How I fell in love with… Mudryk, Obafemi and Gnonto (episode 15)

Sometimes all it takes is one action to fall in love with a player. Here are three who made our little hearts beat faster during this batch of Nations League matches: the Italian Wilfried Gnonto, the Ukrainian Mykhaylo Mudryk and the Irishman Michael Obafemi.

Wilfried Gnonto (Italy)

The action that made us succumb
It only took Wilfried Gnonto five short minutes to put the Boot at his feet. Bologna, Renato Dall’Ara stadium, Saturday June 4, 2022, Italy-Germany. The stage is set. It is idyllic. It has therefore only been three hundred seconds since Wilfried Gnonto trod a lawn with the jersey of the Nazionale. In the heart of Emilia-Romagna, Gnonto relieved Matteo Politano and already hurt Thilo Kehrer for the first time, his vis-à-vis, before burying him once and for all in the 70e minute of play. On the right side, the overflow of the 18-year-old kid is overwhelming. Kehrer lays down his arms quickly, Manuel Neuer ends on his knees when he sees that Gnonto’s cross is served to the millimeter for Lorenzo Pellegrini. Italy opens the scoring, Germany will equalize in stride to snatch the draw (1-1). Ten days later, for the second round largely won this time by the National Mannschaft (5-2) in Wolfsburg, Gnonto nevertheless manages to unlock his counter to save what remains of the honor of his selection. Proof, perhaps, that this kid is not just a shooting star.

why it’s so exciting
Quite simply because there are not many 18-year-old Italian kids, attacking 1.70m tall, who are capable of such a first within a selection capable of winning the Euro and then wallowing in the face to North Macedonia. Because a talented kid who decided to leave Italy and Inter’s Primavera, not even 17, to go and get a pro contract in Zurich, Switzerland, testifies to the deep evil of Serie A in trusting its young. In the end, Gnonto returns to the country like a prince: he has already accumulated nearly 2000 minutes of play in two years with FC Zurich, scored 8 league goals in the last exercise, and his club even nabbed the national crown. thirteen years after the last. The kind of early career you want to follow closely.

And where does he come from?
Wilfried Gnonto was born in Baveno, not far from Verbania, in Piedmont, a town bordering the sublime Lake Maggiore. It is here that her parents, Boris and Chantal, immigrated from the Ivory Coast a few years earlier. As traced The Gazzetta dello Sport, Wilfried hit his first balls in the local club before joining the Suno club, which was affiliated with Inter at the time. That’s how Wilfried ended up with the Nerazzurri, well helped by his parents forced to do more than 100 kilometers round trip when their offspring was still too young to live alone in the capital of fashion. Wilfried comes from afar, but his destiny is to reach the very top.


Mykhaylo Mudryk (Ukraine)

The action that made us capsize
Scoring his first goal in his first match for the national team is the mark of the greatest. This is why Mykhaylo Mudryk will be one of the greatest. Last May 11, lined up in a friendly match against Borussia Mönchengladbach, for what is the first match of the Ukrainian selection after the Russian invasion, the virtuoso of Shakhtar Donetsk scores on his first ball, from the 9e minute. In a particular context where Ukraine are looking to prepare for their World Cup qualifier against Scotland, he finds the net on a sublime opening from Sydorchuk by beating an early exit from the goalkeeper and chaining control of the right foot then strikes with the left. A little surprised, the 21-year-old player, who has matured a lot in recent weeks, is content to open his arms, before jumping up, clenching his fist. A celebration worthy of FIFA.

why it’s so exciting
Because Mudryk is not only the quasi-homonym of the 2018 Ballon d’Or. The skilful left winger has made a name for himself in just 23 games with Shakhtar, to the point of being voted the best player in the game. year 2021. The one nicknamed the Ukrainian Neymar, with his dribbling skills worthy of the Brazilian joga bonito and his quality of passing, also has the neat look of a future world number one, with mid-length hair dyed in blonde tight with a headband. And although he only had his first selection with Ukraine during this period of war, the kid born in 2001 did not miss the opportunity to assert himself as the reference on the left wing of the Zbirna. Especially when it was necessary to take the reins of the Ukrainian attack after the failure against Wales which deprived a bereaved nation of a qualification for the World Cup. Never mind, the young Mykhaylo Mudryk will defend his homeland differently and continue to clash Putin on his social networks. “It doesn’t look like the weather is good today” he laughed on May 9 when Russia used the pretext of capricious weather to justify that no plane parades during the national holiday. “I want all the audience I have on social media to listen to me, so that people know the truth, perceive real information instead of twisted propaganda” he insisted in an interview for Shakhtar. A committed player on and off the field, that is who Mykhaylo Mudryk is.

