Oliver McManus writes about 10 of the young stars to watch out for in the upcoming Confederations Cup.
The Confederations Cup is the traditional precursor to the FIFA World Cup, featuring the host nation, reigning World Cup Champions and the six winners of the FIFA Confederation Championships (i.e. OFC Nations Cup).
If you make your country’s squad, it’s usually a good indicator that you should make the final 23 for the following summer – with that in mind, we’re taking a look at 10 Young Players to Watch at this particular Confederations Cup, held in Russia, from the 17th June to the 2nd July.
Aleksander Golovin // 21 // Midfielder // Russia
As the host nation Russia will be looking to give their fans something to cheer about and whilst their squad features several of the regular “old heads”, like Igor Akinfeev, Yuri Zhirkov and Denis Glushakov, a few rough diamonds also feature and Aleksandr Golovin is the youngest of them all.
Born on the 30th May 1996, Golovin currently plays for CSKA Moscow but is rumoured to be on the radar of Arsenal and, indeed, they are close to securing his signature for £10million.
Having averaged 82 minutes in each of his 37 domestic games this season, Golovin has come on in leaps and bounds since his debut in for the club in the 2014/15 campaign; a keen box-to-box midfielder, his role is primarily to push forward with his striding runs and a type of agility that can only come with youth on your side but he does tend to get back more than statistics could suggest – he’s criminally underrated at hurrying and harrying the opposition.
A very versatile player, too, Golovin has been used in a variety of positions this season, from attacking midfielder all the way down to left-back and, arguably, his game at left-back was his best game all season
An obvious weakness is his ability in the air, which is fair enough given his rather diminutive 5ft 11” stature, but he’s got time to grow a bit more and, all told, he’s not really needed in the air a good lot – it’s always nice to have a rounded game, though.
Still just 21 years of age, the Kaltan-born, Golovin has already played 67 times for his club and 8 times for his country; he was also part of the Russian Under-17’s that captured the 2013 UEFA European Under-17 Championship.
As a result of all this, he is a treasured talent in his home country with the hopes that he could become the next world star of Russian football.
Joshua Kimmich // 22 // Defensive Midfielder // Germany
The first of about 3 or 4 young German’s to feature on this list, Kimmich was hard to assign a position to, given that he’s played an equal number of games in midfield and defence – he has, however, confirmed that next season he will focus his game on playing at right-back.
Having joined RB Leipzig when the club was still in the third division of German football, Kimmich made 55 appearances for the controversial club before Bayern Munich swooped in for a deal worth 7million EUR.
Now valued in excess of £25million, Kimmich made 40 appearances in all competitions this season, primarily as a substitute but he still played a good 52minutes per game – from that he returned the faith with 9 goals and 2 assists which, when you consider he was mainly in a defence-orientated role, is a very good tally.
Blessed with sublime passing, Kimmich is capable of playing the ball both short and long in order to progress play, yet he also has the confidence to advance attacks with the ball at his feet – as we’ve seen already, from that goal tally.
It’s hard to pick fault with Kimmich because he’s just good at everything, his mental game is just as strong as his actual football – always thinking one or two steps ahead of the opposition, the 2x Bundesliga winner, has been influential in breaking down attacks thanks to crucial positioning and mouth-watering interceptions.
With 47 international games to his name – ranging from Under-17 to Senior level – it’s fair to say that Kimmich is already a regular fixture when it comes to Joachim Low’s squad. If you ask me, it can only be a matter of time until he’s made captain.
This man has some future and I mean, I obviously didn’t tell you about him first because he’s well know already but when he reaches the peak of his career, I’m going to say I told you about him first.
Dane Ingham // 18 // Right Back // New Zealand
Born in New South Wales, Australia it was a tough and controversial decision when Dane made the decision to represent New Zealand – alongside his older brother, Jai.
Nonetheless, the Brisbane Roar right-back has embraced his opportunity to become the next young face of football for a country obsessed with Rugby and Cricket ; it’s not very often that New Zealand are able to say that they have a genuinely exciting talent coming through the ranks but, finally, they can do that once again,
Having played 28 games for the Brisbane Roar Reserves, Ingham made his debut for the full team on the 31st January 2016, at just 17 years of age and went on to make a further 6 appearances – 3 in the A-League and 3 in the AFC Champions League.
