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FIFA World cup 2018: Five young players to watch out

Like every edition of the FIFA World Cup, there are players who so far have gone under the radar but are likely have stellar careers.

football Updated: Jun 19, 2018 15:28 IST
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Amine harit,Lucas Torreira,Nicolas Tagliafico
Argentina's Nicolas Tagliafico in action with Iceland's Ari Freyr Skulason at FIFA World Cup 2018.(REUTERS)

Every World Cup throws up names that are unknown at the start of the quadrennial event, but their performances in the tournament make them a household name for years to come. The best example you could find is perhaps the best player of all time in Pele. The 17-year-old was unknown to the most of football watchers but his performances in 1958 in Sweden had everyone licking their lips. What the Brazilian went on to do after that was just remarkable and unprecedented. Mesut Ozil of germany and Sami Khedira earned moves to Real Madrid on back of their performances in South Africa in 2010.

This World Cup in Russia is no different, there are going to be players who will catch the eye and earn themselves a move to a bigger club. Here is a list of five players who are likely to do so.

Lucas Sebastian Torreira -Uruguay –Midfielder - a South American nation that continues to provide the footballing world with top-quality players even with its relatively modest population of 3.4 million. This latest generation are making waves and the likes of Giorgian De Arrascaeta and Federico Valverde have gained attention over recent months, however this analysis focuses on defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira, currently plying his trade at Sampdoria in Serie A.

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Torreira’s career began in Uruguay at Montevideo Wanderers and was soon spotted and moved to Europe to join Italian side Pescara and has been likened to a former player from the club; Marco Verratti. This season Torreira has been a fixture in the Sampdoria side, missing only two matches and appearing for 3184 minutes – only 21 players were on the field for longer in Serie A this year.

Standing at 5’5, the holding midfielder makes a much bigger impact across the pitch than his stature suggests.

Nicolas Tagliafico – Argentina - Defender - It is no secret that Argentina are best known for their strength in attack, however this profile focuses on 25-year-old Ajax left back, Nicolás Tagliafico.

Tagliafaco’s consistency over recent seasons, combined with Argentina’s lack of depth in their full back position, means the left back has a great chance of making a positive impact on his side’s World Cup campaign.

Having only been subbed once from a possible 114 games, he is able to maintain intensity levels for extended periods. Tagliafico consistently ranks amongst the top players for minutes played in the Argentinian Superliga across the last three seasons.

Tagliafico only made his Argentinian debut in June 2017, coming on as a substitute against Brazil. He has since made three more appearances under Sampaoli, with the latest (at the time of writing) being a start against Haiti in their World Cup warm-up friendly.

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Versatile, Tagliafico has also been deployed at left centre back, so he could be placed into a back three if needed by club or country.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh – Iran – Forward - 21 goals, 12 assists, 78 key chances created and 111 successful dribbles in 33 games - not a bad season for 24-year-old Alireza Jahanbakhsh ahead of the biggest stage of all. If he was not already one of the first names on the team sheet for Iran, producing this level of output will certainly help him become one of Iran’s greatest ever players.

This is his third season playing for AZ Alkmaar, where he lines up on the right wing in a 4-3-3. He has played in the Netherlands for five seasons, having previously put on the NEC Nijmegen shirt for two seasons, in both the Eerste Divisie and the Eredivisie.

Hee-Chan Hwang - South Korea – Midfielder - While Heung-Min Son is the first name that springs to mind when discussing the South Korea national team, rising star Hee-Chan Hwang is certainly another to watch this summer. The 22-year-old has been turning heads for Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga for the past two seasons and also won the 2017 Young Asian Player of the Year award.

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Having joined RB Salzburg in 2014, Hwang was then moved a few miles down the road to farm team FC Liefering, where he made 31 appearances - 26 of them starts - and scored 13 goals across two seasons.

Due to injury, Hee-Chan only managed to complete just 991 out of the 3150 available minutes in the Bundesliga 2017/18. He completed 741 minutes throughout South Korea’s World Cup qualification campaign and in their international friendlies where he accounted for a third of the team’s total assists, created 11 chances and scored two goals.

Amine Harit – Morocco - Midfielder- Amine Harit is a name that those in Germany will be familiar with due to his dazzling performances in the Bundesliga this season, with his form at Schalke leading to him being crowned as the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Season.

Having represented France 24 times at all levels from U18s to U21s, Harit decided to pledge his allegiance to the Moroccan national team, his parents’ country of birth.

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Having watched him in detail during his time at Nantes (during a previous life as an Opta data collector), there is no doubt surrounding his talent. He made 34 appearances that season, although only completed 90 minutes on half of the occasions.

Alongside his technical ability, Harit’s versatility is one of his many strengths. He has been deployed all across the midfield and has also been pushed higher up the pitch. Predominately lining up on the left of a midfield four for Nantes, under Domenico Tedesco at Schalke he has been utilised more centrally.

First Published: Jun 19, 2018 15:28 IST