Day nine of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ proved to be an important one for the pretenders to the Hyundai Young Player Award, with several of them featuring in the starting line-ups and helping their teams achieve their immediate objectives. While others enjoyed less fortune, that did not stop them from giving all they had.
Nevertheless, the youngster who stole the day’s headlines started his game on the bench. The man in question was Colombia’s promising playmaker Juan Fernando Quintero, who came on with his side drawing 0-0 against Côte d’Ivoire and soon made his presence felt with his movement and vision. The crowning moment of an impressive individual performance came 20 minutes from time, when he expertly rounded off a quick-fire move to secure three priceless points for his side.
A few hours later came Raheem Sterling’s chance to steal the limelight, having excelled on his tournament debut against Italy a few days ago. The exciting English winger was expertly tethered by the Uruguayan defence, however, with another of our candidates, centre-half Jose Maria Gimenez, producing a mature, polished performance that belied his young age and showed that the famous Charrua fighting spirit is alive and well at Brazil 2014.
The Liverpool teenager made way in the second half for fellow hot prospect Ross Barkley, who showed some flashes of skill but ultimately struggled to make any impression on the rock-solid Celeste rearguard.
Friday will see some of the tournament’s leading lights in action, with no fewer than three French contenders for the Hyundai Young Player Award potentially in action when Les Bleus take on Switzerland. Midfielder Paul Pogba and central defender Raphael Varane are sure to be in the spotlight once more after their excellent displays against Honduras, while left-back Lucas Digne will also be ready to do his bit if called upon.
The day’s third and final match will feature another player eligible for the award in 19-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder Carlos Gruezo, whose solid showing in La Tri’s opening match against the Swiss will give him a strong chance of running out against the Hondurans at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba.