Liverpool have teenage German striker Samed Yesil from under the noses of Arsenal. After the wunderkind’s masterclass in the art of foraging on last summer, Rodgers was clearly influenced to signing him up as soon as possible.
“I get stuck in where it hurts because I want to score goals. It doesn’t matter if I get kicked or fouled. The important thing is I score.” Sounds like my kind of striker, Samed Yesil, in conversation here with FIFA.com.
The young German has been certainly been getting stuck in at the U-17 World Cup in Mexico, adding yet more impressive stats to a career that already seems destined to be a prolific one.
Aside from grabbing 23 goals in 20 games for Bayer Leverkusen’s U-19 side last season, the perfectly proportioned centre-forward has now netted 19 times in 20 appearances for his country, including eight in qualifying for the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, three in the finals themselves and another six in the world finals, two of them against England in the last eight. Little wonder, then, his team-mates have dubbed the sturdy striker of Turkish extraction “Gerd”, after the greatest German finisher of them all.
I get stuck in where it hurts because I want to score goals. It doesn’t matter if I get kicked or fouled
With stats like that, the snobs of football might be tempted to label him one of those strikers who only scores goals, like there’s anything wrong with that. But there’s more to the new Bomber’s armoury than just hanging around in the box gobbling up chance after chance. There’s something Romario-like about him. Squat, explosive, brilliant on the ball and two-footed to boot, Yesil is a penalty-box opportunist who can create chances as well as score them, a point he’s proved serving up three assists for his team-mates in Mexico so far.
And, as he showed in Germany’s thrilling 3-2 semi-final defeat to the tournament hosts on Thursday night, young Yesil is also a coach’s dream, capable of adapting to any tactical formation and still carry a goal threat.
Against the Mexicans, Germany gaffer Steffen Freund has him playing as a lone striker in leg-sapping 34-degree heat, the sharpest of tips on a 4-1-4-1 formation. It’s clear from the opening minutes that he’s only going to be living off scraps while his team-mates attempt to neuter the hosts’ Barça-lite passing game. But of all the strikers on show in Mexico few have displayed Yesil’s ability to feast on the slimmest of pickings.
Freund’s Super Bubis are already one down by the time Yesil gets his first real touch of the ball, nine minutes in. It ends in a goal. Spiriting the ball away from centre-half Antonio Briseño’s toes, he takes a stride forward and drills home a low shot from outside the box.
A sumptuous floated pass into the path of an advancing team-mate follows, and then he’s off on an electrifying run from the middle of the Mexican half, taking the ball past three defenders and shooting just wide.
Yesil single-handedly keeping the Mexico rearguard occupied, the rest of the team can focus on stifling the home side’s fightback.
He should have a second goal five minutes before half-time. Peeling away from his markers, he latches onto a long lofted pass from Levent Aycicek and has only the advancing keeper to beat. Choosing to lob the ball with his right foot rather than take it round him, he sends his effort just past the post. Then, snatching possession again from the hapless Briseño on the left, he almost creates another chance.
It’s hard to imagine what more a striker can do on such little supply. And when he’s not causing Mexico’s central defenders headaches and taking them on at every turn, he’s tracking back to defend corners and pulling out wide to create space for Germany’s dangerous midfield runners. There’s no chasing lost causes though. It’s all about energy conservation in conditions like these.
A deft lay-off at the start of the second half almost sets up Aycicek, before Emre Can, another of Germany’s frighteningly talented young Turks, puts them ahead with a superb solo goal. Freund’s canny tactics appear to have paid off: with Yesil single-handedly keeping the Mexico rearguard occupied, the rest of the team can focus on stifling the home side’s fightback.
Out of the game for ten minutes as the pace drops, he collects the ball on the halfway line and switches play to the right flank with a classy crossfield pass to flying wing-back Mitchell Weiser. Mexico then force a scruffy equaliser from a corner, and as the heat and the hosts’ possession play start to take their toll, Yesil is increasingly marginalised. He’s still peeling off to the wing to win the ball, but the midfield support is drying up.
Gomez’s cracking bicycle-kick wins it for the hosts late on. A half-chance materialises for Yesil but keeper Sanchez is quickly off his line ... and grimacing as the striker leaves half a boot in. An ultimately frustrating afternoon ends with a snipe at the referee for blowing up too early, but there’s not much more “Gerd” could have done today. He hardly had a kick, and yet he almost had a hat-trick.
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