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In case you missed it, we compiled a list of the best young players to watch at this World Cup, encouraging you to be a hipster rather than following the usual crowd of Ronaldo, Messi etc.
You can see all the lists here:
Below are detailed analysis we’ve done of the lists, based on different factors.
The first table below lists out the different young players going to the World Cup on the basis of the country they represent. These could be indicative of 2 things; how much young talent there is in a country, and how good is it. Belgium and Switzerland, have 3 representatives each, and all these representatives are sure starters. This reveals that the two countries in question are seeing their best phases in a while, as these talents have easily usurped positions that might have been occupied by senior players. It’s also telling that 3 is the highest number of young players on any one country’s team. It definitely shows that coaches prefer taking experience to a tournament like the World Cup. To back up this point, you’ll also notice that there are no players there simply on the basis of their talent (a la Theo Walcott 2006), but all are regular, if not key players, at their clubs. This shows you the importance of experience.
|Belgium||Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne||3|
|Switzerland||Ricardo Rodriguez, Josip Drmic, Xherdan Shaqiri||3|
|France||Paul Pogba, Raphael Varane||2|
|Netherlands||Bruno Martins Indi, Jordy Clasie||2|
|Italy||Mattia De Sciglio, Marco Verratti||2|
|Ivory Coast||Serge Aurier||1|
|South Korea||Heung Min Son||1|
As the table above shows, experience is very important for a player to even get to the world cup. The experience shouldn’t be just any experience, playing at a quality club where you can learn and grow as a player and a person aids one’s development immensely. As you can see in the table below, most players here don’t play at their original club, or a club in their home country. Moving abroad at a young age has likely helped these players to develop this experience, and grow. It is also noticeable that a lot of these clubs are near the top of their leagues, and playing European football. The World Cup truly does bring together the elite of football!
|Chelsea||Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku, Oscar||3|
|Wolfsburg||Ricardo Rodriguez, Kevin De Bruyne||2|
|Leverkusen||Josip Drmic, Heung Min Son||2|
|Feyernoord||Bruno Martins Indi, Jordy Clasie||2|
|Bayern Munich||Xherdan Shaqiri, Mario Gotze||2|
|AS Monaco||James Rodriguez||1|
|Inter Milan||Mateo Kovacic||1|
|Real Madrid||Raphael Varane||1|
|AC Milan||Mattia De Sciglio||1|
|Spartak Moscow||Majeed Waris||1|
|CSKA Moscow||Ahmed Musa||1|
|Sporting CP||William Carvalho||1|
No surprises here. In terms of which leagues give the best exposure to young talents, the Bundesliga is miles ahead of the competition. One must credit the rules in place in Germany, that have enabled such a situation. It’s just stunning that so many top class players play in this league. One must also take note of the heavy duty talent in the Premier League and La Liga. Players like Varane, Neymar, Oscar, and Coutrois are already some the best in the world. This should give you an idea of the spending power available there. It’s also telling that ‘poorer’ leagues, such as those in places like Russia need to scout talent in places like Africa, where players are a lot cheaper.
|Bundesliga||Ricardo Rodriguez, Josip Drmic, Xherdan Shaqiri, Kevin De Bruyne, Sead Kolasinac, Heung Min Son, Mario Gotze||7|
|Premier League||Thibaut Courtois, Oscar, Romelu Lukaku, Raheem Sterling||4|
|La Liga||Neymar, Raphael Varane, Koke||3|
|Ligue 1||James Rodriguez, Serge Aurier, Marco Verratti||3|
|Serie A||Paul Pogba, Mateo Kovacic, Mattia De Sciglio||3|
|Eredivisie||Bruno Martins Indi, Jordy Clasie||2|
|Russian League||Majeed Waris, Ahmed Musa||2|
|Primeira Liga||William Carvalho||1|
While there may not be too much to write home about in terms of favourites getting knocked out, but for a follower of young talents, it is a treasure trove, with Switzerland and France relying heavily on these gems for progress. Group H, with Belgium in particular is another one to watch. The much fancied Belgian side are bolstered by a lot of young talent, and will look to leverage this talent and turn it into results.
|A||Neymar, Oscar, Mateo Kovacic||3|
|B||Bruno Martins Indi, Jordy Clasie, Koke||3|
|C||James Rodriguez, Serge Aurier||2|
|D||Mattia De Sciglio, Marco Verratti, Raheem Sterling||3|
|E||Paul Pogba, Ricardo Rodriguez, Josip Drmic, Xherdan Shaqiri, Raphael Varane||5|
|F||Sead Kolasinac, Ahmed Musa||2|
|G||Mario Gotze, Majeed Waris, William Carvalho||3|
|H||Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Heung Min Son||4|
For all those of you who enjoy a tactical discussion, this is surely an interesting table. The midfielders have more young players than the other 3 positions combined. For all those who think that football is heading towards a stage where universality is a prized asset in players, this is probably vindication. The majority of the next generation of stars are midfielders. Strikingly, around 9 of them are unarguably versatile and well capable of playing very comfortably in different positions in the midfield. Moreover, the emphasis on technique is there to be seen. Every player on this list, attacking or defending, can be described as technically solid. Surely, this is evolution in process?
|Defender||Ricardo Rodriguez, Serge Aurier, Bruno Martins Indi, Raphael Varane, Sead Kolasinac, Mattia De Sciglio||6|
|Midfielder||James Rodriguez, Paul Pogba, Oscar, Mateo Kovacic, Xherdan Shaqiri, Kevin De Bruyne, Jordy Clasie, Mario Gotze, Marco Verratti, Raheem Sterling, Koke, Ahmed Musa, William Carvalho||13|
|Forwards||Neymar, Romelu Lukaku, Josip Drmic, Heung Min Son, Majeed Waris||5|