The 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup began today in Saint Petersburg, Russia without some of the superstar talent of tournaments past. World champions Germany have decided to leave many of their top players at home, and without South American powerhouses Brazil and Argentina, the competition will feature only one player, Cristiano Ronaldo, that has appeared in the FIFA FIFPro World XI. The Confederations Cup is still worth watching, though, if nothing else than to see some promising young talent perform on the international stage. Here are five players under the age of 25 to check out:
Fabrice Ondoa (Cameroon)
After starting out with the Samuel Eto’o Foundation, the only goalkeeper on this list came up through the famed Barcelona youth system, where he had been hailed as the next Victor Valdés. Although he has yet to live up to that designation, having moved on to Spanish second division side Gimnàstic de Tarragona in 2016, he excelled in the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, winning a place in the Team of the Tournament and providing a crucial penalty kick save against Senegal in the quarterfinals. The tournament will likely be a showcase event for him, and the 21-year-old will look to expand on his recent, good run of form.
Ondoa starts in goal for Barcelona in the 2014 UEFA Youth League Final against Benfica. [Image by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images]
Andre Gomes (Portugal)
The Portuguese central midfielder disappointed in his first year with Barcelona after transferring from Valencia for €35 million. When compared to the season prior, he created fewer chances per 90 minutes while engaging in fewer take-ons. Still only 23, he remains a highly sought after talent though, with Champions League runner-ups Juventus and Premier League giant Manchester United reportedly interested in prying him away from the Blaugrana during this summer’s transfer window. Goals like the one he scored in Barcelona’s 7-1 route of Osasuna in La Liga underscore his world-class technique.
Julian Draxler (Germany)
Also 23, Julian Draxler has already established himself as an elite player. After making four appearances in six games during Germany’s run to the semifinals at last summer’s UEFA European Championship, he secured a transfer to Paris Saint-Germain for a reported €47m in January. Draxler has captained Germany three times, and, after taking the armband in the final match before the tournament, he will likely feature prominently in Germany’s cup run. According to the DW Sports Twitter account, he views the competition as an opportunity to highlight his leadership abilities.
Julian Draxler: "It is a great honor that I was captain… I take the #ConfedCup as a chance to prove myself as a leader."
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) June 6, 2017
Hirving Lozano (Mexico)
If Mexico is to make a run in the competition, manager Juan Carlos Osorio will be hoping that Hirving “Chucky” Lozano can replicate the form that has made him a summer transfer target for Manchester City. Right-footed and positioned on the left wing, scouting reports describe him as a “classic inverted winger”, and he has enjoyed the praise of his national team manager. “His speed and ability to go past [opponents] will take him far,” said Osorio to ESPN. “Lozano has a great desire to learn with the national team.”
Lozano cuts in from the left wing in a friendly against Iceland last February. [Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]
Leon Goretzka (Germany)
Although his club Schalke has reportedly turned down a £21 million move to Arsenal over the summer, it’s only a matter of time before the 22-year-old holding midfielder to a top European club, especially given his contract runs out of the end of the coming season. A leg injury forced him to miss out on the 2014 World Cup, but, after captaining Germany’s Olympic team in Rio, he will help lead a Germany squad already brimming with young talent.
[Featured image by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images]