Kylian Mbappé – How the wonderkid came of age!!

France entered this year’s World Cup as one of the huge favourites to double up on their success from 1998. The French Press, fans and expectations were, at the very least to reach the quarter-finals. Boasting a squad which was able to leave behind Benzema, Lacazette and Rabiot, and including World beaters such as Podga, Griezman, Lloris, Vrane and Matuidi.

Yet, France hadn’t shown anything of note in the group games to suggest they could win the World Cup, and there were still question marks around the fluidity of the starting XI, with Deschamps starting with Dembele in wide left, and Tolisso in a midfield three, a formation he didn’t ever return to leading into the Argentina game.

Enter 19-year-old Mbappé, donning the famous French Number 10 shirt, where Zidane and Platini once carried the weight of a Nation on their shoulders and delivered on the World stage. This is the game where Mbappé arrived. France Vs. Argentina, a last 16 clash which on paper had truly world class players from both sets of teams.

Very few youngsters announce themselves on the world stage with a performance that has fans, pundits and armchair supporters jump out of their seats.

Mbappe, hugely mature for someone so young, maintained a teamwork ethic over his own individual contribution and self-glory throughout the group games but never excelled despite scoring the winning goal against Peru.

Something was missing, the handbrake was clearly still on and rumours surfaced that Deschamps had privately mentioned to Mbappé to express himself and bring himself into games with freedom.

Ten minutes into the first-half, and in quite spectacular fashion all that fear and anxiety instantly evaporated when Mbappé burst out of nowhere to light the blue touch paper in breath-taking fashion.

“Taglifico beaten to that by Mbappé ….watch him go….Mascherano won’t get near him, and Mbappe down…… it’s a penalty for France! – In the time it took Guy Mowbray BBC Commentator to run his beautifully poetic sentence, Mbappé had run from his own half, weaved, sprinted, dodged and slipped through the entire Argentine defence to win a penalty for his team.

Many people pointed the direct approach, pace and close control to the Brazilian Ronaldo in his hey-days at Barcelona and Inter-Milan, and rightly so. A major difference being the versatility Mbappé, who is supremely comfortable operating as a false-nine or wide-forward.

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The youngster proved to be fearless in possession, using his quick feet and equally quick-wittedness to avoid the thunderous challenges of the Argentine defenders.

His ability to come in short to collect the ball, spin, then attack the opposition was frightening at times. Defenders were unsure to mark him tightly or stand off him, which gave Mbappé the tactical upper hand.

If the defender stood off, he was willing to run in behind the defender’s shoulder, forcing them to run back to their own goal, knowing that he has the pace and finishing to kill games off.

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His first touch is sublime but’s it’s his movement off the ball which proves that this youngster is way ahead of his time. Often curving his runs, checking in, and back out, to collect a short pass, or feinting to go down the line and jinking in off the touchline to drive straight towards the 18-yard box.

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Watching Mbappé against Argentina reminded me of when I, and probably the whole of England first saw a portly Maradona pirouette on the halfway line and dance around the entire England spine to score the best ever goal at a World Cup.

“He has Burrachaga to his left and Valdano to his left, he won’t need any of them….oh you have to say that’s magnificent! There was no debate about that goal, that was pure footballing genius” The indomitable Barry Davis brilliantly describing what was a unique moment in everyone’s footballing education.

No doubt Mbappé’s performance will be as ever long-lasting if France are to clinch the World Cup in Russia this year

Soccer - World Cup Mexico 86 - Quarter Final - England v Argentina

 

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THE AFRICAN YOUNGSTERS WHO SHONE IN THIS YEAR’S WORLD CUP

One of the major surprises at this year’s World Cup saw none of the African Nations progress into the second round. The hopes of the African continent all rested on the shoulders of Tunisia, Morroco, Eygpt, Senegal and Nigeria respectively, but it was clear from the offset that individual talent was most likely to be a factor for each African teams to progress, then collective team spirit.

The Moroccans and Senegalese will feel deeply frustrated at not progressing, with both going into the final group games with a chance of qualifying. Senegal going out on the fair play rule…!

Yet, amongst the failure to qualify to the next phase, was the burgeoning talent of African youth players who made a lasting impression on the world stage.

Francis Uzoho, 19, Nigeria, Goalkeeper, Deportivo La Coruna

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Nigeria’s number 1, and fully established number 1 has come out of this tournament with huge credit. Traditionally a problem area for Nigeria, no more so when Carl Ikeme pulled out of the tournament due to serious illness, gave Uzoho a chance to cover. But Cover was never on the cards when Manager, Gernot Rohr decided to make him the Super Eagles number 1.

The teenager played in all three group games, and kept a clean sheet in Nigeria’s 2-1 win against Iceland, making him the 2nd youngest goalkeeper in World Cup history to achieve this feat. Assured on the ball, with a huge frame and a confident shot-stopper, The youngster’s stock has risen and will certainly cause many clubs to take notice this summer.

