Jude Bellingham celebrates after scoring for Borussia Dortmund. Bielefelder Alm, October 2021.

15 Under-23 stars we’re really excited to see at the Qatar 2022 World Cup

Expectation is beginning to build for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar – and one of the things we’re most excited about is seeing which young players will use the tournament to announce themselves as superstars.

Every time the tournament rolls around there are inevitably a couple of young players who stand out and make the entire world take note.

With only a couple of months to go until another highly-anticipated World Cup, we’ve taken a look at 15 players under the age of 23 who are set to shine on the biggest stage.

Jude Bellingham – England

Bellingham has been a wonderkid for so long it’s a wonder he’s still a kid. But that he is, a mere 19 years old with stacks of potential.

Real Madrid, Manchester City and Liverpool have been linked incessantly with the teenager, who enjoyed another strong season with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga in 2021-22 and has started well this term.

He may not start every match for England at the tournament, but expect Bellingham to be heavily involved.

Eduardo Camavinga – France

If you’re at Real Madrid at 19 and cost €40million you’re doing pretty well.

That’s very much the case for Camavinga, who is one of European football’s brightest prospects and has been for some time.

Carlo Ancelotti eased the young France international into life at Real Madrid, understandably, but there should be big things to come. Keep an eye on him in Qatar.

Aurelien Tchouameni – France

Why have only one brilliant young French Real Madrid midfielder on a list like this when you can have two?

That Tchouameni joined Real Madrid from Monaco for €100million in the summer of 2022 tells you how highly he’s rated.

But even he probably didn’t expect to go straight into Carlo Ancelotti’s first team. With the departure of Casemiro to Real Madrid, however, that is precisely what’s happened.

Could he start for France in Qatar too? Given that he was in Didier Deschamps’ XI for three of the four Nations League games in June and N’Golo Kante is currently not fully fit, he could well do.

Ryan Gravenberch – Netherlands

Gravenberch was so impressive and so instrumental for Ajax that Erik ten Hag seemed hopeful of taking him to Manchester United in the summer.

Instead, Bayern Munich won the race to sign the highly-rated midfielder.

“Although he is very young, he is already a great player,” said former Manchester United defender Jaap Stam of Gravenberch.

“He has good running, remarkable technical skills and is good at passing. In England, they would call him a box-to-box player.”

He’s not had the playing time he might have hoped in Munich so far and Bild have reported he’s a bit peeved.

But the 20-year-old is a quality player and already has 10 caps for the Netherlands, so he’ll hope to play a big part for Louis van Gaal’s team at the World Cup.

Antony – Brazil

There’s a reason Manchester United broke the bank to bring him in. Antony’s been destined for big things since day one.

Antony dos Santos of Sao Paulo FC after scoring in the final of the Copa Sao Paulo de Futebol Junior against Vasco da Gama. Pacaembu Stadium, Sao Paulo, Brazil. 31 January 2019.

READ: The day Man Utd’s Antony showed he was destined to be a superstar

Vinicius Jr – Brazil

With all the attacking talent at Brazil manager Tite’s disposal, he might not be able to field Vinicius and Antony together all that much, but we could definitely see them both making a huge impact as subs, or one starting and the other coming on in their place.

Vinicius doesn’t really need an introduction anymore – he’s scored the winner in a Champions League final, for crying out loud – but we still can’t wait to see what he’ll do for Brazil in Qatar.

Brazil have such a special relationship with the tournament that they’ll always be among the favourites. And if Vinicius can repeat his Real Madrid heroics in canary yellow, he’ll move into another stratosphere of stardom.

Nuno Mendes – Portugal

One of a host of talented young players to emerge recently at Sporting, Mendes recently completed a permanent switch to Paris Saint-Germain after spending the 2021-22 season there on loan.

The 20-year-old has adapted well to Christophe Galtier’s new 3-4-3 formation and can provide a lot of the width and running that PSG’s front three don’t.

