Ring, ring….ring, ring…”Hello?”,
“Morning Gaffer, is everything okay?”
“Yes, everything is fine, I’m just calling to let you know that you’re in my 23 man squad for this year’s World Cup, so cancel your holiday plans and call your parents, you’re coming to Germany…”
Okay, so that’s not how the actual conversation went when Sven Goran-Eriksen decided to call the un-fancied and, untried 17-year-old, Theo Walcott to the World Cup in 2006. Yet for every eyebrow raised about the Walcott’s of this world, the World Cup usually unearths some exciting and unquestionable talent that really lights up the tournament. In Sweden 1958 a certain Edson Arantes do Nascimento, aka Pele, then a 17-year wonder kid striker making his World Cup debut completely blew the tournament away with is athletism, guile, intelligence, creativity and youthful enthusiasm. Going as far to score an unbelievable goal in the Final against the host nation Sweden.
No one player has really hit those heights at such a young age, but many have had memorable World Cups. West Germany’s 20-year-old libero Franz Beckenbauer made it all the way to the 66′ cup final. Cabrini, Amaros, Prosinecki and Overmars all had notable impressions until Micheal Own, an 18-year-old English striker exploded onto the world’s greatest stage to score one of the goals of the 1998 tournament.
Here, FootballWonderkid identifies the ones to watch this summer in football’s most prestigious Cup competition.
Marcus Rashford – England and Manchester United, 20, Striker
Gareth Southgate’s wonderful dilemma lives in the hugely talented but often inconsistent Marcus Rashford. The England frontman is the only player in England’s 23 man squad that can genuinely play in all of the front 3 positions, and as a number 10 with consummate ease. However, Rashford’s versatility also means that he is behind the first choice Kane, Alli and Lindgard triumvirate.
England’s recent friendly win against Costa Rica demonstrated Rashford’s unquestionable skill, vision and brilliant eye for a goal. Drifting off the front line collecting the ball 35 yards from goal, spinning on a 2 pence piece, and unleashing a dipping, swerving shot with arrow-like precision past Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas. That wonder strike coupled with his Brazilan style flair and British aggression could well mean that Rashford becomes the unsung hero of this youthful England team.
Herving Lozano – Mexico and PSV Eindhoven, 22, Wide forward
If Mexico is to escape the World Cup’s group of death then they are going to need Lozano’s speed, battling spirit and eye for goal to help them along the way. Lozano’s 19 goals and 11 Assists in 34 games for PSV, saw the Dutch giants wrestle the Eredivisie from Ajax. His ability to drift in off the wide right position will be pivotal in formulating the attack for Mexico in Russia, and with a record at International level of 7 goals in 27 appearances for a 22-year-old is very respectable. The world stage awaits the fiery Mexican.
Timo Werner – Germany and RB Leipzig, 22, Striker
It was always going to be hard to fill Miroslav Klose’s striking boots and World Cup goalscoring record, but it looks like Werner has timed his form to perfection to be the first choice striker for Germany at this year’s World Cup. 12 games and 7 international goals don’t give the youth talent justice enough. His quick feet, ability to link play and play off the last defender has German fans reinvigorated that they can quite conceivably retain the World Cup in Russia. Another player from the list that isn’t an archetypal centre-forward, with speed to burn, and a real ability to find the back of the net, Germany now have an alternative style than previously held at championship level tournaments.
Giovani Lo Celso – Argentina and Paris St. Germain, 22, Central Midfield
It’s hard to imagine a world cup without Argentina, and a certain Lionel Messi, the expectation this year to go one better than four years ago is quite conceivable. Four years more experience, four years more hunger and four more years of Messi, Aguero, Higuain and De Maria expected to lead the attacking lineup.
But sitting in the Anchor position, should he get his chance, will be PSG starlet Lo Celso. The Left footed deep-lying playmaker is the metronome that sets the pace of the attacks for Argentina. Never has another Argentinian player mirrored Fernando Redondo’s languid, skilful and attacking play, coupled with adventurous verve, flair in the final third and an eye for a killer pass. Equally adept at breaking up the opposition attacks, Lo Celso is also a classic “give and go” midfielder, which could be the perfect foil for Messi in tight games. Likely to deputise for Banega, the youngster may have to bide his time to earn a starting spot for one of the favourites for the cup.
Youri Tielemans – Belgium and Monaco, 21, Central Midfield
Belgium, 3rd in the FIFA world rankings is encountering it’s Golden Generation at the just right time…never has a team outside of the classic 6 Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain (minus Italy and Netherlands) France and England had a better chance to win the World Cup. They are going into this year’s tournament with a squad brimming with world-class players. Hazard, Kompany, Courtois, Lukaku, Vertonghan and De Bruyne.
Amongst the talented individuals is 21-year old Tielemans, Monaco’s gifted central midfielder who is pressing hard for a starting spot in Roberto Martinez’s side. An accomplished passer and shrewd reader of the game often belies his young age. Fully established in Monaco’s swashbuckling team that won Ligue 1 in 16/17 the Belgian youngster will aim to get some much needed minutes amongst his superstar teammates, hoping to win Belgium their first major piece of silverware.