The 2022 FIFA World Cup is finally upon us now with just a few days left for the grand spectacle to unfold. All eyes will be on Qatar as some of the best players in the world proudly represent their respective nations while competing for the ultimate prize in world football – The Jules Rimet Trophy.
While many superstars such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Thiago Silva will be looking to win their first ever World Cup trophy in what could be their last World Cup appearance, there are a lot of up and coming young footballers who would be making their World Cup debut this November, and there is no better platform to showcase their talent on the global stage.
Let’s take a look at the 10 young players to watch at this world cup.
10. Kaoru Mitoma – Japan
One of the most exciting talents to emerge out of Asia in recent times, Kaoru Mitoma is a phenomenally talented young winger, currently plying his trade for Brighton in the English Premier League. The well-built yet incredibly quick winger has seen a remarkable rise over the past year, and has forced himself into Brighton’s starting lineup now with some exceptional performances of late. His biggest asset is his extremely skilful dribbling technique, which helps him breeze past hapless defenders as if they don’t exist.
Mitoma had a brilliant first year for Japan internationally, scoring five goals in his first eight games, including one against the United States in September. He was already a fan-favourite in the J-league and has now made a successful transition to Europe as well, scoring eight goals on loan to Belgian club Union SG, and has already played a crucial role in the Premier League for Brighton this season, including a man of the match performance against the mighty Chelsea.. The winger is already a Moriyasu favourite, and might just be the X-factor that Japan needs to reach the knockout rounds.
9. Aurelien Tchouameni – France
Despite Monaca’s poor results in Ligue 1, Tchouameni, stood for them last season as he announced his arrival on the big stage with some stunning performances. His form was rewarded with a huge move to Real Madrid, after months of speculation linking him to top clubs like Liverpool and Chelsea.
Tchouameni was lauded by Real Madrid, who stated that “this deal signifies the capture of one of the most brilliant players in Europe, in both the present and the future.” In his first month at Real Madrid, he helped them win the UEFA Super Cup with a dominating performance in midfield.
The 22-year-old midfielder has starred in France’s previous three World Cup qualification games and looks set to be a confirmed started now that Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante both have been ruled out of the tournament. Tchouameni also helped France win the Nation’s League in 2021 and already has 14 appearances for them at senior level.
8. Jude Bellingham – England
Just 19 years old, Jude Bellingham is seen as England’s brightest midfield prospect with 110 professional appearances at a senior level already for Borussia Dortmund and Birmingham City. Bellingham has seen a meteoric rise over the last 2 seasons as he has evolved into one of the very best midfielders in the Bundesliga, with a dominating all-round game. Starting out as a holding midfielder, the youngster has added goals to his game now, making him the complete midfielder. He was included in the Bundesliga Team Of The Season last season, and this season he has already scored 9 goals for Dortmund, including 4 in the Champions League.
Bellingham was selected for England’s squad at EURO 2020 as well but was sparingly used. However, since that tournament he has become a mainstay in the starting 11 for his country next to Declan Rice, and both these players look set to be the chosen pivot for England in Qatar. Bellingham’s form could be key to England mounting a serious challenge to finally get the World Cup trophy back home after a gap of 56 years.
7. Rafael Leao – Portugal
Rafael Leao has become a household name across the world after his incredible performances for AC Milan last season, as he helped them win the Scudetto. Leao scored 14 goals and assisted a lot of goals as well to ensure Milan get back to the top of the Serie A table after a very long time.
Leao has the perfect physical qualities for a dynamic forward, he is tall, built like a tank and yet he is deceptively quick on the ball. His pace and dribbling technique makes him a nightmare for defenders to play against, and his driving runs from deep are often unstoppable. He is one of the best wingers in the world when it comes to taking on defenders one on one, often humiliating some of the top defenders in the world.
Leao is expected to be a key player of a Portuguese side that is already stacked in attack. He made his debut in 2021 and provided an assist for Andre Silva within minutes. He has already racked up 11 appearances for Portugal ever since and looks set to be a guaranteed starter. Leao is still awaiting his first international goal however, and no better time to get that at the biggest stage of them all in Qatar.
6. Jamal Musiala – Germany
Jamal Musiala was born in Germany, yet spent his entire youth career in England at Chelsea’s youth academy. He even represented England at youth level before switching allegiance to the country he was born in.
Bayern Munich managed to poach this prodigious talent from Germany and he became their youngest ever player to debut in the Bundesliga at just 17 years and 115 days. Ever since then, the youngster has gone on to make 98 appearances for Bayern and 17 for the German National Team, emerging as a key player in attack for both.
