Three players eligible for the Hyundai Best Young Player Award were in action on the opening day of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. One enhanced his chances of succeeding 2006 recipient Lukas Podolski, another's prospects remained as they were, but a third's receded sharply. FIFA.com reflects on their contrasting fortunes.
Giovani Dos Santos: The Mexico No17 was arguably the best player on the pitch in the first half against South Africa. He was swiftly involved in the action, threatening an early goal on two minutes only to see his goal-bound shot from close range blocked by Aaron Mokoena. Things picked up for Dos Santos on six minutes, when he tricked his way past two opponents and threaded a ball through to Paul Aguilar, who was subsequently dispossessed. He then produced a sumptuous chip over the hosts’ defence, but Aguilar was offside. On 21 minutes Dos Santos charged from just inside the opposition half upto the edge of the penalty area but skewed his shot high and wide. By half-time he had also floated a free-kick on to the head of Guillermo Franco, who was unable to keep the ball down. Dos Santos's involvement lessened after the interval, but he did look lively when in possession and watched one thunderbolt that seemed destined for the top corner tipped wide by the fingertips of Itumeleng Khune. Ultimately, the 21-year-old will have been disappointed that his impressive showing was not rewarded with three points.
Carlos Vela: Zero goals and a 69th-minute substitution, with his side trailing, might seemingly represent a forgettable performance from a striker. Vela’s display at Soccer City was, however, an exception. For while the Arsenal player was not in the kind of form with which he illuminated last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup final, he did reasonably well from limited service. In the 21st minute, his clever movement dragged an opponent towards him and enabled Dos Santos to cruise forward and unleash a shot on goal from the edge of the box. Vela then masterfully created a chance for Franco. After holding off a defender, he produced a sumptuous dink into the path off the 33-year-old striker, who took the ball on his chest eight yards out, before forcing Khune into a save. Vela was a peripheral figure after the break as Bafana Bafana found their rhythm and his withdrawal came as no surprise, but he will be able to reflect on a competent, if unspectacular, run-out.
Nicolas Lodeiro: The Ajax midfielder rose from the bench in the 63rd minute, but took just two minutes to receive a yellow card. It was a prelude to greater misery. Half of his six attempted passes failed to reach a team-mate, and a wild lunge on Bacary Sagna earned him an 81st-minute dismissal. Fortunately for Lodeiro, Uruguay held on for a goalless draw. Unfortunately, he now faces a suspension.