Football FanCast columnist Johann Jacobs looks at the five young players set to make a name for themselves in world football.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Franck Ribéry, Kaká, Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney. These are currently some of the biggest names in football and all of them will be representing their countries at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in June next year. Now that qualifying has been completed, one can name dozens of big-name players that will be going to South Africa and also a couple that are going to miss out (Andrei Arshavin, Andriy Shevchenko, Edin Dzeko, Robbie Keane, etc.).
Large tournaments have a tradition of unearthing some exciting young talent by providing players with a platform to showcase their abilities to a global audience in an attempt to help their countries achieve success. In recent World Cup history a 17-year-old Ronaldo was an unused substitute in Brazil’s World Cup winning campaign in 1994 and went on to win his first of three FIFA World Player of the Year Awards only three years later; an 18-year-old Michael Owen announced his arrival on the international stage at the 1998 World Cup by scoring against Argentina what is arguably one of the best goals ever scored in a World Cup; in 2002 a relatively unknown Ronaldinho became a superstar following not only his free kick against England but also his general contribution to yet another Brazilian World Cup winning campaign; and Andres Iniesta played a single game against Saudi Arabia at the 2006 World Cup and is now considered as one of the best creative midfielders in the world. This article takes a look at five younger and relatively unknown players that, afforded the opportunity, may light up the World Cup.
1. Davide Santon (18) – Italy
It is often said that defenders only mature when they reach their late-twenties or early-thirties, and this will probably also hold true for young Davide Santon. Players that achieve half of what the great Paolo Maldini has, can consider themselves to be very successful, so a comparison with Maldini speaks volumes. He may struggle to get into an Italy team with an established (but ageing) back four, but given the opportunity, he is likely to impress.
2. Kermit Erasmus (19) – South Africa
At only 19, Kermit Erasmus is far from a household name and may find opportunities limited during the World Cup, but his displays at the FIFA u-20 World Cup earlier this year where South Africa were eliminated by eventual winners Ghana earned him a call-up to South Africa’s senior national team. South Africa’s recent lack of goals may afford him an opportunity to shine at the World Cup.
3. Sergio Busquets (21) – Spain
Another young player that may find opportunities limited because of Spain’s wealth of talent in an established midfield containing Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Alonso, and Silva. There is, however, no denying his ability and the role that he played in Barcelona’s demolition of Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final should not be underestimated.
4. Luis Suarez (22) – Uruguay
The Ajax captain has been scoring goals seemingly at will since his arrival in the Eredivisie and has been the subject of much speculation linking him to some of Europe’s largest clubs. He has formed a formidable partnership with Diego Forlan for Uruguay and the presence and ability he brings to the team may have contributed largely to Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez being quoted as saying recently that his team can win the World Cup.
5. Yoann Gourcuff (23) – France
During the early stages of his career, Yoann found life difficult at the San Siro having had to compete directly with Kaká for a place in AC Milan’s midfield, but since his initial loan move to Bordeaux he has been their outstanding player and played a significant part in prizing the Ligue 1 title away from Lyon after having won seven consecutive titles, and in the process winning France Ligue 1 Player of the Year 2008-09. Now playing as an attacking midfielder for France, he may just be one of the outstanding players at the World Cup in 2010.
There are many more exciting young players that can be mentioned here, and only time will tell, but maybe one or more of these players will play an important role in helping their countries perform well at the World Cup. Maybe one of these players is destined to become one of the greats of the game in the near future.