At 21 years of age, Neymar of Brazil is expected to become one of the stars of the tournament. Equally, Lionel Messi of Argentina, Javier Hernandez of Mexico and Luis Suarez of Uruguay will be expected to shine bright, but which names will we all be talking about as the new rising stars that we only hear about for the first time after Brazil 2014?
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Way back in Sweden in 1958, Pele entered the world stage and by the end of the tournament his name was the only one being talked about. He is still referred to as probably the greatest player ever to have performed at the World Cup. In Germany 2006, the host nation’s Lukas Podolski was named the best player of the tournament at 21 years of age. In England, in 1966, Franz Beckenbauer became a world star at the age of 20 and went on to dominate German football for decades as a player and then the German national coach. Who could forget the tormenting speed and goal of the tournament from18-year-old Michael Owen at the 1998 France World Cup? The US team saw Landon Donovan win the ‘Young player of the tournament’ award at age 20, during the 2002 Korea/Japan tournament.
Who are our favorite 10 rising stars for this World Cup?
By Catherine Kõrtsmik from Tallinn, Estonia (U-19 Spain vs France. Uploaded by Dudek1337) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Paul Pogba, France
The 21-year-old midfielder plays for Juventus in the Italian league. Walking away from England’s Manchester United because he couldn’t break into the first team, he has become one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest losses. As the midfield dynamo of Juventus, he has led his team to dominate club football in Italy.
At 6’1”, he is known for his devastating runs through midfield, where his strength is likened to Yaya Toure. He has appeared for the national team consistently at every level, winning his first cap for France in 2013. With only nine caps to his name and just 63 matches for his club team, he has the potential to become the most promising player in Brazil 2014, having already captained France to an under 20 World Cup win in 2013.
Adnan Januzaj, Belgium
A 19-year-old winger and the only bright spot of David Moyes’ tenure as the 2013/14 coach of Manchester United. With just 27 appearances for his club team during 2013/14 season, he has been chased by England, Turkey and Kosovo for international selection, but chose the country of his birth, Belgium.
He has consistently brought a spark into the match when he has been introduced, often as a substitute, bringing an instant reaction from the crowd. They are pleased that such a young man is prepared to dribble and run, towards the goal, time and time again. His youthful enthusiasm also has a steely side as he is prepared to play tough and not be pushed off the ball by older, stronger and wiser professionals.
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John Brooks, USA
This 21-year-old defenceman is an imposing 6’4” figure for his club team in Germany. His towering strength as a defender has made him a mainstay of Hertha BSC teams for the past three seasons. As the son of an American serviceman, he lives and plays football in his hometown of Berlin.
As a German and American citizen, his early international career saw him play for both countries at young ages, but has elected to make the USA his international team of choice. Since 2013, he has gradually earned three appearances for the USA and now gets the opportunity to play in the World Cup and definitely will not be short of confidence.
Fabrice Olinga Essono, Cameroon
This 18-year-old forward, nicknamed “happy feet,” explains his success in the early days by working his way to the first 11 for his club team in Málaga. He scored in his debut for his national team in 2012 and has appeared consistently ever since.
While finding it difficult to establish himself in the Málaga team at age 18, he moved to the Dutch league to further his experience, but looks to be a regular starter for Cameroon. At just 5’7”, he is short for a forward, but this helps his tricky dancing style in the opposition’s penalty area.
By Fanny Schertzer (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Granit Xhaka, Switzerland
This 21-year-old midfielder plays for his club team in Germany. Born in Switzerland to Albanian parents, his family previously escaped from Kosovo during the revolutionary years. This exciting midfield player has been described by legendary coach, Hitzvelt, as a ‘young Schweinsteiger,’ making reference to one of Germany’s most exciting and high quality players.
Following two seasons with his local Basel team in Switzerland, he transferred to Borussia Mönchengladbach, where he has performed consistently for the first 11. Despite his young age, he has consistently been picked for his national team in recent years and is the most commanding player in their midfield.
Denis Cheryshev, Russia
Dennis, a 23-year-old winger, is the only member of the squad that plays football outside of his country. As a Real Madrid player breaking through into their first-team, with incredible competition, is difficult. Which is why, after 104 games in Real Madrid’s reserve team, he is currently playing first-team football for Sevilla in Spain, which won the 2014 UEFA Europa league final.
Known for his silky skills as a dribbling winger, he has only recently broken through into Russia’s international squad, having consistently played for all the younger Russian teams in recent years.
By Xavier Rondón Medina (Flickr: Catalunya Vs Nigeria) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Ahmed Musa, Nigeria
As just 21 years of age, this brilliant midfielder and forward has amassed 37 caps for his country, scoring five goals.
Playing his club football in Russia, he has become a first-team regular and during the past three seasons, scored 22 goals. His experience as a creative sensation has helped him through Nigeria’s performances in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2013 Confederations Cup, held in Brazil.
Although he is not known particularly well outside of the countries where he plays football, he looks certain to dominate Nigeria’s performances in the World Cup.
Stefan de Vrij, Netherlands
This center half player has developed rapidly and he is already the captain of his club team, from the age of 21. He is known as being extremely cool on the ball and a very difficult defender to get past.
Despite his young age, he is well established in both his club and national teams and will be expected to perform well for the Netherlands during the World Cup as he was selected for his debut under the current coach, Louis van Gall.
By Crofab (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Son Heung-Min, South Korea
Following a move from Hamburg to Bayer Leverkusen, this 21-year-old forward has performed consistently as a lethal finisher in front of the goal.
At 6-foot tall, he shoots well with either foot and has great pace when required. Although he has acquired 24 caps for his country and scored six times, he is not well known outside of Germany and South Korea, but all that could change after Brazil 2014.
Frank Acheampong, Ghana
Anderlect paid a record fee to the 20-year-old Acheampong’s Thai Premier League team because of his incredible goal-scoring average of one goal every two games.
As a young man, he has already worked his way onto the national team and scored for his country. As a former captain of the Ghana under-20s team, he looks certain to explode in Brazil his great skills and electric change of pace.