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.
2. Francesco Toldo (41) is regarded as one of the finest goalkeepers Italy has produced in recent times. He played a key role in La Nazionale’s run to the final of UEFA EURO 2000, saving three penalties – one during normal time and one in the ensuing shoot-out – to deny the Netherlands in the semi-final. Toldo played for a handful of lower-league teams before signing for Fiorentina, then in the second division. His solid displays between the sticks helped them to not only gain promotion to Serie A, but to go on and later win the Coppa Italia (twice) and the Supercoppa Italiana. After eight seasons at the Florence-based club, the athletic shot-stopper signed for Inter Milan, where he enjoyed great success, winning five league titles, three Italian Cups, three Italian Super Cups and the UEFA Champions League. Following this memorable continental triumph, the Italian ’keeper decided to hang up his gloves.
3. Michael Essien (30) is one of Africa’s most prominent and respected footballers, having represented Ghana at three international competitions: the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, the Black Stars’ maiden appearance at the event, the FIFA U-17 World Cup New Zealand 1999 and the FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2001, where his country finished runners-up to the host nation. He also played in three CAF Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, earning third place in 2008 and second spot in 2010. Essien started out in his homeland with Liberty Professionals, before enjoying spells with Bastia and Lyon in France. It was with the latter club that he emerged as one of the most effective midfielders in Ligue 1, picking up winners’ medals in two league championship campaigns and two Trophées des Champions. He subsequently signed for Chelsea, where he secured two league titles, four FA Cups, an English League Cup, the Charity Shield and a UEFA Champions League crown. Despite previously having been forced to spend long periods on the sidelines through injury, Essien was still able to persuade Jose Mourinho, who had worked with the midfield man at Stamford Bridge, to procure his services on loan for Real Madrid prior to the start of the 2012/13 season. In terms of individual accolades, Essien was named Ghanaian Footballer of the Year in 2008.
4. Guillermo Amor (45) is a former stalwart of Barcelona, helping the Catalan club to win their first-ever European Cup at Wembley versus Sampdoria, as well as two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups and two UEFA Super Cups. At domestic level, his footballing CV – which features five Spanish championships, three Spanish Cups and four Spanish Super Cups – also makes for impressive reading. After many years of success at Camp Nou, he moved to Fiorentina, before returning to La Liga to defend the colours of Villareal. The midfielder brought down the curtain on his impressive career while at Scottish outfit Livingston. Amor also shone on the international stage, representing Spain at EURO 1996 and at the 1998 FIFA World Cup France.
5. Bogdan Stelea (45) was the Romanian national team’s first-choice goalkeeper for over a decade, appearing at USA 1994, where he and his team-mates surged to the quarter-finals, at France 1998, and at the 1996 and 2000 UEFA European Championships. Away from the international arena, he experienced a varied career, pulling on the jerseys of numerous clubs spread across a handful of European countries, including the Bucharest outfits of Dinamo, Rapid and Steaua, as well as Mallorca, Salamanca, Samsunspor and Standard Liege.
6. Mao (34) is one of Brazilian beach soccer’s biggest stars, having played a key role in the A Seleção’s four consecutive world titles between 2006 and 2009. At the most recent FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, held in Italy in 2011, Mao and Co finished in second place after losing to Russia in the final. Two years prior to that, at Dubai 2009, he had received the adidas Golden Glove award for his excellent performances between the sticks. In total, the South American custodian has played thirty matches during the last five FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups, suffering defeat on just one occasion, the aforementioned reverse at the hands of the Russians.
7. Linda Bresonik (29) has been involved in some of the German women’s team’s greatest triumphs, lifting two FIFA Women’s World Cups, in 2003 and 2007, and finishing third at both the 2008 Olympic Women’s Football Tournament in Beijing and the 2002 FIFA U-20 World Cup. The defensive midfielder also contributed towards her country’s continental successes, wining two UEFA European Women’s Championships and one UEFA Women’s U-19 Championship. Bresonik has played for a number of German clubs, including FCR 2001 Duisburg, with whom she emerged victorious in two German Cup finals and one UEFA Women’s Cup final, and twice finished runners-up in the league. At the beginning of this current season, she put pen to paper with Paris St Germain.
8. Geoff Hurst (71) wrote his name into the history of English football by recording a hat-trick in the final of the FIFA World Cup in 1966, enabling the Three Lions to become world champions for the first and thus far only time. To date, no other player has achieved the same feat in the final of FIFA’s flagship tournament. He was also part of the England sides that secured third place at EURO 1968 and competed at the 1970 FIFA World Cup Mexico. The prolific goalscorer turned out for West Ham for thirteen seasons, during which time he hoisted the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. He also played for Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion. After retiring as a player, Hurst enjoyed a brief stint as manager of Chelsea.