There is no greater platform than the World Cup. A few weeks of good performances on the global stage is all it takes to move a player’s career into overdrive.
In Qatar this winter, there are plenty of youngsters desperate for the chance to make a name for themselves in front of the biggest audience possible, with every country bringing at least one young player just waiting to take the world by storm.
Here’s one young player from every team you should be keeping an eye on in Qatar.
In line for his senior debut this winter, Xavi Simons has enjoyed a sensational 2022.
The former Barcelona and PSG starlet is tearing it up with PSV Eindhoven, racking up eight goals and four assists in 14 Eredivisie outings before the tournament.
For the hosts, we have 23-year-old left-back Homam Ahmed of Al-Gharafa.
Ahmed is an attack-minded full-back who often plays an outside centre-back role and likes to get forward whenever possible, giving Qatar an unpredictability in their setup.
In an Ecuador squad which features young gems like Moises Caicedo and Piero Hincapie, 21-year-old centre-back William Pacho will be looking to stand out.
A left-footed defender with impressive passing vision, he left Independiente del Valle to join Royal Antwerp in January and is a regular in Belgium’s top flight.
Senegal have some sensational young talents heading to Qatar, with winger Nicolas Jackson arguably the most intriguing.
Yet to make his debut for the senior international side, Jackson has broken through at club level with Villarreal and is making waves in La Liga, with some top clubs rumoured to be watching him every week.
The intense spotlight on England‘s youngsters means they are all household names already, but you still feel this could be somewhat of a breakout tournament for Jude Bellingham.
Clubs across the globe are considering £100m+ bids for the Borussia Dortmund midfielder, who is only just starting to justify that on the international stage.
The only member of Iran’s squad under 26 years old is Abolfazl Jalali, who has been a regular for his country in 2022 at left-back.
The 24-year-old enjoys the attacking side of the game and has often been deployed at club level for Esteghlal, who try to make the most of his keen eye for a cross.
Major League Soccer’s Young Player of the Year for 2022, 21-year-old forward Jesus Ferreira bagged 18 goals in 33 outings for FC Dallas last season.
He’s looking to follow the likes of Sergino Dest, Gio Reyna and Yunus Musah in making a name for himself outside of his homeland.
There’s plenty of youth in this Wales side but few players will have more weight on their shoulders than Nottingham Forest forward Brennan Johnson.
The 21-year-old has shared Wales’ attacking duties alongside talisman Gareth Bale, whom it is hoped he will be able to replace in the lineup for good once the tournament comes to a close.
Young forward Thiago Almada is an obvious option here but, for most fans, this will be the first chance to watch Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez in action.
The 21-year-old has been in the rumour mill recently amid reports that both Manchester United and Liverpool are readying massive bids to sign him, so here’s your chance to draw up a scouting report.
Al-Fateh striker Firas al-Buraikan has quietly emerged as his country’s most dangerous striker since his 2021 exit from Al-Nassr.
The tall forward has four goals in eight games this season and is expected to start most games for Saudi Arabia.
Another of the older squads in the tournament, Mexico have just one Under-23 player in their ranks, but they’ve got a special one in the form of Kevin Alvarez.
The Monterrey right-back is an attacking menace with his driving runs annd already has five assists for his club this season.
Wing-back Nicola Zalewski is a fully fledged member of Roma’s senior squad these days and is expected to line up on the left side of Poland’s midfield.
The 20-year-old, who was born in Italy, has impressed in Serie A and is another youngster to have attracted interest from a handful of heavy hitters.
France boast some of the most expensive young talents on the planet, with Arsenal centre-back William Saliba the latest sensation to break through for Les Bleus.
Saliba has been one of the top defenders in England this season and, with neither Jules Kounde nor Raphael Varane fully fit, he may get plenty of minutes this winter.
Newcastle were wise to snap Australian starlet Garang Kuol up before he had the chance to raise his asking price at the World Cup.
The lightning fast teenager is seen by many as perhaps the most exciting youngster to emerge from Australian football this century, and he’ll be expected to provide a huge injection of energy of the bench.
Mikkel Damsgaard was one of the stars of Euro 2020 and Denmark are hopeful that Jesper Lindstrom can enjoy a similar rise this winter.
Arsenal have been linked with the 22-year-old forward, who has six goals in 14 games for Eintracht Frankfurt this season.
Brondby midfielder Anis Slimane would be the obvious answer for Tunisia if the world wasn’t about to get the chance to watch the mercurial Hannibal Mejbri in action.
