World Football

Happy Birthday to you!

Belgium national football team's coach Marc Wilmots attends a press conference

In our regular Sunday feature, presents you with some of the biggest names in football who will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.

16. Diego Godin (28) has established himself as a lynchpin of the Uruguayan defence over the past few years, playing a key role in La Celeste’s *unexpected run to the semi-finals *of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ and in their successful qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014. The robust centre-back had previously competed at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, where the Uruguayans finished fourth, and at the 2007 and 2011 Copa America tournaments, emerging victorious from the latter event. Godin began his career in his homeland with Cerro and Nacional, before exporting his talents to Spanish side Villarreal. Since joining Atletico Madrid in 2010, the tough-tackling South American has added the Copa del Rey, UEFA Europa League title and UEFA Super Cup to his footballing CV.

17. Sergei Baltacha (56) took part in Spain 1982 with the USSR, scoring a goal against New Zealand and reaching the second round. Six years later, the cultured defender graced the final of UEFA EURO 1988 versus the Netherlands. Earlier in his international career, the Ukraine-born centre-half had lifted the inaugural FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1977 and secured a bronze medal at the Olympic Football Tournament at Moscow 1980. After starting out at Dynamo Kiev, where he collected five Soviet League titles, three Soviet Cups, three Soviet Super Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup, Baltacha starred for Ipswich Town, St. Johnstone and Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

18. Gary Neville (39) appeared for England at France 1998 and Germany 2006, as well as at the UEFA European Championships of 1996, 2000 and 2004. A product of Manchester United’s youth system, the tireless right-back spent 19 seasons as a first-team regular at Old Trafford, claiming eight English Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two English League Cups, three FA Community Shields, two UEFA Champions League crowns, an Intercontinental Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup. Since hanging up his boots, Neville has moved into coaching, taking up a support role in the England national set-up under Roy Hodgson in May 2012.

19. Gianluca Zambrotta (37)was part of the Italian XI that lifted the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany, where he played in six matches and scored against Ukraine in the quarter-final. The versatile full-back also participated in Korea/Japan 2002, South Africa 2010, the 2009 Confederations Cup, the European Championships of 2002, 2004 and 2008, and the 2000 Olympic Football Tournament in Sydney. Zambrotta turned professional with Como, before turning out for Bari and Juventus, where he earned winners’ medals in two Serie A campaigns, two Italian Super Cups and the UEFA Intertoto Cup. The Italian defender’s fine performances attracted the interest of Barcelona, with whom he landed the Spanish Super Cup and finished on the losing side of the 2006 Club World Cup final. A return to Italy saw him clinch another Italian League title and Italian Super Cup with AC Milan. He then joined Swiss club Chiasso, his final stop-off before retirement.

20. Artur Boruc (34) was Poland’s last line of defence at Germany 2006 and EURO 2008. Following a successful start to his goalkeeping career with Pogon Siedlce and Legia Warsaw, he put pen to paper with Scottish giants Celtic, with whom he bagged three Scottish Premier League titles, a Scottish Cup and two Scottish League Cups. The Polish shot-stopper subsequently moved to Fiorentina, prior to committing himself to Southampton in 2012.

21. David Odonkor (30) contributed to Germany’s strong showing on home soil at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where the hosts finished third. The speedy winger also made an appearance at UEFA EURO 2008, where Germany lost to Spain in the final. At club level, he made a name for himself at Borussia Dortmund, winning a Bundesliga title in 2002, before going on to pull on the jerseys of Real Betis, Alemannia Aachen and Ukrainian team Hoverla Uzhhorod. Forced to retire through injury, Odonkor recently embarked on a coaching career with German outfit SC Verl.

22. Marc Wilmots (45) was a mainstay of the Belgium team that qualified for three successive World Cups, in 1994, 1998, where he found the net on two occasions, and 2002, where he scored three times and wore the captain’s armband. The dynamic attacking midfielder also appeared at EURO 2000, a competition jointly organised by Belgium and the Netherlands. Wilmots started off at Sint-Truiden, prior to winning the Belgian League title and the European Super Cup with Mechelen. He subsequently enjoyed fruitful spells at Standard Liege, where he hoisted the Belgian Cup, and Schalke, where he held aloft the DFB-Pokal and UEFA Cup. In addition, he spent one season with Bordeaux, an experience sandwiched in the middle of two separate stints with the Gelsenkirchen-based club. After bringing the curtain down on his playing career, he became assistant coach at Schalke and then at Sint-Truiden. In 2009, he joined the Belgian national side’s backroom staff, and took charge in his own right in 2012. He recently oversaw Les Diables Rouges’ outstanding qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014.

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