In our regular Sunday feature, FIFA.com presents you with some of the biggest names in football who will be celebrating their birthdays during the coming week.
9. Alexandre Song(25) has just entered an exciting new phase in his career, having recently signed for Barcelona, where he hopes to finally win the silverware that has so far eluded him at previous European clubs. While at Arsenal, he came close to winning the UEFA Champions League in 2006, but it was his new Catalan employers who eventually emerged victorious in the final. The midfielder also twice finished on the losing side in English League Cup finals. On the international stage, Song played with Cameroon at the 2008 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, where his team lost to Egypt in the final, and at the 2010 tournament, before being selected for the FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa later that same year. He appeared at the Olympic Football Tournament at Beijing 2008, and as a highly promising youngster, represented his country at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Finland, a competition for which the African team had qualified by winning the continental title earlier that season.
10. Choi Yongsoo(39)can look back with pride on the part he played in Korea Republic’s astonishing run to the semi-finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, his second taste of the competition after France 1998. He also appeared at the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup. Yongsoo spent his entire club career in his homeland and in Japan. The striker won the Korean championship with Anyang, prior to spending a year with Sangju Sangmu while completing his military service. He subsequently turned out for three Japanese outfits, JEF United, Kyoto Sanga and Iwata, but then returned home to defend the colours of FC Seoul, with whom he picked up another league winners’ medal. After hanging up his boots, he took up the post of assistant coach at the Korean heavyweights, before being placed in sole charge earlier this year.
11. Eric Abidal(33) has recently garnered support from all corners of the football world for the way in which he has battled with a serious liver condition. After a successful transplant operation, he is now on the road to recovery and looks likely to feature again for Barcelona at some point this season. Abidal made a name for himself at Lyon, during the most successful period in the French club’s history. He won three league titles and three Trophees des Champions at Stade Gerland, before packing his bags for Catalonia, where his medal collection grew significantly. In his time at Barcelona, the defender has thus far won three Liga titles, two Spanish Cups, three Spanish Super Cups, two UEFA Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups. At international level, he was a key component of the France side that lost the final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany on penalties, and he also took part in South Africa 2010 and UEFA EURO 2008.
12. Nashat Akram(28) is one of the stars of the current ‘golden generation’ of Iraqi footballers, who together claimed the 2000 AFC Youth Championship and participated in the 2001 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina, before going on to finish fourth at the Olympic Football Tournament at Athens 2004. After gaining a taste of a major international tournament with the Iraqi senior team at the AFC Asian Cup in 2004, the skilful playmaker inspired his team-mates to glory at the 2007 finals, winning many new admirers in the process. That victory also earned the Lions of Mesopotamia a berth at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. Nashat started out in the Iraqi League with Al Shorta, and then tried his luck in the Persian Gulf, first with Saudi Arabian clubs Al Nassr and Al Shabab, and then with Emirati outfit Al Ain and Qatari side Al Gharafa. A successful interlude in the Netherlands with Twente, during which he won the league championship, was followed by a return to Qatar to represent Lekhwiya and Al Wakra. Akram is currently doing his best to ensure that his country emerges from their FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a ticket for Brazil 2014.
13. Thomas Muller(23) was thrust into the global spotlight following his capture of the adidas Golden Shoe and the Best Young Player Award at South Africa 2010, where he and his German compatriots obtained third place in the tournament. The attacking midfielder-cum-forward recently attained the semi-finals of EURO 2012 and is now focused on helping Germany reach the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. A product of Bayern Munich’s youth academy, Muller has triumphed in the Bundesliga and in two German Super Cups with the Bavarian giants. He has not enjoyed the same kind of success at European level, finishing on the losing side in two UEFA Champions League finals over the past three years.
14. Andreia(35) has established herself in recent years as the first-choice goalkeeper of Brazil’s women’s team at major competitions. She has represented the South American nation at three different FIFA Women’s World Cup™ tournaments, as well as at the last four Olympic Games. Lady Luck had not always shone on Andreia, however, as demonstrated by the defeats she suffered in the final of the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup and of the 2008 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. The shot-stopper has previously pulled on the jerseys of Santa Isabel and Santos in Brazil, as well as Puebla de la Calzada and Transportes Alcaine in Spain. She currently plays for Atletico Juventus.
15. Dejan Savicevic(46) left a lasting impression on the national teams of Serbia-Montenegro and Yugoslavia, with whom he appeared at both Italy 1990 and France 1998. It was at Red Star Belgrade that the attacking midfielder emerged as a force, helping the Serbian giants to secure three championships, two national cups, a European Cup and an Intercontinental Cup. This unprecedented success alerted AC Milan to Savicevic’s talents, and the Montenegrin was quick to join the Italian heavyweights. He would go on to produce the greatest form of his career in Lombardy, winning three Serie A titles, two Italian Super Cups, another UEFA Champions League title, and a UEFA Super Cup. In 1991, he finished second in the voting for the European Footballer of the Year award.