With the World Cup being a launchpad for young players to attain global recognition, here are some of the promising talents to look out for in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Pedro Gonzalez Lopez, popularly known as Pedri, is a 19-year-old central midfielder who plays for Barcelona. Touted by fans as the next ‘Iniesta’, Pedri is one of the most exciting youngsters in world football right now. At such a young age, Pedri already has more than 100 appearances in La Liga. He also won the Kopa award in 2021. On June 14, 2021, Pedri became the youngest player to represent Spain at the EUROs at an age of 18 years, 6 months and 18 days, breaking the previous record set by Miguel Tendillo. Known for his vision, passing and technical abilities, Pedri will surely be one of Spain’s most exciting players in the Qatar World Cup
Vinicius Jr grabbed eyeballs when Real Madrid signed him for €46 million in 2017 when he was just 17. Over the seasons, the young Brazilian winger already has more than 120 appearances for Madrid and has scored 10 goals and bagged five assists this season in 19 appearances for the club. Primarily playing on the left flank, Vinicus Jr is known for his lightning pace and ability to beat defenders. He also etched his name in Real Madrid history after scoring against Liverpool in the 202122 Champions League final which turned out to be the winner. He already has 16 appearances for Brazil and has scored a goal for his country at the senior level.
Nuno Mendes is a young and exciting talent that Portugal will have in its ranks in the 2022 World Cup. The 20-year-old leftback, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, is known for his excellent crossing both in open and tight spaces. Making good use of his physicality, his service from the flank will be beneficial for Portugal, especially for players like Cristiano Ronaldo who is dangerous in the air. Mendes was present in Portugal’s EURO 2020 squad but did not play a single match leading up to its Round of 16 exit. In May 2022, his buyout clause of €38 million was triggered by PSG and the club signed him on a permanent basis on a four-year contract.
Jude Bellingham is a young talent at the disposal of Gareth Southgate ahead of the Qatar World Cup. A midfielder for Borussia Dortmund, Bellingham started making noise during his time with Birmingham City. Such is his talent that Manchester United set up a personal tour for Bellingham to see the Carrington training facilities along with Eric Cantona, Bryan Robson and Sir Alex Ferguson, but the player eventually chose Dortmund. When Bellingham faced Lazio in the group stage on 20 October, aged 17 years and 113 days, he became the youngest Englishman to start a Champions League match, breaking the record previously set by Phil Foden. In 2021, Bellingham finished up as a runner-up to Pedri in the Kopa award and was also nominated for the 2022 Kopa award, which was eventually won by Gavi. Bellingham already has 17 appearances for England at the senior level.
With Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante out of the World Cup, defending champion France will have a new midfield engine, which could be powered by the Real Madrid duo of Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni. The 20-year-old midfielder has been a constant presence for the Los Blancos this season. Camavinga, who scored on his full debut for his nation, was picked by Didier Deschamps in France’s last competitive fixture, in the UEFA Nations League against Denmark.
Despite turning out for England across age groups, Jamal Musiala opted for the whites of Germany last year. Though he hasn’t been at his explosive best for the national side, the 19-year-old has turned it up for his club, Bayern Munich, this season. He has already gone beyond his goal tally from the previous seasons and has helped his side overcome the loss of Robert Lewandowski. The quickfooted forward will be hoping to lead the line for Germany in Qatar as the Die Mannschaft looks to bounce back from the low of 2018 and add to its four world titles.
Pablo Gavi, the latest product of Spain’s conveyor belt of worldclass midfielders, will be one of the most exciting young talents to watch out for in this World Cup. After breaking through for Barcelona last season, Gavi has gone from strength to strength and has become an integral part of Luis Enrique’s Spanish side. The 2022 Kopa Trophy winner recently suffered a groin injury but is expected to to be fit as Spain looks to regain its stronghold in world football.
Bayern Munich’s left-back Alphonso Davies will be the central figure for Canada in the Qatar World Cup. The 22-year-old has been one of the best in his position in Europe. Davies carries a major attacking threat, primarily through his rapid pace, which is better exhibited with the national team, where he has 12 goals from 34 appearances. Canada, which will be making its second-ever World Cup appearance after the 1986 edition, will be relying on Davies at both ends of the pitch.
One of Borussia Dortmund’s most dependable forwards, Giovanni Reyna has football in his blood. His father — Claudio Reyna — was the captain of the United States of America soccer team while his mother — Danielle Egan Reyna — also made a brief appearance for the USA. Initially starting as a substitute at Signal Iduna Park, he became the youngest debutant in the Bundesliga (at 17 years and 66 days), breaking the record of fellow American Christian Pulisic. After struggling with injuries in the 2021-22 season, Gio Reyna marked his return in style when he became the first American to give two assists in a Champions League game, helping Dortmund beat FC Copenhagen 30. The 2022 FIFA World Cup will see him in action with Pulisic as the USA eyes glory in Qatar.
The Netherlands has seen the rise of some very promising young defenders over the years, from Matthijs de Ligt to Denzel Dumfries. Jurrien Timber — a product of Ajax Amsterdam — is another one, who has impressed with his runs along the flanks and his ability to track back on time. In May last year, he scored his first goal for Ajax, as his team was crowned the league champion for the 35th time. Having played for the Oranje in the European Championship in 2021, the 21-year-old was named in the squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Dutch have never won the World Cup and with young guns like Jurrien in the squad, Louis van Gaal’s men will have their shot at fame in Qatar.