World Cup: From kids to kings

World Cup: From kids to kings



Earlier this month, Bayer Leverkusen's Son Heung Min became the first South Korean to score a hat-trick in one of the world's top leagues in the 5-3 victory over Hamburg.

However, it was at Hamburg that Son (right) really began to shine, establishing himself in the first team at the age of 17 during the 2010-11 campaign. In the same season, he also made his international debut.

Since joining Leverkusen, he has gone from strength to strength.

A pacey, two-footed forward, Son is happy playing anywhere across the forward line and is a lethal finisher.

If he hits the ground running in Brazil, the Taeguk Warriors could go far.


(France, 20, MF, Juventus)

While Verratti is an Italian midfielder making giants strides in France, Pogba is the polar opposite - a multi-talented Frenchman who's doing the business for Serie A champions Juventus.

Pogba (right) set the tone for what could be an entertaining international career on his second appearance for Les Bleus, producing an all-star performance against Spain before being dismissed.

The big mystery surrounding Pogba is why he wasn't given a chance to cement his position at Manchester United. Ahead of the 2011-12 season, then United boss Sir Alex Ferguson talked about giving him opportunities. That season, Pogba played only 67 minutes in the Premier League.


(Italy, 21, MF, Paris Saint- Germain)

Eyebrows were raised when Verratti joined big-spending Paris Saint-Germain from Serie B side Pescara for 12 million euros ($20m) last year, but this season,Verratti (right) has come of age - so much so, that he has now been dubbed "The New Pirlo". No pressure then...

Initially bought as a defensive player, Verratti seems to be relishing his new-found freedom under Laurent Blanc after being marginalised to a certain extent by previous boss Carlo Ancelotti.

On the international stage, Verratti already has a handful of caps, and scored his first-ever goal for Cesare Prandelli's side in a friendly against Holland in February, popping up in the 91st minute to bag an equaliser in a 1-1 draw.


(England, 20, MF, West Ham)

Maybe my English roots are clouding my judgment, but Morrison looks just the type of inventive midfielder that the Three Lions are crying out for.

The 20-year-old (right) may have a chequered history. A string of unruly behaviour led to his release by Manchester United, but he has matured at West Ham, and England boss Roy Hodgson surely can't pass up the opportunity to have a look at him before next June.


(Brazil, 19, FW, Santos)

Neilton has already been dubbed "The New Neymar", even though the older one is barely out of nappies.

The 19-year-old Santos forward was the undoubted star of the Copa Sao Paulo youth tournament in January, and there's a growing feeling that he can break into Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad.

Neymar was impressed after watching his supposed successor, saying: "Neilton is a great kid. He has everything to be a big star in football... I hope he can continue to play beautiful football like this."


(Italy, 21, FW, AC Milan)

Nicknamed "The Pharaoh" due to his Egyptian roots, El Shaaraway played only 72 minutes for AC Milan this season due to niggling injuries, but that couldbenefit Italy next June as he may well arrive at the Finals fresher than most.

The 21-year-old (right) has developed rapidly since Zlatan Ibrahimovic left for Paris Saint-Germain. In a three-month spell between September and December last year, he scored 16 goals in 20 games.

If he can translate that to the international arena, then it will be a World Cup to remember for the Azzurri.


(Ghana, 21, FW, Vitesse Arnhem- on loan from Chelsea)

Romelu Lukaku wasn't the only Chelsea striker loaned out at the start of the season. Step forward Ghanaian front man Christian Atsu, who has long been touted as the Black Stars' hottest prospect.

Atsu completed a £3.5 million ($7m) move to Stamford Bridge from Porto at the end of last season but was swiftly loaned to Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem, where he has forced his way into the first 11 and scored his first goal for the club from the penalty spot in the 3-1 win over Utrecht earlier this month. Quick and skilful, Atsu could be a key player alongside Marseille's Andre Ayew for Ghana.


(Colombia, 20, MF, Porto)

The talented playmaker (right) made his competitive debut for Colombia last month when they secured their World Cup Finals spot for the first time in 16 years, after a 2-1 win over Paraguay.

Now it's a case of whether Quintero - who almost joined Manchester United in June - can force his way into the starting 11 in Brazil.

He's certainly got the ability and confidence. Despite his tender years, he is already the orchestrator of his club side Porto's attack.

Quintero has the ability to unlock defences with a single pass or dribble. Like Carlos Valderrama, but without the ridiculous haircut.


(Nigeria, 20, DF, Chelsea) As John Terry approaches the twilight of his career, 20-year-old Chelsea defender Omeruo waits patiently for his opportunity following last season's successful loan spell with Dutch side ADO Den Haag.

Omeruo starred for his country in January's African Nations Cup, so maybe Mr Terry is already looking over his shoulder at his heir apparent.

According to the player's adviser, Chika Akujobi, a certain Jose Mourinho is delighted with his progress.

"Kenneth has impressed Mourinho at training and it is looking very good for him," he told

"The Special One has taken special interest in the player. He wants to give him a chance."

Music to John Terry's ears…

Some of the biggest names on planet football have come to prominence during the month-long World Cup extravaganza.

But who will step out of the shadows to star in Brazil next year? Here are my top 10 players who could become household names in seven months' time.


(Country: Brazil, Age: 21, Position: FW, Club: Shakhtar Donetsk)

A left midfielder blessed with pace and energy, Bernard opened his international account last Saturday with the opening goal in the 5-0 thumping of Honduras in Florida.

The hardest task for him over the next seven months is to cement a place in this multi-talented side who will surely be favourites to win the World Cup.

That means he must continue to shine at club level, where he is slightly off the radar. After winning last season's Copa Libertadores with Atletico Mineiro, Bernard was hoping for a move to Tottenham Hotspur, but Andre Villas-Boas had already signed "about 300" wingers, so he ended up at Shakhtar Donetsk instead.

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