Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thomas Muller, Edin Dzeko and Zlatan Ibrahimovic - you know the score.
The top strikers at Euro 2016 are among the most famous athletes in Europe. However, the European Championships are about more than the big names in football. With 24 teams competing in the event, expect the unexpected as some of Europe’s more obscure strikers get the opportunity to prove what they can do on the football fields of France.
Here’s our pick of the five most underrated strikers at Euro 2016.
One glance at this name and you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re punting a dwarf from the Lord of the Rings as a top striker at Euro 2016. However, Gylfi Sigurðsson comes from Iceland rather than Middle Earth, and spends his day playing striker at Swansea rather than lopping off Orc heads.
And Gylfi’s an impressively prolific striker too. He scored six goals for Iceland as he helped his tiny Scandinavian country to qualify for Euro 2016 ahead of Turkey and the Netherlands in Group A. Known for his power and precision when shooting from a distance, he has a handy international strike rate which sees him find the back of the net every third game.
At his peak Kyle Lafferty was an important part of Rangers strike arsenal, but was sent into the football wilderness after that club went bankrupt. He’s yet to recover from the impact this has had on his club career, and in recent seasons has struggled to make his presence felt as a loan player in the Turkish league and Football Championship.
However, when Lafferty pulls on a Northern Ireland jersey he’s a different player. With his deft touch and excellent positional awareness, he scored seven of Northern Ireland’s 16 goals in qualifying. Lafferty can take a lot of credit for helping his side win Group F, and is certain to be one of the wildcard players at Euro 2016.
The Russian Premier League doesn’t get much airtime in the UK, but if it did, Artem Dzyuba would be a household name. The grizzly Russian striker plies his trade with Zenit St. Petersburg, where he averages a goal every other game, possesses a knack for scoring off headers and frequently creates great scoring opportunities for the players around him.
During qualifying for Euro 2016, Dzyuba scored eight of Russia’s 21 goals, helping his team take second place in qualifying group G. He maintains his club strike rate at international level, scoring in 50% of the matches he plays in - a superior strike rate to that of Lionel Messi.
Since being transferred to Ajax Amsterdam on loan in 2014, Akradiusz Milik has become the club’s primary strike weapon. His form at club level carried over to Poland’s European qualifying campaign, as he scored six of Poland’s goals as they narrowly lost out on winning Group D ahead of Germany.
Milik’s ability to run with the ball and composure in front of goal have been compared with Cristiano Ronaldo, and have helped him attain an exceptional strike rate at club level, with 21 goals in 31 appearances in the 2015-16 season. He’s no slouch at international level either, having scored in 10 of his 24 appearances for the Polish national side.
Austria was one of two teams to emerge from Euro 2016 qualifying unbeaten, and Marc Janko played a major role in this achievement. He’s a somewhat obscure striker thanks to the fact that he plies his trade in the Swiss Super League, but should put his name on the map at Euro 2016.
And that’s because he has an uncanny knack for finding the back of the net. In the past two seasons he’s put away 32 goals in 44 appearance at club level, and his international strike rate is also exceptional, with Janko scoring 26 goals in 51 appearances for his country.
Which underrated striker could take the golden boot?
European Championship history shows that scoring five goals has been sufficient to win the Golden Boot, with no player scoring more goals at a tournament since Michel Platini's nine goal haul in 1984. However, with an extra round of matches added for 2016, six or seven goals may be required for a player to top the goalscorer charts.
To score this many goals, a player requires either a game against a soft defence or to play the maximum number of games at the tournament. So raw talent and strike rate are not the only factors in predicting which player will come out on top – the drawn and progress their team will make counts too.
Based on these factors, Arkadiusz Milik looks like a solid option to challenge for the Golden Boot. Poland will play two of the weaker defences in the tournament when they take on Germany and Northern Ireland in Group C, and only need a third place finish to secure Milik game time in the knockout rounds. If he gets this game time, his excellent strike rate should take care of the rest.