World Cup fever grips stars of tomorrow
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The FIFA U-17 World Cup in UAE has generated great passion and enthusiasm, not only among the spectators but also the players. The youngsters are visibly enjoying their first steps on the global footballing stage and furthering their dreams of representing their countries as seniors not too long from now. So it is no surprise that the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ is a frequent topic of conversation among the stars of tomorrow and their coaches at the tournament in the Emirates.

"I’m a real football freak. I watch every game if I have the time. So I saw every World Cup qualifier, and I think our national team has a good chance of getting somewhere in Brazil," Italy defender Arturo Calabresi revealed to FIFA.com.

My lads were really thrilled when we successfully qualified for the World Cup in Brazil, and it was very motivating for them. 
Honduras coach Jose Valladares

Japan coach Hirofumi Yoshitake can hardly wait for next summer’s global showdown, partly due to his special connection with the Samurai Blue: "I coached a few of the current senior internationals, so I’ve obviously been following developments with great interest. I’m expecting the team to give a good account of themselves in Brazil. Japan have gained a lot of experience in recent years. The time has come to achieve something significant at the World Cup."

Honduras have already had a significant achievement with the draw against Jamaica that saw them through to the World Cup finals for the third time, after previous appearances in 1982 and 2010. "Unfortunately, we weren’t able to watch the all-important game because we were preparing for a friendly the next day," reported U-17 coach Jose Valladares. "But obviously, my lads were really thrilled when we successfully qualified for the World Cup in Brazil, and it was very motivating for them." And what a motivating factor it proved, as the Central Americans rewrote their own history by making it through to the quarter-finals here.

Dreams of trophies and idols
The Uruguay players also wholeheartedly backed their senior counterparts, although they too were unable to watch live as Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and co recorded a vital victory over Argentina in their final qualifier, earning themselves the lifeline of an intercontinental play-off against Jordan. "We asked the players to go to sleep early so they could acclimatise to the new time zone here," coach Fabian Coito explained to FIFA.com, before adding with a grin: "But you never know what’s really going on behind closed hotel room doors. It’s just possible they watched the game anyway."

Argentina’s dream of glory in UAE has fizzled out, but the South Americans are hoping for a reason to celebrate next summer. "I think Argentina can make the final. We have a few of the best players in the world and it was a strong qualifying campaign. We have a good blend of talented youngsters and experienced players, and Alejandro Sabella is a really good coach. So I’m convinced Argentina can make it through to the final and could even win the trophy," commented U-17 supremo Humberto Grondona.

Defender Emanuel Mammana is thoroughly looking forward to the tournament in neighbouring Brazil: "The current Argentina team is really skilful and just great to watch. If they can keep doing what they’ve been doing in all these fantastic matches, they could end up as world champions."

Of course, there is a chance one or two of the up-and-coming talents might appear in Brazil next summer. After all, they have tasted World Cup air for the first time in the Emirates and are now hungry for more. "Naturally we all dream of playing alongside world-class players like Messi, Sergio Aguero or Gonzalo Higuain at some point," declared Sebastian Driussi. "But there’s a long way to go before then and we have to take it one step at a time.“ One thing is certain: the stars of tomorrow have already taken the vital first step.