Euro 2020 only kicked off a few days ago, but we've already seen a few cracking performances and goals from some of the best players in the world. From Patrik Schick's wondergoal against Scotland to the Netherlands' thrilling victory against Ukraine, Euro 2020 has produced its fair share of drama.
It's still early days, but a handful of players have impressed in unfamiliar positions due to a combination of factors. Gareth Southgate's decision to start Kieran Trippier at left-back ahead of Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell was a major talking point ahead of the game against Croatia, but the Atletico Madrid man enjoyed a comfortable outing.
Sometimes, we are a little disrespectful and show a lot of resentment towards managers, but it's important to understand that they see their players day in and day out. They have a level of trust with a few players that could see them get the nod ahead of someone else.
Euro 2020 is just a month of football, so players don't have to do what they'd do over a 10 month period. Many of them are also aware of the fact that what happens at Euro 2020 could define their futures, so we have an interesting few weeks of football ahead of us.
That said, here are five players who I believe could impress in unfamiliar positions over the course of the tournament.
#5 Thorgan Hazard | Belgium, Borussia Dortmund
The younger Hazard, Thorgan, started as a left-wing back in Belgium’s Euro 2020 opener against Russia. Roberto Martinez’s side weren’t really troubled on the night, but Hazard had a feistiness about him and was prepared to give it whatever he had.
He’s primarily a left-sided attacker and has been so for most of his career so far. Hazard wasn’t always starting for Borussia Dortmund in the 2020-21 season, but when he did, he played as a left-winger and also as a center forward against RB Leipzig. For Belgium, though, he operated as a left-wing back, so it’s a big change for him.
What I really liked is that his new role also allows him to get high up the pitch and make a difference in the final third. He came up against Mario Fernandes, but Russia didn’t pose much of a threat in their Euro 2020 opener. That said, there were positive signs for Hazard, who could retain his spot in the side for the games ahead.
Having played in that position myself, you need to have an appreciation of where to be and when. Hazard knew exactly when he had to drop back and sacrifice his attacking freedom, and I thought he did that very well.
Belgium had an easy night to begin their Euro 2020 campaign, but Hazard didn’t get caught out defensively.
#4 Kalvin Phillips | England, Leeds United
For Leeds United, Kalvin Phillips plays a deeper position like what Declan Rice does for England and acts as Marcelo Bielsa’s comfort blanket. When he plays, everything seems a little bit more balanced. Against Croatia, England played a 4-3-3 with Phillips in a slightly advanced role, but it can also be looked at as a 4-1-4-1.
Leeds play a similar formation as well, so he understood the assignment perfectly. He’s seen the likes of Mateusz Klich operate in that role at club level, so he knew exactly what was expected of him.
Phillips is a sumptuous passer from a deeper role, but against Croatia, he played a role that’s more crowded in terms of space. I think in terms of that, he was absolutely fearless in the way he played. He doesn’t just run with purpose, he marauds forward with the ball and makes his presence felt on the pitch. The conditions were very hot at Wembley, but he managed the game well.
Phillips is a vital cog in what they refer to as ‘murderball’ at Leeds United. They play at 100 miles per hour throughout the 90 minutes and that’s helped him a lot. For England, though, he made a terrific adjustment to his gameplay in an advanced role and embraced the license to express himself more.
He has a great appetite for the game and covered every blade of grass against Croatia. I loved his stamina and work rate. I sincerely hope Phillips carries on in the same vein for the rest of Euro 2020. As things stand, he’s probably a definite starter for Gareth Southgate.