5 EFL players who could decide the Euro 2020 qualifiers
With the Euro 2020 qualifiers reaching a crucial stage, these five EFL players could help secure their country's place.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham/Serbia)
“He looks like an absolute animal… he is the talisman, the guy everyone looks to.”
That is Aleksandar Mitrovic in the words of Fulham manager Scott Parker after he scored the winner in their 1-0 victory over Birmingham last weekend.
The Serbian has made a habit of terrifying both Championship and international defences for some time.
He is the top scorer in the second tier, with his winner against Birmingham taking his tally to 12 in 16 matches.
Only four players have bettered his seven-goal haul from six qualifiers with Serbia – a total that includes five of his country’s last six competitive goals and over half of their total goals in Group B.
It is not hard to see that Mitrovic is their most valuable player.
Serbia currently trail Portugal in Group B’s final qualification spot by one point with home games against Luxembourg and group leaders Ukraine remaining.
Without Mitrovic, they have no chance.
Adam Nagy (Bristol City/Hungary)
Such is Nagy’s importance to Hungary, he has been called up to three international squads this season despite carrying an injury since mid-August.
The midfielder was forced off at half-time in his home debut against QPR after putting his side a goal up and has started just three league games this season.
Nagy even played 65 minutes for Hungary in September while carrying his injury, much to Bristol City manager Lee Johnson’s annoyance.
But having come through the full 90 minutes of Bristol City’s 1-0 victory at Cardiff unscathed on Sunday, he is now poised to make an important contribution for his country.
With second-placed Hungary likely to need three points against Wales in their final Group E game to have any chance of qualification, his return is as timely as it could be decisive.
Bersant Celina (Swansea/Kosovo)
Kosovo will make history during the international break if they secure a place at Euro 2020.
It would represent their first ever appearance at a major tournament, some achievement for a country that was only granted UEFA membership three years ago.
But with them needing to beat both Czech Republic and England to secure a top-two spot, Kosovo are relying on strong performances from key players like Swansea’s Celina.
The nippy attacking midfielder plays just behind the striker for club and country. He is the creative hub of both teams and has been unlocking Championship defences all season.
Celina ranks 10th in the division for key passes, having contributed 32 in 16 appearances, while he is also not afraid to have a go himself.
Strikers aside, Celina has attempted the fourth-most shots in the second tier this season with 34.
With first-choice striker Vedat Muriqi ruled out of Kosovo’s qualifiers, even more responsibility will fall on the Swansea man.
Should they achieve qualification, it will have been in no small part down to Celina’s performance.
George Puscas (Reading/Romania)
Puscas is no relation to the legendary Hungarian, but you’d think he could be after watching him play.
The striker announced himself at international level by bagging four goals at the Under-21 Euros last summer, helping Romania to the semi-finals.
That earned him a £10m move to Reading in August, where he has scored three times in 11 starts.
It is for his country’s senior side, however, that he has really proven his ability.
The 23-year-old’s return of five goals in seven qualifiers for Romania has taken them to within one point of second-placed Sweden in Group F with two games remaining.
They face Sweden at home on Friday in a crucial qualifier that they will likely have to win, given that their final game is away to Spain.
Romania won’t be able to do it without Puscas.
Alan Browne (Preston/Republic of Ireland)
It’s a simple equation for Republic of Ireland in Group D. Beat Denmark or bust.
Mick McCarthy’s side lead the group by virtue of head-to-head away goals, but second-placed Denmark and third-placed Switzerland both have a game in hand against Gibraltar.
Republic of Ireland have struggled with creativity throughout qualification, netting just six goals in seven games – fewer than any other side in the top three of a group.
That’s where Browne comes in.
The Preston midfielder has been his side’s utility man, playing as a right back, central midfielder and right winger, but is most comfortable in an attacking capacity.
He scored his first international goal in his country’s 3-1 friendly win over Bulgaria in September, tapping in from a counter-attack he had started.
He has netted 14 goals and contributed six assists for club and country since the start of last season – a total only bettered by strikers David McGoldrick and James Collins in the Republic of Ireland squad, with the latter’s goals coming a league below Browne’s.
In order to beat Denmark, Republic of Ireland need to find a cutting edge from somewhere. Browne can give them that.
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