Rather unsurprisingly, for a young right-back, Ingham’s key strength is his pace going forward but also his willingness to track back when he’s lost the ball – unlike some who would shrug their shoulders and sort of sulk their way into their own half.
In order to improve his game, Ingham needs to work on his crossing ability to help become a real dual threat in both defence and attack – once he gets that ticked off, I suspect his rise could be exponential.
A national debut came against Fiji in March of this year and he has already added to that total and whilst he might not be the first-choice for the Kiwis, a lot of time lies ahead and, who knows, he could capture our attention in a similar fashion to DeAndre Yedlin in the 2014 World Cup.
Jamie Maclaren // 23 // Striker // Australia
From New Zealand to Australia in one fell swoop, Jamie Maclaren was alongside Dane Ingham on the books of Brisbane Roar until May of this year when he signed for Darmstadt 98, in the 2.Bundesliga, on a 3-year contract.
Aged 15 he had a trial at Blackburn Rovers, where he duly impressed and was offered a contact – there he stayed and his development was hugely benefited by the mentorship of, fellow Australians, Brett Emerton and Vince Grella – however, having made no first-team appearances, he was released after the 2012-13 season.
Since then, Maclaren developed into a real hotshot of the A-League, first firing 11 goals in 38 appearances for Perth Glory before signing for the Roar in 2015; 53 games later, Maclaren had racked up 40 goals to his name and was widely being touted by clubs around Europe.
An established poacher, Maclaren is as fast as his F1 name-sake (although that might be a little less apt given their downtrodden fortunes of late), possessing an electric turn of pace giving him the ability to take 2-3 defenders out of the game in an instant.
A seasoned finisher, he possess talent beyond his years in front of goal and is able to tuck the ball away with either foot, from inside and outside the box – he’s lethal. We saw Adam Taggart sign for Fulham in 2014 so how in hell’s name has Maclaren’s move not come sooner!
Peculiarly though, he’s not the best of free-kick takers which came as a surprise to me when I was frequenting the early-morning A-League matches this season but, nonetheless, he is a talent to rave about – I’ve only ever said that once before and that was about Alex Woodyard, who’s now being scouted by Aston Villa.
Seriously though, Jamie Maclaren will probably not get enough attention owing to the fact he’s from Australia – so I’m putting my faith in you, tell all your friends about this guy and then sit back, relax, as they all think you’re a footballing genius.
Andre Silva // 21 // Striker // Portugal
Already the big-money mover of this transfer window – Andre Silva signed for AC Milan, a few days ago, for a fee of £35million, but doesn’t officially move until July 3rd.
Highly-rated by those within the Portuguese system for several years now, Silva first cropped up on our radar in 2009, when he debuted for the Portugal Under-16 team; since then, he’s gone on to make 78 appearances across all youth levels, including 8 for the full national team.
An exquisite talent, Silva is a delight to watch with an easy on the eye style. A strong fan of the lay-off, the 21 year old will often seek to link up in triangles with teammates in order to exploit pockets of action.
Powerful with the ball, his shots are thunderous and guided like an arrow, a real wonder to watch, his strike is pure and the product nearly always turns into a goal.
From his 49 club and national team appearances this season, Silva has yielded 26 goals with 7 assists – at 6ft 2”, he’s also a pivotal player in the air, using his strength and agility to get explosive power onto the ball.
A prodigious talent, Silva still has room for improvement – as do we all – but a specific area for him to look at would be his vision and passing. By no means is anyone expecting him to pull the strings across the board but it’s certainly a skill in which he’s lacking exceptional ability – averaging just 71.8% pass completion rate, and just 1.3 “key passes” per game.
Serie A looks to be an ideal fit for him though and a definite step up from the Liga NOS providing a true test of his ability, whereby he’ll be able to pit himself against the likes of Mauro Icardi and Gonzalo Higuain.
