Brazil 2014: World Cup youngsters to watch

Brazil 2014: World Cup youngsters to watch

Following on from OwlsAlive’s look at a World XI going into Brazil, this week we look at a selection of World Cup youngsters who are set to make their mark this summer.

Another mix of talent; some from the more obscure nations represented in Brazil, and some who will form a vital part of serious title challenges.

Some of the players here are guaranteed starters for their nations, others may need a pre-tournament boost in friendlies.

There are players here that everyone will recognise, some names will be totally unfamiliar unless you enjoy taking in the action of various European and world leagues.

Some will be looking to use the World Cup to prove their top-class talent to the masses.

Others will be using it to give us that first glimpse. With eye-catching displays in Brazil, these individuals could soon by arriving at a Premier League ground near you…

 

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ryanbrugge

Negredo. Torres. Van Persie. Costa: can Mathew Ryan keep them at bay?

GK – MATHEW RYAN – AUSTRALIA
AGE: 22
INT’L APPS: 5
CLUB: CLUB BRUGGE

At 22, Mathew Ryan is somewhat under the average age of a goalkeeper deemed ready for World Cup action. However, this 22-year-old is not emergency option, he goes to Brazil as first choice for the Socceroos.

Having made his name with the Central Coast Mariners in the Australian A-League, Ryan left for Club Brugge in the Belgian Pro-League last summer for an undisclosed fee – despite having just ONE DAY remaining on his contract, such was Brugge’s desire to secure his signature.

No longer a stranger to Europa League action; he will now look to help Brugge to a Belgian title, and Champions League qualification in the coming years.

He possesses a commanding frame, a cool head and the ability to distribute quickly and effectively. He will be Australia’s first choice goalkeeper in Brazil, and will likely receive plenty of camera-time. The forward lines of Chile, Spain and the Netherlands await. He’s in for a busy few weeks.

With good performances against these popular nations, this summer could see his reputation increase dramatically.

RB – DANIEL OPARE – GHANA
AGE: 23
INT’L APPS: 16
CLUB: STANDARD LIEGE

A contemporary of Ryan in the Pro-League, Daniel Opare has now spent four years with Standard Liege, and has benefitted from a greater exposure to the European scene.

A converted midfielder with pace, the occasional trick and an eye for goal, Opare’s stock has already become hot property as the out-of-contract defender reputedly attracts interest from Liverpool, FC Porto and Arsenal.

A winner of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009, the Ghanaian will hope to utilise his tournament winning experience in Brazil as the Black Stars look to upset the odds in Group G.

Balanta celebrates after scoring for River Plate

Balanta celebrates after scoring for River Plate

CB – EDER ALVAREZ BALANTA – COLOMBIA
AGE: 21
INT’L APPS: 1
CLUB: RIVER PLATE

Eder Balanta is regarded of the biggest prospects in South American football. The 21 year old centre-half has regularly featured for River Plate in the last twelve months, and will look to use Brazil 2014 as a springboard on the world stage.

Having attracted interest from Monaco, AC Milan and Barcelona, amongst others, Balanta will look to further his reputation in the 2015 Copa Libertadores after helping Ramon Diaz’ Millonarios to the Torneo Final title this season.

Despite only receiving one cap, Balanta is labelled as one to watch this summer, and may well be thrown in against Japan in Colombia’s final game, with Group C qualification a distinct probability by that stage.

Breaking the veteran pairing of Mario Yepes and Luis Perea is not out of the question, and a good performance before or during the tournament will give Jose Pekerman food for thought going into the knock-out stages.

Raphael Varane in action for France

Raphael Varane in action for France

CB – RAPHAEL VARANE – FRANCE
AGE: 21
INT’L APPS: 5
CLUB: REAL MADRID

Injury-plagued Raphael Varane is perhaps the most reputable defender in this eleven, having made his name with Lens and now Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Despite several injuries, Varane has 70 Los Blancos appearances to his name as he looks to hold down a starting berth ahead of Sergio Ramos and Pepe.

Like all top defenders, the Frenchman has an incredible ability to read the game, but also possesses exceptional technique allowing him to pick a pass and turn the opposition.

Varane has the ability; that is without question. He can show us why he owns the Madrid #2 jersey with commanding performances in Group E.

LB – RICARDO RODRIGUEZ – SWITZERLAND
AGE: 21
INT’L APPS: 19
CLUB: VFL WOLFSBURG

Rodriguez has been in superb form for Bundesliga outfit VFL Wolfsburg this season, scoring five goals and assisting nine in 34 appearances from left-back.

His energetic runs and incisive passing will provide much of Switzerland’s attacking threat; both Rodriguez and Juventus’ Stephan Lichsteiner (from right-back) will look to get forward as much as possible.

As part of whoscored.com’s European XI of the season, Rodriguez will be a vital cog in the Switzerland machine, especially if they are to challenge France and Ecuador for group qualification, a feat that is not beyond them.

 

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CM – MARCO VERATTI – ITALY
AGE: 21
INT’L APPS: 4
CLUB: PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Having made his Serie A debut for Pescara at the age of 16, Marco Veratti has developed a reputation as one of biggest midfield prospects in European football.