With 15 Portugal caps to his name already, Mendes could be a key player for Fernando Santos’ side in Qatar.

Pedri – Spain

The 19-year-old midfielder, whose importance to Barcelona in the centre of the pitch has earned him comparisons with Xavi, is without question one of the most gifted young footballers on the planet.

“Look, he’s an extraordinary player. Don’t skimp on the praise for him,” Xavi said of Pedri, already a regular for Spain.

“He’s a player that excites me and one that can make a difference.”

He impressed at the Euros last summer and we can’t wait to see how we does at the World Cup.

Gavi – Spain

Why have only one brilliant young Spanish Barcelona midfielder on a list like this when you can have two?

La Roja boss Luis Enrique is very much of the ‘good enough, old enough’ school of thought and he’s absolutely enamoured with Gavi, who, at 18, is already a fixture of the Barcelona and Spain teams.

Luis Enrique told TVE: “[Gavi is] an erupting volcano. It is very difficult not to fall in love with Gavi. Any fan wants to see him play.”

We’re not exactly sure what he’s is talking about there, but we’ll go with it.

Charles De Ketelaere – Belgium

Breaking into the Belgium setup during what has become known as the country’s golden generation is no mean feat. But De Ketelaere has managed it, earning eight caps by the age of 21.

A tally of 17 goals in all competitions for Club Brugge last season got people talking about the attacking midfielder and earned him a summer move to Italian champions AC Milan, where he’s gone straight into Stefano Pioli’s team.

Jamal Musiala – Germany

Musiala has been a revelation for Bayern Munich this season and last.

The 19-year-old is now starting pretty much every game and is the talk of the town in Munich, with five goals and two assists already in 2022-23.

He fancies his chances of being involved for Germany at the World Cup, and justifiably so.

“I believe in myself! But it doesn’t matter whether I’m in the starting XI or a sub, I want to be ready and help the team. I want to help us get far,” Musiala said.

With former Bayern boss Hansi Flick now in charge of the national team, it could be a big tournament for Musiala.

Alphonso Davies – Canada

Canada have qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and we reckon they’re going to surprise a few people come November.

They’ve got a terrifically exciting team, full of verve and energy, and nobody encapsulates that more clearly that Bayern Munich full-back-cum-wing-terror Alphonso Davies.

He missed a few of the qualifiers with injury, but he’s back firing on all cylinders now and will lead the Maple Leafs in Qatar.

Canada's Ian Bridge challenges France's Jean-Pierre Papin at the 1986 Mexico World Cup. Leon, Mexico. June 1 1986.

READ: How Canada beat the odds to reach 1986 World Cup: ‘We relied on desire’

Luka Sucic – Croatia

A midfielder with a real eye for goal, Sucic has netted 11 times in all competitions for Red Bull Salzburg last season.

His impressive performances have led to rumours of interest from Liverpool, and he’s likely to be a key figure for a Croatia side going through something of a rebuilding process at the World Cup.

Ricardo Pepi – USA

Much was expected of Pepi when he signed for German side Augsburg in a $20million deal from FC Dallas in January 2022.

The 19-year-old striker had been flying in MLS, but there was a little concern when he failed to score in 15 Bundesliga appearances after his move to Europe.

He’s now out on loan at Groningen in the Netherlands looking to find his feet again and recorded an assist on his debut.

There’s certainly a good deal of talent there, so if he can build up a head of steam before the call-up, he should still make the USMNT squad and could surprise fans in Qatar.

Pape Matar Sarr – Senegal

Sarr’s impressive performances for Ligue 1 side Metz in the 2020-21 season earned him a move to Tottenham.

The 19-year-old midfielder was quickly loaned back to Metz and was been a key player again, though he couldn’t help his side avoid relegation to the second tier.

He’s now back at Spurs, and though he’s not getting any game time, we still think he’ll be in the Lions of Teranga squad later this year.

He played a role in their AFCON win earlier in 2022 and could use the World Cup – rather than club football – as the stage to announce himself as a player of note.

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