Happy birthday to you!
In our regular Sunday feature, FIFA.com presents you with some of the biggest names in football who will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.
Lee Dong-Gook (33) has enjoyed a long and eventful career. The Korea Republic striker won the AFC Asian Club Championship in 1998 with Pohang Steelers, in his very first season as a professional. After spells in Europe with Werder Bremen and Middlesbrough, Lee finished top scorer in last year’s AFC Champions League, his nine goals helping Jeonbuk Motors to a place in the final, where they lost in a penalty shoot-out to Qatari side Al Sadd. His 16 goals were also crucial to Jeonbuk’s K-League winning season in 2011. Lee has taken part in two FIFA World Cups™, at France 1998 and South Africa 2010, and was a member of the South Korean side at the 2000, 2004 and 2007 AFC Asian Cups, finishing leading scorer in the first of those competitions, in Lebanon.
John O'Shea (31) spent ten trophy-laden seasons at Manchester United, winning five Premier League titles (2003, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011), one FA Cup (2004), three League Cups (2006, 2009 and 2010) and four Community Shields (2003, 2007, 2008 and 2010). The reliable defender also won the UEFA Champions League in 2008, followed by the FIFA Club World Cup later that year. The Irishman only moved on in search of more first-team playing time at the start of this season, to Sunderland, where he has slotted in nicely alongside another former United defender, Wes Brown.
Oliver Bierhoff (44) became a legend of the German game when he fired two goals, including a golden goal winner, to help the Mannschaft defeat Czech Republic 2-1 in the final of UEFA EURO 1996. Bierhoff came close to the ultimate prize too, forming part of the German squads that went out at the quarter-final stage at France 1998 and fell at the last hurdle at Korea/Japan 2002, losing 2-0 to Brazil in the Final. The target man enjoyed a club career that took in a number of teams, including Hamburg, Borussia Monchengladbach, Salzburg, Ascoli, Udinese and AC Milan, with whom he won a Scudetto in 1999. A season at Monaco in the French League was followed by a final spell in Italy at Chievo Verona. Since retiring as a player, Bierhoff has spent a successful period as a manager of the German national side, assisting coach Joachim Low with off-field duties.
Tiago (31) has been a key member of the Portugal sides that have performed so well at international competitions over the past decade. At Germany 2006, the talented midfielder helped the Portuguese to fourth place. He scored twice in the 7-0 win over Korea DPR at South Africa 2010 as Os Navegadores again made it out of a tough group only to lose to eventual winners Spain at the Round of 16 stage. Tiago came closest to glory at EURO 2004 on home soil, when Portugal lost the final 1-0 to Greece. After winning a Portuguese Cup for Benfica, the midfielder was snapped up by Chelsea, where he enjoyed a fabulous 2004/05 season, winning the Premier League, League Cup and Community Shield. He lost his place the following year and moved on to Lyon in France, with whom he won two French league titles, in 2006 and 2007, plus two Trophees des Champions, in 2005 and 2006. Tiago’s European odyssey next took him to Spain, and a move to Atletico Madrid in 2009. Success again came his way, as Los Colchoneros won the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Super Cup in 2010. He is now hoping for a second Europa League triumph, with Atletico set to face Athletic Bilbao on 9 May in the final.
Ezequiel Lavezzi (27) is a hot striking property right now, having put in a string of excellent performances for Napoli both in Serie A and the UEFA Champions League. Lavezzi first rose to prominence in his native country Argentina, where his goals helped San Lorenzo win the 2007 Clausura. A move to Napoli followed, where he has been an instrumental figure in the side’s return to the upper reaches of Italian and European competition. Napoli won a UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2008, made it into the Round of 16 of the Champions League this season and are now aiming for a return to Europe’s elite club competition as well as victory in the final of the Coppa Italia against Juventus. Lavezzi won Olympic gold with Argentina at Beijing 2008 but was not part of La Albiceleste's squad at South Africa 2010. The quick-footed forward was called up for Argentina’s ill-fated campaign at the 2011 Copa America on home soil.
Cesc Fabregas (25) already has an impressive collection of medals. On the international scene with Spain, he won the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa just two years after lifting the EURO 2008 trophy. A third-placed finish at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup was sandwiched between those two triumphs. Fabregas was the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe winner at the FIFA U-17 World Championship Finland 2003, where Spain finished up losing 1-0 to Brazil in the Final. A product of Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, Fabregas moved to Arsenal in September 2003, becoming the club’s youngest ever first-team player, aged 16 years and 177 days. A Community Shield in 2004 and an FA Cup triumph in 2005 were preludes to an appearance in the UEFA Champions League final in 2006, where Arsenal lost to Barcelona. Despite being named the Gunners' club captain in 2008, Fabregas was finally tempted back to Barcelona at the end of last season. Since then, he has won a Spanish Super Cup, a UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011. Though Barcelona were recently knocked out of the Champions League and are seemingly destined to finish second in La Liga, Fabregas will be hoping to win the Copa del Rey against Athletic Bilbao on 25 May.
Tsepo Masilela (27) had the honour of participating with his native South Africa in a FIFA World Cup on home soil, in 2010. The defender played in all of his country’s matches as Bafana Bafana beat France but failed to qualify for the Round of 16. He also took part in the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009, where the hosts finished fourth, and the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 2006 and 2008. After four seasons in Israel with Maccabi Haifa, the left-back moved to Getafe on loan at the start of this season.
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