Sports

Who'll be the hottest hotshot of Euro 2016?

The continent's finest collection of hitmen have hit the streets of France, locked and loaded for Euro 2016, says 
GARY LIM. Who will be king?

1 ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI

  • Country: Poland
  • Lethal rating: German Bundesliga top scorer (30 goals)
  • Strike rate: 88 minutes per goal
  • Euro 2016 qualifying: 13 goals (top scorer)
  • Strike rate: 67 minutes per goal

On Sept 22, 2015, Lewandowski turned from football star to global sensation.

Five goals in the space of eight minutes and 59 seconds, after coming off the bench against Wolfsburg, smashed Bundesliga records to smithereens.

The Pole is the ultimate complete striker, and a defender's nightmare.

His agility likely came from his background in gymnastics, which his judoka father made him learn as a kid to help him in his football development.

He is excellent in the air, and is equally deadly with either foot.

Standing 1.84m tall, he has a strong physique and is able to hold off defenders with ease, yet he is adequately quick and extremely nimble.

2 CRISTIANO RONALDO

  • Country: Portugal
  • Lethal rating: Champions League top scorer (16 goals)
  • Strike rate: 69 minutes per goal
  • Euro 2016 qualifying: 5 goals
  • Strike rate: 108 minutes per goal

Real Madrid's Champions League triumph was built on his steady stream of goals.

A devastating average of one goal every 69 minutes, or 16 goals in 12 matches, quashed a suspicion that he is on the wane.

In La Liga, he finished with 35 strikes (91 minutes per goal) to finish second behind Barcelona's Luis Suarez, in the goalscorers' chart.

One of the best dribblers and quickest forwards in the world, Ronaldo will be looking to put behind years of underachievement with Portugal.

Four years ago, A Seleccao were desperately unlucky to lose to eventual winners Spain, on penalties, in the semi-finals.

At 31, this may be his last shot at a European Championship medal.

3 ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC

  • Country: Sweden
  • Lethal rating: French Ligue One top scorer (38 goals)
  • Strike rate: 67 minutes per goal
  • Euro 2016 qualifying: 11 goals
  • Strike rate: 74 minutes per goal

He has an ego the size of Jupiter, and the skills to match that swagger of his. He is admired by many football fans the world over, but is universally worshipped in his homeland.

In 2006, "Who's da Man", recorded by Swedish group Elias as a tribute to the superstar, became the biggest Swedish hit that year and stayed top of the charts for 10 consecutive weeks.

Now 34, the 1.95m tall striker remains at the peak of his prowess, finishing top of France's league goal-scoring chart by a country mile.

However, a tough group consisting of Italy, Belgium and Republic of Ireland awaits him.

4 HARRY KANE

  • Country: England
  • Lethal rating: English Premier League top scorer (25 goals)
  • Strike rate: 135 minutes per goal
  • Euro 2016 qualifying: 3 goals
  • Strike rate: 77 minutes per goal

The accolades for England's newest strike sensation just keep coming.

Former German international Juergen Klinsmann says he can be as good as Ibrahimovic or Ronaldo.

Kane, 22, has shown his international pedigree by scoring 80 seconds into his England debut just last year, and already has five goals for the Three Lions from 12 appearances.

He represents a rejuvenated team marked by youth and vigour.

Surrounded by fresh, exciting talent in Roy Hodgson's side, Kane's stock looks set to soar in France.

5 JAMIE VARDY

  • Country: England
  • Lethal rating: English Premier 
League second-highest scorer (24 goals)
  • Strike rate: 131 minutes per goal
  • Euro 2016 qualifying: 0 goals

He is the underdog everyone loves to love.

His meteoric rise from Non-League football to Premiership champions status with Leicester City has caught the imagination of football fans.

A typical English striker with a "bulldog" attitude, Vardy doesn't stop running for the team's cause until he expends his last ounce of energy.

His blazing speed, stamina and industry demand full concentration from rival defenders.

Like Kane, his chances of shining at Euro 2016 may boil down to the manager's appetite for risk during the tournament.

6 THOMAS MUELLER

  • Country: Germany
  • Lethal rating: German Bundesliga third-highest scorer (20 goals)
  • Strike rate: 117 minutes per goal
  • Euro 2016 qualifying: Nine goals (3rd highest)
  • Strike rate: 90 minutes per goal

He doesn't catch the eye like a Ibrahimovic or a Ronaldo.

But he is so good at what he does that he has a personalised term for his specific role: Raumdeuter, which means "space investigator" in German.

As the name implies, Mueller is a master at finding spaces.

His awareness and intelligence afford him the luxury of time in crowded areas.

His sterling international record speaks for itself: Golden Boot winner at the 2010 World Cup with five goals, and another five at the 2014 World Cup.

7 ANTOINE GRIEZMANN

  • Country: France
  • Lethal rating: Spanish La Liga sixth-highest scorer (22 goals)
  • Strike rate: 139 minutes per goal
  • Euro 2016 qualifying: NA (France qualified as hosts)

Griezmann has one of the toughest jobs in European football.

As striker of Atletico Madrid, arguably the finest counter-attacking side around, he has to do a huge amount of running on top of his offensive work.

But, as a result, he has mastered the art of making his chances count. He alone accounted for more than one-third of Atletico's La Liga tally of 63 goals last season.

His seven goals in the Champions League also propelled Los Rojiblancos to the final.

His club manager Diego Simeone ranks him as one of the best three players in the world.

With France opting not to pick striker Karim Benzema for this tournament, Griezmann will be key to the host nation's hopes.

8 GARETH BALE

  • Country: Wales
  • Lethal rating: Spanish La Liga joint eighth-highest scorer (19 goals)
  • Strike rate: 91 minutes per goal
  • Euro 2016 qualifying: Seven goals
  • Strike rate: 128 minutes per goal

Bale has a chance that Welsh legends Ryan Giggs, Ian Rush and Neville Southall never had: To play for their country at a major tournament.

As the team's only real world-class player, he has a huge responsibility on his shoulders.

He is already showing signs of stamping his authority among the Galacticos at Real Madrid.

He has the pace and dribbling skills to punish anyone at Euro 2016.

Bale will certainly be drawing inspiration from Brian Laudrup, the Dane who almost single-handedly guided his country to an unexpected triumph at Euro 1992.

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