As in every World Cup, World Cup 2006 in Germany will herald a new crop of highly talented youngsters who will leave their mark on the world stage. Arunava Chaudhuri names a few potential candidates.
Lukas Podolski of Germany
World Cup 2006 will see a number of talented teenagers and those in their early-twens displaying their skills. There’s Brazil’s Robinho, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Germany’s dynamic duo Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and USA’s Freddy Adu, to name a few. Any of them is a good bet but, as the past has shown, others could come out of the blue.
22 year old Brazilian forward Robinho, who plays for the Spanish giants Real Madrid CF, had an impressive outing at the Confederation Cup last year here in Germany. The then FC Santos player has been termed the "the greatest magician with the ball" since Pele and Garrincha. Pele says about Robinho that the boy has everything it takes to be better than even Pele himself. Robinho has had a tough season in Spain adopting to life and football in Europe, and will have to fight for a place in the Brazilian starting eleven with players like Ronaldo, Adriano, Ronaldinho and Kaka ahead of him. But the small and lightweight player has skills and turns which could make him crucial for Brazil’s success.
Lionel Andrés Messi
Lionel Messi was the rising star of Argentina in 2005. The 18 year old was instrumental in Argentina’s winning the U20 World Cup in Holland with six goals and two assists last summer. Since then he has been getting more time to play for his club side CF Barcelona and has had a good first season with the senior side playing alongside players like Ronaldinho, Deco and Samuel Eto’o. As in the case of Robinho, Messi is being compared to the greatest player of his nation - Diego Maradona - with people calling him El Diego. Messi surely has the class to become a Maradona of the future, but still has a long way to go. Though being short at 1,70m Messi has extraordinary vision and great technical skills, which he uses as a midfielder or attacking winger to create chances for his teammates. For Argentina he has only played two internationals so far and has tough competition to get in, but he should be part of the 23 member squad.
Lukas Podolski/Bastian Schweinsteiger
The German duo of Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, known as Poldi & Schweini to the public, caught the imagination of German fans in Euro 2004 when they where the only positive aspect of Germany’s dismal performance. At the 2005 Confederation Cup their youthful play carried Germany on a wave of success, even challenging the strong Brazilians in the semi’s. Poldi and Schweini, who are the best of friends, became household names with especially Podolski becoming a cult figure in Cologne and across Germany. However, both youngsters have been having a tough time in the German Bundesliga. Podolski’s 1 F.C. Cologne is fighting relegation with a lot of attention and focus on him as the sole star of the team, while Schweinsteiger has a totally different problem. He is one amongst many at FC Bayern Munich, way down the pecking order though he is one of their young stars and a German international.
Ghana-born US international Freddy Adu could become the youngest player ever at a football World Cup this summer, if he is chosen by US coach Bruce Arena. Adu is just 16 and turns seventeen just a week before the USA’s opening match against the Czech Republic.
People have been following Adu’s progress for the past three years, ever since he was termed one of the brightest talents in world football. All European top clubs where after the youngster to sign him, but the US professional league, the MLS, was able to keep him in the US. He signed for Washington DC United and has now played a couple of seasons for them, not too impressively, but with steady progress. Now again top clubs like FC Chelsea and Manchester United want to sign the 16 year old “boy wonder”. The World Cup could be just the right stage for Adu, who comes from a humble background in Ghana, learning his football on the roads of Tema against older boys. After shifting with his family to America his talent was realised and has been nurtured ever since. For the USA Adu is important to make “soccer”, as they call it, a more popular sport across the country.
Adu as a striker is what makes the opponents worry. He has the speed and the skill to run past defenders and score in full flow, and that at 16. A lot is expected from this youngster, not the least at the World Cup in Germany, though he has his life – and career – in front of him.