A string of lively performances with Pescara earned the then 19 year old Veratti a five-year contract at financial heavyweights Paris Saint Germain in 2012. Veratti possesses wonderful technique, skill and passing ability. He is not afraid of playing his way out of trouble and will take risks.

Seen as the under-study to Andrea Pirlo, Veratti will be looking to cement a starting berth in Brazil ahead of Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and club team mate Thiago Motta.

While he is a playmaker and not a match-winner, he could be The Azzuri’s secret weapon in Manaus.

Pogba celebrates with Fabio Quagliarella after scoring for Juventus

Pogba celebrates with Fabio Quagliarella after scoring for Juventus

CM – PAUL POGBA – FRANCE
AGE: 21
INT’L APPS: 8
CLUB: JUVENTUS

The most established player in this line-up.

In fact, Pogba would not have been wholly out of place in the full World XI. The Carrington graduate has now spent two years with Juventus. He has scored fourteen goals from 86 appearances.

Winner of two Scudetti titles and two Italian Super Cups, as well as the U-20 World Cup last year, Pogba is now likely to start in Brazil alongside Blaise Matuidi. He has made over 50 appearances for France’s various youth teams and will look to hold down a spot in the full side for years to come.

Incredibly strong, quick, two footed and skilful; Pogba can move the ball quickly, score wonderful goals and make that important last-ditch challenge. The complete player.

Manchester United have made a few errors of judgement in recent years. Letting this man go for free is perhaps the biggest.

05 WORLD CUP RODRIGUEZ

RW – JAMES RODRIGUEZ – COLOMBIA
AGE: 22
INT’L APPS: 21
CLUB: MONACO

James Rodriguez is already a star for both club and country. 22 years old, €45m fees, goals, assists, terrorised defences. He’s already done it all.

Surprising then that Rodriguez will go in to the World Cup somewhat under the radar. There are more prominent wingers taking their places at Brazil this summer, and our general English disregard of Ligue 1 will see us look out for the Ronaldos and Riberys of this world rather than Rodriguez.

The Colombian however is a simply world-class talent, and alongside Jackson Martinez and team-mate Radamel Falcao, will look to top Group C, setting up a potential last-16 game with England.

Should that be the case, everyone will learn his name.

AM – ALAN DZAGOEV – RUSSIA
AGE: 23
INT’L APPS: 30
CLUB: CSKA MOSCOW

Dzagoev burst onto the international scene during Euro 2012 with a succession of fine performances for Russia. A busy little attacking midfielder, Dzagoev picks up intelligent positions linking both flanks, and providing an anchor between the midfield and forward lines.

Like many others in this eleven, Dzagoev is the younger link in more experienced squads. With Belgium and South Korea for company in Group H, progress will be a challenge for Fabio Capello’s men, and should they achieve that, a meeting with Germany or Portugal is likely.

Russia are clearly not amongst the favourites to lift the trophy at the Maracana, but Dzagoev will nonetheless use this tournament to further his stock within European football.

Sterling skips past Mikel Arteta

Sterling skips past Mikel Arteta

LW – RAHEEM STERLING – ENGLAND
AGE: 19
INT’L APPS: 2
CLUB: LIVERPOOL

You don’t need to be in the loop for this one.

Alongside Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Sterling has been a regular cog in the Premier League’s most potent attacking force.

Blistering, raw pace; an exceptional touch and 10 goals from midfield; Sterling has had a terrific season and should, for me, be starting for England against Italy in Manaus.

If he shows the form which almost broke Liverpool’s Premier League title duck for the Three Lions, Sterling will light up Group D and help propel England to the last-16.

If only it were that simple…

CF – SON HEUNG-MIN – SOUTH KOREA
AGE: 21
INT’L APPS: 23
CLUB: BAYER LEVERKUSEN

Alongside Stefan Keissling, Son Heung Min’s goals for Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen will see the Rhineland club return to the Champions League next season.

Son is a versatile forward who can play in behind, on both flanks or as a central striker; either alone or with a partner. He possesses two good feet, and as anyone who frequents German football will tell you, that forward’s habit of being in the right place at the right time.

Goals for Hamburg and now Leverkusen saw Son elevated to the South Korean national team, a position he has held down for eighteen months. Qualification from the tricky Group H (alongside Belgium, Russia or Algeria), will be heavily reliant on Korea’s ability to find the net, especially against the Algerians who *should* be the fodder here.

Despite signing a five-year contract in 2013, and being Bayer’s record acquisition, good performances in Brazil may attract Premier League suitors.

 

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Another eclectic and unlikely assemblage of talent, then.

The World Cup invariably introduces us to the latest talents in the global game. Who will it be this summer?

Get involved on Twitter @OwlsAlive and @hugh_wragg and in the comments section below with your thoughts on my selections, who I’ve left out, and who you think will shine in Brazil.

 

RYAN

OPARE

BALANTA

VARANE

R. RODRIGUEZ

VERATTI

POGBA

J. RODRIGUEZ

DZAGOEV

STERLING

SON

world cup Brasil emblem 01

Hugh
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: admin@owlsalive.com
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @hugh_wragg


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