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For those of you who haven’t followed us, our Talent Radar feature has become hugely popular over the last few months as we continue our website’s strategy of focusing on the younger players. Keeping that in mind, we have published this mini-series of the 25 Young Players to Watch at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Before you read the article, there are a couple of points about the criteria which will help you understand our approach to this list, the players selected, the order of the ranking etc. Players eligible for this list are those that were 21 and below at the start of the 2013-14 season (considered to be August 1st for convenience). We have taken into consideration their ability, but above all, we have considered what impact they can have on their respective side and the tournament as a whole paying attention to potential playing time as well.
Italy | Deep Lying Playmaker | 21
How did he do? The 21 year old had a satisfactory season at PSG, as the club went to the quarter finals of the Champions League again. The youngster was a regular in the side, and an important component of the PSG team that won a league and cup double. The Italian midfielder, dubbed the next Andrea Pirlo, formed an excellent partnership with Blaise Matuidi, and Thiago Motta, as the trio laid the foundation for strikers like Cavani and Zlatan. A 92% pass completion rate from midfield is no joke, and it has only established Verratti’s up and coming reputation.
Read a detailed scout report on him here
He was also selected in the Ligue 1 Team of the Season for 2013-14
What can we expect from him? Unfortunately for Verratti, a certain Andrea Pirlo is blocking his path into the first team for Italy, and this is why we may not get to see too much of him in this World Cup. However, there is a chance that he will get to showcase his talents. With Pirlo now 35, running about for 90 minutes in the Brazilian heat may not be optimal, and so Verratti, looked upon by many as his natural successor, should get chances to shine. In the event of an injury or suspension to the great man too, Verratti is the direct replacement. Expect good passing, accurate and incisive balls, and a good understanding of the game and the tempo from this player.
Germany | Attacking midfielder | 22
How did he do? The crown prince of German football, Mario Gotze, has been hailed by so many as one of the best talents to emerge from the nation. After a move to Bayern in the summer that made him the second most expensive German player of all time, Gotze, under Guardiola, has blossomed when afforded the opportunity by his manager. His 27 Bundesliga appearances were studded with 10 goals and 9 assists. What really caught the eye was his excellent passing, and interplay. Gotze’s calm nature on the ball set him apart from the rest of the talents of world football.
You can read a detailed scout report about Gotze here
What can we expect from him? Based on talent alone, Gotze would surely have been closer to the top of this list, but we expect coach Jogi Low to hand the starting place to the more experienced Mesut Ozil. This means that Gotze will play a role coming off the bench, and this is where he can make a huge impact. His understanding and interplay with Muller will be something that opponents need to guard against. The other option is his deployment as a False 9. Low has selected only 1 recognised striker in his 23 man squad, and it is widely expected that players like Gotze will be fielded in place of the legendary Miro Klose for large periods of time.
Holland | Midfielder | 22
How did he do? Jordy Clasie is one of a very talented batch of youngster emerging from Feyenoord Rotterdam. Clasie is a midfielder of slight stature, and has been compared to the likes of Xavi in the past. All comparisons aside, Clasie’s performances speak for themselves. The youngster was a fixture in the Feyenoord side that finished second behind Ajax in the Eredivisie this past season. He’s also been fairly regular in the national team under van Gaal.
What can we expect from him? While there may a few doubts being cast over his position at the moment due to the presence of the likes of Blind and De Jong, we do believe that Clasie will have a role to play in this World Cup. In a Holland side that will look to utilise ball possession and build attacks through their midfielders, Clasie has an important role to play, and his distribution is likely to be key to determing their success in a tough group.
South Korea | Attacking Midfielder | 21
How did he do? The young Korean attacker caught the attention of the world with his incredible performances for Hamburg in the 2012-13 season. Heung is a player with technical speed, skill, and strength. Despite being only 21, he also has a good amount of experience. The Leverkusen man enjoyed another stellar season in the Bundesliga this time, chipping in with 10 goals and 4 assists in his 29 starts. The youngster is fairly versatile as well, and can play on the left, and right side of the attack with equal ease.
What can we expect from him? The young Korean team that comes to this World Cup has a very young star. Son is without doubt the key player for the Asian nation, and his speed, dribbling, and goal-scoring abilities will be the foundation for this team’s chances. Son is certainly an excellent prospect, and can go far in his career, but at this tournament, his team may not be able to do so, and this is why Son is at this ranking in this list.
Italy | Full Back | 21
How did he do? As a team, AC Milan had a season to forget, and it wasn’t too much better for De Sciglio either. The young player was hit by injuries, and didn’t really get a long run in the team because of these injuries. However, when fit, the young defender was an integral part of the Milan line up. The fact that Prandelli trusts him enough to pick him despite Milan’s performance and his injuries tells you a lot about his talent. His versatility didn’t hurt his cause for sure, with the defender being able to play at left back, right back, and as a wing back with equal ease.
What can we expect from him? As outlined here, De Sciglio and his versatility mean that he will be a player that fits into the various plans and formations that Prandelli will utilise at the World Cup. So De Sciglio can expect to start most games, due to the kind of defensive stability he provides, and his proficiency in attack. However, De Sciglio faces tough competition for his starting spot, with the likes of Abate and Chiellini providing Prandelli with good options in case the youngster isn’t in form. The trait that sets him apart is his excellent defending. He has been likened to Paolo Maldini for a reason, and in a one-on-one situation, you might get to see just why.