The World Cup is the competition that can make a hope a superstar, the moment when great talents make the decisive step towards consecration.
Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Michael Owen or Kylian Mbappe are just some of the footballers who have reached the final tournament with the status of kids with great potential and left as stars on a planetary scale. The 2022 cast has some interesting names that can turn from promises into certainties and, why not?, maybe even into something more.
Of course, we have some “suspects on duty”, such as Vinicius Jr, Phil Foden, Antony, Pedri or Gavi, players who already have very high odds and for whom the World Cup represents the chance to confirm their value. But below, we will focus on the “second line” of talented young people with the potential to explode in Qatar.
Diogo Costa (23 years old, Portugal)
Okay, at 23, a football player isn t necessarily young anymore. But now we are dealing with a goalkeeper, a post where one ”gets old” harder. A delicate position, especially in a national team with claims, such as Portugal. However, Fernando Santos didn t think twice when he entrusted him with the number 1 at the national team, where he replaced veteran Rui Patricio. FC Porto’s goalkeeper is recommended by solid performances from the club team, especially in the Champions League, a competition in which, this season, he defended 3 kicks from 11 meters. The security he offers to his colleagues and the maturity far beyond his age make Diogo Costa a name to follow in the years to come. And the World Cup in Qatar is the showcase that can bring him a transfer to a big club in Europe.
Piero Hincapié (20 years old, Ecuador)
Ecuador returns to the World Cup after 8 years, thanks to an impressive run in the South American preliminaries. The national team coached by Gustavo Alfaro finished the qualification in 4th place, following the great forces of the continent – Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay – but before some teams with claims: Colombia, Peru or Chile. One of the first things Alfaro did as a coach was to talk to Jorge Celico, the coach of the youth team, known for his ability to train children and juniors. The symbol of their collaboration is Piero Hincapié.
Currently at Leverkusen, for whom he also played in the Champions League, the 20-year-old central defender has had a thunderous ascent. 2021 was an exceptional year for Hincapié. He made the step to Europe and made his debut in the national team. He immediately became the basic man. For Ecuador he has already collected over 20 selections and announces himself among the protagonists of the World Cup in Qatar, which could help him take another big step in his career. Arsenal are already following in his footsteps, and this years”s final tournament could turn him into a real star.
Joško Gvardiol (20 years old)
We remain on defence, but we move to Europe. The world runner-up, Croatia, changes lines on the fly and manages to remain competitive. Of course, with players like Joško Gvardiol, such a transition is easier to manage. Leipzig’s defender is already a veteran of major competitions, although he will only turn 21 next January. In addition to the already rich experience and an excellent physique for his age, the Croatian also has the advantage of polyvalence. He can evolve as both a central defender and a left-back, and he also yields in a system with 3 on the bottom line, and in one with 4 defenders.
The finalist of the last edition of the World Cup is still based on the players of the hundreds of battles of previous years – Modric, Perisic, Brozovic – but the new wave is making its own contribution.
Alphonso Davies (22 years old, Canada)
In the case of the Canadian from Bayern, we are already talking about a certainty. Alphonso Davies has been playing in Europe for almost 4 years, has won important trophies with the club team, including the Champions League, and individual distinctions, and is among the world’s best left-backs despite his young age. Qualifying for the World Cup with Canada completes an impressive resume anyway.
However, it will be interesting to watch how he will manage to cope with the attention that he will surely benefit from during the World Cup in Qatar. Although Canada has an exceptional generation, with many valuable footballers, Davies is the face of this team, with great potential to be among the revelations of the tournament. If it happens, we may discover not only a very good player, but also a leader for many years to come.
Eduardo Camavinga (19 years old, France)
The “bargain” that Real Madrid transferred from Rennes has the chance to get their place in the France national team for good for the next decade. Amid the absences of Kante and Pogba, Camavinga will likely be a starter in Qatar and the player he expects to be the midfield leader of Didier Deschamps. The 19-year-old footballer has already shown that he can cope with the pressure. At Rennes, it was immediately a hit, despite the precocity. In Madrid, he did not disappoint when he was needed in a midfield line that has already earned its place in the history of football.
At the current juncture, the World Cup in Qatar may be the moment of final consecration for the talented French midfielder.
Ryan Gravenberch (20 years old, Netherlands)
One of Ajax’s best academy products in recent years. He made an early debut and became the youngest player in the history of the Eredivisie, at just 16 years and 130 days, surpassing the record previously held by Clarence Seedorf, another player with Surinamese origins. After a little more than 2 years, he was already called up to the Netherlands national team, although he had to wait for something else for the first match. But once he joined the team, he immediately became an important piece in Louis van Gaal’s gear. This summer’s transfer to Bayern has increased his notoriety and confirmed his worth.
Now, at the age of 20, the Dutch midfielder is ready for his first major tournament, where he is convinced he can play an important role in the Oranje national team’s attempt to regain his place in the world elite.
Jude Bellingham (19 years old, England)
Although he is not the most titled player on this list, perhaps the biggest hype has been created around him and he is the footballer who comes closest to stardom in the truest sense of the word. At just 19 years old, Jude Bellingham is already too big for Borussia Dortmund. The club has staked on him and allowed him to progress without pressure, and a return to England, presumably at Liverpool, seems only a matter of time. And the price. Because if the midfielder trained in Birmingham makes a World Cup up to expectations, his share, already very high, could really explode.
But in Qatar, Bellingham has to manage a double pressure. First of all, that of playing in a team that is keeping an eye on the grand prize: the World Cup trophy. Secondly, to contradict the tradition that young Englishmen, no matter how talented, do not excel in the moments that matter. That is, such competitions, which make the difference between good players and world-class ones.
Jamal Musiala (19 years old, Germany)
England could have had another budding superstar at the World Cup in Qatar, but Jamal Musiala chose to represent Germany. At just 19 years old, Bayern’s midfielder is preparing for the second big tournament of his career, having also been present at last year’s European. At the club team, he is already a piece with weight, at the national team he is approaching the milestone of the 20 selections. His technical quality, speed, and versatility make him a threat to a defence, and it is German coach Hansi Flick who gave him his Bundesliga debut, so he is expected to give him enough opportunities during the tournament. It’s all about knowing how to take advantage of them.
Takefusa Kubo (21 years old, Japan)
Perhaps the World Cup in Qatar comes at the best time for the great promise of Japanese football. At the age of 21, having changed teams every season, Takefusa Kubo, seems to have finally found his place at Real Sociedad. Now, because he has the piece of mind he needed, the Japanese can focus on reaching the huge potential that made him reach FC Barcelona and Real Madrid or make his debut and score in the J League at the age of 16. A solid performance in Qatar could become a springboard for a career that was emerging as remarkable.
Ricardo Pepi (19 years old, United States of America)
The Americans they still call it soccer, but the truth is they are starting to get better and better at football. Two decades ago, Landon Donovan was named the youngest player at the World Cup in South Korea and Japan. Now, Ricardo Pepi hopes to repeat the same performance also in Asia. At the beginning of this year, the Texan striker was the protagonist of a spectacular transfer, when Augusburg bought him from FC Dallas for $20 million plus bonuses. The impact with the Bundesliga was too strong for a teenager, but the summer loan to FC Groningen was good for him, so the 19-year-old footballer is going to Qatar in excellent form and with morale at an all-time high. Only good things for a memorable tournament.