The World Cup welcomes the worlds best teams, and some World Class talent. We have the intriguing rivalry between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to look forward to, and also the likes of Franck Ribéry, Neymar, Wayne Rooney amongst other big names, but one of the most attractive things this time around is the amount of amazing young talent from around the globe, with some already stars at a young age and others just starting their promising careers.
FIFA created the World Cup Best Young Player Award in 2006, rewarding the best talent at the tournament under the age of 21. In 2006 Lukas Podolski won, ahead of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi. In South Africa 2010 the winner was another German, Thomas Müller, with an impressive return of 5 goals that made him the joint top scorer.
During a whole month the entire world will be paralysed by football and we have the opportunity to see loads of talent, and for this occasion I’ve made a list of the players with the best chances to win the Best Young Player Award. I’ll analyse their game, influence during their career, style, possibilities to advance as far as possible and their role in their respective squads. So here we go….
Paul Pogba (France): This youngster plays for Juventus in Seria A, where he has become influential in their midfield, making great partnerships with Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal and clinching the Scudetto but failing to make an impact in Europe’s elite competition. Pogba has a very good passing ability and he has flourished with his long range shots. With the France national team he is part of a Trivote that usually includes Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi, which makes the French midfield a unit of strength and tenacity but also good technical ability. Pogba can dominate the opposition and can make a great impact in France’s aspirations. You can see more of Pogba in this video.
Raphaël Varane (France): Another member of the France squad is defender Raphaël Varane, who plays for Real Madrid and comes fresh from winning La Décima for the club. Sadly Varane didn’t get as much playing time as he would have hoped this season because of some troublesome injuries, but that didn’t stop Varane making an impact in the final games of the season and in the Champions League Final itself. In the national team he’s well prepared with his partners in defence to cope with pressure, and has some type of understanding with Laurent Koscielny – one of the best defenders in Premier League – and they make a tandem with the forces of the midfield. Varane possesses a great vision to tackle and great aerial power, he’s a strong runner and tackler and can help to take the pressure out of a match, he’s a ball-winning defender and has a very impressive composure for his age. You can see more of Varane here: video.
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium): Since his early days Romelu Lukaku was a diamond waiting to explode, when he was in Belgium at the young age of 16, Lukaku was part of Anderlecht’s Champions League and Europa League squads and was starting some key games. Lukaku’s next move was signing for Chelsea two years ago, where he has gone on loan to West Brom and Everton and become a real threat in the Premier League. Lukaku now has enough experience to lead the front line but can also play alongside another frontman. At Everton he had the help of Belgium team-mate Kevin Mirallas and is very close to other Belgians Hazard and Vermaelen. This World Cup is the opportunity for Lukaku to establish himself as a world class level talent and show what he’s made of. See more in this video.
Julian Draxler (Germany): The nation of the two previous World Cup Best Young Player Award winners now has several other young talents who will compete for the award, but the player with the most realistic possibility is Julian Draxler. The Schalke man is well equipped with some brilliant skills and movement, can play anywhere across the front three and can also play the number 10 role. Draxler has the advantage that he plays with a fantastic team with a real chance of winning the World Cup, and his rivals for the left-wing spot in the team have been playing below their expected level, namely Chelsea man Andre Schürrle and previous Young Player Award winner Lukas Podolski, so all the bets are on Draxler to make a big contribution for his nation. Here’s an introductory video.
William Carvalho (Portugal) There’s little doubt that one of the most anticipated performances of the World Cup will come from Cristiano Ronaldo, but there were signs in previous tournaments that his team wasn’t good enough to win and the World Cup clearly isn’t easy to win by a solo-effort, so this time Portugal has formed a unit to help CR7 win the World Cup. One of these players is William Carvalho, the defensive midfielder who plays for Sporting Lisboa, coming off a wonderful season that has attracted interest across Europe, now is the time to show what he can bring at the highest level. Carvalho has similarities to previous world-cup winner Gilberto Silva, but has better composure with the ball. Carvalho also will rejuvenate the midfield of Portugal, perhaps winning his spot over the ageing Miguel Veloso (Editor – Veloso’s only 28!). You can see more of Carvalho’s style of play here: video.
