World Cup 2018 Wonderkids to Watch

Meet the youngsters aiming to make their mark on their first World Cup finals in Russia this summer.


REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

Different personalities can cope with the pressure of a World Cup in different ways.

 For some, the hopes of a nation weigh heavy on their shoulders – restricting their performances. For others, the privilege of representing their nation on the biggest stage makes them feel ten feet tall.

The exuberance of youth can go a long way when the pressure is on. Here are the five fearless youngsters aiming to take the world by storm in Russia.

  1. 1 Kylian Mbappe - France


    REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

    Where better to begin than with the second most expensive player of all time?

    It seems strange to still label Mbappe as a wonderkid, given that he is already a superstar in his own right. At just 19, however, it's impossible to leave him out.

    He burst onto the scene in Monaco's outstanding run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2017, scoring in knockout games against Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus.

    This blistering form earned the young forward his move to PSG where he has mainly played wide of Edinson Cavani. He still managed to net 21 times for his new club.

    The pacey skilful forward is one of the most feared young players in the world - and is virtually a certainty to start for France this summer. 

  2. 2 Rodrigo Bentancur - Uruguay


    REUTERS/Andres Stapff

    Juventus brought the rangy 20-year-old in from Boca Juniors a year ago for around £10 million and he has grown in stature as the season has gone on.

    Fairy adept with both feet, Bentancur is an all-action midfielder. A capable ball carrier, he is also capable of good passing and putting a foot in.

    Used predominantly from the bench in Serie A, the Uruguayan earned starts in the Champions League knockout stages against Tottenham and Real Madrid. 

    With Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez losing experienced midfielders like Walter Gargano and Arevalo Rios since the last World Cup, Bentancur will start alongside Inter Milan man Matias Vecino in Russia. 

    With Uruguay in a fairly weak group, expect him to stand out. 

  3. 3 Daniel Arzani - Australia


    REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

    The 19-year-old is the youngest player going to the 2018 World Cup. 

    After bursting onto the scene for Melbourne City in the second half of the A-League season, Bert van Marwijk has included the winger in his squad as a wildcard pick. 

    Arzani was used from the bench in both of Australia's warm-up matches, and made a big impact against Hungary, scoring from outside the box, before playing a big part in the Socceroos' stoppage-time winner. 

    With Melbourne being a member of Sheikh Mansour's City Group, it's not a stretch to imagine that Arzani could arrive in Manchester at some point - just like Aaron Mooy before him, and Jack Harrison from New York. 

    He will have to displace Mathew Leckie or Robbie Kruse to start, so expect Arzani to appear predominantly from the bench.

  4. 4 Maxi Gomez - Uruguay

    The burly 21-year-old centre forward has had an outstanding debut season in Europe with Celta Vigo.

    The lesser known of Uruguay's attacking triumvirate, Gomez will likely be limited to appearances from the bench in Russia. 

    It's near impossible to displace Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez from the Uruguay XI but, after scoring 18 goals in 36 appearances in La Liga, Gomez is a great option to have for Oscar Tabarez, who did manage to fit Diego Forlan in with his main two forwards at the last two World Cups.

    A stocky figure at six foot one, Gomez is strong in the air, but also lethal on the ground - capable of finding the key pass as well finishing chances himself. 

  5. 5 Trent Alexander-Arnold - England


    It's been a whirlwind 12 months for Trent Alexander-Arnold, but the 19-year-old has taken it all in his stride. 

    With Nathaniel Clyne having been ruled out for the majority of the season, opportunity knocked for Alexander-Arnold, who learned from his mistakes and improved every step of the way, culminating in a decent performance in the Champions League final.

    Likely to begin the tournament as understudy to Kieran Trippier, the Liverpool man really does have a chance of displacing his more experienced counterpart. He also possesses Trippier's crossing and technical ability, and adds to it far greater pace and athleticism.

    He's been prone to getting beaten one on one by tricky attackers, but so has Trippier. The youngest man in the England squad has a real chance of capping off a fairytale year with the perfect ending in Russia.

    Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group F in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

  1. Poll: Who will have the best World Cup?

    1. Kylian Mbappe
    2. Rodrigo Bentancur
    3. Daniel Arzani
    4. Maxi Gomez
    5. Trent Alexander-Arnold
    188 votes
    Share Your Result

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Etienne Fermie

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Étienne Fermie is a writer for RealSport, specialising in football and tennis.

Having featured in the Guardian and on LoveSport Radio, Étienne also co-founded the 3pm Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @etiennefermie 

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