Musiala is an incredibly versatile and talented attacking player, capable of playing on either flank or behind the striker as a number 10, which seems like the position he will play for Germany at the World Cup as well. He is a very creative footballer with excellent vision and ability to shoot with both feet, and barring any injuries or setbacks looks set to be the next great German talent who will dominate the next decade.
5. Cody Gakpo – Netherlands
Cody Gakpo presently plays for PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch top tier, the Eredivisie. He has spent his whole career at the club and has progressively risen through the ranks since making his debut in 2018.
Gakpo is a ridiculously talented young forward who had a breakthrough 2021/22 season with PSV, as he scored 21 goals and 15 assists in all competitions. He has started this season in even better form, with a staggering 27 goals and assists in just 22 matches ! He has the highest goal contributions of all players playing in Europe this season so far. This sort of form has attracted the interest of most top clubs across Europe, including several Premier League teams, and a big move could surely follow a successful World Cup.
Gakpo has already scored 3 goals in 11 appearances for The Netherlands, and looks set to be a confirmed starter for them at the World Cup. He is a well-built winger, standing 189 cm tall and still possesses explosive pace, which helps him to beat defenders in one on one situations with powerful dribbling. He likes to cut in and shoot powerfully, while he can also deliver some delightful through balls and crosses due to excellent vision. He is the complete attacker and looks set up to light up the World Cup.
4. Ansu Fati – Spain
2 years ago, Ansu Fati was widely regarded as the best teenager in world football, and the man destined to take over the Number 10 jersey from Lionel Messi. However a spate of injuries have kept him out of the game consistently and affected his development. Fati is one of the most ridiculously talented players to ever come out of the famed La Masia academy of Barcelona. He made his debut back in 2019 and scored his first goal for Barcelona at the age of 16.
With Spain struggling with quality attacking options currently, Luis Enrique may well be tempted to tap into Fati’s undoubted potential as he seeks solutions in attack. Fati is incredibly quick on his feet, with mesmerizing dribbling skills and also a brilliant ability to pick out passes that most other players don’t see. His vision, pace, dribbling and shooting ability combine to form a deadly forward in all circumstances and he would be looking to announce his arrival on the big stage at this tournament.
3. Phil Foden – England
Probably the most highly rated young player in the Premier League currently, Phil Foden has the world at his feet at the age of 23. Thriving under the expert management of Pep Guardiola, Foden is already an established starter for one of the best club sides in the world as Manchester City continue to dominate the English Premier League. “Phil is the most, most, most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager,” said Pep Guardiola in 2019, a manager who has also managed Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, among others.
Foden has already racked up a staggering 112 goal contributions in 212 matches for Manchester City in all competitions, and has played for England 18 times too. With competition high at club and country level both, Foden is consistently preferred over others due to his exceptional work rate along with his unquestioned talent. He is a brilliant goalscorer as well as provider and looks set to be a key player for the Three Lions at this World Cup.
2. Pedri – Spain
As many expected when he first made his debut for Barcelona, Pedri has evolved to become one of the very best midfielders in the world, at just 19. Barcelona and Spain both have struggled ever since Andres Iniesta hung up his boots, but if there is one player who is expected to fill those boots in the near future, it is Pedri.
At the age of 18, Pedri was already considered as Spain’s best player after starring at EURO 2020, with exceptional performances in all 6 games. He is an extremely versatile midfielder who can contribute in defence and attack both. He is repeatedly compared to Iniesta due to his exceptional ball control and dribbling skills in close spaces, and his remarkable vision to pick out his teammates and create tons of chances for them. His work rate combined with technical perfection puts him a level above most midfielders in the game. Pedri, who will turn 20 during the tournament, already has 92 appearances for Barcelona and a further 14 appearances for the Spanish National Team, and is the first name on the team sheet for Luis Enrique.
1. Vinicus Junior – Brazil
Brazil and mercurial tricky forwards is a match made in heaven. The Selecao still have a fit and firing Neymar who will spearhead their attack, but all eyes will on the tricky winger who recently scored the Champions League winning goal for Real Madrid – Vinicius Jr.
Vinicus was always considered a world class prospect, expected to take the football world by storm, but it was only last season that he truly showed world class levels as he humiliated countless defenders while leading Madrid to a La Liga and Champions League double under Carlo Ancelotti. He scored 22 goals last season for Real Madrid, none more important than his winner in the Champions League final against Liverpool to cap off a remarkable season personally as well as for the club. He also provided 20 assists and his partnership with Karim Benzema was a dream for Real Madrid. This season, Vinicius has already got 15 goal contributions in just 20 matches, and looks set for another incredible season.
Brazil are already the favourites for this World Cup, and its largely due to the attacking threat they possess as Vinicius along with Neymar look set to wreak havoc in Qatar.