Ismaila Sarr, 20, Senegal, Winger, Rennes

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One of Africa’s up and coming talents alongside fellow countryman Keita Balde. Rennes shelled our the small fortune of €17m to Metz for his signature, fending off interest from Barcelona no less (who ended up paying over the odds for Ousmane Dembele from Dortmund). Quick-footed and with bags of pace, and direct style of play, Sarr was instrumental in Senegal’s tournament. No doubt expected to push on for Rennes for the 2018/19 season.

Ellyes Skhiri, 22, Tunisia, Defensive Midfielder, Montpellier

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Montpellier’s “no-nonsense” holding mid-fielder came into the tournament with only 2 international caps to his name and leaves this year’s tournament gaining valuable World Cup experience, and as one of the ‘ones to watch”.

Skhiri, physically strong in stature, with a languid running style, reads the middle of the park fantastically well. His ability to spot danger from oppositions, and be the first to press the ball has seen him compared to a young Nemanja Matic.

Yet what is even more impressive is his eye for a pass, and his footballing brain, once the defensive side of his job is done, the quick acceleration, shift of feet and vision to get the ball forward to an attacking player is highly imposing. A real talent, expect this kid to get a big move very soon!

5 Youngsters to light up World Cup 2018

Ring, ring….ring, ring…”Hello?”,

“Morning Theo!”

“Morning Gaffer, is everything okay?”

“Yes, everything is fine, I’m just calling to let you know that you’re in my 23 man squad for this year’s World Cup, so cancel your holiday plans and call your parents, you’re coming to Germany…”

Okay, so that’s not how the actual conversation went when Sven Goran-Eriksen decided to call the un-fancied and, untried 17-year-old, Theo Walcott to the World Cup in 2006. Yet for every eyebrow raised about the Walcott’s of this world, the World Cup usually unearths some exciting and unquestionable talent that really lights up the tournament. In Sweden 1958 a certain Edson Arantes do Nascimento, aka Pele, then a 17-year wonder kid striker making his World Cup debut completely blew the tournament away with is athletism, guile, intelligence, creativity and youthful enthusiasm. Going as far to score an unbelievable goal in the Final against the host nation Sweden.

No one player has really hit those heights at such a young age, but many have had memorable World Cups. West Germany’s 20-year-old libero Franz Beckenbauer made it all the way to the 66′ cup final. Cabrini, Amaros, Prosinecki and Overmars all had notable impressions until Micheal Own, an 18-year-old English striker exploded onto the world’s greatest stage to score one of the goals of the 1998 tournament.

Here, FootballWonderkid identifies the ones to watch this summer in football’s most prestigious Cup competition.

Marcus Rashford – England and Manchester United, 20, Striker

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Gareth Southgate’s wonderful dilemma lives in the hugely talented but often inconsistent Marcus Rashford. The England frontman is the only player in England’s 23 man squad that can genuinely play in all of the front 3 positions, and as a number 10 with consummate ease. However, Rashford’s versatility also means that he is behind the first choice Kane, Alli and Lindgard triumvirate.

England’s recent friendly win against Costa Rica demonstrated Rashford’s unquestionable skill, vision and brilliant eye for a goal. Drifting off the front line collecting the ball 35 yards from goal, spinning on a 2 pence piece, and unleashing a dipping, swerving shot with arrow-like precision past Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas. That wonder strike coupled with his Brazilan style flair and British aggression could well mean that Rashford becomes the unsung hero of this youthful England team.

Herving Lozano – Mexico and PSV Eindhoven, 22, Wide forward

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If Mexico is to escape the World Cup’s group of death then they are going to need Lozano’s speed, battling spirit and eye for goal to help them along the way. Lozano’s 19 goals and 11 Assists in 34 games for PSV, saw the Dutch giants wrestle the Eredivisie from Ajax. His ability to drift in off the wide right position will be pivotal in formulating the attack for Mexico in Russia, and with a record at International level of 7 goals in 27 appearances for a 22-year-old is very respectable. The world stage awaits the fiery Mexican.

Timo Werner – Germany and RB Leipzig, 22, Striker

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It was always going to be hard to fill Miroslav Klose’s striking boots and World Cup goalscoring record, but it looks like Werner has timed his form to perfection to be the first choice striker for Germany at this year’s World Cup. 12 games and 7 international goals don’t give the youth talent justice enough. His quick feet, ability to link play and play off the last defender has German fans reinvigorated that they can quite conceivably retain the World Cup in Russia. Another player from the list that isn’t an archetypal centre-forward, with speed to burn, and a real ability to find the back of the net, Germany now have an alternative style than previously held at championship level tournaments.

Giovani Lo Celso – Argentina and Paris St. Germain, 22, Central Midfield

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It’s hard to imagine a world cup without Argentina, and a certain Lionel Messi, the expectation this year to go one better than four years ago is quite conceivable. Four years more experience, four years more hunger and four more years of Messi, Aguero, Higuain and De Maria expected to lead the attacking lineup.

But sitting in the Anchor position, should he get his chance, will be PSG starlet Lo Celso. The Left footed deep-lying playmaker is the metronome that sets the pace of the attacks for Argentina. Never has another Argentinian player mirrored Fernando Redondo’s languid, skilful and attacking play, coupled with adventurous verve, flair in the final third and an eye for a killer pass. Equally adept at breaking up the opposition attacks, Lo Celso is also a classic “give and go” midfielder, which could be the perfect foil for Messi in tight games. Likely to deputise for Banega, the youngster may have to bide his time to earn a starting spot for one of the favourites for the cup.