That’s it for the top picks to win the World Cup Best Young Player Award, now for some players we think also have an outside chance…
Joel Campbell (Costa Rica): This left-footed player is a great talent who has spent successful loan spells at Lorient and Real Betis. Alongside some work permit problems, this season Arsenal thought he needed some European level experience, so Campbell went out on loan once more to Olympiakos, where he had a great campaign in which Olympiakos made it to the Champions League round of 16. Campbell really shone in the 1st leg against Manchester United, scoring a great goal past David de Gea’s far post – that was surely the highlight of the season for Joel, but he made great performances with his national team and helped them get to Brazil. Joel Campbell has had a phenomenal season and has been increasingly consistent over the past couple of years, but sadly for him, his team have a very slim chance of advancing from the group stage – they share Group D with England, Italy and Uruguay. Bad luck this time for Joel, see more in this video.
Marco Verratti (Italy) : Italy were an ageing side screaming for renovation, when a boy appeared in Pescara making the transition easier. Verrati moved to Paris Saint-Germain where his performances have forced everyone to take notice. Marco Verratti, the young midfielder has appeared like a miracle to an old Italy side, he’s part of the new guard alongside Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, of whom, Verratti is the only one who is young enough for the Young Player Award. The problem with Marco Verratti has frequently been his fiery behaviour, and he was accused of indiscipline by ex-coach Carlo Ancelotti. Perhaps Verrati has improved in that respect but it remains to be seen if he will start for Italy, and we will see what the tournament holds for him. More from Marco in this video.
Juan Fernando Quintero (Colombia): South America always has loads of talents waiting to make the big step to Europe. One player who has already trodden this path is Juan Fernando Quintero, whose skills and passing ability is often compared to compatriot James Rodriguez, while the latter is too old for this award. Quintero had a slow start at Porto and the adaptation process to living outside his country appeared to be too much for him, but this season he made a good contribution to his team although they expected more from him. In the Colombian team his role is secondary to James Rodriguez, but they are capable of playing together. This golden boy’s chances of winning this award depends on Colombia going as far as possible and him making a significant impact. See Quintero’s skills here: video.
Josip Drmić (Switzerland) : While the new star signing of Bayer Leverkusen is yet to make any special contribution to his national team, Drmić was sensational this past season, giving hopes to Nuremberg fans but sadly unable to stop the team from being relegated from the Bundesliga. Josip Drmić’s move to Leverkusen will allow him to start again with new challenges at the other end of the table. Drmić has only recently forced his way into the Switzerland team, but he’s already becoming a key figure for the Swiss, and needs to prove himself at the highest level, where Switzerland’s hopes are very much dependent on his performances. See more in this video.
Mateo Kovačić (Croatia): The inaugural match of the World Cup will be played between the hosts Brazil and Croatia, and Croatia will be looking for big performances from midfielders Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić, but their young number 10 from Inter Milan Mateo Kovačić will need to be on form if Croatia are to stand a chance. The youngster lead the midfield to an exemplary play-off win over Iceland. In the first leg, Kovačić didn’t feature and Croatia could only manage a 0-0 draw. Croatia’s new coach Niko Kovač took a gamble for the second leg and resolved his midfield dilemma by putting Modrić and Rakitić together and moving Kovacic from deep to the number 10 role behind Mandžukić, Croatia qualifying for the World Cup with a 2-0 victory. In the shadows of a terrible season with Inter, Kovačić well be looking to change that with Croatia, who have difficult group matches against Brazil, Mexico, and Cameroon. Croatia will be relying on Kovačić to be influential if they are to make it through the group. This is a video of Kovačić.
I hope this World Cup and this group of young players don’t disappoint us, because I’ve already placed a bet for one of them to win the World Cup Young Player Award, but there are others players who deserves a mention and you should keep an eye on during the tournament, the list includes: Memphis Depay (Netherlands), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley (all England), Bernard (Brazil), Granit Xhaka (Switzerland), Ogenyi Onazi (Nigeria), Heung-Min Son (South Korea), and Adnan Januzaj (Belgium).
The ball is in their court, now sit and enjoy yourself watching the most promising World Cup ever, and take a look at the amount of incredible young talent, and maybe a new world star can make his claim for glory.