In our regular Sunday feature, FIFA.com presents you with some of the biggest names in football who will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.
Azusa Iwashimizu (26) can look back proudly on her recent achievements, having been a part of the Japan team that won the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, and that were unfortunate not to claim the gold medal at the Olympic Women’s Football Tournament at London 2012. A player with considerable international experience, she had previously participated in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007 and the Beijing Olympic Games. At club level, the solid defender represents NTV Beleza, with whom she has won seven Japanese league titles, five Japanese Cups and two League Cups. She has been selected for the Japanese Team of the Year for the past six seasons in a row.
Mesut Ozil (24) has, over the last few years, established himself as one of the German national side’s most influential players. He appeared at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, playing in all of his country’s matches as they earned third place in the tournament, and then propelled Die Nationalmannschaft to the semi-finals of the 2012 UEFA European Championship. As a young player, he also experienced success on the continental scene, emerging victorious at the UEFA European U-21 Championship in 2009. The skilful playmaker came through the ranks at Rot-Weiss Essen and then Schalke, before breaking into the Gelsenkirchen club’s first team. His performances attracted the interest of Werder Bremen, with whom he hoisted the German Cup. After impressing at South Africa 2010, he secured a dream move to Real Madrid, going on to help Los Blancos win the Copa del Rey and the Spanish league title. Ozil registered a successful start to the 2012/13 season by lifting the Spanish Super Cup in August.
Mehmet Scholl (42) became a legend of the German game by leading Die Nationalelf to glory at UEFA EURO 1996. The creative midfielder never had the opportunity to perform at a FIFA World Cup, but he did take part in the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup and EURO 2000, where he made his last appearance at a major international tournament. Scholl was a product of Karlsruhe’s youth system, the club at which he made his professional debut. He subsequently signed for Bayern Munich, and would remain loyal to the Bavarian giants for the remainder of his 15-year career. During that time, he attained eight Bundesliga championships, five German Cups, five German League Cups, a UEFA Champions League title, a UEFA Cup and an Intercontinental Cup. After hanging up his boots, he was appointed coach of Bayern’s reserve side and presently fulfils this role.
Sebastian Abreu (36) is one of football’s great wanderers, having represented no fewer than 18 clubs in South America, North America and Europe. The Uruguayan forward also enjoyed a creditable international career, the pinnacle of which came with his involvement in the side that finished fourth at South Africa 2010. He also appeared at Korea/Japan 2002 and helped La Celeste to lift the Copa America in 2011, after having previously competed at the 1997 and 2007 editions of the continental competition. Abreu picked up a number of club medals during his travels, winning the league in Argentina (twice, with San Lorenzo and River Plate) and Uruguay (with Nacional), as well as the Rio de Janeiro state championship in Brazil (with Botafogo). The rangy striker turned out for many other big-name clubs, such as Deportivo La Coruna, Real Sociedad, Gremio, Club America and Monterrey. In addition, he twice finished top goalscorer in the Mexican league.
Ryan Nelsen (35) played a key role in New Zealand’s remarkable displays at the FIFA World Cup in 2010, captaining the side as they returned to the competition for the first time in nearly 30 years. Earning three group-stage draws and departing the event unbeaten, the Oceania nation proved that they were not simply there to make up the numbers. Nelsen also participated in the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1999 and 2003, as well as the Olympic Football Tournaments of 2008 and 2012, and he held aloft the OFC Nations Cup in 2002. The defender played for DC United in the MLS before crossing the Atlantic to join English outfit Blackburn Rovers, where he remained for six seasons. A brief spell at Tottenham Hotspur was followed by a move to his present club, Queens Park Rangers.
Jorge Valdivia (29) was a member of the Chile team that appeared at South Africa 2010, after a 12-year absence from FIFA’s flagship tournament. He also took part in the Copa America in 2007 and 2011. After starting his club career with Universidad de Concepcion, he was first transferred to Rayo Vallecano in Spain, and then on to Swiss outfit Servette. The attacking midfielder subsequently returned to his homeland, where he picked up a league winners’ medal with Colo Colo, before heading to Brazil for the first of two stints with Palmeiras, where he triumphed in the Sao Paulo state championship in 2008 and the Brazilian Cup in 2012. Sandwiched between those two pieces of silverware were two terms with UAE heavyweights Al Ain, with whom he enjoyed success in numerous national cup tournaments.
Florent Sinama-Pongolle (28) rose to prominence while still a teenager, propelling France to the FIFA U-17 World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2001, where he finished top scorer and picked up the Player of the Tournament award in the process. The pacey Le Havre striker’s exploits on the international stage led to his securing a prestigious transfer to Liverpool. While in Merseyside, he won the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the English League Cup. After a nomadic period during which he turned out for a number of clubs, including Blackburn, Recreativo Huelva, Atletico Madrid, Sporting Lisbon and Saint-Etienne, Sinama-Pongolle put pen to paper with Russian side Rostov at the start of this season.