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20 Players to Watch at the 2022 FIFA World Cup

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is officially underway and many of football’s most promising rising stars are set to appear at a maiden World Cup event.

Eye-catching performances at the most popular and prestigious sporting event may see players subject to mega-money moves in the transfer market, whether it be in January or next summer. The January window opens two weeks after the World Cup final on December 18.

365Scores analyse 20 players to keep tabs on in Qatar:

Group A:

– Moises Caicedo | 21 | Ecuador

Since making his international debut two years ago, the central midfielder has become of utmost importance to the Ecuador national team. Despite being one of the younger members of the squad, Caicedo remained on the pitch for at least 75 minutes in all but two of his 25 international prior to the World Cup.

In 2021, Caicedo left boyhood club Independiente to join Brighton and since April this year he has emerged as a regular starter for the Premier League team. His market value at the time of his move to England was €5million and it has since skyrocketed towards €40million, according to

This season he has been indispensable for Brighton, playing all but 11 of their 1,260 minutes in the Premier League prior to the World Cup break. Caicedo evidently has a high ceiling of potential and he may go on to become one of Ecuador’s most successful players of all-time. A favourable showing in Qatar could see top European clubs circling for his signature in the near future.

– Cody Gakpo | 23 | Netherlands

Over the past three years, Gakpo has gradually become a permanent fixture for PSV Eindhoven – the club at which he has played since eight years of age. The Dutchman made his first-team debut for PSV aged 18 and now at 23 he is a crucial ingredient for his team, having also captained the side on numerous occasions.

In terms of goal involvements, Gakpo is on course to achieve his most successful season yet. The winger has 12 goals and 14 assists in the Europa League and Eredivisie this term.

At international level, Gakpo made his senior debut for the Netherlands in June 2021. He has played nine times for Die Oranje, scoring three times, and he is prepared to be at the forefront for his country at this World Cup.

Group B:

– Jude Bellingham | 19 | England

The prodigal Englishman has emerged as one of the single most brightest prospects in world football since moving abroad aged 17. Bellingham left boyhood club Birmingham City in 2020, with the aim of gettting a taste of top-level European football.

Less than two-and-a-half years into his spell with German side Borussia Dortmund, Bellingham has become one of their most influential players and he has captained the team in the Champions League. It defies belief just how much composure and maturity the 19-year-old exudes, and there is no doubt his best years are still ahead.

This is set to be our first glimpse of Bellingham on the world stage and, realistically, he should be one of the first names on Gareth Southgate’s teamsheet.

– Giovanni Reyna | 20 | USA

Another Dortmund youngster, the attacking midfielder signed for the German club in January 2020 and he immediately made his debut for the senior team, just two months after turning 17.

Now, the 20-year-old is set to follow in the footsteps of his father, Claudio, who represented USMNT at four World Cups from 1994 to 2006. Claudio earned a total 111 caps for USA, captaining his country at the 2002 and 2006 World Cup finals.

A second-generation international, ‘Gio’ has scored four goals since earning his USMNT debut on the eve of his 18th birthday. This season, seven of his 10 league appearances have come as a substitute but he is still expected to play a crucial part for his nation in the coming month and beyond.

Group C:

– Edson Alvarez | 25 | Mexico

Our one and only exception comes in the form of the Mexico midfielder. Alvarez played at the 2018 World Cup but, still 25, he is projected to reiterate his importance to his nation during this tournament in the Arabian peninsula.

The Ajax man has seen his stocks rise during his time in the Dutch capital, with European heavyweights beginning to take notice of the robust holding midfielder. Last month Alvarez admitted his disappointment in not finalising a transfer to Premier League team Chelsea in the summer.

– Alexis Mac Allister | 23 | Argentina

Born in the Argentine city of Santa Rosa, Mac Allister’s parents are of Irish and Scottish descent albeit Alexis opted to represent his birth nation.

He has forged a rigid midfield partnership with Moises Caicedo at Brighton, and the Seagulls are 7th on the Premier League table during the World Cup. This season, Mac Allister has matched his PL goal returns from the entirety of last season (5).

