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Players to watch at Egypt '09
by Paul Kennedy, September 24th, 2009 7AM



[UNDER-20 WORLD CUP] Jozy Altidore and Freddy Adu are not in Egypt. Nor is Brazil's Alexandre Pato. Or Spain's Bojan Krkic. Or Italy's Davide Santon. The Under-20 World Cup will kick off Thursday without many of the best players eligible for FIFA's oldest world youth championship.

For the first time since the 2003 tournament, which was played in late fall in the United Arab Emirates, the U-20 World Cup will be played during the European league season. As a result, the best players on Europe's top teams -- England, Germany, Italy and Spain -- will remain with their clubs, as well as European-based players on most non-European teams.

When you also consider that six-time champion Argentina did not qualify, Egypt '09 shapes up as the most open under-20 tournament in recent years.

Here's a look at some of the stars who will on display ...

SERGIO ASENJO (Spain). Considered the top young goalie in Spain, Asenjo is already a starter at Atletico Madrid and the heir apparent to Iker Casillas on the national team.

DOUGLAS COSTA (Brazil). The playmaker has often been compared to Ronaldinho and is the most highly touted on a team comprised entirely of Brazilian-based players. Manchester United is reported to covet Douglas Costa at the right price. He has been outstanding in infrequent spells with Gremio, but the Porto Alegre club has placed a $30 million price tag on him.

JAMIE HOLLAND (Australia). The 20-year-old midfielder is one of the few players at Egypt '09 to have played at the senior national team level. Holland played for the Socceroos in their successful World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign. He joined Dutch champion AZ from the Newcastle Jets in January.

RABIU IBRAHIM (Nigeria). The 18-year-old midfielder helped Nigeria win the 2007 Under-17 World Cup in South Korea and will be one of the key players for the Flying Eagles in Egypt. He spent last season in Sporting Lisbon's youth academy but has been loaned this season to Portuguese third division club Real SC. After the U-20 World Cup, he could join Nigeria's national team, which finds itself in a tight race for a berth in the 2010 World Cup.

VLADIMIR KOMAN (Hungary). Born in Ukraine and raised in Hungary, he made his Serie A debut for Sampdoria at the age of 18. He has since been loaned out, first to Avellino last season and more recently to Bari, where he will spend the 2009-10 season. Koman is part of a promising Hungarian team that was a semifinalist at the 2008 European U-19 championships.

RANSFORD OSEI (Ghana). Won the Golden Ball (MVP) and Golden Shoe (top scorer) as the leading scorer at the 2009 African Youth Championship, which the Black Satellites won. He has bounced around clubs since leaving Kessben at the age of 17. He was denied work permit to play for Poland's Legia Warsaw and recently joined Dutch club FC Twente on loan from Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv.

MOHAMED TALAAT (Egypt). The pressure will be on Talaat and the other young Pharoahs when they open the tournament Thursday in Alexandria. A sellout crowd of 80,000 is expected. Talaat played briefly in the United Arab Emirates before joining Al Ahly last season. The 20-year-old forward has been compared to national team star Mido for his talent -- and moodiness.


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