Lisbon, June 19:
Within one game, Wayne Rooney and Antonio Cassano came of age. Within a few seconds, Marcel Desailly showed his. As the first round of Euro 2004 is slowly drawing to a close, new stars are emerging while older ones are dimming - fast. On the bright side, Cassano took the place of Italyâ€™s suspended star player Francesco Totti, his AS Roma teammate, and the 21-year old replied with a classy glancing header which put Italy ahead in 1-1 draw with Sweden on Friday. Rooney stood out on Thursday with a two-goal performance against Switzerland which also made the 18-year old the youngest scorer ever at the European championship, a competition going back to 1960.
The whole of Portugal hopes that Euro 2004 will provide the stage for 19-year-old Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Germany is backing teenager Bastian Schweinsteiger and Spain is hoping for a breakthrough from 20-year-old Fernando Torres.
The Dutch, as always, are flush with prodigies, and midfielder Wesley Sneijder, just 20, helped turn around the game against Germany, which ended in a 1-1 draw. The turnaround was all the more remarkable because Sneijder replaced 31-year-old Edgar Davids, a veteran who long was the heart and guts of the Dutch team. But nowhere was the cruelty of aging more evident than in the performance of French captain Desailly. Desailly had been struggling with injury coming into the tournament, but still got his starting job back for Thursdayâ€™s game against Croatia. But his stunning blunder, missing an easy ball in midair in his own penalty area, allowed Croatia Dado Prso to score and force a 2-2 draw.