Fanzone takes a look at some of the young players who could be about to light up the tournament in Russia…

The 2018 World Cup is now very much on its way, with the final squads for Russia now having been finalised by the 32 national team managers.

Of the 736 players chosen to participate, there are a fair number of those aged 21 and under who will be looking to grab the opportunity to make a name for themselves on the national stage.

Fanzone has picked out 10 possible stars from that age group, some of whom you will know but others of whom you may know little…

10. Wilfred Ndidi – Nigeria (21)

It can’t have been easy arriving at Leicester City as the man to fill the gap left behind by N’Golo Kante, but Ndidi has fitted in superbly at the King Power Stadium over the last 18 months and continues to be a key part of Nigeria’s senior setup.

Not only does he break up play well in midfield but he also has a rangy attacking style to his play and should not be counted out for the odd key goal.

9. Youri Tielemans – Belgium (21)

A real ‘box of tricks’ player, Tielemans has the weight of pass and perceptive footballing brain which could make him one of the game’s great stars in the years to come.

Having first made his name at Anderlecht playing largely from a deep midfield role, he has adapted superbly to the right side of Monaco’s midfield since his move last summer. And he could well prove to be one of Roberto Martinez’s go-to players for Belgium this month.

8. Albert Gudmundsson – Iceland (20)

Iceland are not done pulling up trees if Albert Gudmundsson is anything to go by. With great movement and the desire to play instinctively, the left winger has come on a huge amount as he’s risen through the ranks at PSV. He also happens to be a cool finisher when the opportunity arises.

There’s every chance he could play a part against Argentina in his side’s first Group D game just one day after he turns 21.

7. Goncalo Guedes – Portugal (21)

With an ability to keep the ball under his spell thanks to his short-stepping style and being able to deliver the killer ball that can split a defence apart, it is easy to see that Goncalo Guedes takes his inspiration from national skipper Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese wide man has spent the past season collecting admirers on loan at Valencia from Paris Saint-Germain and the World Cup could be a significant shop window for the 21-year-old.

6. Trent Alexander-Arnold – England (19)

The right-back became the youngest Liverpool player to play in the Champions League final when lining up against Real Madrid last month, and his breakout 2017-18 has led to him getting his first England senior call-up for the World Cup.

The teenager has a cool head both in defence and on the ball, thinking nothing of bursting beyond far more experienced and celebrated players. His timing in the challenge is one of his most impressive elements, along with having great defensive awareness.

5. Ousmane Dembele – France (21)

After swapping Borussia Dortmund for Barcelona last summer in a €105m deal, it is fair to say that Dembele has already made a splash on the world stage.

The 21-year-old can boast two great feet, a fantastic body swerve and superb finishing ability. His natural desire to have the ball even in the tightest of spaces makes him a joy to watch, and while a thigh injury ruined his first season in Catalunya the best is surely still to come from Dembele.

4. Rodrigo Bentancur – Uruguay (21)

He may have only five Serie A starts under his belt since moving to Juventus from Boca Juniors a year ago but Bentancur has recruited an army of followers off the back of his promising displays for the Bianconeri.

Cool on the ball and with great awareness, the attacking midfielder makes time for himself and his team-mates with impressive ease. His footwork has also fooled many an experienced defender, and if Uruguay go deep he could well have a significant role to play over the next six weeks.

3. Marcus Rashford – England (20)

The Manchester United forward has scored goals on his Premier League, Champions League, Europa League and League Cup debuts at club level and also netted in his first England under-21 appearance and his senior bow. Now he heads to his first World Cup with a wonderful chance to display his explosive forward play.

Now playing largely as a wide attacker for United, Rashford could complement captain Harry Kane from a similar spot with his pace and direct style a potential nightmare for the opposition.

2. Gabriel Jesus – Brazil (21)

It somehow feels as though Gabriel Jesus is already a veteran despite only being 21 such has been his impact to date. With over 150 senior appearances to his name and a Premier League title winner’s medal freshly stashed in his pocket he looks primed to play a huge role this summer for Brazil.

His instinctive movement off the last line and flamboyant play in the channels make him one of the most eagerly-anticipated highlights of the World Cup.

1. Kylian Mbappe – France (19)

The €180m teenager looks primed to make a real impact at this World Cup after helping Paris Saint-Germain to regain the Ligue 1 title alongside Neymar in 2017-18.

His mesmeric footwork is sure to be too much for many a wily defender, while his intelligence and spatial awareness will help France to find gaps in the opposition’s defensive third. Such is his status as a human highlight reel, it will surely only be for the good of the neutral if Mbappe is involved deep into the final stages of this summer’s event.



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