World Football

Happy Birthday to you!

New Liverpool signing Raul Meireles poses with a shirt
© Getty Images

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. Edison Mendez(35) played a crucial role in Ecuador’s qualification for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, the first time the South American nation had appeared on football’s greatest stage. The explosive attacking midfielder did not disappoint at the tournament proper, scoring the winning goal in his country’s final group stage game versus Croatia. Four years later at Germany 2006, he and his team-mates surprised many by reaching the knockout phase, and the set-piece specialist went on to play in four of La Tri’s matches during their successful qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014. A stalwart of the national set-up, Mendez also appeared in four consecutive Copa Americas (2001-2011), and in one CONCACAF Gold Cup. After starring for Deportivo Quito and El Nacional in his homeland, he tried his luck in Mexico, pulling on the jerseys of Irapuato and Santos Laguna. A return to Ecuador saw him earn a league winners’ medal with Liga de Quito. He moved to PSV Eindhoven in 2006, where he won the Dutch title, but subsequently retraced his steps and lifted the Copa Sudamericana with Liga de Quito. The evergreen Ecuadorian then enjoyed spells at Atletico Mineiro, Emelec and Liga de Quito – for a third time – before recently committing himself to Colombian outfit Santa Fe.

17. Raul Meireles(31) has established himself as a lynchpin of the Portuguese national side over the past few years, competing at South Africa 2010 and in the arduous qualifying process for Brazil 2014. The dominant midfield man had previously taken part in the UEFA European Championships of 2008 and 2012, the UEFA European U-16 Championship, the UEFA European U-21 Championship and the Olympic Football Tournament at Athens 2004. After coming through the ranks at Boavista, Meireles rose to prominence at Porto, where he secured four Portuguese League titles, three Portuguese Super Cups and an Intercontinental Cup. His performances piqued the interest of Liverpool, but he would only remain at Anfield for one season before putting pen to paper with Chelsea, with whom he hoisted the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League trophy. The Portuguese international joined Fenerbahce in 2012, and lifted the Turkish Cup the following year.

18. Mana Iwabuchi(21) tasted football success with Japan at a young age, winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ and claiming a silver medal at the 2012 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in London, both while still a teenager. She also participated in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2008, where the then 15-year-old was awarded the adidas Golden Ball for her fine displays. In addition, the dynamic forward appeared at the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship, where she finished top scorer and was recognised as the contest’s best player. At club level, Iwabuchi landed three Japanese L.League crowns, three Japanese League Cups and two Empress’ Cups with Beleza. She signed for German club Hoffenheim in early 2013.

19. Jose Cardozo(43) was part of the Paraguay team that qualified for France 1998, 12 years after La Albirroja’s previous appearance at the FIFA World Cup. The clinical striker also played at Korea/Japan 2002, as well as at the 2004 Olympic Games – where he reached the final, scoring five goals along the way – and at two successive Copa America tournaments. Cardozo turned professional at Paraguayan outfit River Plate, prior to exporting his goalscoring skills to Swiss club St. Gallen. A return to South American football saw him wear the colours of Chilean giants Universidad Catolica and then Paraguayan powerhouses Olimpia, with whom he clinched a national championship. He then moved to Toluca, where he sealed four Mexican League titles, a CONCACAF Champions League crown and a South American Player of the Year award. After a loan stint at Cruz Azul, the Paraguayan attacker enjoyed one final venture with Argentinian side San Lorenzo. Since hanging up his boots, he has turned his hand to coaching, taking charge at Olimpia, Queretaro (Mexico), Sportivo Luqueno (Paraguay) and Toluca.

20. Eiji Kawashima(31) has been the Japanese No1 for several years now, performing ably between the sticks at South Africa 2010 and at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, as well as lifting the AFC Asian Cup in 2011. In 2003, he took part in the U-20 World Cup with the Samurai Blue. The charismatic goalkeeper began his career at Omiya Ardija, before earning a transfer to Nagoya Grampus Eight and then to Kawasaki Frontale. He moved to Belgium in 2010, initially plying his trade for Lierse. Standard Liege acquired his shot-stopping services in 2012.

21. Jordi Alba(25) is regarded as one of Europe’s top full-backs, a status which has seen him cement his place in Spain’s starting line-up in recent years. Consequently, he has experienced considerable international success with La Roja, *triumphing at EURO 2012 and reaching the final of the 2013 Confederations Cup. The energetic Spaniard also played at the 2012 Olympic Football Tournament and the 2009 U-20 World Cup. A youth player at Barcelona, UC Cornella and subsequently Valencia, Alba spent three seasons with *Los Che's *first team, *having previously impressed during a loan spell with Tarragona-based Gimnastic. Since signing for Barcelona in 2012, the composed defender has added a Liga Championship and Spanish Supercup to his footballing CV.

22. Linda Ormen(37) has twice been selected for Norway’s FIFA Women’s World Cup squads, in 1999, where her country finished fourth, and in 2003. She also appeared at the 2001 UEFA Women’s Championship, but her adventure would again come to an end at the semi-final stage following a defeat by eventual champions Germany.

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