Mbappe to Golovin: Young guns who dazzled at 2018 World Cup

The established stars like Lionel Messi, Mesut Ozil and Andreas Iniesta failed to fire while young players from all over made an impression. Sportstar takes a look at eleven of the best players aged 23 or under from the World Cup.

Francis Uzoho (Nigeria): The 19-year-old keeper started his career as a striker but was considered too slow to succeed as one. To utilise his tall frame and long arms, he was converted to a goalkeeper. Despite Nigeria crashing out of the World Cup at the first hurdle, the youngster impressed with his shot-stopping and command at the post. In his three games in Russia, he kept one clean sheet and conceded four goals, two each against finalist Croatia and a Lionel Messi inspired Argentina. A few months before the World Cup he became the youngest foreign goalkeeper to play in the La Liga, keeping a clean sheet on his debut for Deportivo de La Coruna. After starting a second successive game he moved back to the B team, which plays in the Spanish third division. There, he played 15 times keeping 10 clean sheets. His performances in Russia could see him earn a promotion to the first team on a permanent basis. (AFP Photo)
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Benjamin Pavard (France): When the 23-man-squads were announced, Pavard looked like an interesting pick by Didier Deschamps. Signed by Stuttgart from Lille, his normal position at club level is centre-back. With a team whose midfield and attack was inclined more on the attacking side, Deschamps pushed him out of position to right back to make the most of his defensive game. His presence at right-back helped Griezmann and Mbappe to skip their defensive duties regularly and he even chipped in with a stunning goal, an equaliser against Argentina in the round-of-16. Latest reports link him with a move to German giant Bayern Munich next summer. (Getty Images)
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Jose Gimenez (Uruguay): Gimenez’s last-minute goal against Egypt in its opening game at the World Cup got Uruguay’s campaign up and running. He has formed a formidable partnership with Diego Godin, his partner for club and country. In his four games at the World Cup, he kept a clean sheet in two while keeping Ronaldo quiet in the round-of-16. 46 caps for Uruguay at the age of 23, shows how valuable he is for the South American side. (Getty Images)
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Yerry Mina (Colombia): Three goals in three games, as many as Harry Kane has from open play in Russia. That tally is rarely associated with a defender, let alone one who struggled for playing time in the season prior. He wasn’t picked for the opening game against Japan but a loss to the Asian side prompted Jose Pekerman to make some changes to his team selection. Oscar Murillo was replaced by Yerry Mina and he repaid his manager’s faith by keeping a clean sheet in the other two group games while scoring in both. His 90th-minute goal in the round-of-16 game against England ensured that Colombia took the game to a penalty shootout. He equalled Miroslav Klose’s record of scoring with three headers in a World Cup and is currently his country’s second highest goalscorer at the World Cup. (Getty Images)
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Aleksandr Golovin (Russia): Russia, the lowest ranked team at the World Cup, exceeded all expectations and reached the quarterfinals of the tournament. A key part of the team was Aleksandr Golovin, who can play anywhere across the midfield. Adept at picking the right pass, he has also showcased his dribbling ability and dead-ball skills. He started the tournament as one small part of a weak Russian side but finished it with several clubs across Europe linked with him, a testament to his performances. (Getty Images)
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Lucas Torreira (Uruguay): Lucas Torreira started the first two group stage games for Uruguay on the bench, coming on as a substitute in both the games. With a place in the round-of-16 confirmed, Oscar Tabarez made changes for the final game and handed Torreira a place in the starting eleven. His performance against Russia was good enough for Tabarez to stick with him in the round-of-16 and quarterfinal. Usually operating at the base of the midfield, his disciplined performances and defensive awareness stood out in a team that built its reputation on defensive solidity. He completed a 22 million pound move to Arsenal after Uruguay’s World Cup campaign ended. (Getty Images)
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Rodrigo Bentancur (Uruguay): Oscar Tabarez promoted Rodrigo Bentancur to the senior squad during Uruguay’s 2018 World Cup qualifying run. A versatile midfielder, he has primarily played a more attacking role for Uruguay thanks to Torreira’s presence in the team. While he has a wide range of passing, he keeps it simple and short for the most part as seen by his 86 percent pass accuracy in Russia (Squwka stats). His attacking game is well matched by his defensive nous, ending his World Cup campaign with 23 successful tackles. (Getty Images)
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Hirving Lozano (Mexico): Lozano finished the club season by guiding PSV Eindhoven to the title and continued his winning streak by guiding Mexico to a shock win over then World Cup holder Germany in its opening game. He possesses a frightening turn of pace, is good at dribbling and has an eye for the right pass. He has a goal and an assist in four games, with a pass accuracy of 89 percent. That, combined with an impressive 17 goals and eight assists for PSV last season, is the reason why clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United have been linked with him in the past few weeks. (Getty Images)
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Raheem Sterling (England): Raheem Sterling has divided opinions during his time in Russia. While some see him as a menacing threat for the opposition, others consider him a workhorse up top. With zero goals and one assist, the statistics do not make a case for him. While he did lack an end product, there is a lot more to his game than that. His explosive pace caused problems for defenders and his ability to drag defenders out of position opened up opportunities for his team-mates. He usually took up positions higher than Kane, playing on the shoulders of defences. This allowed the likes of Kane and Alli to thrive in the space between the opposition’s midfield and defence. (Getty Images)
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Kylian Mbappe (France): In a tournament where Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi bowed out in the round-of-16, Mbappe's rise signaled a changing of guard on the biggest stage. While his big money move to PSG made him a famous name, his time in Russia made him a genuine successor to the Ballon d'Or winning duo. Of all his qualities, his pace is what usually stands out. In the game against Argentina, Mbappe was clocked at 37 km/h. To put it into context, Usain Bolt's career peak was clocked at 44.72 km/h during his world record run at the 2009 world championships. Four goals in seven matches, the FIFA Young Player of the Tournament in his maiden World Cup. A superstar who matched and broke several records. All at the age of 19. (Getty Images)
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Lucas Hernandez (France): Like Pavard at the other end of the French defence, Lucas Hernandez is also a centre-back by trade. He was converted to a left back by Diego Simeone to deal with an injury to Felipe Luis. He impressed at club level and his versatility has proven useful for Simeone and Deschamps. The French manager stuck with him even after Benjamin Mendy, who missed most of the previous season with a knee injury, was declared fit before the World Cup. With four centre-backs in front of Lloris, it isn’t a surprise that the team conceded just six goals on its way to lifting the title in Moscow. (Getty Images)
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