As always, this summer's UEFA European Under-17 and Under-19 Championships produced some exciting football and, just as importantly, some real prospects for the future. But how have some of the stars in Tuscany and Northern Ireland got on since?
France were the deserving winners of the U19 Championship in Belfast, improving with every game. Midfielder Yohan Cabaye has barely rested since, helping the U21s to their European finals and representing LOSC Lille Métropole in the UEFA Champions League. Yohan Gourcuff is now a key player for UEFA Cup hopefuls Stade Rennais FC while perhaps the star of the finals, Abdoulaye Balde, remains a stalwart for Ligue 2 Amiens SC.
England lost the final to France but it was their best run in any tournament since 1993. Matt Fryatt struck a semi-final hat-trick against Serbia and Montenegro, and the Walsall FC striker has been scoring league goals since before his 18th birthday, this season reaching double figures by November. Goalkeeper David Martin, whose father Alvin played for England, was given a trial by Liverpool FC in November.
Fryatt's U19 finals tally of four was one less than Serbia and Montenegro's Borko Veselinovic. Having been with FK Partizan since age 12, he made his first-team debut last season, and has been gaining experience with their reserves, third division FK Teleoptik, since the summer.
Armenia were surprise U19 qualifiers, thanks in no small measure to prodigious forward Edgar Manucharyan. This April the 2004 Armenian footballer of the year and full international joined AFC Ajax having already won many honours at FC Pyunik. In September he made his Eredivisie debut against AZ Alkmaar, and nine days later appeared against Arsenal FC in the UEFA Champions League.
In May Turkey cruised to U17 glory, and the success of their key midfielder, Nuri Sahin, is well documented. He became the youngest ever Bundesliga player with BV Borussia Dortmund and scored on his senior international debut against Germany in October. Tevfik Köse, the top goalscorer at the final tournament in Italy with five, has continued his prolific form at youth level for both Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Turkey. His Leverkusen contract has been extended until 2009 amid interest from England.
Between them that trio scored ten goals at September's FIFA U-17 World Championship in Peru, but they missed out on third place to the Netherlands. Winger Melvin Zaalman recovered from injury in Italy to head an extra-time semi-final winner against the host nation and the speedy winger has since continued his rise up Sparta Rotterdam's youth ranks. Meanwhile, tall goalkeeper Tim Krul won a summer move to Newcastle United FC from ADO Den Haag and has been playing with their reserves.
Italian front pair Andrea Russotto and Salvatore Foti impressed on home soil, and are being nurtured by new clubs. Russotto joined Treviso FC from Swiss side AC Bellinzona last summer while Foti left AC Venezia for UC Sampdoria. "[Foti] is surely one of the most promising players in the country and I think he can find a space in the first team this season," coach Walter Novellino said.
Belarus reached the U17 finals for the first time this summer and defeated Italy in the group stage. But while star striker Siarhei Kisly has moved away from the first-team reckoning at FC MTZ-RIPO Minsk, goalkeeper Ihar Khomliak, defender Aleh Veratsila and midfielder Dzmitry Rekish all featured as their nation qualified for the 2005/06 U19 Elite round in October.
Additional reporting by Christian Châtelet, Aleksandar Bošković, Berend Scholten, Türker Tozar, Paolo Menicucci & Denis Orlov.
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