Who’s young, who’s hot at the Cup

By Bessie King

As the World Cup comes to an end, soccer fans have experienced a range of emotions from rage to happiness to frustration; but infatuation? They are young, hot and of course talented. The stars are the new breed of soccer player. Check these prodigies out and see where some of the fans’ hearts lie:

Mohammed Al Anbar Current Club: Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia Position: Forward Date of birth: March 22, 1985

Nicknamed the ‘Ronaldinho of Arabia’, this 21-year-old striker is considered one of the great new talents in his country. Al Anbar has been playing for Al Hilal since 2002 and helped his team win the Saudi League in 2004-2005. FIFA experts rate him as the worthy successor to the great Sami Al Jaber, who is set to retire soon. With his great shot and fast reflexes, Al Anbar helped take the 1-0 win away from Korea Republic which confirmed their spot in qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. During the tournament his agility and effort left a mark on fans, although Iran did not advance to the second qualifying round.

Ermen Beitez Current Club: El Nacional, Ecuador Position: Forward Date of Birth: May 1, 1986

The son of one of Ecuador’s all-time goalscoring greats, Ermen Benitez, this dynamic is elusive, quick, skillful and has an eye for the goal. The 20-year-old has already caused quite a stir by making Ecuador coach Luis Fernando Suarez’s final squad. The quick-thinking striker runs out for El Nacional of Quito and won his place on the national team after last March’s defeat of Holland. Although yet to hold down a regular place with his club side, the compact front-man already has some valuable Copa Libertadores experience under his belt.

Lukasz Fabianski Current Club: Legia Warsaw, Poland Position: Goal Keeper Date of Birth: April 18, 1985

Lukasz Fabianski is one of the biggest goalkeeping talents in Polish soccer. Beginning his career with Lech Posen, the towering shot-stopper has been under contract with Legia Warsaw since 2005. He was even recently linked with a move to Manchester United of the English Premier League. At the international level, Fabianski appeared for Poland’s U-19 and U-21 teams and made his full international debut on March of this year in a friendly match against fellow Germany 2006 participants Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. The agile goalie will have more chances to defend his team at future Cups since this year Poland was sent home after the first round of elimination.

Marcell Jansen Current Club: Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany Position: Defender Date of Birth: November 4, 1985

With just two full seasons of Bundesliga football under his belt, 20-year-old defender Marcell Jansen is playing the left back position for the German national team. In 2005, the Borussia Moenchengladbach defender starred for the German side at the FIFA World Youth Championship before making his full debut in a friendly game against Slovakia. His imposing physique and determination have proven valuable as the team is scheduled to play Italy in the semi-finals and could even play in the final game.

Andres Guardado Current Club: Atlas, Mexico Position: Midfielder Date of Birth: September 28, 1986

A year ago Andres Guardado was an unknown reserve player with Mexican team Atlas. In the past 12 months Guardado delivered and obtained the deserved attention to bring him to the World Cup. Opposing defenders know all about the flying winger after trying to keep tabs on him for 90 minutes; but his progress has given him double duty. In addition to patrolling his customary left-wing position, he has had to fill in as a makeshift defender. So far, he has been shining in both spots. After an impressive win over Iran in this World Cup, Guardado plays his best to ensure Mexico’s pass to the second round of elimination. Unfortunately the 20-year-old will have to wait for the next Cup since the team was eliminated in the second round after a 2-1 loss to Argentina.

Sergio Ramos Current Club: Real Madrid- Spain Position: Defender Date of Birth: March 30, 1986

While Spain were battling it out at Korea/Japan 2002, a 16-year-old Spaniard by the name of Sergio Ramos was watching from his home in Seville, longing for the day when he would wear the famous red jersey. Four years down later the 20 year-old’s dream came true. Ramos’ progress both at club and international level has been nothing short of meteoric. He made his Spanish league debut with Sevilla in February 2004 and then went on to play six more top-flight games that season. After another 31 appearances for the Andalusian club the following year, Real Madrid was impressed enough to offer 27million euros to take the gifted defender to the Bernabeu. Since then the number 19 has been a lucky one for Ramos. It was at the UEFA European U-19 Championship in Switzerland that he won his first international tournament. Then on 30 March 2005, the player’s 19th birthday, he made his debut for the senior side in the FIFA World Cup qualifier in Belgrade against Serbia and Montenegro wearing, no other than, the No19 shirt. At this year’s tournament Ramo’s long brown mane and charming big smile were not the only things to leave an impression. He helped his team reach the second qualifying round but after a loss against France, Ramos will have to wait for another chance to get the cup.

Chu-Young Park Current club: FC Seoul- Korea Republic Position: Forward Date of Birth: July 10 1985

At just 20 years old, Korea Republic’s Park Chu-Young is already being hailed as one of his country’s finest young prospects. His growing influence and knack of scoring crucial goals have already led to talk in his homeland of the “Park Chu-Young effect.” Park more than lived up to expectations when he made his international debut during Korea Republic’s Germany 2006 qualifier with Uzbekistan on 3 June. With his side trailing 1-0 and the seconds ticking away, the youngster secured a vital point. Five days later, he set his team on the road to victory with the opening goal in their 4-0 defeat of Kuwait. The result secured Korea Republic’s qualification for Germany and made Park a national hero a month before his 20th birthday. Even though the team was sent home after their first World Cup elimination round Park is still a player to look out for in future tournaments.

