Sunday 28 February 2016, 08:49

Happy Birthday to you!

In our regular Sunday feature, presents you with some of the biggest names in football who will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.

28. Jan Ceulemans(59) starred for Belgium at three consecutive FIFA World Cup™ tournaments, at Spain 1982, Mexico 1986, where Les Diables Rouges finished fourth, and Italy 1990, playing in 16 matches in total and scoring four goals. The incisive attacking midfielder also played at two UEFA European Championships, reaching the final in 1980. During a long club career, Ceulemans pulled on the jerseys of just two clubs, namely Lierse and Club Brugge, where he won three Belgian League titles, two Belgian Cups, six Belgian Super Cups and three Belgian Footballer of the Year awards.

29. Benedikt Howedes(28) donned the colours of Germany at the 2014 World Cup, where he and his team-mates lifted the coveted trophy. The towering centre-back played an active role in the memorable triumph, appearing in all of his country’s matches in Brazil. As a younger man, he took part in the 2007 UEFA European U-19 Championship and its U-21 equivalent two years later, when the Germans emerged victorious. A product of Schalke’s youth system, Howedes is now in his eighth season with the Gelsenkirchen outfit. In 2011, the tough-tackling defender held aloft the German Cup and German Super Cup.

1. Nkiru Okosieme(44) made a total of 11 appearances for Nigeria at the first four FIFA Women’s World Cup™ events between 1991 and 2003, scoring three goals. The influential midfielder also competed at the 2000 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Sydney.

2. Ciriaco Sforza(46) helped Switzerland to return to the World Cup stage at USA 1994, after they had missed out on the six previous editions. After inspiring La Nati to attain the knockout stages, the formidable midfield man participated in EURO 1996 in England, the first time the Swiss had qualified for the continental tournament. At club level, he made his name at Grasshopper Zurich, where he claimed a Swiss League title, prior to embarking on the first of three spells with Kaiserslautern, with whom he would later clinch a Bundesliga title. The midfield general also played for Inter Milan and Bayern Munich, where he added another Bundesliga title, a UEFA Champions League crown, a UEFA Cup and an Intercontinental Cup to his CV. Following a move into coaching, Sforza took the reins of Luzern, Grasshopper, Wohlen and Thun.

3. Fernando(24) hoisted the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 with Brazil, playing in every match. The defensive midfielder subsequently showcased his skills at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, where the Seleção also prevailed. He had previously enjoyed success at the U-17 and U-20 South American Youth Championships, in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Fernando turned professional at Gremio, where he landed a Rio Grande do Sul State Championship, but rose to wider prominence at Shakhtar Donetsk, where he earned winners’ medals in the Ukrainian League and the Ukrainian Super Cup. In the summer of 2015, the tireless Brazilian signed for Sampdoria.

4. Mladen Krstajic(42) represented Serbia and Montenegro in three matches at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. After scooping up several national honours with Partizan Belgrade, the composed defender joined Werder Bremen, where he won a German League and Cup double. A subsequent stint at Schalke saw Krstajic brandish the German League Cup. In 2009, he returned to Partizan, captaining the illustrious side to further Serbian SuperLiga and Cup glory.

5. Vladimir Bessonov(58) appeared for the Soviet Union ten times at three successive World Cups: Spain 1982, Mexico 1986 and Italy 1990. In addition, the speedy full-back competed at the first U-20 World Cup in 1977, where he was named Player of the Tournament as the Russians lifted the trophy, at the 1980 Men’s Olympic Football Tournament, where he picked up a bronze medal, and at EURO 1988, where he and his team-mates lost to the Netherlands in the final. The Ukrainian defender began his career with Dynamo Kiev, with whom he amassed six Soviet Top League titles, five Soviet Cups, three Soviet Super Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup. After hanging up his boots, Bessonov took charge of CSKA Kiev, FC Kharkiv and Dnipro, among other clubs.