The European Championship has already been littered with players who have exceeded expectations, but have now put themselves in a position where they are expected to contribute.
It’s a double-edge sword really.
On the one hand, it’s great to get a strong contribution from them, but now they are expected to keep up their high level of play with their home country watching every move. The pressure is getting extraordinarily high as we get deeper into the tournament.
Here are three players who are enjoying a great tournament, but still have plenty of work to do.
Cesc Fabregas- Spain
He drilled a spectacular shot that bounced off the far post into the goal during Thursday’s 4-0 win over Ireland, giving him two goals in two games.
After starting in Spain’s 1-1 tie against Italy, he was relegated to coming off the bench behind Fernando Torres on Thursday.
But that doesn’t mean he still isn’t an essential piece. His vision and anticipation of the defense has been remarkable, and he has done a terrific job of dictating the tempo when given the opportunity.
As he continues to stay aggressive and finds the holes in the defense, Fabregas makes the daunting Spain offense that much deadlier.
Vaclav Pilar- Czech Republic
Pilar used his speed to fly past the Greek defenders and record his second goal of the tournament on Tuesday in his team’s 2-1 win over Greece.
That play was terrific, but he seemed to lack aggressiveness in the second half which led to his team being forced to hold on for dear life at the end. While any goal in the Euros is impressive, the Greeks were without two key defenders, and I thought the Czechs should have scored at least two more goals.
The 23-year-old is full of energy and has no excuse to lose his aggressive edge in the second half of a match. If the Czechs plan on doing some serious damage (which appears likely), they need to have their rising star play a complete 90 minute match every time out.
Alan Dzagoev- Russia
There is no question who the essential piece of the puzzle is for the Russians, and Dzagoev has not disappointed.
He has registered three goals in two games as he constantly is moving and finding himself open to receive a pass. His finishes have been almost clinical thus far, and right now he is the scariest player on the field for the Russians.
But you can’t ignore his tendency to drift from matches at times and while that issue has yet to present itself, you never know when old habits can pop up.
Yet as long as he keeps moving around like he just took 20 spoonfuls of sugar, the Russians are in a prime position to advance much further than most believed in this tournament.