Analysis: Five young players to watch at 2018 World Cup

Source: Xinhua| 2018-06-12 23:05:31|Editor: ZD
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By Michael Place

MOSCOW, June 12 (Xinhua) -- With anticipation building ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Xinhua takes a look at five young players looking to impress in Russia.


This time four years ago, Gabriel Jesus was painting the streets of his Sao Paulo neighborhood in Brazil's national colors as he prepared to watch the 2014 World Cup as just another football-obsessed fan.

The young striker has since experienced a remarkable rise to prominence, and at 21, he is now ready to spearhead his country's attack in Russia.

Jesus has already scored 25 goals in 55 appearances for Manchester City following his 21 million-euro move from Palmeiras in January 2017. He has also netted 10 times in 17 appearances for Brazil's national team.

Brazil coach Tite has confirmed that the No. 9 will begin at center forward in Brazil's first World Cup match against Switzerland, having been preferred to Liverpool's Roberto Firmino.


Real Madrid attacking midfielder Marco Asensio is unlikely to start for Spain in Russia, but he will be one of coach Julen Lopetegui's first go-to options should La Roja need to break down a stubborn opposition defence.

His speed and long-range shooting offer the 2010 world champions a Plan B if their possession-based approach falters.

Asensio first caught the eye during a loan spell with Espanyol in 2015-16. He returned to parent club Real Madrid in 2016-17 and played an important role in the team's La Liga-Champions League double.

Despite limited opportunities in the 2017-18 season, the 22-year-old scored 11 goals across all competitions as Madrid claimed their third straight Champions League crown.


Kylian Mbappe announced himself during Monaco's 2016-17 Champions League run, which ended with a 4-1 aggregate loss to Juventus in the semifinals.

After scoring 26 goals in all competitions in his first full season, the then-18-year-old joined Paris Saint-Germain last August in a deal ultimately worth 180 million euros.

And he didn't disappoint during his first season in the French capital, netting 21 times in 44 matches across all competitions.

He looks likely to start for Les Bleus, either as part of a two-man strike-force with Olivier Giroud or alongside Antoine Griezmann, slightly behind the Chelsea target man.


Australia winger Daniel Arzani is the youngest player in the World Cup and is the only man among the 32 teams born in 1999.

The 19-year-old has had a rapid rise to football's top level, having only made his professional debut for Melbourne City last August.

He has since started just 16 times for the A-League club but showed enough during the season to earn a place in coach Bert van Marwijk's squad for Russia.

Arzani is already vindicating his surprise inclusion, scoring on his debut in Australia's 4-0 friendly win over the Czech Republic on June 1.

His speed and powerful right foot have led many to describe him as Australia's best teenage prospect since Harry Kewell.


Nominally a center-back, Atletico Madrid defender Lucas Hernandez showed his versatility by playing at left-back in the second half of the season for the Spanish outfit.

The 22-year-old son of former France international defender Jean-Francois Hernandez is one of the fastest players in the French squad and is comfortable on the ball.

He may not start for Les Bleus but his adaptability makes him an ideal candidate to provide cover should they need to defend a lead, particularly later in the tournament.

And his qualities imply that once he gets a chance he's likely to take it.