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FIFA U-20 World Cup

The Class of 2013

(FIFA.com)
Turkey 2013 graduates
© FIFA.com

Two years invariably proves a long time in football, but all the more so when your career is still in its infancy.

As such, the high-flyers from the last edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup are scaling the landscape of the game, and some of them have climbed an impressive way towards its summit. None more so than Turkey 2013 adidas Golden Ball winner Paul Pogba.

Since captaining France to victory in Istanbul, the commanding midfielder has gone from strength to strength. Three successive Italian Serie A titles at Juventus – including a double this season – have preceded arguably the pinnacle of his club career so far: the UEFA Champions League final.

Should he square up against Barcelona in Berlin there will be few doubting the 22-year-old's pedigree to be stood on that stage. His performances for Les Bleus at 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil earned him the Hyundai Young Player Award and firmly established him as one of globe's most promising players, one who is attracting some of the world's biggest sides.

"I am worth €0," he said, baulking at some of the seven-figure sums linked to his name. "I am worth nothing unless I work on the field in every single game. I want to be one of the best in the world and must do everything to reach that level. I hope for the Ballon d'Or in future, but I have a lot of work for that.”

His fellow French class-mates have also grown in stature. Kurt Zoumabroke into the Chelsea first team as part of their English Premier League title-winning side, while the likes of Geoffrey Kondogbia,Florian Thauvinand Lucas Digneare regulars for Monaco, Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain.

Pogba is not the only one to have reached the latter stages of the Champions League, or end the season a champion for that matter. Juan Bernatlargely flew under the radar when joining Bayern Munich a year ago, but the left-back now finds himself as one of Europe's most promising defenders. He has been a key figure under Pep Guardiola, and Valencia before that, as his intelligence and decisive breaks forward helped Bayern to German Bundesliga success.

Lighting up La Liga
His former team-mate Paco Alcacerhas continued his progress too, with a dramatic final-day winner sealing fourth place in Spain for Los Che – plus scoring three in five for the national side, while Carlo Ancelotti rates Real Madrid forward Jese as an “insane talent”.

Across the city from the Los Blancos attacker, a man at the other end has really been making waves. Jose Gimenez has shone at the back for Atletico Madrid, showing maturity beyond his tender 20 years. Coach Diego Simeone rated the Uruguayan's season as “extraordinary”. Having also made the cut for Uruguay's Brazil 2014 squad and won the league 12 months ago, it has been quite the year.

However, in terms of breakthrough seasons, England's Harry Kane's is hard to beat. The U-20 World Cup was not a happy hunting ground for him or his fellow compatriots, but 2014/15 has been the polar opposite, with the Tottenham Hotspur striker netting 30 goals in all competitions.

So impressive has his year been that he even beat the likes of Sergio Aguero into the PFA Team of the Season – voted for by players in England – as well as clinching the young player award. “He could go on to become a great goalscorer for Tottenham and possibly England as well,” said Gary Lineker, an iconic player for both.

Alongside him in white, the Everton duo of John Stones and Ross Barkley have broken into the England squad, while the latter was in tow as England fell at the first hurdle in Brazil. Faring better in that respect was Colombia's Juan Quintero, who after shining in 2013 got his chance a year later, even scoring on his World Cup debut against Côte d’Ivoire.

This year has already seen a selection of graduates impressing on the international stage, too. The Iraq squad who finished third in the AFC Asian Cup peppered with those on show in Turkey. Dhurgham Ismael played every minute of that run, while Ali Adnan – something of a revelation two years ago – also made five appearances.

While in Africa, Baba Rahmanand Frank Acheampongwent one better. The former played all of Ghana's six games on the way to a CAF Africa Cup of Nations silver medal for the pair.

The Copa America and CONCACAF Gold Cup will likely bring more exposure for some of those on show two years ago, you can be sure that the Class of 2015 will put forward more stars for football's biggest stages.

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