Who is he?: Maher is a 20 year old midfielder who currently plays for PSV. He’s played for various age groups for the Dutch and has made 5 appearances for the senior side.
Back in 2013: He started the season at his old club AZ Alkmaar and enjoyed a successful campaign producing eye catching displays. He started 31 games in the league having missed the 3 other games due to injury and suspension scoring 7 goals and 5 appearances in the process. Maher made the switch to PSV in the summer and has had a lukewarm start to his stint at the club. The young PSV side had a good start to the campaign but have been very inconsistent and find themselves in 8th place. The player himself hasn’t quite hit the heights expected but he looks to be settling in as can be seen by his brace against Utrecht in December.
Maher was a part of the Dutch U-21 team for the Euros in the summer that lost to Italy in the semifinals. He started 3 of the 4 games and was rested against Spain in the last group stage game with qualification already secured. He scored against Germany in the first game of the tournament in a 3-2 win. He was also part of the squad for Netherlands’ World Cup qualifiers coming off the bench on 3 occasions.
Looking to 2014: On the balance of things, 2013 was quite a good year for Maher and he’ll be hoping to kick on in 2014. The first aim will obviously be to help his team move up the Eredivisie. The title may look beyond them but a sustained good run of form could see them qualify for Europe. Maher will probably be one of the Dutch contingent heading to Brazil.
4) Juan Quintero
Who is he?: Quintero is a 21 year old midfielder who plays for Porto. He’s already been capped for the senior Columbia side.
Back in 2013: The youngster started the year at Pescara in the Serie A. He was called up to the Colombia Under-20 squad for the South American Championship held in Argentina. This along with a later injury limited his impact in the second half of the season but he had already impressed in the first half of the campaign. He was snapped up by Porto in the summer transfer window. He marked his debut with a goal against Vitoria on debut after coming off the bench. He’s scored 2 goals and created 2 more in his 10 league appearances so far.
Quintero starred for Columbia in the U-20 World Cup last summer as they went out on penalties to South Korea on penalties in the Round of 16. He started all 4 games for his side chalking up 3 assists and a goal in the tournament. He came off the bench in Columbia’s 1-0 win over Serbia in a friendly.
Looking to 2014: For the first half of 2014, Quintero will hope to play a bigger role as Porto challenge for the title. Then of course it’s all eyes on the World Cup with Columbia featuring in an interesting group. The player will be hoping to make the squad and play some part for the South Americans.
3) Ross Barkley
Who is he?: Barkley is a 20 year old Englishman who plays for Everton. He’s represented various age groups for his country and even made 3 appearances for the senior side.
Back in 2013: The year started Barkley out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship where he made 15 starts and 2 appearances off the bench scoring 4 goals in the process. His involvement in the Premier League was fairly limited with only 2 starts and 5 more appearances off the bench. This season is the one in which Barkley has been given more chances and he’s taken them with both hands. He’s made 19 appearances in the Premier League, 16 of which were starts. He scored in the first game of the season against Norwich and has subsequently added 2 more goals to his tally. He also scored 1 and made another in the 4-0 victory over QPR in the FA Cup.
Barkley was part of the England U-20 side that was eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup starting all 3 of their games. Barkley has made 3 appearances for England so far, all of them being substitute appearances.
Looking to 2014: Barkley is England’s next big hope and it appears that for once, much of the hype is warranted. With Everton pushing for a top 4 spot, Barkley will have a big role to play in his club’s fortunes. There has been speculation linking him to other sides but for now we see no reason for him to leave his boyhood club. With respect to the World Cup, we’re pretty sure he’ll be on the plane to Rio.
2) Paul Pogba
Who is he?: Pogba is a 20 year old midfielder who plays for Juventus. The young Frenchman has already forced his way into the senior squad.
Back in 2013: The start of the calendar year represented the second half of Pogba’s debut season at Juventus and it’s also when he established himself as a regular starter for them. He scored a brace in a 4-0 win over Udinese in January and finished the season with 5 goals in 18 league starts and 9 substitute appearances. Pogba has continued his fine form this time around as well with Juventus sitting pretty atop the Serie A. He’s started 17 of the 20 league games of the campaign thus far with 3 substitute appearances in the other games. He’s chalked up an impressive haul of 6 goals (most of them from long range) and 6 assists in the same period.
Pogba captained the French U-20 team to World Cup glory in the summer, even managing to get on the score sheet in a 4-0 win over Uzbekistan in the quarterfinals. He also started all of France’s World Cup qualifiers in the year including both legs of their playoff victory over Ukraine. He’s also got off the mark in terms of goals for France with a strike against Belarus in a 4-2 victory.
Looking to 2014: Pogba is undoubtedly one of the most talented players in world football. His career has progressed at an impressive rate since his move to Juventus and looks like it will continue to do so. He’s already established himself in the French line-up ahead of the World Cup and the only way is up for Pogba.
1) Julian Draxler
Who is he?: Draxler is 20 year old who plays for Schalke. The highly rated youngster is already a member of the German national side.
Back in 2013: Draxler was already a regular at Schalke last season as he scored 10 goals and 4 assists in 30 appearances playing in a variety of positions across midfield. His standout performance in the first half of the calendar year came against Wolfsburg when he scored 2 goals and made another on a convincing 4-1 win. Draxler has made 14 league appearances thus far predominantly in a wider position and has notched up 1 goal and 5 assists thus far. Draxler also had a fruitful Champions League group stage with 3 goals and an assist.
Draxler started in 2 of Germany’s World Cup qualifiers in 2013 and came off the bench on a couple of other occasions. He also came off the bench in Germany’s friendly victory over England in November.
Looking to 2014: Draxler has been linked to Arsenal for quite a while now and it remains to be seen if he does make the move to North London. Regardless of the outcome of the transfer speculation, what is for sure is that Draxler is very much in Germany’s plans not only for Brazil but also for years to come.