have won four times. Sandro – who scored 14 goals in La Liga for Málaga last season – will surely join them one day and is expected to lead the line for the tournament favourites. Everton have held talks with the 21-year-old over a cut-price £6m transfer due to a release clause in a contract signed last year, when he left his boyhood club Barcelona in search of first-team opportunities.
Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)
The long-term successor to Gianluigi Buffon in the Azzurri goal has delayed his school exams to take his place in Italy’s squad and looks likely to be one of the star attractions. Rumours of a move to Real Madrid have refused to go away, although Milan’s new owner is desperate to tie down the 18-year-old 6ft 5in keeper with a new contract. Donnarumma, with four senior caps to his name, will lead a talented squad that also features the Atalanta defender Andrea Conti and Fiorentina’s Federico Bernardeschi and which looks more than capable of winning a record sixth under-21 title.
Joel Asoro (Sweden)
The reigning champions opted to leave some of their more experienced players at home, which means there is no place in the squad for Manchester United-bound Victor Lindelof. One of the first names on the 2015 winning coach Hakan Ericson’s list was the rapid Sunderland forward who, at just 18, will be one of the youngest players on show. A star of the side who reached the final of the Under-23 Premier League International Cup competition last season, Asoro has been tracked by Arsenal recently and will probably be back in the Premier League sooner rather than later.
Andrija Zivkovic (Serbia)
The outstanding player of the side who were world under-20 champions in 2015, Zivkovic became the youngest player to win a senior Serbia cap nearly four years ago at the age of 17. He joined Benfica last season but the slight winger has not always found the step up easy despite his undoubted talent. His team will need him to be in top form if they are to navigate through a group that includes Spain and Portugal, with only the winners guaranteed a semi-final spot in the new format.
Part of Portugal’s youth set-up since under-15 level, Bruma joined RB Leipzig this month for around £11m after a brilliant season for Galatasaray that yielded 11 league goals. That could end up being a snip if he can replicate those performances for a side that is invariably a force in this tournament. The winger is a major creative force for Rui Jorge’s team, who can also call upon Renato Sanches in midfield a year after he helped the senior side become European champions. The Paris Saint-Germain forward Gonçalo Guedes also provides real cutting edge.
Patick Schick (Czech Republic)
Top scorer in qualification with 10 goals, the striker is poised to join Juventus for a fee that could reach more than €30m after his superb season for Sampdoria. A Dennis Bergkamp-esque finish in the game against Crotone in April was probably enough to convince the Italian champions this was a gem they could not pass up, although the 21-year-old’s return of 11 goals in his first Serie A season after joining from Sparta Prague had already attracted much attention. Schick may not be the quickest but he makes up for that with supreme technical ability.
Marcus Ingvartsen (Denmark)
With Ajax’s Kasper Dolberg not selected despite his exploits in the Europa League, it will fall to the FC Nordsjaelland striker to lead the line for the Danes. He scored eight goals in qualifying as they ran away with Wales’s qualifying group and look an outside bet for a place in the last four for the second successive tournament if Ingvartsen can produce his club form. The Fulham midfielder Lasse Vigen Christensen, who impressed last year on loan at Burton, will captain the side.
Laszlo Benes (Slovakia)
The 19-year-old from Borussia Mönchengladbach made his debut for the senior side last week against Lithuania as a substitute and has been dubbed the new Marek Hamsik at home. No pressure there, then. A versatile and energetic midfielder who has a lethal eye for a pass, Benes found Bundesliga opportunities hard to come by last season and will be desperate to show why he is so highly rated for a side who have qualified for this tournament for the first time. Slovakia did finish fourth as hosts in 2000 but face a struggle to make it out of the group on this occasion.
Krystian Bielik (Poland)
The hosts have an underwhelming record at under-21 level having failed to qualify for every tournament since 1994 but may fancy their chances this time. A powerful holding midfielder or central defender, Bielik joined Arsenal for £2.7m in January 2015 but has yet to make the breakthrough to the first-team squad and spent time on loan at Birmingham last season. Has yet to be capped at this age group but is expected to be given an opportunity for a squad that also include the underused Leicester winger Bartosz Kapustka, who has 14 senior caps to his name.
The Guardian Sport