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FIFA World Cup 2018: Werner, Jesus, Rashford, Alli, Sule - youngsters to look out for

By Prashanth Kumar
Trent Alexander-Arnold is the youngest among the England squad members at 19

Bengaluru, June 12: With the FIFA World Cup 2018 set to begin on June 14, the teams have finally kick-started their preparations for the big event in Russia.

Most of the managers have gone with a balance of youth and experience while declaring the final squads. At this World Cup, like all its previous editions, the focus will be on the star players in each side to take their team through. However, many teams also have budding young players who could be potential game-changers for their countries. For these youngsters, the World Cup is an opportunity to make a headstart in their careers and demonstrate their skill and talent on the grandest stage of them all.

FIFA World Cup page | Fixtures | Groups and points table

We continue to look at the top young talents gracing the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. First up, we glance upon a talent that Manchester City reckon will be greater than Neymar, then a Bayern player who stands 195 centimeters tall and also, a talented Belgian joining that golden generation:

(This is part 2 of the series. Read part 1 here)

Special mention - Gabriel Jesus (Brazil/Manchester City), Age: 21

Jesus scored 15 goals for Man City this season as Pep Guardiola's side waltzed to the Premier League title. There is a photo that gets retweeted whenever he scores for Brazil, A young Jesus painting kerbs in the streets of Sao Paulo. He remembers his mom's teachings and the poverty he has come from. Jesus, who will be wearing his idol Ronaldo No 9, has already scored nine in 16 appearances for his homeland. He will be tough to contend with as the Selecao aim for their 6th World Cup.

12. Youri Tielemans (Belgium/Monaco), Age: 21

Tielemans, still regarded as the golden boy of Belgian football, turned 21 this May. He followed in his youth coach Enzo Schifo's footsteps when he left Anderlecht for Monaco. But he has found life in Ligue 1 difficult and is still learning to cope with it. Supremely talented on the ball, he could play a role off the bench in Russia.

13. Davinson Sanchez (Colombia/Tottenham Hotspur), Age: 22

Sanchez debuted in professional football at Atletico Nacional in Mexico and his speed and intelligence impressed scouts from all the major European clubs. Barcelona came calling, but faced with reserve team football, he chose Ajax instead. Sanchez shined in Amsterdam and was Ajax's player of the year last season. He made a £42 million move to Tottenham, where he has superseded Toby Alderweireld, and signed an extended contract in May.

14. Manuel Akanji (Switzerland/Borussia Dortmund), Age: 22

14. Manuel Akanji (Switzerland/Borussia Dortmund), Age: 22

Stuck to appearances off the bench at second division side Winterthur at the age of 18, a growth spurt helped Akanji overtake his rivals. The defender's middle name is "Obafemi", meaning ‘one who is loved by the king' and has a crown tattooed on his arm. He joined Basel in 2015 and spent an impressive two-and-a-half years there before moving to Borrusia Dortmund in January 2018. He will be the youth in an aging Swiss defensive line.

15. Niklas Sule (Germany/Bayern Munich), Age: 22

Tipped by his Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes to be the most sought after defender in Europe in a few years, the 6ft5in centre-back is an amazing prospect. Since his move to Bayern, he has had it tough with game time being hard to come by as he is behind Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng. It seemed like the scenario with the national side would be no different. However, he has notched up more minutes than Jerome Boateng this season at Bayern. He has the intelligence and physicality and interestingly, is the second fastest player at Bayern. Germany will definitely be able to rely on this giant of a defender.

16. Julian Brandt (Germany/Bayer Leverkusen), Age: 22

His position in the holders' squad has been hotly debated recently as the Leverkusen forward has kept out Manchester City's Leroy Sane. But his facts speak for themselves; Brandt has more appearances than Sane and has at least scored for his country unlike the Man City forward. He has plenty of pace for his height, is good on the ball and can play on both the flanks. Brandt scored nine goals and assisted thre in the Bundesliga this season and will be ready to prove his manager right when called upon.

17. Timo Werner (Germany/RB Leipzig), Age: 22

17. Timo Werner (Germany/RB Leipzig), Age: 22

Werner has been soaring high for the last couple of seasons with RB Leipzig. He is the youngest ever to reach 100 and then 150 Bundesliga appearances. A return of seven goals in 12 international appearances has made him Joachim Loew's first choice striker going into the World Cup. He is well suited to the 4-2-3-1 system, is adept in playing quick passing football and is the faster than the other German strikers Mario Gomez and Sandro Wagner. Expect big things from him at this World Cup.

18. Marcus Rashford (England/Manchester United), Age: 20

18. Marcus Rashford (England/Manchester United), Age: 20

Rashford reminded everyone of his quality and potential when he opened the scoring with a stunning strike in the recent friendly against Costa Rica, which England won 2-0. After scoring on his United debut, twice in his league debut, in his first Manchester derby, in the third minute of his England debut, in his first European semi-final and in his Champions League debut, Rashford's progress seems to have come to a halt this season. Although he scored some important goals for United this season, he struggled for regular gametime and mostly made substitute appearances. Rashford's direct running, fearless attitude and energy makes him a potential game changer for Gareth Southgate's side.

19. Dele Alli (England/Tottenham Hotspur), Age: 22

19. Dele Alli (England/Tottenham Hotspur), Age: 22

He is one of the biggest talents in the Premier League. Though Alli has found it tough to replicate his first season at Tottenham, he has still managed to impress. On his day, he can be a nightmare for a retreating opposition. The MK Dons academy product, who now has his own fashion line, is not a guarantee to start for England as was the case at Euro 2016. He will mostly play in a wide role in Gareth Southgate's 4-2-3-1 system, where the England manager will hope his connection with clubmate and England captain Harry Kane pays dividend for the country.

20. Ruben Loftus-Cheek (England/Chelsea), Age: 22

20. Ruben Loftus-Cheek (England/Chelsea), Age: 22

A Chelsea player since the age of 8, Loftus- Cheek has found a place in the England squad owing to the injury suffered by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He has impressed on loan at Crystal Palace, where his manager Roy Hodgson has stated, "He is among the best I have worked with, he just doesn't have a weakness. Tall, powerful and as composed as a Rolls-Royce, Loftus-Cheek can play as an attacking/ defensive midfielder or as an emergency striker.

21. Trent Alexander-Arnold (England/Liverpool), Age: 19

21. Trent Alexander-Arnold (England/Liverpool), Age: 19

The youngest one in the England squad, Alexander-Arnold has had a whirlwind of a season in which Liverpool reached the UEFA Champions League final. Due to an injury to Nathaniel Clyne, Alexander-Arnold was promoted from the reserves to the first team at Liverpool. The teenager has never looked back since; keeping Clyne out of Liverpool's regular starting XI as well as England. He is very fast, good on the ball, physical enough for a full-back, a great crosser and can take set pieces as well. Alexander-Arnold is a huge talent who will benefit immensely from the experience of his first world cup.

22. Giovani lo Celso (Argentina/PSG), Age: 22

PSG seem to have a thing for South American players and they have always recruited the best in their need to conquer Europe. One of their latest talented recruits from Argentina is Giovani lo Celso. The midfielder has scored seven goals for PSG in 40 games with two of them in Champions League. With an injury to Manuel Lanzini, Argentina may look towards the 22-year-old to help Lionel Messi reach his quest for the holy grail.

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    Story first published: Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 9:48 [IST]
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