Youri Tielemans – Belgium and Monaco, 21, Central Midfield

Friendly match"Belgium v Mexico"

Belgium, 3rd in the FIFA world rankings is encountering it’s Golden Generation at the just right time…never has a team outside of the classic 6 Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain (minus Italy and Netherlands) France and England had a better chance to win the World Cup. They are going into this year’s tournament with a squad brimming with world-class players. Hazard, Kompany, Courtois, Lukaku, Vertonghan and De Bruyne.

Amongst the talented individuals is 21-year old Tielemans, Monaco’s gifted central midfielder who is pressing hard for a starting spot in Roberto Martinez’s side. An accomplished passer and shrewd reader of the game often belies his young age. Fully established in Monaco’s swashbuckling team that won Ligue 1 in 16/17 the Belgian youngster will aim to get some much needed minutes amongst his superstar teammates, hoping to win Belgium their first major piece of silverware.

Rhian Brewster – Liverpool’s very own WonderKid

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Brewster had an amazing 2017, breaking goalscoring records for the Liverpool Academy team, helping his Country win the U17 World Cup, scoring a hat-trick a piece in both the Semi-final and Final against Heavyweights Brazil and Spain respectively. Brewster finished the tournament as the winner of the Golden Boot, netting an impressive 8 times.

The youngster is clearly earmarked as a potential kop favourite by Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp, and is close to knocking on the door of the first team.

Brewster’s is not your typical centre-forward, he is a fox in a box,  he can play off the last man, can score with both feet outside the box, and loves a header, it’s clear that he has worked on all aspects of his finishing to mix it with the opposition defences.

At the time of writing news filtered in that Brewster had sustained a major cruciate ligament injury that will keep him out until the summer. Extremely bad luck with such a talent. Here at Football WonderKid we hope Brewster makes a swift and healthy recovery.

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Nelson makes Arsenal debut in Arsenal win

Riess Nelson provided Arsenal fans with a glimpse of his talent by making his professional debut for Arsenal on Thursday night, introduced as a substitute for the disappointing Theo Walcott.

Nelson was given his chance by Wenger after his impressive performances in the U23 where he bagged the player of the month award for August, capped by scoring his 6th goal of the season away to Manchester United.

Clearly, the player is not afraid of the big stage, Nelson was brought on in the 83rd minute to a warm reception and immediately provided contrast to Walcott’s style of play by immediately making himself available for passes in tight areas.

His quick feet is matched by his quick passing tempo and brought back the old style Tika-Taka 1-2 passes which Wenger has tried to instil in the Arsenal style of play with many of the youth team graduates.

Nelson started out wide-right but was comfortable taking the ball inside and linked up the play well with his teammates. One glaring mistake was an attempt at a long-range ball from just inside his own half to Sanchez which was snuffed out by the Cologne defence and resulted in a quick Counterattack.

However, that was easily forgotten when he linked up beautifully with Wilshire and Sanchez at the edge of the box only for Sanchez to chip wide from an acute angle.

The signs are there, and as a debutant at 17 there seems to be enough to suggest that Nelson has the temperament to succeed and the hunger, skill and determination to push for a starting place soon. And despite all the turmoil off the pitch and within the first team at Arsenal fans live in hope that they have a potential wonderkid in their ranks.

 

Top 7 transfer wonderkids that will light up the Premier League 2017/18

The close of this year’s summer transfer window saw Premier League clubs spending a staggering £1.7 Billion. And whilst neutral football fans will recognise established names such as Lukaku (£70m), Oxlade-Chamberlain (£35m) and Kyle Walker (£50m), club fans will be excited to see more of their new, lesser known youth gems. FootballWonderKid highlights the top 7 youngsters that can make a real difference for their teams this season.

7. Dominic Solanke, 19, Liverpool, Striker

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Striker Solanke rose through the ranks at the Chelsea, winning and scoring twice in the FA Youth cup final in the 2014/15 season, and consistently bagging 20+ goals in the U23s. Liverpool signed him when the transfer window opened in July, with a view of fast tracking him to the first team. Solanke’s striking ability and knack of scoring crucial goals saw England win the U20 World Youth Cup this summer. Liverpool fans will certainly be hoping he can transfer that strike rate into the first team when called upon.

Transfer fee: £3m

Likelihood of becoming the next Harry Kane: 6/10

Five rising stars from Arsenal’s Youth Academy

Arsene Wenger has been renowned for unearthing some of the best young talent in world football, from Patrick Vieira and Nicholas Anelka, to Cesc Fabregas and Hector Bellerin. Wenger pulled on his vast knowledge of the French league,  and loopholes in the youth academies across Europe to offer youth players a chance at playing first team football in the most exciting league in the world.

Nowadays, however, every single Premier League club (and arguably some Championship clubs) have local and international scouts scouring the grass routes and schools to find the next big talent. Here Football Wonderkid analyses the top 5 youth players that we expect to see in an Arsenal first team soon.

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