World Cup potential: Italy, Germany & Spain
As we continue our talent-spotting journey around the globe, we visit three more of Europe’s football superpowers – Germany, Italy and current European Champions, Spain.
Historically, German football has failed to yield stardom-bound naturally gifted youngsters. This is far from the case as we examine the exciting prospect of Werder Bremen’s Mesut Ozil.
The 20-year-old attacking midfielder has been handed the daunting responsibility of filling the boots of the brilliant Brazilian, Diego, following his move to Turin giants Juventus.
Ozil led Germany’s Under-21 side to their first-ever European Championship success – creating two and scoring one of the four they put past England in the final – and scored the winner for Bremen in the German Cup final.
Werder Bremen’s number 11 has played just two full internationals for the senior German team, but will undoubtedly be adding many, many more over the coming years.
Italy, despite being current World Champions, are in need of invigoration. The man for the job could be Sebastian Giovinco.
The dominative Juventus playmaker, also noted for his mazy dribbling ability, enjoyed a productive Olympic tournament in Beijing – scoring in the Italian’s opening game from distance and starring in the nation’s second game – before Italy’s defeat to Belgium in the quarter-finals.
Expect the ‘Atomic Ant’ – as he is known by the bianconeri faithful – to progress his game during the Serie A season, and to become a major part of Azzuri boss Marcello Lippi’s World Cup plans.
Another Italian prospect to look out for is Inter fire-brand protege Mario Balotelli.
The pacey striker made his debut for Inter at the tender age of 17. In his second game, he smashed home a brace.
His progress continued until recently – being subsequently criticised by both Inter coach Jose Mourinho and Italy Under-21 coach Pierluigi Casiraghi for unprofessional behaviour.
If the talented youngster can stop missing flights when reporting for national duty and actually partake in a training session at Inter – he may resurrect the current world champions just in time to mount a serious defence of their crown.
It would prove difficult to improve on the current European Champions, but that is the challenge facing Spain’s latest batch of talented hopefuls – the most notable of which being Barcelona’s Bojan Krkic.
To some it may seem that he has been on the scene for an amount of time significant enough to have made a bigger impact, but the tricky striker is still only a few days away from his 19th birthday.
During those tender years, Bojan – as he is referred to – has bagged 889 goals in just seven years of youth football for the Catalan club, enjoyed the most prolific debut season in Spanish football history – beating the record of Real Madrid icon Raul – and was even set to be included in Spain’s Euro 2008 squad (prior to opting out of the tournament, citing fatigue and personal reasons).
His second season at Barcelona proved less productive, appearing mainly as a substitute, but the young Spaniard still managed to score 10 goals (three in the Champions League, five in the Copa del Rey and two in La Liga).
This year Bojan will be determined to add to his single senior cap, and play his way into starting recognition at both club and national level – although Torres, Villa, Messi, Ibrahimovic and Henry stand in his way.