Friday was a relatively quiet day for the Hyundai Young Player Award candidates, although three of a possible four contenders did take to the pitch. However, the performances of a talented French pair served as a reminder that the competition to take the prize is extremely fierce.
Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba were highly-rated prospects prior to the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, and their displays in South America have served to justify the praise. Despite their youth, the duo are already considered to be among the very best in their respective positions and both have played key roles in France’s strong start to the tournament.
They were each expected to be in France’s starting line-up on Friday, but coach Didier Deschamps raised a few eyebrows in leaving Juventus playmaker Pogba on the bench. Real Madrid centre-back Varane once again demonstrated his maturity and reliability in defence, repeatedly thwarting the efforts of Switzerland’s attackers, who only managed to find a way through when the result was already beyond doubt.
Once Pogba entered the fray he set out as if determined to make up for lost time, coming on midway through the second half and helping create France’s fourth goal with virtually his first touch of the ball. He remained lively for the rest of the match but was unable to open his goalscoring account at the competition.
Unfortunately Pogba’s compatriot Lucas Digne did not feature, while Ecuador’s Carlos Gruezo only made a late cameo against Honduras, but they will undoubtedly be given more playing time in the future.
Five contenders for the Hyundai Young Player Award could potentially play on Saturday. After starting their teams’ opening games, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Sead Kolasinac and Nigeria’s Kenneth Omeruo will be more confident than most of taking to the field and cementing their places in their respective sides.
Elsewhere, Iran’s Alireza Jahan Bakhsh will have his sights set on scoring his country’s first goal at Brazil 2014, while German duo Julian Draxler and Matthias Ginter are waiting for the chance to showcase their talents after both were unused substitutes in Germany’s first match.