- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - Five players to watch at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, which kicks off Saturday in New Zealand:


Giovanni Simeone, Argentina: Footballing pedigrees don’t come much richer than that of Argentina’s Giovanni Simeone. The 19-year-old River Plate striker is the son of former Argentina star and current Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone. His career has been shaped to a large degree by his father’s fame. He was born in Madrid when Diego was playing for Atletico and moved to Italy when his father joined Internazionale and later Lazio. He moved to Argentina in 2005 where Diego ended his playing career with Racing before joining the managerial ranks with Estudientes, then River Plate. Giovanni joined the River Plate youth program in 2008 and made his league debut in 2013. Simeone was the leading scorer with nine goals in this year’s South American Under-20 Championship which was won by Argentina.


Godfred Donsah, Ghana: Many of the hundreds of players taking part in the Under-20 World Cup will be sought after by leading clubs when the tournament is over. But, after a breakout season in Italy’s Serie A, 18-year-old Cagliari midfielder Godfred Donsah already has some of the world’s most glamorous club clamoring for his signature. Italian media reports this month suggested Donsah has agreed a four-year, six million Euros deal with Juventus but he has also been linked with Premier League clubs Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham and Dutch club PSV. Donsah produced some impressive performances in 23 Serie A appearances for Cagliari this year as a strong deep midfielder. He says he has modeled his game of past holding midfielder greats such as compatriot Michael Essien, former France captain Patrick Vieira, Mali’s Momo Sissoko and former Chelsea star Claude Makelele.


Gedion Zelalem, United States: Gedion Zelalem made his debut for the United States in a World Cup warm-up match earlier this month but is already regarded as a potential star and key figure in the team’s campaign. Zelalem was born in Germany to Ethiopian parents, briefly joining the youth program of Hertha Berlin before moving to the United States with his father in 2006. He settled in Bethesda, Maryland but continued as a member of Germany’s age group squads to under-17 level. He obtained his U.S. passport in December and was cleared by FIFA this month to join the United States squad in New Zealand. Zelalem made his debut for Arsenal’s senior team in an FA Cup match last year, enhancing his reputation as a player of promise. U.S. coach Tab Ramos has tried to control expectations, saying “by no means is he the solution to all of the problems we may have or is he the last missing ingredient for us to win the World Cup.”


Andreas Pereira, Brazil: Andreas Pereira’s young football career has been one of hard choices but not of wrong turns. Born in Belgium, where his Brazilian father Marcos was playing professionally, he has already had to choose between the country of his birth and that of his heritage. He played for Belgium to under-17 level before transferring his allegiance to Brazil last year, declaring “My heart is Brazilian.” His choice of a club has also been difficult. While he started at Belgium’s Lommel before moving to PSV Eindhoven, he faced tough choices when his performance at a 2011 tournament attracted the interest of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. He decided to join United and recently signed a new three-year contract after being selected as the club’s under-21 Player of the Year.


Rodrigo Amaral, Uruguay: At 18, Rodrigo Amaral may be among the youngest players at the World Cup but has already shown an ability to shine against older opponents. He was voted the “Revelation of the Tournament” in the South American qualifying competition which he finished with more assists than any other player. The attacking midfielder has also made his first team debut for Montevideo-based Nacional and has been compared with Uruguay legend Enzo Francescoli. Amaral joined Nacional at under-14 level and scored 143 goals at various levels over the next four years, placing him seventh on Uruguay’s all-time list of goalscorers in training leagues behind players such as Martin Cauteruccio, Bruno Fornaroli and Luis Suarez. He said “it’s a huge honor to be sharing with those guys because they’re great players.”

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