The FIFA World Cup is still regarded as the most prestigious tournament in world football, and with Russia’s 2018 edition almost at our doorstep, many players will be seeking to write their names in the history books.
Messi and Ronaldo. Iniesta and Neymar. Suarez and Hazard. Griezmann and Ozil. Salah and Kane. These are the names that will no doubt play big roles in deciding who wins the FIFA World Cup 2018.
But this year’s edition of the tournament also comes at a time when a lot of national teams are in a flux, and a number of young players have the chance to step up and make a difference. Here are the three young players who could make a big impact in Russia:
3Bernardo Silva, Portugal
Portugal, lest it is forgotten, won the Euro 2016 final without Ronaldo being on the pitch. The rest of the team put in an incredible defensive shift to keep out a France side that looked like swaggering to the title on home soil before Eder nicked it in extra time. That kind of defensive performance, however, is unlikely to yield much success this time around, with attacking football very much back in vogue these days – just look at the Champions League and the top leagues around Europe, and this is very clear.
2Leon Goretzka, Germany
It may be a bit strange to think of Mbappe as a breakout star, given his scheduled move to PSG this summer is supposed to be worth EUR 180 million, and everyone seems to know who he is in the football world. But that is still what he is – still at 19, he only came to prominence at the beginning of 2017 for Monaco as they blitzed their way to the Ligue 1 title, and made his senior France debut in March 2017.
While he may not have Edinson Cavani and Neymar alongside him, Didier Deschamps’s France are a quality side, with Antoine Griezmann its creative pivot, Olivier Giroud (who has a phenomenal record for the national side) up front, and a powerful midfield with N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba.
1Leon Goretzka, Germany
A common strength of Joachim Loew’s German sides over the years, whether the young, lightning-quick counter-attacking side at the 2010 World Cup or the more mature, possession-oriented edition that won the 2014 World Cup, has been a solid midfield core. Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger were the heart of that side for years, but Schweini has now retired, and Khedira, while part of the squad, isn’t quite the powerhouse he once was (though he is still in the squad).
The (former) Schalke midfielder has been one of Germany’s hottest prospects for some time now, and his consistent performances have earned him a move to Bayern Munich this summer – a clear indication of his value as one of the best central midfielders in the Bundesliga. He also gave us a taste of his abilities as he inspired a second-string Germany side to the Confederations Cup in 2017.