Tranquillo Barnetta staked his claim for the Gillette Best Young Player Award on Day 11 of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany. The 21-year-old Swiss midfielder capped a fine performance with an excellent goal that secured his side's victory over Togo.
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In spite of his youth, the effervescent Barnetta is very much the consummate professional. After turning pro at the age of 17, the upwardly mobile youngster joined Bayer Leverkusen, one of Germany's biggest clubs, and has already notched two goals for the national side in a burgeoning international career. True to his name, Barnetta is tranquillity personified on the field of play.
He served notice of his talent in Switzerland's opening game against France with a superb long-range strike that almost caught veteran keeper Fabien Barthez off guard, and followed that up by scoring his side's second in a 2-0 win over Togo, his first FIFA World Cup goal.
Although the scoreline suggests otherwise, the Africans pushed hard all the way and forced the Swiss to dig deep for their win. Reduced to hitting the Togolese on the break in the second half, the Swiss finally soothed their fraying nerves when Barnetta latched onto a pass outside the area and lashed home a fearsome right-foot shot just inside the far post.
The day's other high-flyers
Arsenal centre-half Philippe Senderos was another Swiss fledgling to find his wings on the day. The 21-year-old's mission was to stop Togo dangerman Emmanuel Adebayor, a job he executed to perfection. Assimiou Toure, meanwhile, produced a polished performance for Togo that belied his 18 years, although his unstinting efforts ultimately proved in vain.
In the day's second game the fleet-footed Artem Milevskiy tasted his first FIFA World Cup action when he came on for the legendary Andriy Shevchenko in Ukraine's comfortable 4-0 win over Saudi Arabia.
Cesc makes his mark
The last gifted youngster to stamp his class on the day's action was the supremely gifted Cesc Fabregas. The Spanish prodigy made an outstanding contribution when he entered the fray against a Tunisia side threatening to score one of the upsets of the tournament so far.
The Arsenal midfielder added some much-needed rhythm to his side's attacking play and also provided an extremely useful outlet for the back-line. Not content with that it was his raking 40-metre pass that set Fernando Torres on his way to score Spain's winner and secure their place in the second round.