Though the group phase at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ has now come to an end, the excitement is set to continue for many of the players in the running for the Hyundai Young Player Award. Three rising stars to make sure of their place in the Round of 16 on Thursday were Nabil Bentaleb, Adnan Januzaj and DeAndre Yedlin, who all had very good reason to celebrate on a day of high excitement.
One of the day’s opening two matches was the meeting between USA and Germany, with no fewer than five contenders for the award featuring in the two squads. Only one of them saw any action, however, with Yedlin once again being sent on as a substitute by Stars and Stripes coach Jurgen Klinsmann. And though his side went down to a 1-0 defeat, the defender once again showed his class as the Americans scraped through.
Algeria midfielder Nabil Bentaleb was the next to excel. Starting his third consecutive match, this time against Russia, Bentaleb played the whole 90 minutes and made a valuable contribution to the 1-1 draw that took Les Fennecs into the knockout phase for the first time in their history.
In the evening’s other game, Adnan Januzaj, one of European football’s hottest properties, made his eagerly awaited debut in the competition. The 19-year-old forward started Belgium’s final group match against Korea Republic and though he failed to get on the scoresheet, he did more than enough to justify his inclusion.
Januzaj’s team-mate Divock Origi, the hero of the Red Devils’ narrow defeat of Russia in their last game, came on once more. Unable to find the back of the net this time, he nevertheless had a big hand in the only goal of the game, firing in the shot that Taeguk Warriors keeper Kim Seunggyu spilled to allow Jan Vertonghen to score.
The end of the group phase will be followed by a rest day, giving the young talents on show at Brazil 2014 a chance to put their feet up. The action resumes on Saturday, when Juan Fernando Quintero and Eder Alvarez Balanta of Colombia and Jose Maria Gimenez of Uruguay will hope to continue pressing their claims to the Hyundai Young Player Award.