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On Nov. 20, the World Cup in Qatar will begin, and all 32 teams have already revealed their 26-man rosters for the competition. But although Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will always be household names, which new athletes might have a chance to shine on the biggest platform of them all?
There are still players under the age of 23 that deserve special attention, even though technology and scouting methods have advanced to the point where a young player impressing at a World Cup is almost never an unknown quantity these days. With the exception of Iran, which did not have any players in this age group on its roster, these are the 32 World Cup teams’ most promising young players. All of them are under the age of 23.
One of the best youngsters in the cup is Jude Bellingham. Bellingham displays maturity and knowledge well above his years when he plays. Although able to play any position in the middle of the field, the England international will probably take on the role of an attack-oriented No. 8 in Qatar. He is as complete as midfielders get at this age, with smooth passing, great athleticism, excellent vision, and smooth ball control. A talent of a generation whose World Cup breakthrough could be essential to England’s successful campaign.
William Saliba is another amazing player who will surely show his skills off. Saliba, arguably one of the greatest center-backs in the Premier League this year, is equally comfortable passing the ball to teammates as he is intercepting it from opponents. When in possession, he consistently seeks out a helpful pass while approaching defensive challenges (73% success rate) with confidence and boldness. He moves the ball forward with purpose and has swiftly developed into a full-fledged, contemporary center-back.
Ansu Fati is another key factor contributing to the overall youngster development. Unfortunately, Ansu’s early career has unfortunately been severely hampered by injury, but even if he hasn’t quite found his groove for Barcelona this season—coming on primarily in the second half—nobody would rule out his taking center stage at the World Cup. The 20-year-old can fit into any offensive position despite being primarily lined up on the attack’s left side. When others perceive groups of opponents, he sees openings. He also communicates with his comrades almost telepathically. If he can maintain his fitness, Ansu, who is brimming with talent and finesse, can make a difference for Spain.
Brazil has always been known for providing top young talent to the world’s clubs. Although there is no denying his skill, Rodrygo has just recently developed the consistency to emerge from Vinicius Junior’s shadow. The 21-year-old, who has seven goals and five assists in 19 games for Real Madrid this season, has the X factor to help Brazil win their sixth World Cup championship even if he is unlikely to be a starter. He is technically excellent, imaginative, and has a tremendous shot.