Pyeongchang 2018

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Five young stars to watch out for at FIFA World Cup

At every World Cup, there is always the breakthrough player. The starlet who really makes himself known on a global scale.

Think James Rodriguez announcing himself at Brazil 2014. Or Germany’s Thomas Mueller bursting onto the scene four years earlier in South Africa.

So who will it be this time around at Russia 2018?

Here are five players that have the potential to make a big impression at the latest edition of the World Cup:

Gabriel Jesus

Four years ago the Manchester City forward was painting the streets barefoot to celebrate the World Cup in his homeland.

Then he was just a Palmeiras youth team player.

Now he is one of the hottest young striking talents on the planet.

Remember his performance at Rio 2016, bagging three goals as Brazil took gold?

The 20-year-old scored seven goals for the Selecao en route to Russia and has been equally prolific for the English champions – firing 17 this season.

So a heavy burden of expectation heading into the World Cup then?

Not for Jesus.

“I am living my dream,” says the striker. “It isn’t a pressure at all.”

Timo Werner

Timo Werner

Timo Werner of Germany (Getty Images)

Germany possess such an amazing array of young talent that an entire eleven could be chosen.

But Leipzig forward Timo Werner definitely deserves a mention.

The 22-year old made his national debut last year at Germany’s successful Confederations Cup campaign, scoring three times.

For one still young, Werner has an incredible amount of experience – he is the youngest ever player to make 150 appearances in the Bundesliga.

Lightning quick and ice-cool in front of goal (13 in the Bundesliga this season), he is being talked about as being the spearhead of Germany’s attack for the next ten years.

Now comes the chance to gain further recognition at the World Cup, as Germany look to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the trophy.

Achraf Hakimi

Achraf Hakimi

Achraf Hakimi of Real Madrid (Getty Images)

With Dani Carvajal standing in his way, it’s no surprise that the 19-year-old has only had limited opportunities at Real Madrid this season.

But the Moroccan is one of the most promising defensive prospects around.

Achraf was drafted into the Atlas Lions squad by coach Herve Renard, helping his side reach the finals for the first time in twenty years.

The Madrid-born defender is part of an impressive backline that conceded just one goal in their eight qualification matches.

Daniel Arzani

Having been named in Bert van Marwijk’s preliminary squad, 19-year old Daniel Arzani might well make a name for himself in Russia.

Arzani – who was also eligible to play for Iran – has lit up the Australian A-League this season playing for Melbourne City.

The attacking midfielder is already drawing comparisons with the Socceroo’s last great playmaker Harry Kewell.

Even the usually composed and collected national coach Van Marwijk is getting excited:

“He’s a young player and he has a lot to learn but he can make a difference. I like players who can make a difference,” the Dutchman said.

Kylian Mbappe

Arguably the most exciting teenage talent in the world right now, Kylian Mbappe has enjoyed a meteoric rise.

Still only 19-years-old, Mbappe has formed a formidable partnership with Neymar at club level for PSG.

Then for the national team, he is part of a fearsome attacking options that France coach Didier Deschamps has at his disposal.

Cameroon’s Olympic champion Samuel Eto’o (Sydney 2000) has already drawn the highest comparison of all, believing the French forward is on course to become ‘the next Messi’.

Kylian Mbappe, the world is yours.


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