France’s Kylian Mbappe was the rising star of the 2018 World Cup, but who will make a name for themselves in Qatar 2022?
The 22nd edition of the tournament has more players than ever, a total of 832 in the 32 teams. Among them are many established global superstars, but there are plenty of less familiar faces looking to shine on football’s biggest stage.
Here, BBC Sport TV and radio World Cup commentators Guy Mowbray, John Murray and Vicki Sparks pick 10 players from outside the Premier League worth keeping an eye on this winter.
1. Daichi Kamada (Japan)
Age: 26 Position: Midfielder
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany)
Guy Mowbray: Not exactly a young prospect, but Kamada is a player we could see in the Premier League soon, with Everton reportedly leading English interest.
Kamada is having an outstanding season in the Bundesliga and Europa League, having initially struggled following his move to Frankfurt from Japan in 2017. A complete midfielder, whose best strengths are on the attacking end, but he can play deeper and address him too.
Kagawa was just “fine” for Manchester United and we never saw the great Hidetoshi Nakata in his prime for Bolton. Could Kamada be the first Japanese star to really shine here?
Or, with his contract due at the end of the season, and Borussia Dortmund fired up, he could even be the key to Jude Bellingham “coming home” to the Premier League.
2. Pedri (Spain)
Age: 19 Position: Midfielder
Club: Barcelona (Spain)
Spain and Barcelona midfielder Pedri
Vicki Sparks – Already established in Barcelona’s midfield, Pedri is approaching 100 first-team appearances for the team he supported as a child, despite missing four months of last season with a thigh injury hamstring.
An intelligent player, who says that he tries to fool his opponents because he is not the strongest physically; he’s already made an impact in a major tournament.
At last season’s European Championship, he was in the Spain squad that reached the semifinals, but he was also named young player of that tournament and made the team of the tournament.
Will your first World Cup match that?
3. Antonio Silva (Portugal)
Age: 19 Position: Center back
Club: Benfica (Portugal)
Radio 5 Live Football Correspondent John Murray: Silva’s star has risen very quickly this season with his breakthrough into the first team at Benfica, who are the unbeaten leaders of the Portuguese league and won their Champions League group ahead of Paris St-Germain.
New Benfica manager Roger Schmidt turned to Silva when injuries hit and the teenager impressed to the point that he was given a new contract, which includes a release clause of €100m. He has gone from his debut with the first team to the World Cup squad in less than three months.
4. Noah Okafor (Switzerland)
Age: 22 Position: Forward, Club: RB Salzburg (Austria)
Okafor of Switzerland and Red Bull Salzburg
Vicki Sparks: A versatile forward who can play up the middle or the flanks, Okafor has found the net 10 times in 22 games in all competitions for her club this season. That includes three Champions League goals, with her goals earning Red Bull Salzburg a draw with Chelsea and AC Milan.
Okafor has also scored an important goal for his country, opening the scoring in a 4-0 win over Bulgaria that secured Switzerland’s place in Qatar, and is attracting the attention of some big clubs across Europe.
5. Pedro (Brazil)
Age: 25 Position: Forward
Club: Flamengo (Brazil)
the brazilian striker pedro
Guy Mowbray: How do you celebrate the selection of the greatest nation in the World Cup? In Pedro’s case, immediately proposing to your girlfriend! An elegant touch from a classy player.
Let’s face it, to be chosen in a team as loaded with offensive talent as Brazil’s, you have to have something special.
He’s been scoring goals regularly since returning to Brazil after a brief unsuccessful spell with Fiorentina in 2019-20 (shortly after knee surgery), with 12 in the Copa Libertadores en route to Flamengo winning the competition on last month, including four in one game. in the round of 16 against Deportes Tolima from Colombia.
He’s not fast, but he’s an excellent finisher. A stellar substitute role awaits him when the Seleção need something different.
6. Gavi (Spain)
Age: 18 Position: Midfielder
Club: Barcelona (Spain)
Spain and Barcelona midfielder Gavi
Vicki Sparks: Certainly not a surprise inclusion on this list – he’s already played 66 games for Barcelona, despite only turning 18 in August – but could Gavi be one of the stars at his first major tournament?
The midfielder is no stranger to breaking records – he is Spain’s youngest rookie and youngest goalscorer – and has shown that his young shoulders can take the brunt of the responsibility at senior level. You don’t make your La Liga debut a few weeks after your 17th birthday, quickly followed by your debut for Spain in the Nations League semi-final against Italy if you can’t rise to the challenge, and he continues to do so with aplomb.
7.Jewison Bennette (Costa Rica)
Age: 18 Position: Forward
Club: Sunderland (England)
Jewison Bennette from Costa Rica
Vicki Sparks: Has yet to make her full Sunderland debut after signing in the summer, but Jewison Bennette has certainly settled into the Stadium of Light.
The left winger is a fan favorite for his raw speed and first touch, and the fact that he takes the bus to train with his father, who was also a Costa Rica international.
Bennette became the youngest Costa Rican player in its history when he made his debut against El Salvador in August 2021 and quickly became a key player. He set up Joel Campbell’s victory over New Zealand in the tiebreaker that sealed his place in Qatar.
8. Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)
Age: 20 Position: Center back
Club: RB Leipzig (Germany)
John Murray, Radio 5 live football correspondent: There was real concern in Croatia earlier this month when Josko Gvardiol broke his nose and suffered a swollen eye in RB Leipzig’s game against Freiburg. The relief when the center back was cleared for the World Cup tells you how highly rated he is.
At 19, Gvardiol started all of Croatia’s games at Euros last year, and last season he was part of the Leipzig team that won the German Cup, the DFB-Pokal, and reached the semifinals of Europe. League. .
He finished sixth in this year’s Kopa Trophy qualifier, for the best under-21 players, and scored his first Champions League goal in Leipzig’s 3-2 win over Real Madrid last month.
9. Garang Kuol (Australia)
Age: 18 Position: Forward
Club: Central Coast Mariners (Australia)
Vicki Sparks: It’s already been a good year for Garang Kuol. She made her senior debut last December, she signed her first professional contract in June and, in September, she agreed a deal to join Newcastle United in January.
He was called up to Australia’s World Cup squad before making his first A-League start, but his substitute stats are as spectacular as his progress during his fledgling career, scoring four goals in his first seven appearances as a substitute for Central. Coast Mariners.
Born in Egypt, Kuol came to Australia as a refugee from South Sudan. He has yet to start for Australia either, so far the only call-up for him was as a substitute, but he is definitely a player to watch out for in Qatar.
10. Bilal El Khannouss (Morocco)
Age: 18 Position: Midfielder
Club: Genk (Belgium)
Moroccan midfielder Bilal El Khannous
Guy Mowbray: The Khannouss is one of those potential World Cup gems – teenage talent without limits.
The midfielder has been rewarded for becoming a regular for Genk this season and has the technical ability to be a proper player. He plays in an attacking midfielder role and is slowly gaining the confidence to back up what he has with numbers: assists and goals.
The best story would be the one that unfolded in Morocco’s second group game, against their home country of Belgium.
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