Mac Allister is slowly becoming a household name in the Premier League and it is just a matter of time before he is granted the opportunity to realise his potential at a top European club.

– Nicola Zalewski | 20 | Poland

Traditionally utilised as a wing-back for Roma, Zalewski is most comfortable occupying a wide defensive role, whether it be as part of a back four or five. The versatility of the 20-year-old means he is capable of playing with either foot on the ball.

This year in particular, he has proven himself among the best players in José Mourinho’s ranks. In 2022, the young Pole has started 25 out of 34 games (Serie A / Europa League / Europa Conference League) he has been involved in, although he is yet to register a goal for the first-team.

Zalewski is still in the formative years of his professional career and, while a top club may await him one day, he is contracted to Roma until June 2025.

Group D:

– Hannibal Mejbri | 19 | Tunisia

The 19-year-old was born in France but opted to switch international allegiance to his parents’ country of birth. Currently on loan from Man United, he plays for Birmingham City in the EFL Championship having joined United’s academy in 2019.

Hannibal offers creativity as well as some aggression and a high work rate. He made his Tunisia debut in June 2021 and was majorly involved in their route to the FIFA Arab Cup final at the end of last year.

– Aurelien Tchouameni | 22 | France

Since completing a dream move to Real Madrid which cost an eye-watering €80million, Tchouameni has proven he is unfazed by everything else going on around him and that he is a dedicated, talented, and hard-working individual.

The young Frenchman has massive shoes to fill, with he and club teammate Eduardo Camavinga expected to deputise for the World Cup-winning duo of N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba. The pair of seasoned midfielders are ruled out through respective hamstring and knee injuries, and Tchouameni may find himself thrown straight into the deep end in Qatar.

While the pressure will certainly be heaping, Tchouameni may use this as an opportunity to prove himself as Les Bleus‘ preferred option in the centre of the pitch.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Group E:

– Takefusa Kubo | 21 | Japan

Since joining Real Madrid in 2019, Kubo has been loaned out to four different clubs in LaLiga in a bid to get the Japan right-winger accustomed to football in Spain.

His attacking returns don’t particularly make for pretty reading, with eight goals and seven assists in 106 matches in the Spanish top flight.

Kubo earned his Japan debut in June 2019, though he has started less than half of his 20 international outings until now. He notched his first goal in June this year, in a friendly against Ghana, on what was cap number 17.

– Jamal Musiala | 19 | Germany

There will be a plethora of world-class ballers on display in Qatar, but Group E is particularly loaded with stacks of young talent. German starlet Musiala has emerged as a significant force for European giants Bayern Munich, with the teenager a mainstay in the Bavarians’ strongest team.

Musiala earned his international debut three months before Euro 2020 and went on to be included in the squad for the tournament, albeit he was given just nine minutes of playing time.

This season Musiala has nine goals and six assists in the Bundesliga, averaging a goal involvement every 66 minutes. He has asserted himself as integral for Bayern and will continue pushing to achieve likewise for Die Mannschaft.

– Pedri Gonzalez | 20 | Spain

The Barcelona youngster has proven himself as one of the brightest young players in the world, both for club and country. He and Gavi are tipped to become as (or more) influential for Barca and Spain as Iniesta and Xavi were before them.

Pedri was a revelation at Euro 2020, playing every minute of Spain’s six matches until elimination in the semi-finals. Having played only four times for the national team before the Euro, the prodigal midfielder was named Young Player of the Tournament.

Earlier this year he battled with a recurring hamstring injury but, when fit and available, he is an obvious starter for Barca as well as for Spain. Heading to his first World Cup, and with his 20th birthday looming, Pedri has collected 14 caps for the national team.

(Photo: @FIFAWorldCup on Twitter)

Group F:

– Jonathan David | 22 | Canada

Born in New York, his family moved north to Canada when he was still a minor. Now, an established international with Canada, the young forward may provide the Maple Leafs’ primary goalscoring threat at the World Cup.