And where does he come from?
A native of Krasnohrad in the Kharkiv region, the young Mykhaylo Mudryk was trained from the age of 9 at Metalist Kharkiv, a major club in the region that knows how to cajole its geniuses, as it proved last year by hosting the talent of the former Lyonnais Farès Bahlouli. In a Ukraine where clubs come and go, his training club disappeared in 2016 (before resurrecting in 2021 under the name of Metal Kharkiv). Like any kid sufficiently gifted with his feet in eastern Ukraine, he joined Shakhtar Donetsk at the age of 15, then exiled to Kharkiv following the Donbass War. After two successive loans to Arsenal Kyiv and Desna Chirnihiv, the prodigy can finally taste the joys of donning Shakhtar’s famous orange tunic. Empowered by the arrival on the bench of Roberto De Zerbi, who has made it his mission to advance the man he considers to be “one of the best young people in Europe” he single-handedly eliminated AS Monaco in the Champions League play-off by provoking Rúben Aguilar’s own goal, then changed dimension on November 3, 2021, when he made Real Madrid’s right-back Dani dizzy. Carvajal. “Mudryk is our Vinícius Juniorsaid the sports director of Shakhtar Darijo Srna before the meeting. There are few players with such qualities. We work with him day and night, and he has changed a lot lately. » Despite Madrid’s victory that night (2-1), Mykhaylo came out to the cheers of the Bernabéu connoisseur audience. A few weeks later, as he seeks to leave his country at war despite his military obligations, he could play the Champions League again, this time under the tunic of Bayer Leverkusen, who, not insensitive to the charm of this pretty blond , is about to take off for good his career.

Michael Obafemi (Ireland)

The action that made us melt
The advantage with thrill players is that they can shine several times in the same encounter. This Saturday, Michael Obafemi did not hesitate to seduce his world during the neighbors’ party between his native Ireland and Scotland, at the Aviva Stadium. Aesthetes were able to fall under the spell of the boy at the 28e minute, when he launched into a number 35 meters from the opposing goal, chaining a hook behind his supporting leg to eliminate his vis-à-vis and a wonderful aerial opening towards his attacking partner Troy Parrott , author of the 2-0 goal for the Boys in Green. That’s all ? No, Obafemi gave the cover after returning from the locker room to celebrate his first tenure in the selection in the best possible way. How ? Going behind a fight in midfield to recover the ball and unleash an overpowered praline leaving poor Craig Gordon on the butt. A master class stopped five minutes later because of a nasty injury. Not a problem, the charm had already worked anyway.

why it’s so exciting
Already, because it is always pleasant to discover a future dragster of the Premier League before it settles there definitively. Be careful, Obafemi, 22 next month, was able to bite into a few meetings of the English elite when the young striker was doing his range in Southampton (2016-2021). A tasteless first appearance against Tottenham in 2018, an assist against Manchester United at the end of that same year and a few outstanding pawns, like against Chelsea or especially against these same Red Devils in July 2020 when he planted three minutes after coming into play to offer the point of a draw to the Saints. The typical beginnings of the crack that could have been lost after a white season, marked by physical glitches. Yes, but the boy has a good head and his exile to Swansea, in the Championship, was beneficial to him with a dantesque last quarter (11 goals, 3 assists). Another thing: Obafemi is a huge fan of Thierry Henry and Ian Wright, a good supporter of Arsenal. It promises.

And where does he come from?
Fate is sometimes teasing, that of Obafemi led him straight to Ireland. On July 6, 2000, little Michael decided to come into the world earlier than expected, while his mother was visiting his sister in Dublin, where he spent the first days of his life. His childhood, on the other hand, he spent on the other side of the sea, in England, and more precisely in London. There, the striker scoured the English clubs, from Chelsea to Watford, before spending a year without football to concentrate on studies, a wish of his mother. Still, the guy was quick to return to football, packing his bags at Leyton Orient and then Southampton. England… then Wales, with his departure to Swansea: “The first day I drove to the training ground, there were sheep on the side of the road. I understood at that moment that I was really in Wales” . Obafemi says he had a click at the start of 2022 and his performances led him to return to the Irish selection almost four years after celebrating his first cap against Denmark in November 2018. Last month, coach Stephen Kenny came to see him sign two assists against Bournemouth at the Liberty Stadium, with a nice gift: “He bought me the new Ireland shirt with my name on the back. I felt that he wanted me to be with them. . He gave it back to her, while waiting for the sequel.

By Anna Carreau, Andrea Chazy and Clément Gavard

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