The FIFA World Cup™ is underway and two of the contenders for the Hyundai Young Player Award here at Brazil 2014 have already tasted action. In pushing the host nation all the way before eventually going down to a 3-1 reverse, a valiant Croatian performance featured noteworthy displays from Mateo Kovacic and Ante Rebic.
Man of the day
Although he was unable to prevent his side’s defeat, Kovacic’s strength and determination were much in evidence during the competition’s Opening Match. The Inter Milan midfielder formed part of a solid central trio alongside Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, one which was at times able to nullify Brazil’s threat and create a number of dangerous counter-attacking situations.
Finally succumbing to fatigue after 61 minutes of a fiercely intense encounter, the 20-year-old left the field with the score still level at 1-1. Just ten minutes later Neymar fired Brazil’s second of the night, with Oscar rounding off the scoring via a powerful injury-time strike.
By this point, our second contender had taken the field, with Croatia coach Niko Kovac putting his faith in the speed and verve of Rebic in a bid to drag the Vatreni level when 2-1 down. The Fiorentina man gave it his very best shot and, though in the end it was not enough, he made a positive impression in his ten-minute cameo.
Four more Hyundai Young Player Award candidates may have the opportunity to see Brazil 2014 action on Friday 13 June. The first of these is the competition’s youngest player, Cameroon’s Fabrice Olinga, who has only recently turned 18 and would surely love to be involved as his country chase a vital opening victory against Mexico.
A little later on could come the turn of Dutch duo Memphis Depay and Terence Kongolo, with the Oranje set to tackle reigning champions Spain while, as the day comes to a close, Australian hopeful Adam Taggart may take to the pitch.