He’s shown no signs of slowing down his rise upon the international scene, with a cracking rate of 7 goals in his 8 games thus far – including a quick-fire hat-trick against the Faroe Islands.
Hopefully, for Andre, this is the tournament where Silva finally turns into Gold.
Hirving “Chucky” Lozano // 21 // Winger // Mexico
Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, has been the subject of Outside of the Boot fandom for some time now, first featuring in Thomas Harrison’s scout report all the way back in 2015, as well as appearing in the 100 to Watch for both 2016 and 2015, the 2015-16 & 2016-17 Liga MX Team of the Season, our 2016 North American Player of the Year AND our 2016 Copa America Top 5 Players – he truly is loved around these parts.
Anyway, that’s all the tooting of our horn that I’ll invest in, Lozano currently plays for Pachuca but is reported to be attracting interest from Benfica and Manchester City. With 149 club appearances to his name, it’s a fair assumption that he could be the most experienced 21 year old in all of world football.
Probably the fastest player in the world – and that’s no exaggeration – Lozano, rather obviously, plays on the wing and is equipped with a beautiful right foot which he uses to cut in from the left-hand side before weaving his way into the box. A real flair player, Chucky is full of silky skills to make your jaw drop – his 30 games this season have seen 18 goals and 7 assists for the young Mexican.
Oftentimes with pace comes a lack of stamina but that’s far from true with Chucky, time after time you’ll find him marauding up and down the touchline with little sign of fatigue – rarely going back but always on the front foot.
In that scout report, Tom remarked “perhaps a result of increasing arrogance, Chucky has become far too selfish and one-dimensional in recent matches” which is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed to this day – far too easy in giving up possession, Lozano will sulk around in disdain.
It’s a learning curve, however, and I’m sure maturity will come as Lozano develops as both a player and a person – perhaps a more challenging move abroad would expedite that personal growth.
Anyway, an exciting talent reminiscent of the Mexican carnival, vibrant, colourful, sensational – a pleasure to watch.
Fabrice Ondoa // 21 // Goalkeeper // Cameroon
The only goalkeeper in this Top 10 but, truth be told, I could have included 2 alone from the Cameroonian squad – I ended up plumping from Ondoa rather than Andre Onana (who is, in fact, Ondoa’s cousin!) owing to the fact he is most likely to be number 1 for this tournament.
Having come through the Samuel Eto’o Academy, Ondoa joined Barcelona as a 13 year old, progressing through the youth system before being promoted to the B team in 2014. Unfortunately for Ondoa, club football hasn’t come frequently at all for the Yaoundé-born player – no appearances in 2 years for Barca B saw a move to 2nd division Gimastic de Tarragona in January 2016 – since then he’s been loaned out twice within the 2nd and 3rd division where he’s made a total of 9 apperances.
It’s a testament to his quality then that he’s essentially been the Cameroon national number one since his debut in August 2014, having taken over the mantle from Carlos Kameni. Already, he’s established himself as a strong communicator not afraid of bossing around his backline – despite them oftentimes being 5 or 6 years older than them.
For that he’s gained respect from his peers as a no-nonsense goalie and he really made his major mark during the 2017 African Cup of Nations, in Gabon, where Ondoa was the cemented number one and saved the critical kick from Sadio Mane in the Penalty Shootout, as well being voted into the Team of the Tournament after the Indomitable Lions beat Egypt 2-1 to take home the title.
Amazingly he’s got 28 caps to his name already but Ondoa really needs a sensible move to enable him to get some good club action under his belt – this tournament will serve as an audition, potentially, for those clubs interested in him and, hopefully, they won’t be saying O-no-a come the end of it.
Timo Werner // 21 // Forward // Germany
Amidst all the controversy surrounding RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, there has been one undeniable gem to their team – Timo Werner. It seems like he’s been around for ages, too, having made his debut for VfB Stuttgart all the way back in 2013 – in that season, he made 34 appearances.
The youngest player ever to represent Stuttgart in a Bundesliga match, Werner has been prolific throughout the youth teams for Germany, slotting home 33 goals in 45 goals before making his senior team debut in March this year.
