When I wrote the first two editions of Under 21s at the World Cup, for Groups A, B, C and D, there was a possibility that some of the players mentioned may not actually make it to South Africa. The reason for that is the coaching staff had until June 1 to submit their final 23-man squad after announcing a provisional squad of 30. That date has now passed, so lets look and see which youngsters were unfortunate enough to be cut.
Firstly, Theo Walcott. How can we not start with probably the most high profile, amongst young players anyway, omission from the World Cup? I really did expect the winger to travel to South Africa as he could have really aided England's cause with his explosive pace and knack for finding a goal or two as evidenced by his hat trick against Croatia in qualifying, yet I can understand why the youngster has been dropped. He had a really indifferent season at Arsenal where he struggled to hold down a starting spot and also suffered from a few injuries.
When Walcott did get a start, he couldn't produce consistent form and looking back it the winger, who figured prominently in England's recent friendlies, probably needed to produce a string of brilliant performances to get picked which he just didn't manage. Shaun Wright-Phillips is the man that's benefited from Walcott's omission as the Man City winger was picked instead of the youngster.
Mexico selected youngsters Giovanni Dos Santos and Carlos Vela in their final squad, as expected, but their inclusion wasn't without drama. Giovanni has since voiced a protest over the omission of his brother Jonathan from the squad. The pair's father, Zizinho, has said that "We don't know if he (Giovanni) will play or not," while there is concern that both players will quit international football for good with Zizinho once again saying, "Jonathan told me that he is going to quit the Mexican team." It's a rather intense reaction to the situation and Mexican fans will hoping that the situation threatened does not eventuate.
Uruguay and Argentina have included promising youngsters Nicolas Lodeiro and Javier Pastore in their final 23-man squads. The two talented midfielders could launch their international careers at the tournament if they are given a chance to shine.
Fan favorite Sotiris Ninis has been included in on Greece's squad, but there are still questions over how much game time he'll see. Rehhagel hasn't shown a willingness to use the talented midfielder previously.
Not surprisingly, forward Ideye Brown and defender Terna Suswam did not make Nigeria's final cut. Brown hadn't played for the national team while Suswam only made his debut against Saudi Arabia. It's widely expected that their time will come at future tournaments. Midfielder Haruna Lukman and defender Dele Adeleye did make the cut, which was widely expected. Lukman's role in the side is growing, especially with John Obi Mikel's injury problems, while Adeleye has recently worked his way into the starting line-up in midfield or at the center of defense.
To round out Groups A and B four of the five South Korean players who were in the preliminary squad have made the final 23. Three of the players were guaranteed to make it: Ki Sung-Yueng, Lee Chung-Yong, and Lee Seung-Yeoul, but relatively inexperienced midfielder Kim Bo-Kyung has also made the cut. I would have expected Gu Ja-Cheol to go if they picked either of them but it was a situation where you could have almost tossed a coin to choose out of the two of them.
Algerian winger Ryad Boudeboz has made the final 23 for Algeria in a squad that had some key players ruled out through injury and others included on the hopes that will be ready in time.
As expected, Jozy Altidore was chosen in Bob Bradley's USA squad. Altidore is surprisingly the most experienced international striker the Americans are taking and a lot of expectations will be placed on his young shoulders.
Slovenian coach Matjaz Kek has done what I expected and included midfielder Rene Krhin and forward Tim Matavz. They are two of the countries rising stars and their talents could help the side steal a place in the second round.
Germany's strong youth contingent, consisting of six players, have all made it into the final 23 by virtue of a series of injuries to other key players. Coach Joachim Loew only had to cut one player from his squad which had already been reduced to 24 players and the unlucky person was Andreas Beck. As it was said before, don't let Germany's injuries affect your judgment of the young players they are taking. All six of them have proved their talents in the Bundesliga this season and without the injuries, Loew was sure to have faced a tough decision between the future stars and the old hands.
Ghana, so far, had the largest group of young players in their squad with eight players under the age of 21. Surprisingly all eight of those players will be traveling to South Africa. There was a quartet of players I strongly suspected would make it (Andre Ayew, Jonathan Mensah, Samuel Inkoom and Dominic Adiyiah) but to see all eight go was really unexpected. I'd be most concerned with Ghana's goalie stocks. Two of the players under 21 are goalkeepers and if the first choice goalie, Richard Kingson, goes down then the World Cup is a tough place to blood a new, young goalkeeper.
Serbia continues the good fortune for youngsters continues in Group D as the young trio of Radoslav Petrovic, Neven Subotic and Ivan Obradovic have all made the final cut. Anyone of those players could fit into the Serbian first team and do a job so its no surprise they've all been included.
The final group D team, Australia, have only just announced their final 23-man squad. All four youngsters have been omitted from the Australian squad as it turns out Tommy Oar and James Holland were originally only named as emergency backups due to injury concerns to key players who have now begun training again. Defenders Shane Lowry and Rhys Williams have also missed out although it turns out Williams would have traveled with the team if it wasn't for a pelvic injury which has plagued him all season. Apparently Middlesborough gave the player injections throughout the season so he could continue to play but Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek has chosen to leave the player out. He believes that the actions taken by the English side were risky when dealing with a 20-year-old and they've effectively cost Williams a place in the team.
So there's a recap of the Under 21s from Groups A, B, C, and D who were profiled before the final squad announcements. The most surprising omission is that of Theo Walcott but the most interesting, in the long term, could be that of Giovanni Dos Santos's inclusion and the lack of his brother Jonathan in the side. Hopefully they come to their senses for, Mexico's sake, and drop the threat of quitting the national side.Powered by Sidelines