You never know who’s going to shine at the FIFA World Cup. Yes, you can bet Lionel Messi and Neymar are going to put on a show, but it’s harder to predict who the next Diego Forlan and James Rodriguez will be.
Ahead of the tournament, FootTheBall analyses who are the top young guns at the tournament and favourites to win the most prestigious individual awards:
Youssoufa Moukoko – (17)
Hansi Flick has named Dortmund youngster Yousoufa Moukoko to his 26-man World Cup squad. The 17-year-old has been outstanding this season and merited a position in Germany’s squad ahead of the competition.
His call comes only days after he became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to score ten goals. In 21 games in all competitions, the teenager has six goals and six assists. It has stunned the youngster, who will be appearing in his first World Cup, since Germany will be attempting to win their fifth World Cup in Qatar, having last won it in Brazil in 2014.
Garang Kuol (18) – Australia
At 18 years and 10 days, Garang Kuol is the youngest player to debut for Australia since Harry Kewell in 1996.
Kuol scored his first A-League goal on his competition debut against Wellington Phoenix on April 5th 2022 – firing just five minutes after coming onto the pitch. To say it had been a promising start for the youngster is an understatement and his emergence had coincided with the Mariners claiming four straight wins to wrap up a place in the finals.
Since then, Newcastle United have signed the teenage star from Central Coast Mariners, and he has also been called up for Australia’s 2022 World Cup squad.
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Gavi (18) – Spain
At just 18 years old, Gavi is the youngest player ever to be called up for the World Cup by Spain, beating a record held by Cesc Fabregas. The 2022 Kopa Trophy and Golden Boy Award winner is already a starter on Xavi’s Barcelona and comes with loads of potential.
Gavi’s constant pressing and dribbling skills in the midfield will be crucial for Spain as they look to make a deep run in the tournament. He will wear the
Jamal Musiala (19) – Germany
Germany has never been shy of producing young talent and Musiala has shown signs of becoming a potential future star. The 19-year-old has been involved in nine goals in the first nine matches for Bayern this season – five goals and four assists – which underlines why he has sprung onto the scene this season and at such an opportune moment.
He is not afraid to take on defenders and can create chances for his teammates; he understands the game so well at the age of 19, and Germany is fortunate to have him at the World Cup.
Xavi Simons (19) – Netherlands
The curly-haired Dutchman has been the victim of the internet hype machine ever since he was a child when he was in Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy, and another Xavi was still featuring in the club’s senior team.
Due to PSG’s policy of buying superstar players, they have also lost plenty of youth players who have decided to move on for better opportunities at first-team football. The attacker has been in fine form for PSV this season and has more than 15 goal contributions, with only half the season played.
Louis Van Gaal surely took notice of it and decided Xavi Simons has merited his place in the final 26-man squad and will travel to Qatar with the rest of the Netherlands team.
Jude Bellingham (19) – England
It takes courage to leave your cozy home and change countries when you are a mere teenager. Jude Bellingham did it when he switched from Birmingham to Dortmund, Germany. The energy and efforts invested in him are now paying dividends, as he continues to impress for both club and country in every game.
Now, Bellingham is on course to be a starter in the England midfield at the World Cup. Bellingham has shown poise and maturity beyond his age which makes him a player to watch out for in Qatar. With youth and potential by his side, could Bellingham be the key in the engine room that enables Southgate’s men to bring it home?
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Yunus Musah (19) – USA
A versatile midfielder who can play various positions and roles within a team, Yunus Musah’s dynamic running and excellent ball-progressing ability has allowed him to play as number 8 or 10 or even on the wings where he has mostly featured for Valencia.
USA have one of the best quads in the World Cup thanks to some of football’s brightest talents coming through and Yunus Musah is one to watch out for in Qatar.
Antonio Silva (19) – Portugal
The 19-year-old defender has been the highlight of this season’s Benfica team. He has slotted into the Benfica backline seamlessly, like a hand to glove. Antonio Silva‘s rise has once again shown that it is the Portuguese league that produces youngsters of the highest order.
Portugal manager Fernando Santos was also of the same opinion after he named the centre-back in his final 26-man squad, ahead of the likes of Goncalo Inacio.
Nuno Mendes (20) – Portugal
One benefit to Paris Saint-Germain’s front three hogging the limelight is it allows other players to develop without as much focus. That has certainly been the case for the 20-year-old Nuno Mendes who joined PSG permanently from Benfica last summer having spent the previous campaign on loan.
Although behind Joao Cancelo, the Manchester City star, in Portugal’s pecking order he is of a similar mould in terms of desire to get forward. There have been questions around his defensive ability – a common theme for the modern full-back – but he is on a course towards becoming one of the world’s best full-backs.
Kenneth Taylor (20) – Netherlands
Kenneth Taylor is another graduate of the famed 2002 batch. Hugo Ekitike, Aaron Hickey, Georginio Rutter and others make up that illustrious list. Taylor was born in Alkmaar and started his career with the amateur club SV De Foresters. In 2010, Taylor joined the youth program at Ajax.
Kenneth Taylor made his debut for Jong Ajax in late 2018 as a substitute. However, it did not take long for his expert qualities to blossom. Taylor became a regular for his side in 2019-20, featuring 19 times. This led to Van Gaal selecting him for FIFA World Cup 2022 ahead of the likes of Ryan Gravenberch, who is one of many stars to miss out on Qatar World Cup.
Yeremy Pino (20) – Spain
The player who became the first in his club’s history to score four goals in a league match and the youngest to score three times in the first half itself. That player is none other than 19-year-old winger Yeremi Pino of Villarreal, who is primed to become a mainstay for club and country over the coming years.
Though he has only seen playing senior team football for a very short period of time as of yet, Pino has already played in two European finals and made his debut with La Roja as he continues his development with The Yellow Submarines.