10 players we can’t wait to see at their first World Cup this year

Quick Reads
England's Phil Foden during the win against Ivory Coast at Wembley, London, March 2022.

It’s a World Cup year and, even if the 2022 Finals are in the winter in Qatar, you can’t help but get a little bit excited already.

One of the best bits of a World Cup is when players you’d previously never heard of, both young and old, burst onto the scene.

It usually causes quite a stir in the transfer market, as clubs race to get their hands on the new household names. Think James Rodriguez in 2014, who ended up leaving Monaco for Real Madrid after his brilliant performances in Brazil.

So here are ten players we’re excited to see at the World Cup later this year. Make sure to keep an eye out for them.

Phil Foden

Foden was always going to be on here.

To call him a wonderkid feels disingenuous considering he’s already a regular in perhaps the best footballing side in the world and plays with a confidence and maturity that is vastly beyond his age.

We’re not sure he’s a guaranteed starter in Gareth Southgate’s England XI but, injury permitting, he’ll surely play a big part out in Qatar.

He’s simply a wonder. We can’t wait to see him on the biggest stage of all.

Mohammed Kudus

Ghana are heading for the World Cup for the first time since 2010, when they reached the quarter-finals and were denied a historic victory by the hand of Luis Suarez.

This time they’ll have 21-year-old Kudus with them, who is Ghana’s young and exciting attacking midfielder.

He’s incredibly creative, technical and direct. On the ball, he is mesmerising at times.

The Ajax player has had to contend with injury this season but is working his way back to full fitness and will hope the worst is behind him so he can focus on the World Cup. If he performs well, a big club might come knocking in January.

Christian Pulisic

Captain America has taken the US back to the World Cup – can he prove his Chelsea doubters wrong?

Christian Pulisic of the USA Men's National Team, Orlando, Explorer Stadium 27 March 2022.

READ: 7 stats behind Christian Pulisic’s amazing performances for the USA

Gareth Bale*

We know Wales haven’t qualified yet and there’s a good chance they won’t if Scotland and Ukraine have anything to say about it.

But just imagine Bale at a World Cup. Fired up, potentially for one last hurrah.

More of this please. Wales, Golf, Madrid: in that order.

Hannibal Mejbri

Tunisia always seem to be the most forgettable side at any World Cup but perhaps the presence of Mejbri holds the promise of something different from the North Africans?

The Manchester United youngster is just 19 and is already a regular for his country despite not making a senior start for his club.

Tricky feet, brilliant hair and audacious ability. What’s not to love? It might even make Tunisia vaguely interesting…

Andre Onana

After starting the year by hosting AFCON, Cameroon will end it with their first World Cup appearance since 2014.

They haven’t won a World Cup match since their 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in 2002, going winless in 2010 and 2014.

But this time they’ll have Onana, who will be eager to reassert himself as the best young goalkeeper on the planet. He’s had well-publicised difficulties in the past year, but at just 25 he’s got his best years to come.

He’ll have a new club by the time Qatar rolls around, likely Inter Milan, and will be eager to prove himself on the World’s biggest stage. The hopes of a nation rests on his shoulder.

Joao Cancelo

He’s one of the best wing-backs in the world, and yet Cancelo didn’t play at the 2018 World Cup.

Four years on and he’s indispensable for Manchester City, while also being one of the first names on the team sheet for Portugal.

He’s somehow everywhere on the pitch at once, part full-back part midfielder part winger. If Portugal’s stars can find a way of playing together, and coach Fernando Santos releases the handbrake just a little, Cancelo could be the heart and soul of an intimidating side.

Florian Wirtz

Germany’s golden boy will have his eyes set on firing his name into the same stratosphere as world-renowned young stars like Foden and Erling Haaland.

He is that good, but has just suffered a rupture to his cruciate ligament, which will see him out for an undetermined length of time. Hopefully, it’ll be a short one.

If he’s got his fitness back he’ll have something to prove – as do Germany following two disappointing tournaments. A serious one to watch.

Cyle Larin

Canada are at their first World Cup since 1986, and so a whole nation of players will make their World Cup debut.

We could have picked any of them. From Jonathan David to Alphonso Davies, but instead we’ve gone for their main goal threat in the form of Larin.

The Besiktas striker has scored 13 in 16 in qualifying, the most of anyone on the continent and, whilst his club form isn’t great, he turns up for the great white north time and time again.

Besides, it’s never the big names who impress the most at tournaments. When he scores a brace at the World Cup, you’ll know who told you.

Raphinha

We think our Leeds-supporting Planet Football editor wouldn’t have forgiven us if we didn’t mention the current apple of his eye.

Raphinha is one of the jewels of the Brazil side that will enter the tournament as favourites to win their first World Cup since 2022.

And who can blame him? He even somehow looks like a Copa Mundial player. In Qatar, he should become one of the stars of the tournament.

Leeds United Raphinha in action against West Ham. Saturday September 25, 2021.

READ: Raphinha’s immaculate through ball showed Bielsa was right to hype

By Patrick Ryan


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