The Confederations Cup often provides the chance for young stars to forge their reputation on the international stage. Think a teenaged Ronaldinho bursting onto the scene in 1999, or fellow Brazilian Neymar adding to his army of admirers in 2013.
This year in Russia should be no different, and with the Confederations Cup kick-off just around the corner, RT Sport takes a look at some of the young names hoping to make their mark this summer.
Bernardo Silva, Portugal, age 22
Portugal attacking midfielder Silva recently completed a $55 million move from French champions Monaco to Manchester City, with City manager Pep Guardiola evidently impressed with what he saw when the two sides met in this season’s Champions League quarterfinals.
Silva played 58 times for Monaco last season, scoring 11 goals and providing 12 assists.
Monaco wowed fans with their attacking style – which saw them run away with the French Ligue 1 title, winning by eight points and scoring 107 goals in the process.
Silva, who came through the youth ranks at Benfica, has made 12 appearances for the national side since his debut in March 2015, scoring once.
He was not included in the squad that claimed Euro 2016 glory, and has mainly featured from the bench during their current World Cup qualifying campaign.
However, after his strong season at Monaco, the 5ft 8in playmaker will see the Tournament of Champions as a chance to put himself firmly in head coach Fernando Santos’ plans for next year’s World Cup.
Aleksandr Golovin, Russia, 21
Even though attacking midfielder Golovin only recently turned 21, he has already established himself at club team CSKA Moscow as well as in the national side.
He made his debut for ‘Sbornaya’ – the Russian national team – in 2015 at the age of 19, scoring against Belarus. He was selected for the Euro 2016 squad, starting in two of the team’s three group-stage games.
Highly rated by former Russian head coach Leonid Slutsky and current boss Stanislav Chercehsov, Golovin will be vital to the team’s plans moving forward.
Fabrice Ondoa, Cameroon, 21
Cameroon ‘keeper Ondoa produced a series of fine performances as ‘The Indomitable Lions’ claimed the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in February, in doing so becoming the final nation to qualify for this summer’s Confederations Cup.
Ondoa saved the decisive penalty from Senegal’s Sadio Mane in the quarterfinal, and was named in the Team of the Tournament.
After joining Spanish giants Barcelona at the age of just 13, Ondoa has since moved on to second-tier team Gimnastic de Tarragona, and has also had a loan spell at fellow Spanish second-division club Sevilla Atlético.
He’ll face tough competition for the Cameroon No. 1 jersey, though – as his cousin Andre Onana, also 21, is in the squad and impressed in Ajax’s run to the Europa League final last season.
Timo Werner, Germany, 21
Head coach Joachim Löw decision to rest many of Germany’s more established stars this summer will provide a chance for the next generation to impress.
One such chance has been afforded to RB Leipzig striker Werner, who made his senior debut in a friendly against England in March.
Werner bagged 21 goals in 31 games for Leipzig as they finished second in the Bundesliga, prolific form that caught Löw’s eye.
Described by former coach Thomas Schneider at VfB Stuttgart as “a full-blooded forward who races like a train toward the goal,” Werner will be a handful for defenders in Russia this summer.
Ryan Thomas, New Zealand, 22
Thomas is one of the few footballers from New Zealand to appear regularly in one of Europe’s top-tier leagues. The left winger made his debut for Dutch Eredivisie team PEC Zwolle in 2014, having moved from home team Waikato FC.
Since then he’s made more than 100 appearances for the Dutch side, impressing fans with his quick feet.
An important part of New Zealand head coach Anthony Hudson’s attacking philosophy, Thomas was on target twice in the country’s last World Cup qualifier against Fiji.
“I’m really looking forward to [Russia 2017],” Thomas told FIFA.com. “The chance to play in front of big crowds and against massive teams will be a great experience for me,” he added.
“You can expect an attacking, high-tempo game from us. The main thing is to try and enjoy the experience. A lot of our boys are playing at a good level in Europe, so we are not going to worry about the level going into the Confederations Cup. We are just going to worry about the game and sticking to our gameplan.”
Confederations Cup dates
The 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup takes place from June 17 to July 2, across four Russian cities: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Sochi and Kazan.
It serves as a precursor to the 2018 World Cup, which will also be held in Russia next year, and will feature the champions of FIFA’s six continental confederations: Portugal, Chile, Mexico, Cameroon, Australia, New Zealand, as well as current World Cup champions Germany, and hosts Russia.
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