The striker currently plies his trade at Lille in France and he has scored 24 league goals since the start of last season. David bagged nine goals in WC qualifiers, with only countryman Cyle Larin scoring more, and now the 22-year-old will be looking to translate those performances into a successful showing in Qatar.

– Josko Gvardiol | 20 | Croatia

Considered one of the best young and up-and-coming defenders, the Croatian centre-back is looking to become his country’s rock at the back for the long-term.

Gvardiol possesses physicality and pace, each in abundance, and his ability to pick a pass is not too shabby either. His height naturally enhances his presence in aerial situations and he could be influential at set-pieces at both ends of the pitch.

He has been linked with Chelsea and, with the Blues reportedly also in advanced talks with Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku, the Red Bull franchise could see two of its best players heading for London in 2023.

– Leandro Trossard | 27 | Belgium

Trossard is making waves at Brighton in the Premier League, with seven goals in 14 matches this campaign. One more PL goal would see the Belgium forward match his tally from last term.

Earlier this season, the left-winger found the net three times against Liverpool to become just the third opposing player to nick a hat-trick at Anfield.

For national team, he has amassed 21 caps since his debut for the Red Devils in September 2020. Trossard has five international goals to his name and, especially in the knockout rounds, he could play a key role as an impact sub.

Group G:

– Vinícius Junior | 22 | Brazil

After joining Real Madrid aged 18, the young Brazilian took a couple years to fully settle in and show glimpses of his best football in the Spanish capital.

In the past couple seasons, Viní has emrged as an important figure within the Real set-up and he was the hero in the Champions League final earlier this year, as Los Blancos were crowned European champions for a record 14th time.

Viní made his Brazil debut in 2019 but only truly broke into the team towards the beginning of 2022. He has amassed just 16 caps in three years and has scored a solitary goal in Brazil colours, however Qatar 2022 is the perfect time and place for the nimble winger to get up and running with his nation.

– Dusan Vlahović | 22 | Serbia

Vlahović endured his breakthrough season in 2020/21, scoring 21 goals for Fiorentina in Serie A. The centre-forward maintained his goalscoring form the following campaign, culminating in an €80million transfer to Italian giants Juventus in January. He netted a total 24 goals in the Italian top flight last season albeit only seven came in Juve colours.

Vlahović has earned 16 caps for Serbia since making his debut in October 2020. He has scored eight international goals, four of them coming in World Cup qualifying. He has struck up a powerful partnership with Aleksandr Mitrovic and this strike force will present Serbia’s most substantial attacking threat.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Group H:

– Mohammed Kudus | 22 | Ghana

Having been at Ajax for two-and-a-half years, Kudus has began to emerge as a regular first-teamer at the Dutch champions. The attacking midfielder has scored nine goals in the Eredivisie and Champions League this season. Four of those strikes came in Europe and only four players have more UCL goals and are still involved in the competition.

Kudus still has loads to give and if his early-season form is anything to go by, the Ghanaian could have himself a memorable maiden World Cup outing.

– Rafael Leão | 23 | Portugal

Leão has been at AC Milan for more than three years, though his first 18 months in Italy were stop-start as the Portuguese winger struggled for a run of regular minutes. Since the start of 2021, Leão has stepped up to the plate for Milan and, in doing so, cemented the left-wing position his own.

Last season he became a Serie A winner with Milan, having played a substantial part in the Rossoneri capturing its first Scudetto since 2011. This past summer, Leão was courted by a number of renowned clubs across Europe, but Milan are desperate to tie down the 23-year-old to a new contract at San Siro.

– Federico Valverde | 24 | Uruguay

Uruguay are blessed to have a utility player in the Real Madrid man, who appears to be booming in confidence this term. Valverde was of vital importance in Real’s route to a 14th Champions League title and the versatile midfielder continues to play in numerous different positions at club level.

This season Valverde has added goals to his game, so far notching eight from 19 games in LaLiga and the Champions League. Valverde registered just six goals throughout the past five seasons, combined, across all competitions.

Valverde looks to spearhead the next-generation of Uruguayan talent and is on track to shine for La Celeste, who could pose a serious threat as a potential dark horse in Qatar.

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