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The best breakout tournaments for young players ever

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The fearlessness of youth, eh?

Major tournaments, but the World Cup in particular, have proven to be havens for blossoming young superstars to forge a name for themselves on the grandest of footballing stages; where hype manifests as youthful athletic excellence.

Some of the biggest names in the sport enjoyed a breakout campaign at a major international tournament to get their careers rolling, and a certain English midfielder may well be the next to join the illustrious gang.

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Here are some of the most memorable breakout tournaments by young superstars we’ve ever seen.

Pele is the original wonderkid and it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a 17-year-old come close to replicating what the all-time great Brazilian achieved at the World Cup in 1958.

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The teenager entered the tournament as a relatively unknown commodity and a knee injury meant it took a while for his campaign to get underway. Pele’s first appearance arrived in a must-win game against the USSR in Brazil’s final group game before he made World Cup history against Wales in the quarter-finals as he became the competition’s youngest-ever scorer.

The spritely Brazilian then outshone French talisman Just Fontaine in the semi-finals as he produced a performance for the ages. Pele’s first World Cup hat-trick helped Brazil into the final, where they faced hosts Sweden.

The 17-year-old was now the name on the tip of everybody’s tongues and he refused to buckle under the pressure on the biggest stage. Pele dominated the Swedes in the second half, scoring one of the greatest goals in World Cup history before completing Brazil’s emphatic 5-2 triumph with a late header.

Pele had stolen the hearts and minds of Swedish supporters with his performance in the final. Even the King of Sweden, having witnessed the Brazilian’s freakish majesty first-hand, felt obliged to shake the teenager’s hand post-match.

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It was a sequence of youthful genius.

England and Argentina were locked at one apiece 15 minutes into their round of 16 encounter when England’s number 20 expertly bypassed an eager Jose Chamot after receiving David Beckham’s pass ten yards into Argentina’s half.

Chamot was left for dead before the sweeping Roberto Ayala awaited. However, the flat-footed defender was no match for the lightning-quick Englishman, who shifted the ball past Ayala and onto his favoured right foot which allowed him to fire a pinpoint effort beyond Carlos Roa.

In the blink of an eye, 18-year-old Michael Owen had just announced himself to the world.

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England’s fabled ‘Golden Generation’ peaked in terms of talent at Euro 2004, but it was a teenage sensation who stole the show.

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Wayne Rooney’s rise to superstardom was inevitable, and it was in the summer of 2004 when the world came to understand exactly how good this kid was.

He had become the youngest player to ever play and score for England before the tournament, but France defender Lillian Thuram had little knowledge of the teenager ahead of their Euro 2004 opener: “I don’t know who he is. He’s just a kid playing up front for England,” he said in a pre-match interview (according to Rooney).

Rooney quickly went about making a statement and he produced a majestic showing in defeat against the French. Zinedine Zidane was one of several Les Bleus stars flummoxed by England’s teenage superstar, who went on to score braces in England’s victories over Switzerland and Croatia to round off the group stage.

Expectations were sky-high for England’s quarter-final clash against hosts Portugal, but Rooney’s game and tournament came to a premature close following a challenge from Jorge Andrade which broke his metatarsal.

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Lionel Messi’s perpetual majesty since 2018 means Argentina’s round of 16 defeat at the hands of Kylian Mbappe’s France wasn’t exactly a passing of the torch, but the contest was significant nonetheless.

Mbappe had signed for Paris Saint-Germain the summer before the Russia World Cup, scoring 13 league goals in his debut season. His status as a superstar was never in doubt, but those four weeks in 2018 thrust the young Frenchman into a stratospheric realm.

Mbappe became France’s youngest-ever World Cup goalscorer when he netted the winner in a 1-0 win over Peru in the group stages. Still, it wouldn’t be until the knockouts when the 19-year-old began his ascent to footballing immortality.

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Argentina couldn’t cope with Mbappe’s gazelle-like speed as he scored twice in a memorable 4-3 victory. It was the first time since Pele in 1958 that a teenager had bagged two goals in a World Cup game. Mbappe was making his way into the history books.

Uruguay and Belgium both admirably kept Mbappe under wraps in the next two rounds as France progressed into the final following a pair of hard-fought victories. Croatia awaited in football’s showpiece event, but they had no answer for France’s generational forward.

Mbappe had a hand in France’s third goal before his crowning moment arrived with 25 minutes remaining, receiving possession in a central position about 25 yards out. After swiftly assessing his options, Mbappe struck across the ball fiercely which perplexed Danijel Subašić between the sticks.

His pinpoint effort was a fitting epilogue to quite an outstanding individual campaign.

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Bellingham’s stellar 2022 World Cup has drawn comparisons to Rooney’s scintillating Euro 2004 showcase.

