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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
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2008 could be the year for rising young talent

By unknown | Dec 27, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

PARIS - The Beijing Olympics and Euro 2008 will be the centrepieces of sport in the new year. In China, Austria and Switzerland as well as a host of other venues, names will be made.

PARIS - The Beijing Olympics and Euro 2008 will be the centrepieces of sport in the new year. In China, Austria and Switzerland as well as a host of other venues, names will be made.

AFP Sport looks at the footballers to watch in 2008:

l Nico Kranjcar (Croatia): Having helped crush England's dreams of a 2008 European qualification spot, Croatia midfielder Niko Kranjcar will look to use his talents to cause further upset in the finals in June.

The son of Dinamo Zagreb legend Zlatko, Niko always had the footballing pedigree to make his mark on the game at home and abroad. In early 2005, he made a surprise switch to Dinamo's biggest rival, Hajduk, in what was the most expensive transfer in Croatian history at that time.

He made his international debut in 2004 and quickly cemented his place in midfield from where he scored two goals in nine appearances to help his country qualify for the 2006 World Cup.

He is now with English Premier League side Portsmouth who signed him on a four-year deal in 2006;

l Pato (Brazil): There is no doubt in most people's minds in Italy over which young player will make the biggest impact in Europe in 2008 and it's a Brazilian teenager who's name means "duck" in Spanish.

And if he's even half as good as his club AC Milan believe him to be, there will be many a centre-back hoping to avoid a meeting with Pato over the coming 12 months.

With Filippo Inzaghi approaching the end of his playing days and Ronaldo a shadow of his former self, AC Milan were expected to make a big splash in the striking transfer market last summer. Instead they plucked Pato away from Internacional in Brazil and waited patiently after he was refused a playing licence.

Non-EU players must wait until they are 18 to be granted a licence in Italy and Pato's crucial birthday came after the closure of the August transfer window.

But Milan are so confident in his ability that they have bided their time and will now unleash him on Italian defences once they have registered him during the winter transfer window.

Milan believe that Pato could go on to be the best from a long list of sumptuous former talents;

l Manucho (Angola): Aside from wanting to put his best foot forward for his country, Angola striker Manucho has a huge additional incentive to perform well at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.

The imposing 1,88m attacker knows that a stirring showing in Ghana will considerably ease his case for a work permit to England.

That slip of paper is the only thing stopping him taking up the offer of a three-year contract with Premiership champions Manchester United.

The 24-year-old made a major contribution to Angola's qualification for the January 20-February 10 Afcon, impressing United assistant manager Carlos Queiroz along the way.

He is lying atop the scoring charts in the Angolan domestic league and his national coach, Oliveira Goncalves, backs his move to Old Trafford, saying the 10-time capped player (with two goals) needs a more competitive league to hone his skills.

He was top goalscorer in the past two seasons of the Angolan league, finishing with 16 goals for Petro Luanda in 2006 and 15 goals this year.

l Yasser Al Qahtani (Saudi Arabia): Al Qahtani is a household name in parts of the Middle East and 2008 could be the year that the hotshot striker makes his presence known on the world stage. The Saudi Arabia captain was named Asian player of the year for 2007 and has attracted the interest of Manchester City where he is due to undergo a trial.

Al Qahtani, who plays for Saudi heavyweights Al Hilal, is not known as 'The Sniper' for nothing.

He has scored an impressive 44 goals in 55 internationals, including three at the Gulf Cup in 2007 and four at the Asian Cup, where he was joint top scorer and led his team to the final. - Sapa-AFP


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