The next big thing: 6 young players to watch out for at the 2018 World Cup

All of these young stars can potentially make a name for themselves on the world stage in Russia this summer.

THE WORLD CUP has always been a breeding ground for world-class players. It is a chance for some young players to lead their nation to glory and propel their own careers.

From Maldini and Owen in the nineties to Mesut Özil and James Rodriguez in more recent times, the World Cup has been a platform for young players to establish themselves among the world’s elite. Expect it to be no different in Russia.

A lot of countries are expected to field very young teams this summer, with a number of top teams in periods of transition. Brazil, Spain, France, England and even the holders Germany are all bringing very different teams to Russia than they brought to Brazil four years ago.

With the stakes high and the quality higher, the ingredients are there for a host of promising young players to make a name for themselves on the world stage this summer.

Here are six to watch out for:

Niklas Süle (Germany)

GES/ Fussball/ Germany - Frankreich, 14.11.2017 The young German in action against France last November. Source: Helge Prang

You could say that Süle shouldn’t be on this list given that the 22-year-old has already impressed enough to gain the interest of Bayern Munich before signing for the Bundesliga heavyweights for a reported €25 million last summer, but the imposing centre half is yet to make an impression on the world stage.

In an ever-evolving German side, the former Hoffenheim star will surely get plenty of minutes of football under his belt to make an impact, especially given Jérôme Boateng’s fitness concerns. Süle looks to have settled in at Bayern, appearing in most of their league games this season.

As if the Germans needed more defensive options.

Piotr Zieliński (Poland)

Piotr Zielinski (POL), Nikola Vukcevic (MNE) The young midfielder has become vital for his country thanks to his impressive performances in Serie A in recent years. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

With over 120 Serie A appearances and 31 caps, the Polish have a 23-year-old veteran in the centre of midfield. Zielinski has been instrumental in Napoli’s push for domestic success in Serie A this season.

In a group with Japan, Senegal and Colombia, Zielinski can be key for Poland if they are to progress to the knockout stages of the competition.

He also loves getting on the scoresheet, with nine goals last season for club and country.

Timo Werner (Germany)

Fussball Laenderspiel/ Freundschaftsspiel/ Germany - Frankreich 2:2 Werner is in tremendous form for both club and country; the 22-year-old celebrates after scoring against France in November. Source: DPA/PA Images

Werner is a genuine candidate for taking home the Golden Boot this summer. A revelation for Red Bull Leipzig, he’s scored over 20 goals in both seasons since his move from Stuttgart.

He finished among the top scorers in last year’s Confederations Cup and has scored an impressive seven goals in just 12 appearances for Germany. Werner is likely to be in Joachim Löw’s plans as Germany go about the bold task of retaining a World Cup.

Mirrors the rise of Thomas Müller in 2010, doesn’t it?

Marco Asensio (Spain)

Spain: Spain v Albania - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Asensio in action against Albania in October. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Asensio, 22, has been outstanding with Real Madrid over the last two seasons and was rewarded for his fine form with a Spain call-up for the tournament ahead of Juan Mata and Cesc Fabregas.

He has a thunderous left foot and is a big contender for the young player award this summer. He’s a star in Spain, and already has two Champions League medals, but this could be his time to truly announce himself as one of the elite.

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Jordan Pickford (England)

United Kingdom: England v Germany - International Friendly The Everton number one will have a chance to stake a claim at becoming England's first choice keeper in Russia. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

England’s goalkeeping options for the World Cup are likely to be one of Gareth Southgate’s biggest selection headaches in Russia, and Pickford currently leads the way ahead of Jack Butland.

It’s widely expected that the Everton keeper will get the nod in a season where he started all but one of Everton’s Premier League games. Contrastingly, Butland and Stoke were relegated to the Championship in early May. Burnley’s Nick Pope is the third option between the sticks.

Pickford moved to Everton for a hefty £25 million last June and a vote of confidence from Southgate could see the 24-year-old impress if the Three Lions go well in Russia.

Hirving Lozano (Mexico)

Hirving Lozano Lozano celebrates after scoring for Mexico in 2016. The winger has terrorised defenders in the Netherlands and will look to bring such form to the World Cup. Source: DARRYL DYCK

An exciting winger, Lozano has been electric for PSV in the Eredivisie this season, scoring a massive 17 goals and creating 11 in just 29 appearances, making him one of the most sought after young talents in football.

The Mexican ace has already scored seven in 25 appearances for his country and if ‘Chucky’ can bring that form to Russia, Mexico will fancy their chances of getting out of a tough group.

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