A strong counter-attacking threat, Werner utilises his impeccable dribbling to great effect in order to split the flailing defence and pounce efficiently – it’s how Leipzig have been playing all season and, at the end of the day, they finished 2nd so evidently it’s been working.
Valued at well over £20million, Werner has a contract at Leipzig but they’ll have to resist some high-level bids for their main talent – Liverpool are rumoured to be interested in him, as are Tottenham and Bayern Munich. When that calibre of club comes calling, it’s hard to say no. Evidently a very good goal-getter, Werner is right-footed but capable of getting goals with either foot, averaging a goal every 116 minutes – one of the best ratios in all of Europe.
Werner is no immortal, however and is easily lambastable about his seeming refusal to acknowledge that there is an offside rule – he’s always straying past the line and getting flagged up for it. To be precise, he averages just 1/3 more shots per game than he does offside’s per game – 2.4, in comparison to 1.6. His first touch is also up for criticism, averaging 2.1 bad first touches per game.
An exciting young talent, Werner needs to be a learner (you’re welcome) if he’s to take the next step up and prove he can mix it on the big scene.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa // 21 // Defensive Midfielder // Cameroon
Yet another tragically underrated player, Andre-Frank Anguissa has been a veritable mainstay in the Marseille midfield, having joined them 2 years ago and making 37 appearances in all competitions this season.
Unlikely to be a world beater, Anguissa has more than enough potential to play at a top-level – he’s similar to a Yoann Gourcuff or a Yann M’Villa in the way he plays. A reliable member of the team, his stats across the board are thoroughly impressive.
Especially key to the defensive effort, Anguissa averages 1.9 tackles per game, 1.7 interceptions per game and 1.1 clearances per game – the type of figures that don’t sound a lot but are influential to the game in untold amounts.
An intrinsic passer, Anguissa averages 37 completed passes per game, with an accuracy rate of 86.7% and is capable of turning defence into attack in the blink of an eye – having said that, he tends to sit just in front of the back 4 when play advances, in order to provide an extra layer of security in the event of lost possession.
Man-marking is weak, meaning he can sometimes let a player get an extra yard on him but he always gives his all for the team – a determined character, he’ll never give up and has a controlled aggression to him which always seems to come in handy.
With just 2 international appearances to his name, Anguissa was part of the squad to win the AFCON earlier this year and will be hoping to press the case for a starting spot in Hugo Broos’ team.
Niklas Sule // 21 // Defender // Germany
Niklas Sule is another big money mover of the current transfer window, Bayern Munich secured Sule’s signature for £17million and he’ll join his new club from the 1st July. Having been on the books of 1899 Hoffenheim since 2010, the gigantic 6ft 5” centre-back made his first team debut on the 11th May 2013, against Hamburg when he played 81minutes.
An all-round rock at the back, Sule averages 87 minutes per game and bosses around the opposition’s attack, thanks to his physically imposing build and strong aerial presence – averaging 1.9 aerial duels won per game.
He’s not a sweeper but he plays like one, he does all the hard work and graft at the back often making up for team-mate’s mistakes. A powerful tackler, Sule takes his time before going to ground but when he commits, he certainly doesn’t hold back. Equally with interceptions, he always has a knack of getting in there at the right time – his timing is impeccable.
As mentioned earlier, his aerial presence is also a good asset for both club and country when going forward where he is able to chip in with a goal or two for the cause, especially in corner situations.
Internationally, Sule was contacted by the Turkish FA about representing their national, despite having no connections with the country, because his name allegedly sounded Turkish. Another fixture of national youth teams, Sule has played 57 games across all levels of international football and is certain to go on to impressive feats.
Not particularly fast on the ball, Sule’s pace can often be to his detriment but he makes up for this by getting good positioning in order to pre-empt the opponents first move.
Germany are odds-on favourites to win this tournament and if things go well they’ll have time to use the youth a bit more – Sule will be on the periphery of the starting XI and hopefully he’ll be able to get some minutes under his belt.
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