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Under 21s at the World Cup: Groups C and D

The first edition of Under 21s at the World Cup was rather popular so I’m back with a look at Groups C and D and whether the teams in those groups are travelling with any youngsters that may be the next big thing.

Group C
Algeria (1) — 20-year-old Ryad Boudeboz was selected for the preliminary Algerian World Cup squad. The young midfielder only just announced his allegiance to the African nation he was born in. He moved to France when he was 14 to play for FC Sochaux and he has since played for the French Under-19 team.

It’s not hard to think that the pull of World Cup football would be pretty strong and that’s why Boudeboz decided to switch allegiances back to his home country. He only made his debut against Ireland on the 28th of May, but the attacking midfielder had a fairly good season with Sochaux bagging six goals in a total of 34 appearances this season. He could provide an attacking spark for a team that’s light on forwards and could look to clog the field when playing against teams like England and the US.

England (1) – Theo Walcott can’t exactly be classified as an up-and-comer. The 21-year-old midfielder, who has an eye for goal, made headlines back in the 2005/2006 season when he signed for Arsenal from Southampton. He was immediately thrust into the first team squad at Arsenal where a mixture of injury, stiff competition and inconsistent form saw him struggle to hold down a regular first team spot.

Nevertheless, he’s an exciting prospect who has electric pace and the ability to turn a game on its head. In the Champions League game against Barcelona Walcott came off the bench to help Arsenal claim a draw by scoring a goal. His pace and skill on the ball caused huge problems for Barcelona and he’s also been able to turn on the skill at international level.

His hat-trick against Croatia was a highlight of the qualifying campaign and Walcott should be a great addition to the England squad. The problem for Capello may be whether to start him or bring him on later in the game where his pace will play even more havoc on opposition defenses.

Slovenia (2) — Forward Tim Matavz (21) and midfielder Rene Krhin (20) are the two young players in Matjaz Kek’s Slovenia side.

Matavz had a breakout season with FC Groningen in the Dutch Eredivisie this season where he scored 13 goals. That sort of return was enough to warrant a place in Kek’s side. Matavz hasn’t made an appearance for the national team yet, but with Kek showing a willingness to employ three strikers against certain names, potentially Algeria at the World Cup, there’s a good chance Matavz will make his appearance soon. Krhin has also found his time in the national squad limited, making only four appearances as a substitute.

Krhin is regarded as one of the rising stars of Slovenian football. He’s on the books at Italian giants Internazionale, where he’s made a few appearances, and is highly regarded for his distribution and vision. Both these players should make Kek’s final squad as they provide an element of unpredictability and, hopefully, a winning spark.

If Krhin has a successful Cup, he could find more opportunities at Inter or it could spur him on to seek a loan away, while if Matavz can score on the biggest stage, he could find himself the target of some of Europe’s bigger clubs.

United States (1) — Striker Jozy Altidore (20) is the only Under-21 player to make Bob Bradley’s final United States squad for the World Cup. Surprisingly, at only 20, Altidore is also the most experienced international striker in the team depending on where Bradley chooses to use star player Landon Donovan.

The young striker has scored NINE goals for the national team, including a hat trick against Trinidad & Tobago in World Cup Qualifying. He endured a horrible campaign in England with newly relegated Hull City and he’ll need a good Cup to remind clubs of his ability. He’s already back on the right track with a goal against Turkey in a recent friendly.

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