The World Cup has long been an opportunity for young soccer players on the rise to prove their worth and show their stuff on a global stage. While genuine stars attempt to cement their status as the World's best (see Zidane, 1998; Ronaldo, 2002; Cannavaro, 2006), football's young guns are hoping to steal the show and earn both money and a name.
Here are a few players who might be the talk of the town after a few games.
1) Gervinho, Ivory Coast: With Didier Drogba possibly missing out of the World Cup, the Ivory Coast needs fresh faces to step up. If The Elephants have any chance to progress out of the Group of Death, their 23-year-old wing-midfielder needs to be as prolific for country as he is for his club. Gervinho, who plays for French-side Lille, scored 13 goals in the 09-10 campaign. Born Yao Kouassi, he was given a Brazilian moniker by his youth coach for his samba-esque style of play. He is linked to a move to Arsenal, but whether he ends up in the Emirates or not, he won't stay in France for much longer.
2) Lee Chung-Yong, South Korea: The 21-year-old winger exceeded all expectations during his first season in the English Premier League, the culmination of which was his selection as Bolton's Player of the Year. Purchased for just 2 million pounds, he was one of the best buys of the season. Lee is quick footed, a great passer and excellent with the ball at his feet. He has been linked to move to Liverpool over the summer (although who hasn't been these days?). Playing on the opposite wing as South Korean legend Park Ji-Sung, Lee will push the pace and look to move forward as much as possible.
3) Mesut Ozil, Germany: Can the 21-year-old wunderkind (born to Turkish immigrants) fill the void left by the injured Michael Ballack? Ozil is coming off a brilliant season, having scored nine goals for Bundesliga power Werder Bremen and he brings an unpredictable flair to a German-side more accustomed to a direct and workmanlike style of play. Primarily an offensive playmaker, Ozil could be asked to shoulder more defensive responsibility in the wake of Ballack's injury. Bremen qualified for the Champions League, which might keep Ozil in Northern Germany for at least another season. If he does leave, moves to Manchester City or other top England clubs are possible.
4) Christian Eriksen, Denmark: Answer: Christian Erikisen. Question: Who is the youngest player at the World Cup? The 18-year-old midfielder, who came up through the ranks of Ajax's famous youth academy, is touted as one of the brightest young talents in the world. The fact that the young Dane has started only five games for Ajax's senior team has not stopped scouts and commentators from drooling over his obvious talent and comparing the youngster to Danish legend Michael Laudrup. Rumors have Eriksen going everywhere, including Arsenal, Real Madrid and Manchester United. It's likely that Eriksen will be deployed as a super-sub by Denmark's coach Morten Olsen.
5) Marek Hamsik, Slovakia: Slovakia's buck-toothed, spiky-haired midfielder is, at 22-years-old, one of the youngest captains at the World Cup. Hamsik carried the Slovaks to their first major soccer tournament since their amicable divorce from the Czech Republic in 1993 and hopes are high that the country can make a go of it. Slovakia's match-up with Paraguay looks like the pivotal game of Group F, with the winner all but guaranteed to advance. After three solid seasons with Italian side Napoli, Marek has pledged his future to the once great Italian club. However, Hamsik's desire to bring home major silverware could see him move on to greener pastures.