5 players to watch as Euro 2020 moves on to knockout stages

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Euro 2020 has reached the last-16 stage.

Here, the PA news agency picks out five players to watch in the knockout rounds.

Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)

Kevin De Bruyne has returned from injury to deliver some influential performances for Belgium
Kevin De Bruyne has returned from injury to deliver some influential performances for Belgium (Wolfgang Rattay/AP/Press Association Images)

Belgium have sparkled in fits and starts and look like they could have another gear. Holders Portugal – and the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo – stand in their way in the next round but, if they get through that mouth-watering clash, the Red Devils will be serious contenders for the crown. Manchester City playmaker De Bruyne, now fit after injury kept him out of the first game and a half, is their chief inspiration. He already has a goal and two assists to his name and his link-up play with in-form striker Romelu Lukaku makes Belgium a deadly proposition.

Emil Forsberg (Sweden)

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The RB Leipzig midfielder has enjoyed a superb start to the tournament as Sweden have emerged as one of the surprise packages, topping Group E ahead of Spain. The 29-year-old, who has been linked with Bayern Munich, has netted three times, including a double against Poland. He may not be the huge presence Zlatan Ibrahimovic would have been if fit, but he is proving an effective figurehead in his own way.

Luka Modric (Croatia)

The Croatian scored a superb goal against Scotland
The Croatian scored a superb goal against Scotland (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Croatia looked laboured in their opening defeat against England and some even dared to suggest that Modric was past it. If the performance against Scotland in their last game is anything to go by, however, reports of their demise are premature. Modric looked every inch the world-class player he has been in a highly influential display, capped by a stunning goal. With Modric at their heart, Croatia will hope to rekindle the spirit that carried them to the 2018 World Cup final.

Mikkel Damsgaard (Denmark)

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The Sampdoria winger, regarded as the next big thing in Danish football, has made a big impression in the early stages of Euro 2020. The 20-year-old has stepped up in the absence of Christian Eriksen and netted with a brilliant long-range strike as the Danes clinched their place in the last 16 with a memorable 4-1 win over Russia in Copenhagen. His value is rising and the likes of Barcelona, AC Milan and Tottenham are reportedly interested.

Karim Benzema (France)

Benzema was back in the goals for France against Portugal
Benzema was back in the goals for France against Portugal (Franck Fife/AP/Press Association Images)

Eyebrows were raised when the Real Madrid talisman was recalled by Didier Deschamps for the tournament after a six-year absence. His talent has never been in doubt but there were questions over the state of his relationship with the manager and how he would fit into a squad already bursting with star players. His early run-outs alongside Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann lacked fluency but it may only have been a matter of time. His double against Portugal on Wednesday suggested things may just have clicked at the right time.

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