Jose Montiel Current Club: Club Olimpia-Paraguay Position: Midfielder Date of Birth: March 19, 1988

Montiel, or Monti for short, was born in Itagua. The youngest of four children, he took his first steps on the footballing ladder with his hometown team Club Olimpia. In a curious twist of fate scouts from another of Paraguay’s oldest and best-supported teams, spotted Montiel and moved quickly to sign him. The technically gifted central midfielder, blessed with a agile right foot and the vision to match, made his debut on 12 February 2004 against Sol America, and has not looked back since.Montiel made his official debut on 8 October last year in the 1-0 win over Venezuela that secured Paraguay’s ticket to Germany. He may have played just 13 minutes, but they were enough to see him earn a starting place for the next match against Colombia just four days later. Despite his side’s 1-0 home defeat, Montiel earned rave reviews from fans and press alike and at this year’s World Cup, even though his team dd not make it past the first round of elimination, his skills were noticed by millions.

Mark Milligan Current Club: Sydney FC- Australia Position: Defender Date of Birth: August4, 1985

Elegant, quick and composed, the rise of this central defender to Australia’s senior side has surprised few observers. Wearing the Gold-and-Green to distinction at the past two FIFA World Youth Championships in the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands, the 20-year-old added to his impressive curriculum this season by helping club Sydney to the title in the inaugural Australian A-League. Despite needing a hernia operation earlier in the year, Milligan, has successfully returned to Sydney’s back line while impressing at the World Cup for his country.

Mehrzad Madanchi Current Club: Pirouzi-Iran Position: Midfielder Date of Birth: January 10, 1985

Mehrzad Madanchi won the first of his caps for Iran against Belarus. He also played for the Olympic team in the 2003 preliminaries. As if not enough he played all three games for Iran at the 2001 FIFA World Youth Cup in Argentina. A hard tackler, he looms to be Iran’s up-and-coming midfield grafter, certain to add to his tally of international caps. Even if Iran did not make it in this tournament, talent like Mandachi’s may help the team in future Cups.

Haminu Draman Current Club: Red Star Belgrade- Serbia and Montenegro (SCG) Position: Midfielder Date of Birth: January 1, 1985

A dangerous winger, Haminu Dramani burst into the international stage last year on the eve of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt. The 20-year-old played at Hearts of Lions last season before being recommended to Red Star Belgrade by Ghana’s national team coach. Alert and with the ability to deliver precise crosses, he made a dream debut in Serbia last September, scoring just a minute after coming on as an 88th-minute substitute. However the player has since been restricted to fleeting appearances for the former European champions but his ability to deliver will surely place him in the spot light in the future.

Yassine Chikaoui Current Club: Etoile du Sahel-Tunsia Position: Forward Date of Birth: September 1, 1986

The young Etoile du Sahel striker will not turn 20 until September, but he received the ultimate early-birthday present with a place in Tunisia’s 23-man squad for Germany 2006. Regarded as a future star of the Tunisian forward line, the prodigy already has a League Cup and a CAF Champions League final to his name. His performances at continental and international level have even attracted the attentions of Olympique de Marseille. His two goals scored in the league last season came during substitute appearances. Tunsia did not make it past the World Cup’s first round but hopefully in future tournaments Chikaoui will star from the field and not the bench.

Johan Djourou Current Club: Arsenal-England Position: Midfielder Date of Birth: May 4, 1987

Djourou was one of the late arrivals in Switzerland’s 2006 FIFA World Cup traveling party, having played in none of the qualifiers. He earned just one cap in a friendly against Scotland in March before coach Koebi Kuhn announced his squad. Djourou has tournament experience from last summer as he played in all three matches of Switzerland’s campaign at the FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005. The 19-year-old defender is an emerging figure with Arsenal in the English Premiership and he filled a variety of roles at the back with great effect when Arsene Wenger was beset by injury problems early in the year. To underline his great versatility, Djourou can also operate well in midfield, is there anything this handsome midfielder can’t do

Cesc Fabregas Current Club: El Nacional-Ecuador Position: Forward Date of Birth: May 1, 1986

With his youthful looks, teenage shyness and still-developing body, one could not think much of Fabregas, but when the creative midfielder steps onto the pitch his skills remind you that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. He has that rare gift of being able to see moves before they actually happen, seldom misplaces a pass and uses his slight frame to sidestep many a well-timed tackle. The 20 year-old midfielder has an impressive track record with his country’s juniors; he came of age at the FIFA U-17 World Championship Finland 2003, where he picked up the best player and top scorer awards. In this World Cup he has joined a team that defeated Poland and Croatia and made an impressive effort in the second round of elimination. Undoubtedly Fabregas will remain in the watchful eye of soccer fans.

Bohdan Shust Current Club: Shakhtar Donetsk- Ukraine Position: Goal Keeper Date of Birth: March 4, 1986

Already boasting a wealth of experience despite being only 20, the young keeper arrives in Germany basking in the glow of a Ukrainian championship medal success in his first professional season. Having managed to convince his club coach to give him the opportunity to play in the tournament, Shust has taken the chance to showcase his superlative reflexes and command of his six-yard box. After keeping goal for Ukraine in four matches at the FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005, he has already been praised for his skills by field experts. In this tournament he supported his team until the quarterfinals where Italy managed to defeat the team with three goals.

Information was gathered from www.fifa.com.

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