The World Cup is truly a special event, and one thing that makes it even more special is the springing up of new talent and potential into the world stage that will fortify these young players reputation as “World Class”. World Class can be simplified in this article to a player that has consistently performed well at the World Stage for club and country.
The Russia 2018 World Cup is another opportunity for these young starlets to shine and put the world on notice. Here is a list of the young talents under 23 that are likely to shine at the World Cup.
1. Ousmane Dembele France 21
Barcelona’s winger Dembele is one player that if he gets the nod to start for France at the World Cup, can potentially wreak havoc in opposition defences. He operates majorly from the right flank or as a right forward. He is a two-footed player with skill, trickery and pace to threaten defenders constantly. Dembele moved from Dortmund to Barcelona in 2017 for a fee of €105 Million to replace Neymar. However he suffered early setbacks due to injury and he will be looking to give his career a huge jump by performing at the World Cup. The one weakness Dembele has is immaturity, which is perfectly normal for a player his age at the world stage.
2. Kylain Mbappe France 19
Kylian Mbbape is easily one of hottest prospects in world football at the moment. He burst into the scene with an extremely phenomenal season for Monaco in the 2016/2017 season where he scored 26 goals in 44 appearances including six in the Champions League as his team made it to the Semi-Finals. Mbappe then moved to French giants Paris Saint-Germain on an initial loan with a deal to join the club permanently for a whopping €180 Million fee.
Mbappe has already made 15 appearances for France with four goals in return. He’s incredible pace, trickery and fantastic finishing reminds football fans of Thierry Henry and he will likely start for France. He is the most high profile name on this list and I expect great things from him this World Cup.
3. Marcus Rashford England 20
Rashford is the biggest young sensation in the English National team. The Manchester United Striker first commanded global attention with a memorable two goal performance against Arsenal in 2016. Rashford already has 78 Premier League appearances for Manchester United and 19 appearances for the Three Lions with three goals in return. He is likely to be an impact player in England’s rotation barring any major surprises but his pace and directness will be dangerous for teams at the World Cup.
4. Rodrigo Bentancur Uruguay 20
Uruguay’s promising prospect Bentancur has a chance to really flourish at the World Cup in Russia. The Juventus man occupies the wide right midfield in their system but tends to push up to join in the attack. Benancur moved from Boca Juniors to Juventus in 2017 and has made 20 league appearances. Bentancur is hardworking, very versatile with the ability to use either foot, he can occupy all the midfield positions and has good technique and intelligence to create opportunities for his teammates. If Uruguay has a successful campaign – Bentancur will be one of the key players to propel them forward.
5. Goncalo Guedes Portugal 21
Portuguese winger Guedes is a promising winger that rose to the limelight in Benfica and was bought by Paris Saint-Germain for €30 Million in January 2017. He spent last season on loan at Valencia where he scored five goals in 33 appearances. Guedes is highly experienced at youth level for Portugal with over 50 caps across all levels for his country. Guedes made is senior team debut for Portugal at age 18 and has made 10 appearances and scored three goals in the process. Portugal adopts a 4-4-2 but it is highly unlikely Guedes will start in the system but he will have a role to play at this year’s World Cup.
6. Lucas Torreira Uruguay 22
Uruguayan combative defensive midfielder is playing his club football in Sampdoria in the Italian league. The tenacious 5’6 midfielder has had over 50 appearances for his Serie A side and comes up with vital goals when needed, most notably against Juventus in Sampdoria’s 3 – 2 victory in November. Torreira fits the system Uruguay’s coach Oscar Tabarez plays with two holding midfielders at the centre of the park who are aggressive and high octave. Torreira isn’t just a bull dog on the pitch but also possesses significant amount of skill and technique for a combative midfielder.
7. Marco Asensio Spain 22
Real Madrid attacking midfielder Asensio is one of the most highly rated youngsters that will grace the World Cup in Russia. The attacking midfielders creativity, pace and finishing are his most cherished assets. He notably likes to cut in to take shot on his favourite left foot. Asensio has already made 12 appearances for Spain and will come off the bench to make an impact for Spain at the World Cup.
8. Alex Iwobi Nigeria 22
Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi is already a National team star for the Super Eagles and is the most creative player in the Nigerian team. Iwobi’s goal against Zambia was enough to secure Nigeria a place at the World Cup in Russia. He already has 19 appearances for Super Eagles and has scored five goals in return. The attacking midfielder is creative, possesses good pace and good finishing ability. He will be Nigeria’s key man in the tournament and if Nigeria is to advance far, then he will have to be stellar.
9. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Serbia 23
Milinkovic-Savic is one of the oldest players on the list and he is a dynamite in the Serie A for Lazio. The midfielder is 6’4 and will occupy an attacking midfield position for Serbia in the World Cup although he can play at the centre midfield slot and other numerous positions in midfield. He won the FIFA Under 20 World Cup with Serbia in 2015 and he will be looking to replicate that for his country at senior level. Savic is an incredible physical presence but has very good technique for his size, he is a willing passer and has a capable shot technique. I personally believe Savic will have a standout World Cup and might not remain at Lazio after the World Cup in Russia.
10. Joshua Kimmich Germany 23
German football fans know a lot about Kimmich – the next Phillip Lahm. He plays as a right back but has the versatility to play at centre midfielder and even in the attacking zones. He has a lot of experience at international level for his youthful age with 29 appearances for the German side. His creativity and goal scoring even from a right back position will be critical for Germany if they want another World Cup triumph. He is also capable in defensive situations with very timely tackles and defensive awareness.
Read » These ten young footballers are ready to light up the #WorldCup2018 on YNaija
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