Pedro timing rise in time for World Cup call

MADRID - If France captain Thierry Henry lacks match fitness at the World Cup finals this year, it is because he has been consigned to the bench by the rise of his Barcelona team-mate Pedro.

The 22-year-old came up through the Barca youth ranks, scored his first goal for the European champions in August and has gone on to earn himself a regular place alongside Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

On top of that, an impressive 16 goals in all competitions will make it hard for Spain coach Vicente del Bosque to ignore the Canary Islander when he names his squad for South Africa next month.

Pedro is a versatile and pacy attacker who can play wide on either wing, through the middle as a striker, is confident dribbling or shooting with both feet and has an infectious enthusiasm for the game.

He opened his account for Barcelona, scoring against Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup first leg at San Mames, after which the Catalans rewarded him with a new five-year contract with a 75 million euro buyout clause.

He quickly repaid their faith and after they won the Spanish Super Cup, Pedro then bagged the extra-time winner for Barca against Shakhtar Donetsk in the European Super Cup.

BIG-GAME PLAYER

Pedro went on to find the net in La Liga, in the King's Cup and the Champions League before completing the remarkable feat of scoring in six separate competitions, hitting the final goal against Atlante that added the Club World Cup to Barca's bulging trophy cabinet in December.

Any doubts that he may struggle in big games must surely have been erased by the composed finish he pulled off to score against Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas at the Bernabeu earlier this month.

He topped that with another strike in a high-pressure environment, netting Barca's only goal in their 3-1 Champions League semi-final first leg defeat away to Inter Milan at the San Siro.

A Spain call-up beckons, and Del Bosque can be sure the presence of Barca team mates Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol, will help smooth his adaptation to the national set-up if he were selected.

"I think he deserves it," Pique told a news conference on Monday. "He has proved he is an important player in the Barca side and he has scored a lot of vital goals. He could be an important player for Spain if selected."

Henry would probably agree.

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