The 2022 World Cup: The Rising Stars You Should Watch Out For

Photo by Thomas Serer

The FIFA World Cup is perhaps the biggest sporting event in the world, outside of the Olympic Games. And it has been exactly four years since we’ve had a major sporting event that has had a live audience in total capacity, which means that this World Cup is guaranteed to be one of the most talked-about events of the year.

Not only is this the first-ever World Cup held in the Middle East, but the controversy surrounding the fact that the event is scheduled to start in the middle of the football season (from November 21st to December 18th) has made it one of the most discussed topics amongst football fans for years. And the anticipation for it has slowly been building.

It will reach its peak by the end of this summer, and the stories surrounding the World Cup will be many. This will likely be the last major international competition for the sport’s legends — Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, and it will be their last chance to win the most coveted trophy in world football (and the only one, which they haven’t managed to get). Along with that, great footballing nations such as Spain and Germany are expected to return to the top, after flopping in the last World Cup. And everyone is waiting to see if France can really bring it home again.

However, the World Cup is not only the event where we watch the best shine and dazzle. It’s also the time when new stars begin to rise. In 2018, we saw Kylian Mbappe rise to stardom thanks to his stellar performances for France, and in 2014 the rising star crown belonged to James Rodriguez, who made us all fall in love with the underdogs from Columbia. The question now is — who will be the new rising star of the 2022 World Cup.

Let’s find out.

Pedro González López — Pedri

Current season stats:

Played: 52; Goals:4; Assists: 6

Position: Midfielder

Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas — Barcelona has a standing reputation as the place where great midfielders play. And Pedri looks to be following in the steps of those legends of the game. At only 20 years of age, he has already made a significant impact on this Barcelona team. Ever since last season, when he played 75 games for club and country (more than any other footballer), it has been clear that the future of Spain’s midfield is bright.

Pedri is the typical Barcelona midfielder — intelligent, technical, able to play pinpoint passes and run all night long. He has excellent vision, can explore spaces well, and can control the game with ease. In this Spain team, Pedri can shine by bringing in the needed creativity and pace to the game and making the transitions from attack to defense smoother. As we saw in last year’s Euros, Spain has improved and can be a contender for the World Cup if all the pieces click at the right time.

Florian Wirtz

Current season stats:

Played: 31; Goals:10; Assists: 14

Position: Attacking Midfielder; Right Winger

Florian Wirtz has everything you want in a winger — fast, great at one-on-one plays, with terrific first touch, and with an ability to see situations before they unfold. At only 18 years of age, Wirtz has become one of the top players in the Bundesliga this season and is a part of the attacking duo that has led Bayer Leverkusen to the third spot in the league.

In some ways, Wirtz reminds me of a young Marco Reus, as he is highly unselfish, smart, and able to rotate through a few attacking positions. In this Germany squad that is definitely lacking in the front three, he might just be the spark that ignites the fire. With Leroy Sane, Werner and Draxler all having troubles earning starting positions, Wirtz might form an attacking trio with Mueller and Havertz, which will bring the glory days back. After Die Mannschaft’s ridiculously early exit at the 2018 World Cup, the team will be looking to redeem itself, and with new coach Hansi Flick, it seems very likely.

Jude Bellingham

Current season stats:

Played: 37; Goals:6; Assists: 13

Position: Midfielder

This has been Bellingham’s most impressive season at Dortmund. However, he remains one of the best midfielders in his age group. He is tall, strong, good on the ball, with incredible vision and the ability to score. At times, he reminds me of a Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard kind of player — able to dictate the pace of the game, to go back when needed, and to score crucial goals.

With that said, breaking into England’s starting 11 might prove to be difficult for Bellingham since the team already has Rice, Mount, Henderson, and many other options available. However, if he puts in fantastic performances for Dortmund until the end of the season, he might just end up getting a place in Southgate’s first eleven.

Karim Adeyemi

Current season stats:

Played: 36; Goals:19; Assists: 4

Position: Centre-Forward; Winger

Thanks to the presence of Haaland, Lewandowski, and Schick in the Bundesliga, this young striker has gone almost unnoticed by most football fans. However, Karim Adeyemi from Salzburg is perhaps one of the most exciting up-and-coming strikers in European football.

Adeyemi has all the makings of a great striker — he positions himself well, has excellent finishing skills, and has a remarkable pace, which sets him apart from a lot of other center-forwards. Not only is he quick off the mark, but he is also able to continue accelerating with the ball in his feet. Along with that, he has a solid left foot, changes direction quickly, and can keep his cool in front of the goal. In a Germany team that’s desperately in need of a good striker, Adeyemi just as well might become the star of this year’s tournament.

Vinicius Junior

Current season stats:

Played: 39; Goals:17; Assists: 14

Position: Winger

This season has been Vinicius Jr’s break-out one at Real Madrid. As Los Blancos continue their fight for both the Champions League and La Liga, Vinicius remains one of Ancelotti’s key players. The Brazilian winger has been extremely prolific this season, scoring loads of goals and assisting just as well. However, his actual influence on the game can be seen, not through stats, but while watching Real Madrid games.

Vinicius is everything we can expect from a Brazilian footballer — quick, with great technique, able to pass through anyone in one-on-one situations, and with a bit of flair in his playing style. However, Vinicius is also incredibly tactically disciplined and looking to help the team in any way possible.

With Neymar almost constantly injured this year, Vinicius may be Seleção’s star in the 2022 World Cup.

Well, that’s it — those are my five picks for young football players, that you should keep a close eye on during this year’s World Cup. Who would you put in your top 5?

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