The England midfielder only played a bit-part role in England’s rise to the Euro 2020 final, but he’s since established himself as a key member of Gareth Southgate’s side after continuing to star with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga.

Bellingham is grabbing the 2022 World Cup by the scruff of the neck and willing England on. The midfielder’s been given the licence to support the attack by Southgate and he’s relishing the freedom.

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The 19-year-old kick-started England’s campaign with a looping header against Iran amid an excellent performance and he garnered universal praise for his round of 16 showing against Senegal. He’s a midfielder that plays a decade beyond his years, with Birmingham City’s decision to retire his shirt number looking cannier by the day.





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Player ratings as Casemiro strikes twice in FA Cup win

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Manchester United cruised into the fifth round of the FA Cup by overpowering ten-man Reading at Old Trafford on Saturday night.

The Championship visitors kept their hosts out for the first 45 minutes but United eventually broke their resistance as Casemiro struck twice in quick succession.

The Brazilian ran onto Antony’s pass and chipped Joe Lumley to put Erik ten Hag’s side 1-0 up before a long range strike found its way into the bottom corner from 25 yards.

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Andy Carroll charged around with aggression all night and ended up being sent off for two bookable offences before Fred added a third, cleverly back-heeling Fernandes’ cross in at the front post.

United switched off in the 72nd minute to gift Reading a consolation, with Amadou Salif Mbengue given a free header to reduce the deficit three minutes after his introduction.

The Red Devils saw out the rest of the contest to book their place in the next round, joining the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham and Leeds.

United looked sharp throughout the first half, quickly exploding into attack with opportunities for Wout Weghorst and Christian Eriksen before a double chance fell to for Eriksen and Marcus Rashford. However, Lumley denied them on both occasions.

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Fernandes lifted an effort just over before a brilliant Antony run ended without reward.

The deadlock seemed to have been broken ten minutes before half time when Rashford smashed in from close range, but Weghorst was shown to have been offside in the build-up.

The breakthrough eventually came when two Brazilians combined to cut through Reading’s defence. Antony picked out Casemiro with a precise pass, allowing the former Real Madrid midfielder to run in and dink Lumley for the game’s opener.

He netted his second goal just before the hour mark with more of a pot shot. A free kick was never fully cleared by Reading and Casemiro struck a fierce effort from distance that whistled in.

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United’s job got a lot easier when Carroll was given his second yellow card for wiping out Casemiro and they took advantage of their numerical superiority by netting a third.

A short corner was worked to Fernandes, who fired the ball into Fred to inventively flick the ball beyond Lumley.

The visitors were rewarded for their efforts when United suddenly went limp at a corner, allowing substitute Mbengue a free header to reduce the deficit. It meant little, however, with the Royals exiting the FA Cup and United reaching the last 16.

GK: David de Gea – 6/10 – Unsurprisingly a quiet night for De Gea, who had to clean up loose ball on occasion. Sharp stop to deny Hoilett.

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RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 7/10 – Left the tackling to Malacia on the left but another display which shows his improvement under Ten Hag.

CB: Victor Lindelof – 6/10 – Decent enough for most of the night but he and Maguire won’t be back in the Premier League starting XI anytime soon conceding poor goals from corners.

CB: Harry Maguire – 6/10 – We all got the Maguire vs Carroll battle we didn’t know we needed. He came out of that clash having performed well enough.

LB: Tyrell Malacia – 7/10 – Did present a big chance to Hoilett but managed to wake up to deliver a better performance.

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CM: Casemiro – 9/10 – Provided a run from midfield and finished Antony’s pass well before netting from distance. Simply cannot do any wrong right now.

CM: Christian Eriksen – 6/10 – Came close with a free kick that whizzed past the post.

RW: Antony – 8/10 – Produced some marvellous running and the weight of pass on his delivery to Casemiro was perfect. Delivered end product which has been missing recently.

AM: Bruno Fernandes – 7/10 – Got United purring in attack and played the ball in for Fred to make in 3-0.

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LW: Marcus Rashford – 7/10 – No goals for the England international but his pace and direct running was a threat.

ST: Wout Weghorst – 7/10 – Provided some more selfless pressing and occupied defenders while his teammates did the damage.

Substitutes

Fred (57′ for Christian Eriksen) – 8/10 – Got United’s third and was efficient during his sub appearance.

Facundo Pellestri (68′ for Fernandes) – 6/10 – Quiet final 20 minute appearance.

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Alejandro Garnacho (68′ for Rashford) – 6/10

Kobbie Mainoo (68′ for Rashford) – 6/10

Anthony Elanga (73′ for Weghorst) – 6/10

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Erik ten Hag – 7/10 – United averted any fears of a potential upset with a second half blitz which allowed Ten Hag to shuffle his pack in late on.

