A regular series as part of our World Cup coverage under the Talent Radar banner is aimed at the tons of aspiring football hipsters out there. We will track the progress of all young players at the World Cup, focusing on each and every game and compiling a detailed analysis. The eligibility criteria for this is simple, the player must have been 21 or below at the start of the season (2013-14).
The first game we’re focusing on as part of this series is ofcourse the opening game with lots of young players featuring and two particular ones making a solid impact.
Brazil | Attacking Midfield | 22
With all the talk of the pressure being on Neymar, the limelight was taken away from Oscar. As one journo put it (we won’t name him), “Neymar will get the headlines, but Oscar was the star”. Strange statement as the journo himself makes the headlines
Oscar was 6th in our Talent Radar 25 Young Players to Watch at the 2014 World Cup
Playing behind the striker, Oscar wasn’t just a potent attacking threat but put a shift in defensively as well, playing a mature and balanced game. Although his stature is not of one who you would consider to get stuck into tackles and challenges, the Chelsea man was more than willing to do the dirty work. A rare attribute for his type of player, if i’m being generic. He had two particularly dangerous crosses early in the game which were begging for a touch. His role in the first goal was immense, refusing to lose possession, keeping the ball and allowing Neymar to do the rest. His goal was well-taken too, he completely deserved it, finishing it with a toe poke, though the keeper should have saved it comfortably. He created more chances than anyone else (3), completed more dribbles (7) had more take ons (9). [via WhoScored]
This was arguably the most professional performance we’ve seen from Oscar in a Brazil shirt, determined to prove he can handle both defensive & attacking football. He makes up for the lack of creativity deep in midfield, and covers for the lack of pressing in attacking zones as well.
Not many have given him the credit he deserves, nor the pressure, but Oscar can be strong weapon for Brazil. He’ll win possession, prevent the opposition from having any, create chances and act as an attacking threat.
Brazil | Attacking Midfield | 22
He came in with a lot of pressure, the weight of the nation on his shoulders but lived up to the task in hand. The World was watching as he was required to lead the host nation, and if the 22-yr-old had any nerves prior to the start, all settled down now, and it’s his own doing.
- Neymar was 2nd in our Talent Radar 25 Young Players to Watch at the 2014 World Cup list
Supposedly positioned on the left of the attack, the Barca man was anywhere but in the wide areas. The pressure is clear on Neymar to drive the team forward and he remains the focal point of both creating and finishing. He dropped deep to pick the ball up constantly, and with his quick feet was able to navigate past the advancing players. This is portrayed in his statistics where he made an incredible 9 take ons. He failed with most of his adventurous forward passes but remained a threat when he got in and around the box. While Oscar deserves credit for the first goal, take nothing away from Neymar’s neat finish from outside the box.
It will be interesting to see how he copes for the rest of the tournament, because if there’s one thing we learnt from the Brazil – Croatia game, Neymar is Brazil’s go-to guy. Cafu had recently stated that Neymar has more pressure than Ronaldo did in 2002 as the latter had a better team around him. A lot for young shoulders, but the first hurdle well surpassed.
Talent Radar’s eyes were primarily set on his team-mate Mateo Kovacic, and our decision was justified. Though Kovacic was no better, Vrsaljko really shouldn’t be played at left-back.
Though usually a right sided full-back and meant to be an under-study for captain Darijo Srna, Vrsaljko was played at left-back in the absence of injured Pranjic. The change in position clearly made the Genoa man a bit awkward, as it isn’t easy to shift both defensively and attackingly to the other side, at short notice. Though he did make more interceptions than any other Croatian player, Brazil found joy down the right primarily through the aforementioned Oscar. Vrsaljko allowed threatening crosses to easily get past him. Importantly too, we saw how long balls over the top easily released the men running in from the right, Dani Alves once getting in behind easily and Neymar doing so as well.
Pranjic is expected to be fit for the next game and thankfully too, Vrsaljko is a best fit on the right and can’t quite play as a make-shit full-back on the opposite side.
Croatia | Attacking/Central midfielder | 20
The pre-game talk and reported line-ups had no Kovacic in there, but nearly every news agency and journalist seemed to have got in wrong. Kovacic would indeed start, as expected, behind the striker with support from Modric & Rakitic.
Kovacic was 12th in our Talent Radar 25 Young Players to Watch at the 2014 World Cup list
Kovacic also featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2014
Here is a detailed Scout Report on Mateo Kovacic
The Inter Milan man started off strongly, pressing his opponents and looking energetic. It is here how he managed to make three tackles. But coach Niko Kovac seemed to specify to the youngster to stay back, which he did, adversely effecting his game. His lack of maturity showed as he seemed a bit uncomfortable at playing a more disciplined game. Croatia wanted to sit back in certain phases which left Kovacic a bit distraught, but he also failed to learn to keep possession in midfield, wanting to rather get it off early. Enthusiasm & urgency is vital, but the latter needs to be controlled to an extent which Kovacic seemed to lack. Despite this performance, he will retain his key role for the next fixtures. Brazil though, just too much to handle.
Croatia | Attacking Midfeld | 21
The Dinamo Zagreb midfielder was the reported man who was supposed to come in rather than Kovacic, but the team remained as expected. A few tackles helped break up play but Brozovic, in the little he played, failed to show a creative & attacking element and that could be the reason why he’s down the pecking order at the national set-up.
Although I’m waiting to see this man in action, it may be fair to state he won’t be making too many appearances. He didn’t play enough minutes to make a judgement but hopefully more of him is on show.