Happy Birthday to you!

In our regular Sunday feature, we bring you the names of some of the best-known figures on Planet Football who will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.


Chelsea full-back Ashley Cole (29) is our featured birthday boy on Sunday. The England regular has appeared at two FIFA World Cup™ finals to date, and looks certain to be called up by national coach Fabio Capello for next summer’s global showpiece in South Africa, where the Three Lions start as one of the favourites to lift the famous trophy.


Cristian Zaccardo (28) personally laid hands on said trophy in 2006. The Parma defender, who won the Bundesliga title in a Wolfsburg jersey last season, has not been closely involved with the Squadra Azzurra for some time, but he has yet to abandon hope of a role at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.


Giuseppe Bergomi (46) was that rarity among modern players, a one-club man. Bergomi spent fully 20 seasons with Inter Milan, enjoying his greatest successes as a member of the all-conquering Inter side of the early 1990s. The defender appeared at no fewer than four FIFA World Cups between 1982 and 1998.


Gabriel Popescu (36) finally hung up his boots four years ago. After a period in Spain, including a spell with Valencia, he quit Europe in 2004 and spent a season with Korean side Suwon Bluewings. After a brief spell back at home in Romania, his last season was spent in Japan with JEF United. He represented his country on the global stage at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.


Ghana talent Stephen Appiah (29) recently inked a deal to play for Italian Serie A side Bologna. Appiah anchored his country’s midfield at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, where the Africans made it to the Round of 16. Ghana have claimed a berth at next summer’s tournament in South Africa, where Appiah will seek to lead his team at least as far, if not further.


Until recently, Joel Santana (61) was South Africa national coach, guiding the host nation to fourth spot at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009. However, a run of eight defeats in nine friendly internationals tried the association’s patience to breaking point, and the Brazilian was relieved of his duties with Bafana Bafana in October this year.


Emmanuel Amunike (39) rates as one of the best-known footballers to emerge from Nigeria. At the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the USA, the burly striker and the Super Eagles made it to the Round of 16, but were eliminated by eventual finalists Italy.