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World Cup 2014: Football’s young and brave

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-06-2014 Saikat Sarkar

Adnan Januzaj, Belgium, winger, Manchester United, 19

Adnan Januzaj. Photo: Laurent Dubrule/ReutersThe teenager was a major force for a struggling Manchester United side last season, especially in the absence of Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie. He chose his country of birth over Kosovo, Albania, Turkey and Serbia for World Cup representation. Januzaj is one of the stars of the Belgian team, which, with the likes of Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois, is being tipped as the dark horse in Brazil.

Daniel Sturridge, England, winger, Liverpool, 24

Daniel Sturridge. Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFPWith 21 goals from 29 games, the English Premier League’s second highest goal scorer is back from the fringes to become England’s best striker on form. Sturridge’s strengths last season were his pace inside the box and conversion rate. Alongside Rooney, he could be the top gun in pulling things back for England, who have been underachievers at the sport’s biggest stage.

Thibaut Courtois, Belgium, goalkeeper, Atletico Madrid (on loan from Chelsea), 22

Thibuat Courtois. Photo: Laurent Dubrule/ReutersPositioning sense, electric reflexes, impressive leaps and a 6’6” stature make Thibaut Courtois one of the men to beat to the goal in Brazil. Some experts have ranked the Spanish league’s best goalkeeper in 2012-13 ahead of stalwarts Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas for the “best keeper in the world” title.

Paul Pogba, France, midfielder, Juventus, 21

Paul Pogba. Photo: Claude Paris/AP Franck Ribery’s absence has increased the burden of expectations on the 21-year central midfielder. After two strong seasons with Juventus, the player of the 2013 Under-20 World Cup is set to don the big shoes for France. The main attributes of this midfield powerhouse are his aerial ability, through balls and long shots.

Mario Goetze, Germany, midfielder, Bayern Munich, 22

Mario Goetze. Photo: John MaCDougall/AFPWith 10 goals and 8 assists from 20 club appearances last season, and four goals and an assist from seven appearances at the World Cup qualifying stage, Mario Goetze has strengthened his position in the star-studded German side. He has already become an inspiration for many since coming through the Borussia Dortmund youth academy and has been likened by Franz Beckenbauer to Lionel Messi.

Adam Lallana, England, midfielder, Southampton FC, 26

Adam Lallana. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty ImagesAdam Lallana is often considered the rare English footballer with technical prowess. Coming from Southampton—which is credited for producing the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain—he has grabbed eyeballs for his footwork, runs into the scoring area (a goal against Hull last season) and passing ability.

Raphael Varane, France, centre back, Real Madrid, 21

Raphael Varane. Photo: Charles Platiau/Reuters Since joining Real Madrid on the personal recommendation of Zinedine Zidane in 2011, Raphael Varane has given Pepe and Sergio Ramos a good run for their money in the team’s defence ranks. Varane’s main attributes are considered to be his pace (change of speed), strength on the aerial ball, on-the-ball composure and defensive reading of a match situation. Arguably one of the best defenders in Brazil this year, he will be key to France’s World Cup campaign.

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