Stars started shining in ‘99

There was certainly plenty on show when the tournament was held in Oceania for the first time, in New Zealand in 1999.
oceaniafootball.com takes a look at how some players who would go on to become household names performed down under 12 years ago and catches up with their progress in more recent months.
Mikel Arteta (Spain)
When on form, Arteta is one of the most exciting players in the English Premier League and has been a key player for Everton since arriving at the Merseyside club in 2005. But it was in Napier just before the turn of the century that he first came to the attention of the footballing public. In a disappointing result for a country blessed with such talent, Arteta could do little as Spain failed to make it out of the group stages but has gone on to carve out an impressive career as a creative midfielder. Despite being capped at all age-group levels, the 29-year-old has yet to make an appearance for the senior Spanish side and his skills have therefore been restricted to the domestic stage. Arteta started out as a trainee with Barcelona but never appeared for the first team and it took a move to Scotland with Rangers to kick start his career. After becoming a fans’ favourite in his two years at Ibrox, he moved home for a one-season spell at Real Sociedad before answering Everton’s call to return to Britain.
DaMarcus Beasley (USA)
Left winger Beasley joined Landon Donovan as one of the most eye-catching talents on show in New Zealand but was pipped to the golden ball by his United States team mate, whose career has also overshadowed Beasley’s in the years that have followed. After showing great form for Chicago Fire in the American MLS, the promising midfielder earned a big-money move in 2004 to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, where he became the first American to play in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. But he was loaned to Manchester City in 2006 after a disappointing second season and was sold to Scottish club Rangers a year later. Now plying his trade in Germany with Hannover 96, Beasley is closing in on 100 international caps and has scored 17 goals for his country.
Landon Donovan (USA)
The golden boy of United States football, Donovan was undoubtedly the star of the 1999 U-17 World Cup and was declared player of the tournament as his side finished fourth. The Los Angeles Galaxy man has since become an idol in his home country, producing several excellent performances at the FIFA World Cup finals, the biggest stage of them all. His goals in the 2010 edition made Donovan the highest scoring American in World Cup history and just the third to score in more than one World Cup. Donovan began his professional career at German club Bayer Leverkusen and has also had loan spells at Bayern Munich and Everton during his time with the Galaxy, where he is a team mate of superstar David Beckham.
Michael Essien (Ghana)
Tough-tackling Essien is one of the most familiar footballing faces in the world after starring for leading English club Chelsea over the past six years. Regarded by many as the best midfielder on the planet, The Bison – as he is nicknamed for his physical style – began his career in France with Bastia and Lyon but first came to prominence with the Ghana U-17s, who left New Zealand with the bronze medal after beating USA 2-0 in the 3rd/4th play-off. After winning back-to-back French titles with Lyon, Essien signed for Chelsea in 2005 for over £24.4 million after a long-running transfer saga. The massive fee made him the most expensive African footballer in history at the time, narrowly topping the figure Chelsea dished out for Didier Drogba the previous summer. He has been an important figure for the London-based team ever since, winning two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the League Cup along the way. He has over 50 caps for Ghana but missed last year’s World Cup in South Africa due to injury.
Thomas Hitzlsperger (Germany)
The midfielder is known as The Hammer for his powerful left-foot shot but didn’t get to use it much in Christchurch as Germany finished third in Group C after failing to win a match. That disappointment did not stop Hitzlsperger signing for Aston Villa the next year though and he went on to become a cult hero during his five years at the Midlands club. He then had a five-year spell in his homeland with VfB Stuttgart before returning to England with West Ham United via a short stint in Italy at Lazio. Despite signing a three-year contract on his arrival at West Ham, he has been granted a free transfer after the club’s recent relegation from the Premier League.
Tomasz Kuszczak (Poland)
The next English Premier League campaign will be make or break time for Polish custodian Kuszczak. The goalkeeping mantle that has eluded his grasp at Manchester United for the past four years is now up for grabs after the retirement of Dutch veteran Edwin van der Sar but Kuszczak may not be around to fight for it. The 29-year-old has stated he will leave Old Trafford if he is not first choice next season because his heart is set on a place in Poland’s Euro 2012 squad and he needs regular football to achieve that goal. He had a similar problem in Auckland in 1999, spending the entire tournament on the bench as understudy to Pawel Kapsa as Poland finished bottom of Group A. It was from that vantage point that Kuszczak watched New Zealand defeat his side 2-1 in their final pool match at North Harbour Stadium to earn the country’s first ever points at a FIFA event.
Pepe Reina (Spain)
The son of a former Barcelona goalkeeper, Reina initially followed in the footsteps of father Miguel by appearing between the sticks for the Catalan club but never established himself fully and moved to Villareal in 2002. His form there caught the eye of Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, who secured his signature and hailed him as ‘the best goalkeeper in Spain’. Benitez is now no longer in charge but Reina has remained a mainstay of the Liverpool defence and has made over 200 appearances for the Reds. He is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world but is unfortunate to be playing in the same era as Iker Casillas, who he has been forced to play second fiddle to for the Spanish national team. He won the 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup as a squad member but did not enjoy such success for the U-17s in Napier, packing his bags after the group stages as Spain put in an underwhelming showing.

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