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World Cup – The Young Stars Set To Shine In Brazil
The World Cup is fast approaching and with only 9 days until the tournament begins we look at five young players who could be set to shine on World football’s biggest stage.
Antoine Griezmann is a 23-year-old French international who plays for Real Sociedad in Spain’s Primera Liga.
The young winger took a route seldom travelled when moving from France to the San Sebastian region of northern Spain as a youngster in 2005. Griezmann spent his formative years in the Sociedad academy and didn’t break through into the first team until the 2009/10 season; since then he has hardly looked back.
Predominantly left-footed Griezmann is most at home on the left-wing but he is an intelligent and adaptable player who has proven himself able to play as a right-winger, in the number 10 position and even as the lone forward in Sociedad’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
Quick, skillful and technically strong with good vision and an eye for goal young Griezmann has impressed for Sociedad, showing steady improvement and development with every season of senior football.
Griezmann heads to Brazil on the back of the best season of his career, scoring 20 goals and providing 3 assists in all competitions for Sociedad. He made his long-awaited France debut in March of this year in a friendly against Holland; a debut that was delayed due to a yearlong suspension from French national team’s for breaking a curfew while on u21 duty.
Griezmann celebrated his selection for the French World Cup squad by scoring his first international goal for France in the 1-1 draw with Paraguay on 1st June. If he carries his club form to Brazil with him, especially with major doubts over the fitness of Franck Ribery, he could be set to really shine.
James Rodriguez is a 22-year-old Colombian international who plays in France’s Ligue 1 for big spending Monaco.
Rodriguez moved from Porto to Monaco in the summer of 2013, in a deal worth 45 million Euros and so far he has proven to be worth every cent.
Rodriguez has shone in his debut season in France, demonstrating the playmaking skills that have seen him dubbed, ‘the next Carlos Valderrama’ and playing his way into the end of season Ligue 1 select XI. James made 34 appearances for Monaco in all competitions, ending the season with 10 goals and 12 assists, topping the Ligue 1 assists chart in the process.
Rodriguez is a technically gifted, exceptionally quick attacking midfielder who can play anywhere across the field.
He has a phenomenally creative edge along with the vision and ability to see and provide the final ball that can all too often be found missing in young players.
Rodriguez has already amassed 21 caps for the Colombian national side and was an integral part of a team that impressed in qualifying for their first World Cup since 1998.
With star striker, and Monaco teammate, Radamel Falcao ruled out after failing to recover from the knee injury that he suffered earlier in the season a lot of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of young Rodriguez if Colombia are going to impress in Brazil.
Romelu Lukaku is a 21-year-old Belgian international currently on the books of Chelsea.
Lukaku joined Chelsea in 2011 from Anderlecht and has spent the last two seasons on loan at West Bromwich Albion and Everton.
Lukaku is a big, strong centre forward with good technique, tremendous pace and a phenomenal work ethic. He has also proven that he knows where the goal is, outscoring Chelsea’s strikers in both of his seasons away from the club, bagging 17 league goals for West Brom and 15 goals for Everton last season. With 65 league goals to his name upon turning 21 Lukaku has more goals than Leo Messi, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer had at the same stages of their fledgling careers.
Lukaku has already amassed 29 caps and scored 9 goals for Belgium, including 4 in the last two games. With Christian Benteke ruled out the goal scoring burden could fall to Lukaku and his goals could tell if this young, but supremely talented, Belgian side are going be the force that a number of pundits have tipped them to be in Brazil this summer.
Raheem Sterling is a 19-year-old winger who plays for Liverpool in the Premier League.
The young winger joined the Reds from Queens Park Rangers in 2010 for a reported fee that could eventually rise to £6m. The form that Sterling has shown since breaking into the Liverpool first team could make that figure look like an absolute steal.
Sterling has pace to burn and trickery that is reminiscent of the days when a young John Barnes graced the Anfield turf. Sterling may be small but he is also incredibly strong and he has coupled his dynamic attacking play, which saw him net 10 goals and provide 7 assists in all competitions for the Reds last season, with determination and a sense of defensive responsibility and tactical awareness that has seen him become an integral part of the Liverpool side that went so close to winning the Premier League title in 2013/14.
At the beginning of this season Sterling would have been an outside bet for England’s World Cup squad at best, but due to his rapid development and form for Liverpool most pundits and England fans would have him in their first XI for England’s match against Italy in Manaus on 14th June.
If Sterling is able to replicate his Liverpool form for England the whole world could be talking about him come the end of the tournament.
Marco Verratti is a 21-year-old Italian international midfielder who plays for French giants Paris Saint-Germain.
The youngster made the move to Paris from Pescara in Italy’s Serie B in 2012 and has since more than proven himself capable of performing in Ligue 1 as well as the Champions League.
Verratti operates most effectively as a deep-lying playmaker and has exceptional positioning, awareness and vision. He shows calmness and composure on the ball that belies his tender years. Verratti does not shirk his defensive responsibilities either and has shown the willingness to tracking back and clean up in front of the defence when needed.
Verratti made 29 appearances for PSG last season, and although he failed to score he did provide 4 assists. His ability to dictate the tempo of the play from the middle of the field made him an integral cog in the PSG machine that won Ligue 1 at a canter and were only knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stages by Chelsea thanks to a late, late goal by Demba Ba.
Verratti may well have to settle for a cameo role for Italy in Brazil this summer but he will be more than ready should he be called upon and it may be that the Azzurri have found a natural successor to the legendary Andrea Pirlo.
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