Euro 2012 Qualifiers: 5 Under-the-Radar Strikers to Watch This Week

Yoosof FarahSenior Writer IIIOctober 6, 2011

Euro 2012 Qualifiers: 5 Under-the-Radar Strikers to Watch This Week

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    Ahead of the international break, all the focus has been on how the big in-form strikers will perform in the Euro 2012 qualifiers, i.e. Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Edin Dzeko, Mario Gomez, etc.

    But what about the lesser-known guys who have also been creating shock-waves across Europe?

    Whilst some of the household names have been garnering headlines worldwide, there are others out there doing the same job but just not getting the right attention for their work.

    And so, here are five under-the-radar strikers to keep an eye on, talk about and maybe even place a cheeky bet on ahead of the latest round of Euro 2012 qualifiers.

Dries Mertens

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    24-year-old Belgium striker Dries Mertens is certainly very well-known in the Netherlands right now after taking the Eredivisie by storm this season. However, he's not really talked about outside of Holland.

    Which is a shame, because the PSV Eindhoven forward, who only this season has switched from the wings to a more central role after moving from FC Utrecht, has scored 11 league goals from just eight games, the best form of his career so far.

    Such has been his fine form this season as he has been considered as Belgium's main striker, despite only winning five caps for his country, having made his debut back in just February this year.

    To put his goalscoring exploits into perspective, the attacker has scored 44 percent of the total goals his team have netted this term.

    A player who's always had an innate ability to score goals (having scored 10 in 30 games from the wing last season), it seems that new-found self-confidence has made Dries Mertens one of Europe's most significant goal threats in 2011/12.

    Watch out for him when Belgium plays Kazakhstan and Germany this week.

Burak Yilmaz

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    Burak Yilmaz has been hot property in Turkey this season.

    The striker was phenomenal for Trabzonspor in 2010/11, scoring 23 goals and making four assists from the right wing.

    This time around he's been played more centrally, as a main striker, and he has not disappointed, scoring seven goals from five games in the Super Lig.

    But what makes that achievement more remarkable is the fact that those seven goals equate to 100 percent of the total goals Trabzonspor have scored this season.

    In their first five games of the league campaign, Burak Yilmaz has scored all of their goals.

    He'll certainly be one to watch this week when Turkey take on Germany and Azerbaijan.

David Lafata

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    For a forward who has only ever played football in the Czech Republic, Austria and Greece, getting into a national team containing attacking stars like Pavel Nedved, Tomas Rosicky, Milan Baros, Jan Koller and Tomas Pekhart can be quite hard.

    But 30-year-old David Lafata has managed to do just that. He's been on the fringes of the national team since 2006 (albeit after the World Cup), having won 13 caps in a five-year period.

    Now it seems he's ready to stake a claim for a regular role in the side, after scoring 13 goals in nine games in the Gambrinus League (Czech Republic's top-flight) for minnows Jablonec. 

    To put his goalscoring exploits into perspective, not only has he scored 54 percent of his team's total goals this season, but he's also streets ahead of his next best competitor in the goalscoring charts—Leonard Kweuke of Sparta Prague, who's scored five goals.

    If there's anyone who can break down the defence of world champions Spain on Friday, it could very well be David Lafata. If not, there's always the game on Tuesday, when the Czech Republic take on Lithuania.

Artiom Rudnev

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    Artiom Rudnev is a striker who plays for Latvia. Now that may not seem impressive, especially considering he's won 14 caps and has yet to score a goal.

    But what makes Rudnev stand out from the crowd, and make him a goal-machine waiting to explode on the international stage, is the fact that he's scored 14 league goals from just nine matches this season.

    And that's not in the Latvian league (which is ranked 38th in the UEFA Co-efficient) but rather the Ekstraklasa, Poland's top-flight, where 23-year-old Rudnev has scored 67 percent of Lech Poznan's total goals this term.

    It's certainly not a bad place to score a ton of goals, considering it's 23rd in the UEFA Co-efficient, better than the top-flights of Sweden, Norway, Serbia and Bulgaria.

    He's also done it on the continental stage too, scoring for Poznan in the UEFA Europa League last season, where he netted three times against Serie A giants Juventus, and finished as the tournament's fourth top scorer with five goals.

    A player with a visibly natural talent for finishing, Artiom Rudnev is definitely a player to watch this weekend, as he looks destined to break his international duck, especially considering Latvia play at home to Malta on Friday, before facing Croatia away on Tuesday.

Robert Lewandowski

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    Borussia Dortmund star Robert Lewandowski isn't exactly an under-the-radar striker so to speak, but his exploits don't seem to have got the coverage they should have this season.

    The Poland striker has scored five goals from eight matches this season, and has also made four assists, meaning he has scored 38 percent of the 13 goals Dortmund have netted, and overall has made a 70 percent goalscoring contribution to his side so far in the 2011/12 Bundesliga.

    He scored most recently for Poland in the friendly against Germany at the start of September, and since then has become a man on form, especially after his hat-trick against newly promoted FC Augsburg just last weekend.

    Considering Euro 2012 hosts Poland play South Korea and Belarus in friendlies during the international break, in form Robert Lewandowski is most certainly a striker to watch.