For a two-month period every four years, the world turns its attention to the FIFA World Cup. The FIFA World Cup Trophy is one of the most prestigious and coveted prizes in all of sport. There is no greater honor and achievement for a player to represent and win than the FIFA World Cup. While the tournament is still several months away (kicking off Nov. 21, 2022) and final rosters have not been announced, there is expected to be an abundance of young talent on display. Playing well in this tournament, especially as a young player, can be an immediately life-changing experience. One notable example was in 2014 when a 22-year-old James Rodriguez, of Columbia scored the “FIFA Puskas Award”-winning goal of the year versus Uruguay. His outstanding performances and goal-scoring abilities caught the attention of the World’s richest clubs. The ensuing race to sign him was fierce, but James ultimately inked a six-year contract with Real Madrid shortly after the World Cup concluded.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup will forever be remembered as Kylian Mbappe’s world stage breakout moment. Mbappe, only 19 at the time, was voted Best Young Player of the Tournament for his exceptional play in the semifinal and final games. He went down in history as the second teenager ever to score two goals in one World Cup game and also the second teenager ever to score a goal in a World Cup final. The first to achieve those accolades was none other than Pele. Since the beginning of the World Cup in 1930, only Italy and Brazil have won the tournament back to back. The high expectations of the French fans will be placed on the shoulders of Mbappe to lead them to glory once again. Which young star, under 23 years old, could have his “Mbappe Moment” this World Cup? Here are some of our possibilities.
It’s no secret that Brazil is one of the favorites to win this year’s World Cup. The “Seleção” boasts of world class talent all over the pitch. Their roster includes a great balance of veteran leadership combined with several young and exciting rising stars. Leading the crop of young Brazilian talent is Vinicius Junior (21 years old), Antony Matheus dos Santos (22), Gabriel Martinelli (20) and Rodrygo Silva de Geos (21). All four players will be competing for roster spots at either forward or wing. Of the four, Vinicius Jr. will have the greatest opportunity to play and make an impact. Vinicius Jr. has proven to be a key player for his club, Real Madrid. He scored the only goal in the Champions League final versus Liverpool on May 28, 2022. He will be expected to bring the same goal-scoring ability for his home country of Brazil this November. Vinicius Jr. is well known for his high-speed intensity whether it’s dribbling around defenders or making runs into the box to score. He doesn’t seem to shy away from the big stage and enjoys entertaining the fans with his skills. A menace for defenders and a warrior for his teammates, his contributions will be critical if Brazil hopes to win its sixth World Cup Trophy. You can find his rookie checklist on the Set Registry.
Spain, similar to Brazil, has several young world class players, headlined by three teenagers: 19-year-old Pedri Gonzalez Lopez, Ansu Fati (19), Pablo Gavira (17) and Ferran Torres (22). Coincidentally, they all play for the same club team, FC Barcelona. Spanish followers hope they display the same chemistry while playing for their country that the trio has shown at the club level. The massive hole left in the midfield by the exit of 2010 World Cup champions Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta will now be filled by Pedri and Gavi. At the same time, forwards Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres will try to replicate the former glory and scoring ability of David Villa and Pedro Ledesma. If Spain is going to do well in this tournament, Pedri will most certainly be the puppet master pulling the strings. His ability to control the game with silky smooth footwork, tempo, vision, and occasional knack for goal scoring is a main reason he won the European “Golden Boy Award” in 2021. Big things are expected of the Spanish teenagers at this tournament. Will they be able to handle the pressure on the world’s biggest stage and give Spain its second World Cup trophy?
The next prodigy who could have his own “Mbappe Moment” is England’s 22-year-old rising star, Phil Foden. When Foden was just 17, Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola famously said, “Phil is the most, most, most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager.” That quote sent shockwaves through the soccer world considering Pep had coached some of the best players in history during his time at FC Barcelona. With or without the ball at his feet, Foden seems to effortlessly glide around the pitch. His short stature combined with quick cuts make him a nightmare for defenders. He doesn’t need much time or space to shift his body angle and can use either foot to strike the ball on goal. He has the creativity and composure to play anywhere in the midfield or attack that allows him to dribble through or finish from the tightest of angles. He is sure to be an effective and efficient force wherever England’s manager, Gareth Southgate, decides to play him on the pitch. If England hopes to “bring Football home” this World Cup then it will certainly be in part to Phil Foden’s contributions. You can find Foden’s rookie checklist on the Set Registry.
This November, The FIFA World Cup in Qatar will be full of talented young men. While we only listed a few young players, several others could lead their teams to eternal soccer glory. Julian Alvarez of Argentina, Netherland’s Ryan Gravenberch, Eduardo Camivinga of France, Jonathan David of Canada, Serbia’s Dusan Vlaholovic, and USA’s Gio Reyna could all be difference makers. Of course, a lot can change between now and the announcement of final rosters, but it will be exciting to see which young stars step up for their countries on the global stage. Who do you think could have their “Mbappe Moment?”