Morocco’s historic World Cup run was made possible by a young, talented midfielder. On their journey to the final four, Croatia was guided from the back by the 20-year-old man in the mask. After Sunday’s final versus France, a young Argentine may win the title. An English teen’s popularity kept rising. And two early-twenties men, one Dutch and one Portuguese hit different trebles. Six players are evaluated by BBC Sport after their performances in Qatar.
Cody Gakpo (Netherlands)
Cody Gakpo, a winger, became the first player from the Netherlands to score in each of his first three World Cup games. The 6ft 4in, athletically built 23-year-old has impressed those around him on the international scene this season, scoring 13 goals and dishing out 17 assists in 24 games for PSV Eindhoven.
After losing to Argentina in the World Cup quarterfinal, former Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal stated of Cody, “He has everything it takes to become a star.” Gakpo has been linked with a move to Manchester United, and according to Oranje captain Virgil van Dijk, he can “travel to the moon and back.” As a result, his asking price has certainly increased.
Enzo Fernandez (Argentina)
Enzo Fernandez, an Argentina midfielder who had never before played a game, has been a notable player for a squad that has been guided to the World Cup final by magician Lionel Messi. After being shocked by Saudi Arabia in the opening round, the 21-year-old produced a lovely, curving goal against Mexico in the group’s second triumph.
No player made more tackles (four) than Fernandez in Argentina’s semi-final victory over Croatia, and his 62 passes tied Messi for the team lead. Benfica of Portugal paid a pittance of £8.6 million to get Fernandez six months ago; Liverpool has been linked with a move for the player. Fernandez reportedly has a £103 million release clause.
Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco)
“Where on earth is this person from, my God? Their number eight startled me in a good way. Sorry, I can’t recall his name.” Before the competition, Moroccan midfielder Azzedine Ounahi was hardly recognized The coach of Spain undoubtedly had no idea who he was, but he will no longer quickly forget his name.
The 22-year-old played a key role in the African team’s unprecedented run to the semi-finals by helping to knock Luis Enrique’s Spain out in the last 16– a result that led to the manager’s dismissal. In the quarterfinal victory over Portugal, no teammate had more dribbles (three) or duels won (seven). He clocked 14.7km against the 2010 champions, more than any other player.
OAnahinow plays for the bottom team in the French first division, AAnger but a transfer to the big time could be in the works with La Liga giants Barcelona interested in signing him in January. A special mention should be made of Sofyan Amrabat, t the pair’s equally impressive midfield partner Fiorentina may receive offers for the 26-year-old player next month.
Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)
the masked individual. Before the World Cup, Guardiola was playing for club team RB Leipzig when he broke his nose, and he arrived on the field dressed as Batman. The Croatian team advanced to the semi-finals, where they were defeated by Argentina, thanks to the 20-year-remarkable old’s heroics at the center of the defense.
Guardiola is a center-back who is quick and aggressive. He is also graceful with the ball and has a precise passing style, which led BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Pat Nevin to call him a “Rolls-Royce of a defender.” Alan Shearer, a former England striker, continued, “He has been great in most of the games, and because of the way Croatia plays, he has had to do a lot of defending and labor.
“He has stood up, played with courage, and made a good tackle.” However, during the 3-0 semi-final loss to Argentina, the great Messi did turn him inside out. But Europe’s heavyweights are circling, with reports claiming that Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Bayern Munich are all considering a £70 million deal.
Jude Bellingham (England)
“I believe he will be the world’s top midfielder,” That was Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham’s teammate from England, saying about her at the World Cup. You might forget that Bellingham is still only 19 years old, which is incredible, yet the adolescent sensation has a mature head on a youthful body.
Just consider the maturity it took for him to approach Harry Kane and offer the England captain comfort after he missed a penalty against France. Will he ever wear the Three Lions armband? After Michael Owen in 1998, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder became England’s second-youngest World Cup goal scorer by scoring in the opening 6-2 victory over Iran.
He became the first adolescent to provide an assist in a World Cup knockout stage game since at least 1966, although his standout effort came in the last-16 victory over Senegal. The next round saw the end of England’s run, but Bellingham’s efforts have reportedly piqued Real Madrid and Liverpool’s interest.
Goncalo Ramos (Portugal)
What a fantastic way to introduce yourself to the world. Cristiano Ronaldo was benched for Portugal’s match against Switzerland in the round of 16, forcing Goncalo Ramos into the starting lineup in his place.
However, the 21-year-old outperformed the former Manchester United forward admirably, scoring a hat-trick and providing an assist on his first World Cup starts. He also has more goals in knockout-round matches than the former Manchester United front.
Ramos scored three goals in a World Cup quarterfinal game, becoming the first player from his nation to accomplish so since the great Eusebio in 1966. Now the kid must surpass the legend of Portugal’s 473 goals at Benfica.
The United States earned a spot in the round of 16 with a dramatic 1-0 victory over Iran in their penultimate encounter, and the Leeds midfielder displayed composure on and off the field. Just before the World Cup, the 23-year-old was made captain, and as the center of a young midfield that included Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah and outperformed Wales, he led by example. Before the politically tense Iran game, Adams also displayed extraordinary maturity and composure as he faced being barraged with questions that had nothing to do with football. Some of the top clubs in Europe are allegedly interested in him after seeing his performances in Qatar.