Nigerian success, Korean brilliance and striking talents

Posted by Christopher Atkins

Captain Musa Muhammed lead Nigeria to Under-17 World Cup glory.GettyImagesCaptain Musa Muhammed lead Nigeria to Under-17 World Cup glory.

It has been a big week in world football, with the finals of the Under-17 World Cup, AFC Champions League and CAF Champions League all taking place over the past seven days. The tournaments would all have been extensively scouted by sides from around the world and, indeed, there have already been several players linked with moves to some of Europe's biggest sides off the back of their performances.

For many involved, the titles of the last week will be the highlight of their respective careers, but there will also be several players for whom it can be considered just the start of what should be a bright future.

So, which young players provided the Scout's Notebook with the biggest talking points of the past week's action?

Nigeria seal Under-17 World Cup glory

Nigeria were crowned Under-17 World Cup champions on Friday night after a stunning display of football to earn a 3-0 victory over Mexico in Dubai. With 26 goals scored in seven games and just five conceded, there can be no doubting that the Golden Eaglets were the tournament's outstanding side and, thus, worthy champions.

Joint second top-scorer Kelechi Iheanacho was voted the tournament's best player and looks a truly outstanding talent in attacking midfield, while flying winger Musa Yahaya will also have attracted a number of admirers with his performances and goals from the left-flank over the course of the tournament.

The often overlooked stars, though, were in defence. Team captain Musa Muhammed had a brilliant tournament at right-back, endlessly driving forward as an attacking outlet for his side. His crossing was a strong point, provoking a goal from a goalkeeper mistake in the final, where he also once more demonstrated his set-piece ability. His captaincy was widely cited as a point of inspiration by teammates, per MTN Football, and the 17-year-old will no doubt be inundated with offers in the near future.

Left-back Samuel Okon was another to roundly draw plaudits throughout the competition, including for a stunning strike en-route to victory over Sweden in the semi-finals. The 16-year-old was, like his captain, hugely adventurous throughout the tournament and showed great stamina to push back and forward throughout the ninety minutes. His marking of elusive Mexican winger Ivan Ochoa in the final, though, showed that he is more than capable defensively and he will not be at the Greater Tomorrow Academy much longer.

Nigeria's success was impressive in the dominance of their performances and the attacking threat that they carried throughout -- even in the absence of striker Isaac Success. Many of this generation should go on to achieve much in football, if they can build on their initial promise, but Nigeria have seen several future superstars fail to make the grade in recent years. The examples of Stanley Okoro and Sani Emmanuel, stars of the 2009 competition, must be remembered when predicting greatness for this current crop, with the hard-work still to come en-route to the top.


Korean stars light up on both sides of the world

Leverkusen's Heung-Min Son celebrates his hat trick against Hamburg.GettyImagesLeverkusen's Heung-Min Son celebrates his hat trick against Hamburg.

Given FC Seoul's defeat to Guangzhou Evergrande in the final of the AFC Champions League, it has been a disappointing weekend for Korean football in one sense. However, the excellent performance of defender Kim Young-Gwon for the Chinese side, as well as a sublime hat-trick from Bayer Leverkusen forward Son Heung-Min against former side Hamburg, gave Korean fans plenty to be cheerful for.

Kim and Son will undoubtedly be major players for the Taeguk Warriors over the next decade, with Kim the elder by two years at 23 years old. Son may already be a major player in European football, but after a nigh-on faultless 18-months in China under the tuition of Marcello Lippi, it should not be long before his compatriot joins him.

Despite playing Korean opposition, Kim was the best of his countrymen on the pitch on Saturday evening. His positioning was immaculate as ever, dealing with Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic with astonishing ease for much of the game, while also helping Evergrande to build attacks from the back. Kim has been heavily linked with a move, but told reporters post-match there is nothing on the table yet. Offers, though, will not be far away.

Son, meanwhile, is the country's outstanding talent and continues to impress in the Bundesliga. Following a summer move to Leverkusen, Son had made a slow start to life with his new side, but hit form in dramatic style with a hat-trick of goals and an assist against his former side.

Son was reportedly a transfer target for Manchester United early in the summer and it is easy to see why there was competition for his signature. His ability to dribble past defenders on either side at pace, to shoot well off either foot and to make the right decision in the final third were all on show this weekend, as they were for much of last season, and come next summer he will be the player to which a nation looks for inspiration at the 2014 World Cup. If he shines, Korea could perform well above expectation.


Marcelo stars in Atletico-PR victory



Atletico Paranaense have shocked everybody this season, rising to second in the Brasileirao behind only Cruzeiro despite spending last year in the second tier. It has been a phenomenal achievement, built on an intriguing mix of emerging talent, solid performers of recent seasons and a couple of battle-hardened veterans.

For much of the year, centre-back Manoel has been outstanding and the 23-year-old will likely move on in the fairly near future. However, it has been 21-year-old right-winger Marcelo who has been the truly eye-catching young performer of the year -- having come good on the promise first shown when he made his debut as a 17-year-old in 2009.

Marcelo's breakthrough came last year as he fired 16 goals to bring Atletico back into the top-flight. However, he quickly lost his place in the starting lineup following an influx of new faces at the start of the year and instead had to be content with regular substitute appearances. It is to his great credit, then, that he has forced his way back into the first-team setup and, over recent months, made himself a crucial part of their success this year.

On Saturday, the youngster opened the scoring against Sao Paulo to help his side to a 3-0 win -- a goal identified by opposition goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni as having changed the game. It was a wonderful strike, pulling down a cross from Ederson on his chest before smashing a volley into the back of the net. The power of the finish was startling and Ceni was left with no chance. The favour would later be repaid as Marcelo span in behind a slack Sao Paulo defensive line before laying his side's third goal on a plate for his teammate to tap home.

Marcelo's pace and dribbling abilities have been visible from an early age, but he has added strength over the past couple of years and is now a much more intelligent player. Atletico have proven a good breeding ground for young talent of late -- with Under-17 stars Nathan and Mosquito also on the club's books -- and the hope must be that they will follow both Marcelo and Manoel into the first-team setup. Such excellence in bringing through young players deserves success and their likely presence in next year's Copa Libertadores will be a fantastic achievement for what has been a very enjoyable side to watch this calendar year.

For further discussion on any of the players featured in The Scout's Notebook, Christopher can be found on Twitter –@chris_elastico. More of his work profiling rising talents can also be found at TheElastico.com.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.