World Cup is the biggest football competition in the world and, as such, was always a fertile ground for young players to earn a name for themselves and stand out from the crowd.
From Pele who stunned the world as a 17-year-old to other big names like Ronaldinho, Michael Owen, Mario Gotze, and, most recently, Kylian Mbappe, World Cup always set the scene for some young players to have a great career.
So, which young players stood out in Qatar? Who is the best young player of the 2022 World Cup? Let's take a look.
Best Young Players at 2022 World Cup
Since 2006, FIFA established the Young Player Award for the best young player at World Cup tournaments and the first winner was Lukas Podolski. After him, Thomas Muller won the award in 2010, Paul Pogba in 2014, and, finally, Kylian Mbappe in 2018.
It can be hard to define exactly what is young, but in general, we considered players in their teens and early twenties. Also, while Mbappe is only 23 years old, he is already an established player and right on the cut-off for what is seen as young. In addition to this, he was named the FIFA Young Player of so we didn't include him in our list. With that in mind, let us begin:
Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)
After reaching the final in Russia, many people saw Croatia as a dark horse again in Qatar. However, their squad was seen as old and, while that brings the necessary experience, young blood is also necessary for success. The Croatians found that in Josko Guardiol, the 20-year-old centre back. The sturdy defender played every minute for Croatia at the tournament and he was at the top of his game in most cases.
The left-footed youngster, who plays for Bundesliga side RB Leipzig, ranks third in most clearances in Qatar and his presence in Croatia's defence was impressive. His towering figure helps him win duels against strong opponents, making him a force to be reckoned in the air as well. With Croatia reaching the semi finals of the tournament, Josko Gvardiol will be among the names considered for the award, without a doubt.
Jude Bellingham (England)
Although he is only 19 years old, Jude Bellingham is already an established name in football since he is one of the main players at Borussia Dortmund, leading his team in both Bundesliga and Champions League. Still, you never know how a young player might perform at the biggest stage, at a World Cup, but Bellingham proved his worth with his performances for England in Qatar.
The versatile midfielder become the second-youngest scorer for England when he found the net in the first round against Iran. He also became the youngest player to record an assist in the knockout stages since this stat has been tracked. Overall, his vision, skill, and determination make Bellingham one of the hottest prospects in football right now. Had England gone further in Qatar, he might've been the favourite to win the Young Player award, but he will be in conversation anyway.
Aurelien Tchouameni (France)
Given the fact that Aurelien Tchouameni is already standard at Real Madrid, it's hard to feign surprise at his performances in Qatar. The 22-year-old midfieder impressed at the tournament and with France reaching the final game, he is certailnly among the main canidats to win the Young Player award, especially if France ends up defending the title.
As a defensive midfielder, Tchouameni ‘s contributions are not flashy and they are often overlooked, but his performances at the World Cup were enough for France to overcome the absence of N'golo Kante, which says more than enough. On top of that, Tchouameni also managed to get on the scoresheet too by netting a scorcher from outside the box in the quarter final duel against England.
Our Choice for the 2022 World Cup Young Player Award
While all of the players we mentioned above were great so far and we wouldn't be surprised to see any of them win the award, our pick for the young player of the tournament comes from Argentina:
Enzo Fernandez (Argentina)
While Lionel Messi is the captain and leader of this Argentina squad, the anchor of the midfield is the young Enzo Fernandez. The 21-year-old from Benfica who started his career at River Plate wasn't a household name ahead of the World Cup, but his performances in Qatar certainly put him on the map even with the casual football fans.
Fernandez is the perfect example of a modern box-to-box midfielder that has plenty of skill to be effective on both sides of the pitch. In fact, Fernandez showed his offensive prowess with a goal against Mexico, in a crucial game for Argentina. The youngster also added one assist to his tally, which is quite impressive given his position deep in the midfield. Even the bookies see Fernandez as the main candidate to win the FIFA Young Player award, and we fully agree.
Although they don't stand a chance of winning the Young Player award, mostly because their teams didn't go far, there were a few more young players that deserve to be mentioned here. So, let's check them out right now.
- Jamal Musiala (Germany) – While he only turned 19 this year, Jamal Musiala is already a well-known name in the world of football. Bayern Munich's prodigy shatter many club records in his young career and he was one bright spot for Germany in Qatar. His team was eliminated in group stages, so Musiala will have to wait for another chance to lead his nation to success, but the future for Germany is bright, especially with Youssoufa Moukoko in the team as well.
- Goncalo Ramos (Portugal) – The young Benfica's striker might be a surpirse on this list since he barely played for Portugal in group stages, stuck behind the team's legend Ronaldo, but the forward certainly took his chance against Switzerland in Round of 16. Ramos drew the start in that game and responded by scoring a hat-trick and adding a an assist as well.
- Gavi (Spain) – At just 18 years of age, Gavi is already a staple name in football and the core piece of Barcelona's team. The youngest also got a chance to lead Spain in Qatar and he did very well, socring one goal for his national team. Had Spain gone further, he would've been in the conversation for the Young Player award for sure.
- Vinicius Junior (Brazil) – Since Vinicius Jr. has been a permanent member of Real Madrid team for the past four seasons, it's safe to say that he is one of the best young players in the world. The 21-year-old played great in Qatar, scoring one goal and adding two assist. However, with Brazil getting eliminate in quarter finals, he will have to wait for another opportunity to go all the way with Brazil.
- Bukayo Saka (England) – Next to Jude Bellingham, England had another youngest impress at World Cup. Bukayo Saka is still just 21 years old, but he was already an interal part of the England's team that reached Euro 2020 Final. In Qatar, Saka once again showed his potential by scoring three goals for his team.