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GK: Joe Lumley (5); CB: Tom McIntyre (6), CB: Tom Holmes (6), CB: Junior Hoilett (5); RWB: Andy Yiadom (5), CM: Jeff Hendrick (6), CM: Abdul Rahman Baba (6), CM: Tom Ince (7), LWB: Mamadou Loum (6) ST: Andy Carroll (5), ST: Lucas Joao (6).

SUBS: Tyrese Fornah (6), Amadou Salif Mbengue (8), Dean Bouzanis (6), Shane Long (6).

Player of the match – Casemiro



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Tete undergoing medical with Leicester

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Tete will have a medical with Leicester on Saturday night ahead of his move from parent club Shakhtar Donetsk, 90min understands.

The Brazilian winger was offered to Premier League sides on loan with the view of a permanent deal back in December before the Foxes held talks with the representatives of the Lyon loanee regarding a move to the King Power Stadium.

Lyon are prepared to lose the 22-year-old as manager Laurent Blanc plans to move his side in a different direction. Despite that, Tete is their second highest top scorer this season after Alexandre Lacazette – who has 11 goals – with six strikes.

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Premier League sides West Ham, Tottenham, Newcastle and Arsenal were all alerted to his availability. David Moyes’ Hammers did explore a deal only to renege on their interest later.

Tete’s arrival will add firepower to Brendan Rodgers’ squad. Harvey Barnes and James Maddison are their top Premier League scorers this season with seven each, with Patson Daka, Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho all struggling for form.

On this edition of Talking Transfers, Scott Saunders hosts Toby Cudworth & Graeme Bailey to discuss some of the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maximo Perrone & more! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

Tete is a naturally right-sided player and has Champions League experience with Shakhtar, scoring three times in the UEFA competition.

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Leicester were quiet during the summer transfer window, bringing in only Alex Smithies and Wout Faes, but have signed Victor Kristiansen this month to add competition at left back.



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‘Nice one, Sonny!’ Tottenham chant lyrics, origin and video

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Son Heung-min had spent two-and-a-half seasons at Tottenham Hotspur, made more than 100 appearances and scored 40 goals before he was finally granted his own song by the Spurs faithful.

The eminently loveable South Korea international has scored almost 100 times since, eliciting countless renditions of a fittingly cheery tune from his adoring public in north London.

Here’s everything you need to know about the fascinating origins of a song that has become a staple of N17.

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Chirped out to a bouncy rhythm, Tottenham fans don’t have to memorise much to keep this jaunty chant in their head. The lyrics go:

Nice one Sonny,
Nice one Son,
Nice one Sonny,
Let’s have another one…

And repeat. And repeat, and repeat…

As a Goodwill Ambassador for the World Food Programme, Son will be pleased that even those on Tottenham’s terraces don’t let anything go to waste. ‘Nice one, Sonny!’ was originally ‘Nice one, Cyril!’, in honour of the Spurs left-back Cyril Knowles from the 1960s and ’70s.

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Pat Jennings joined Spurs in the same year as Knowles and insisted that the former England international would “have been proud” to have his song moulded in Son’s image.

To find the inspiration for Knowles’ chant, you have to turn to an earworm from 1970s advertisement. Before turning his pen to a bestselling memoir, Peter Mayle conjured up the slogan ‘Nice one, Cyril’ for Wonderloaf Bread. In the iconic advert, a baker by the name of Cyril saves the day at a bakery and is cheerily praised.

Spurs fans snagged the tagline which Cockerel Chorus expanded into a single for Tottenham’s run to the 1973 League Cup final. The song, written by Harold Spiro and Helen Clarke, topped out at number 14 in the charts. Cyril Knowles played the full 90 minutes as Spurs beat Norwich City 1-0 in the showpiece event.

When did Tottenham fans first chant ‘Nice one, Sonny!’?

It’s tricky to pin down the exact moment that ‘Nice one, Sonny!’ was first whispered by a Tottenham fan. However, the reinterpretation of the classic appears to have gained a spot in the hymnbook on 11 March 2018, when Son bagged a brace in a 4-1 win away to Bournemouth.

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That victory came at the end of four game sequence in which Son scored seven goals across three competitions for Spurs, forcing himself into the throat of the watching public.

Although, spare a thought for one Tottenham fan that pondered why Son hadn’t been serenaded with a specific chant all the way back in May 2017. Ten months before that hot streak, they wrote on the Spurs Community message board: “Surely he deserves one by now? I always thought the best one would be the old Cyril Knowles one.”

Even some of his teammates know the lyrics.



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