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Pre-EURO friendlies: players with a point to prove

Mario Götze, Aritz Aduriz, Jamie Vardy and Renato Sanches feature in our rundown of players with special reason to make their mark in time for UEFA EURO 2016.

Mario Götze's role in the Germany team is coming under increasing scrutiny
Mario Götze's role in the Germany team is coming under increasing scrutiny ©Getty Images

Mario Götze, Germany and Bayern München
Recently back from a five-month injury, the FIFA World Cup hero's future is the subject of much debate in the German media. Currently struggling to make his mark at Bayern, the 23-year-old playmaker will doubtless be welcoming the international break as an opportunity to deliver a statement.

Artiz Aduriz, Spain and Athletic Club
The 35-year-old forward is enjoying an Indian summer in the Basque country and has been recalled to the Spain squad for the first time since his solitary cap in October 2010. Injuries and a lack of form elsewhere mean the UEFA Europa League's eight-goal top scorer, on target 17 times in the Liga this term, has a genuine chance to stake a claim for a place in Vicente del Bosque's UEFA EURO 2016 party.

Jamie Vardy, England and Leicester City
Second-leading marksman in the Premier League, striker Vardy only made his international debut last summer – aged 28. With captain Wayne Rooney out injured, this looks like Vardy's opportunity to show that he is not a one-season wonder but a late bloomer who can do it on the biggest stage. Then back to Leicester's title tilt.

Watch Selçuk İnan's memorable free-kick

Selçuk İnan, Turkey and Galatasaray 
The midfielder's last-gasp free-kick against Iceland in October took Turkey to the EURO, and he is poised to earn his 50th cap against Sweden in Antalya on 24 March. Among the squad's most experienced now, the 31-year-old is also in line to start against Austria five days later.

Renato Sanches, Portugal and Benfica
The 18-year-old midfielder has been making headlines all season. Still to make his senior Portugal debut, he is again in Fernando Santos's party for the upcoming friendlies against Bulgaria and Belgium – this despite him not even having represented the Under-21s. "We have all this week to look at him; let's not create too much pressure around him," said Santos.

Dmitri Payet, France and West Ham United
Swapped Marseille for east London last summer and has taken no time to settle, helping West Ham up to fifth place and into the FA Cup quarter-finals. The 28-year-old playmaker's return to the France squad has taken longer, however – Payet made his international bow in 2010 yet has just 15 caps to his name, and none since June 2015. The encounters with Russia and the Netherlands may well determine whether he makes the cut this summer.

Watch five of France's best friendly goals

Matěj Vydra, Czech Republic and Reading
Czech Republic coach Pavel Vrba has watched Vydra recently and liked what he saw, despite the 23-year-old forward – who picked up the last of his 15 caps in October 2014 – not being a regular starter for his English second-tier club. "I will need his style for the way we want to play at EURO," hinted Vrba.

Marcus Berg, Sweden and Panathinaikos
Coach Erik Hamrén has elected to omit star striker Zlatan Ibrahimović from his squad for Thursday's friendly in Turkey, noting: "For some time I've been thinking of how to conserve his form until the summer. I can't do anything about his playing time with Paris, but I offered him a rest against Turkey. It's good for him and, in the end, good for the rest of the team too." John Guidetti is likely to take one of the spots up front, but Berg may have a chance to prove he is more than an emergency option.

Nicolae Stanciu, Romania and Steaua Bucureşti
With 11 league goals to his name, the uncapped midfielder, 22, is enjoying his best season in Romania's top flight. The former Under-21 international, called up once before, has added consistency to his game this term and should get the opportunity to impress Romania coach Anghel Iordănescu during the friendlies against Lithuania and Spain.

Alfred Finnbogason (right) has been in form
Alfred Finnbogason (right) has been in form©Getty Images

Alfred Finnbogason, Iceland and Augsburg
On target against Dortmund at the weekend, Finnbogason underlined that his winter loan move to Augsburg may just be suiting him after low-key stints with Real Sociedad and Olympiacos. Previously prolific at Heerenveen, the 27-year-old has registered three times in seven matches for the Bavarians, but now needs to shine for Iceland to overtake Jón Dadi Bödvarsson and Vidar Orn Kjartansson in the attacking pecking order.

Bartosz Salamon, Poland and Cagliari
Salamon left Poland for Italian team Brescia in 2007 aged just 16 years, and became the first Polish player to sign for AC Milan in 2013. However, the defender did not make a single appearance for the Serie A giants and is now rebuilding his career at Cagliari – eliciting his first international call-up in three years. With coach Adam Nawałka seeking a centre-back partner for Kamil Glik, Salamon knows the time has come.

Martin Škrtel has come in for criticism
Martin Škrtel has come in for criticism©AFP/Getty Images

Martin Škrtel, Slovakia and Liverpool
Struggling for form since returning from a three-month absence with a thigh injury, Škrtel was blamed in some quarters for Liverpool's 3-2 loss to Southampton at the weekend – a game which they led 2-0 at the break. Ján Kozák moved quickly to protect his defender. "It wasn't about him, but about every Liverpool player," the Slovakia coach said. "Martin is an experienced player – he has been there nine years."

Mërgim Mavraj, Albania and Köln
The 1.90m-tall defender missed around a year of international action through injury, but has a great chance to prove his worth with Albania, the 29-year-old in fine form in Germany with Köln. His presence at the back may restore the stability the team lacked in his absence.

Denys Garmash, Ukraine and Dynamo Kyiv
Though lacking consistency this season, Dynamo attacking midfielder Garmash was nevertheless an integral part of the national team. But with the 20-year-old talent Viktor Kovalenko rising through the ranks at Shakhtar and playing in UEFA Europa League on a regular basis, Garmash must prove he is still worth a start.

Will Leonid Slutski pick Roman Shirokov?
Will Leonid Slutski pick Roman Shirokov?©AFP/Getty Images

Roman Shirokov, Russia and CSKA Moskva
The friendliy with Lithuania presents the Russia captain with more than a chance to improve his personal stats. Not only does Shirokov turn 35 this summer, he failed to impress at Spartak Moskva and remains a fringe player after a move to CSKA Moskva. The competition for the playermaker's position is very high and Leonid Slutski would be taking Shirokov to France solely on past reputation.

Conor Washington, Northern Ireland and Queens Park Rangers
Kent-born striker Washington, who qualifies through a late grandmother born in Belfast, has been given a surprise opportunity to gatecrash the Northern Ireland squad for the finals. Washington, who joined QPR from Peterborough United in January, is one of two uncapped players in Michael O'Neill's panel for friendlies against Wales and Slovenia. Peterborough defender Michael Smith has also been given a chance to muscle his way into O'Neill's plans.

Kevin Doyle, Republic of Ireland and Colorado Rapids
A member of the Irish squad since 2006, Doyle is a long-serving player who has work to do to make it into the Republic's squad for UEFA EURO 2016. He made just one appearance in the qualifying campaign and was left out of the travelling party for the qualifier in Germany, but the 32-year-old has been promised some game time in the friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia. "I don't think Kevin would like to think that he is on trial but this is an opportunity," said manager Martin O'Neill, who has promised to start the ex-Reading player in one of the fixtures.