Sunday, June 26, 2005

Future stars

In the Netherlands the FIFA Youth Tournament has put a few really talented players on display. Many have been shielded behind superstars, others are playing at clubs I’ve never heard of, but for what its worth, here are some names I am sure you are going to hear again:

(no order)

Italy brought the most impressive striker of the tournament in Graziano Pelle. He plays for Italian minnows Catania but after this performance will be quickly snapped up by a bigger club. He's the player which got Italy thru to the knockout stages. At 193 cm he is tall, great with his feet and has a powerful shot. He looked a man among boys in some of the build up matches.

I promise you there will be interest in Isaac Promise from Nigeria. The Super Eagles seem to have developed another Jay-Jay Okocha in this quick and tricky attacking midfielder/forward. At the moment he plays for club team Grays International.

Hedwiges Maduro of the Netherlands deserves mention, although he was not so great in his last 2 matches. There is immense talent in this youngster who seems to maybe need a touch of conditioning and more focus. Two Dutch defenders were also really impressive: Ron Vlaar of UEFA Cup quarterfinalists AZ Alkmaar and Dwight Tiendalli of FC Utrecht. Vlaar, a central defender is a carbon copy of Arsenal’s Philippe Senderos.

Moroccan goalkeeper Mohammed Bourkadi has been the standout for Morocco all tournament. In the quarterfinal against Italy he saved 2 penalties, stopping a first try, then when ordered retaken, saving again with his foot. In the penalty shootout he easily saved 2 more to earn Morocco passage to the semi-final. He currently plays for Moroccan club Mas Fes.

Freddy Adu is a great player, but he is not a new Pele as the American media has touted. He is a youngster with a lot of talent, also with a lot of pressures and expectations. He’s got a great attitude, which impressed me most.

The best player of the tournament, by a mile, has been Lionel Messi. He is unfortunately buried beneath a host of players at FC Barcelona but after this performance, Barcelona either has to sell him or play him because a host of teams will be knocking.

Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal, of course, but the real revelation for Spain in this tournament has been Juanfran. He was playing behind Luis Figo at Real Madrid and he may have earned his shot after this display. I would give it to him, but politics and Real Madrid are not strangers. Spanish forward Llorente of Basque club Aletico Bilbao was fantastic all tournament. He’s very tall but extremely agile and fast on his feet.

Brazil’s team has been advancing, but lackluster, and their best players have been defensive minded. Renato is much in the holding midfielder mold of former Brazilian international Dunga, with the same fearlessness and raw strength. He could easily play central defense as well. Renato plays for Atletico Mineiro. Brazil’s other highlight has been Coritiba full-back Rafael who was tireless on the wings.

German goalkeeper Rene Alder of Bayer Leverkusen could give the senior German keepers a run for their place by World Cup 2006. Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann and Bayern Munich keeper Oliver Kahn failed to impress at the Confederations Cup. Alder was spectacular.

Oleksandr Aliev as shown himself to be a gifted player. The Ukrainian midfielder scored one of the goals of the tournament and impressed with his mature play. Dynamo Kyiv has a poor man’s Pavel Nedved in Aliev.


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