Mejbri joined Birmingham on loan from Manchester United this summer and his creative vision has already translated well to senior football, so hopes are high for him here.
Spain’s squad is overflowing with young talent. Most of them are household names at this point but one player who is only just approaching that status is Athletic Club’s Nico Williams.
The brother of Inaki, who now turns out for Ghana, the younger Williams is an explosive winger who has three goals and four assists in La Liga this year. Scouts will be watching closely.
Seen as one of the bright lights of Costa Rica’s emerging crop of talent, 19-year-old Brandon Aguilera was snapped up by Nottingham Forest this summer before returning to his homeland on loan.
An excellent creative midfielder, Aguilera has Costa Rica fans’ hopes high.
With Jamal Musiala already one of the most well-known midfielders around, we’ll give this one to recent debutant Youssoufa Moukoko.
The 17-year-old striker, whose contract is up next summer, has long been touted as a generational talent in attack and this will be the first chance many supporters have had to catch him in action.
Still only 21 years old, Japan winger Takefusa Kubo remains on his quest to live up to the sky-high hype surrounding him.
Dubbed ‘the Japanese Messi’ when he joined Barcelona in 2011, Kubo left Real Madrid permanently this summer for Real Sociedad and is still looking for a settled home to get his development going again.
Belgium’s squad is fun. Zeno Debast is a gem at the back and Lois Openda is prolific in attack, but Theate could make a bigger statement than any of them here.
The Rennes centre-back is looking to move from wonderkid territory right into superstar, and a bid performance here could do exactly that.
Lille striker Jonathan David has almost certainly been linked to your club. The 22-year-old could earn himself an expensive transfer in January with a good performance this winter.
Expect David to lead a young core which includes intriguing prospects like Tajon Buchanan, Liam Miller and Ismael Kone.
Morocco aren’t going to win the World Cup, but they will come out of this tournament with smiles on their faces after convincing Bilal El Khannouss to switch allegiance from Belgium.
The 18-year-old attacking midfielder has been sensational for Genk and could play a sizeable role for his country following the nasty injury to Amine Harit.
You shouldn’t need a reminder to watch out for Josko Gvardiol in the Croatia backline, but while your eyes are there, don’t overlook Josip Sutalo either.
Touted as a possible replacement for Gvardiol if he leaves RB Leipzig, Sutalo has been a real force in the Dinamo Zagreb defence and is destined for a big move in the near future.
Another nation with a rich crop of youth, Brazil fans weren’t all best-pleased to see Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli get the call-up, which was a confusing reaction to say the least.
Martinelli has been sensational in the Premier League and arrives in Qatar with real confidence, which could be crucial if he wants to take minutes away from Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.
Regularly compared to international icon Nemanja Vidic, Strahinja Pavlovic is 21 but looking to prove himself once again after a 2020 move to Monaco didn’t work out.
The centre-back is now with Red Bull Salzburg and played every minute of the Austrian side’s surprisingly impressive Champions League campaign.
Salzburg’s Noah Okafor nearly got the nod here but Young Boys midfielder Fabien Rieder is too intriguing to ignore.
The 20-year-old is yet to appear for his country but that is surely about to change for Rieder, who scored a worldie against Manchester United at Old Trafford last season.
Few clubs across Europe boast the same eye for talent as Rennes, who snapped up Cameroonian centre-back Christopher Wooh from Lens during the summer.
He’s new to the international scene but has faced this calibre of player plenty of times in Ligue 1.
Defender Antonio Silva and striker Goncalo Ramos are worth watching but this tournament feels like it could be the platform for Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa to ascend to the next level.
The 23-year-old is one of the most fascinating shot stoppers around these days and is only just breaking through to his country’s starting lineup, where he looks set to remain for the next decade.
Sticking in Portugal, Sporting CP’s Issahaku Fatawu has been making waves sinces his days in his homeland but is now getting the international recognition he deserves.
The 18-year-old winger is a regular starter for his country and scored his first international goal in his final appearance before the tournament.
A well-known name on one side of the Atalantic, Orlando winger Facundo Torres has found himself mentioned on the other with links to Arsenal in recent weeks.
The 22-year-old is a well-rounded forward who reached double figures for both goals and assists last season and arrives at this tournament feeling on top of the world.
The latest instalment in the mysterious story of Lee Kang-in continues here. The 21-year-old was a star in Valencia’s academy and even made an impressive transition to the senior game in 2019, only to find his career smashing into a wall soon after.
Now on the books at Mallorca, the versatile Lee is enjoying the most prolific season of his career this year and will hope to have finally reignited the flame under him.