Not a single Hyundai Best Young Player Award candidate received any playing time yesterday. It was a different story today, however, with four handed starts and one getting a run-out from the bench. FIFA.com assesses the impact they made.
Ki Sung-Yueng: The Korea Republic engine room was always going to be up against it at Soccer City. And although its youngest member was outfoxed by Lionel Messi on three occasions, he never gave up chasing the reigning FIFA World Player and his Argentina colleagues. Ki also unleashed a 35-yard rocket that went narrowly over the Albiceleste crossbar, before being substituted at the interval for tactical reasons.
Sotiris Ninis: The Greece prospect came off the bench in the 79th minute. With his team trying to protect a 2-1 lead against Nigeria, the attacking midfielder was given little opportunity to show the flair for which he is renowned. However, Ninis did buy his country some time by intelligently winning a corner, and completed 12 of 16 attempted passes.
Lukman Haruna: At a numerical disadvantage for over an hour, Nigeria needed their players to work relentlessly. The Monaco midfielder certainly did that, covering 10,176 metres, albeit in vain as his side fell to a 2-1 defeat. Thirty-three of Haruna’s 43 attempted passes reached a team-mate, and he sent Yakubu racing towards the Greek penalty area with one superb long ball.
Carlos Vela: Injury put paid to the Mexico forward’s work 31 minutes into their meeting with France, but he had been significantly involved up until that point. The 21-year-old muscled Bacary Sagna off the ball before winning a corner off his Arsenal team-mate early on. Then, on eight minutes, he ran on to a Rafael Marquez through-ball but blazed the ball high and wide from the left-side of penalty area.
Giovani dos Santos: The Mexico playmaker may have not enjoyed the same output as he did against South Africa, but he did look dangerous and asked persistent questions of the France defenders. Although a slight player, he was not intimidated by big, physical opponents. His movement also kept the boys in blue on their toes, while one quickly-taken free-kick would have put Javier Hernandez through on goal had the latter not strayed marginally offside.