World Cup 2018: Kylian Mbappe, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic among young stars who could shine in Russia

Rory Dollard 30/05/2018
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There are a handful of younger stars who will be playing in their first World Cup this summer.

However, they do have the skills to light up the tournament in Russia.

Here’s a look at the top young talents who will be on show.

Kylian Mbappe (France, 19)

As one of the most highly-rated teenagers in the game, Mbappe will hardly be an unknown quantity but the Paris St Germain forward is still finding his feet in international football.

Two years ago he was competing in the Under-19 European Championships, but a brace against Russia in March helped push his claims to feature in an attack led by Antoine Griezmann.

mbappe

Gabriel Jesus (Brazil, 21)

Already part of the furniture at record-breaking Manchester City, Jesus has been groomed for a key role at the tournament since scoring twice on his Brazil debut against Ecuador in September 2016.

Versatile enough to dovetail neatly with the Selecao’s plethora of playmakers and likely to go a long way in the competition.

Gabriel Jesus

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia, 23)

Linked to a club near you on any given day of the week, the Lazio midfielder seems destined to land a major move soon and what better showcase than the World Cup?

A physically imposing player who has the ability to create as well as destroy, he is ready to play catch up after being exiled by his previous international coach.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Giovani Lo Celso (Argentina, 22)

Fashioning a coherent team from Argentina’s patchwork of mercurial individuals has long been a problem, but this nimble attacking midfielder could end up making the cut ahead of more established stars. Did not debut until after qualifying but comes in buoyed by a title-winning season at PSG.

Giovani Lo Celso

Timo Werner (Germany, 22)

Looks a good bet to lead the line for Germany, despite battling with Mario Gomez, Sandro Wagner and Lars Stindl for one place up front.

Won the Golden Ball at the Confederations Cup last year and a return of seven goals in 12 caps shows he is anything but fazed by wearing the shirt.

Timo Werner

Hirving Lozano (Mexico, 22)

The marauding winger has had a huge impact in his maiden season with PSV Eindhoven, scoring a hatful of goals and chipping in with plenty of assists cutting in from the wing.

His stay in the Eredivisie could be a brief one, with bigger things beckoning and the grandest platform of all at his disposal this summer.

Hirving Lozano

Rodrigo Bentancur (Uruguay, 20)

Not a regular starter at Juventus but trusted enough to start Champions League matches against Barcelona and Real Madrid this season.

Has been likened to Nemanja Matic for his physical attributes and presence in midfield and could play an important anchoring job to help free up Luis Suarez.

Rodrigo Bentancur

Provided by Press Association Sport

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World Cup 2018: The best World Cup debuts as Iceland and Panama prepare to make their bows

Matt Jones 30/05/2018
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Iceland will appear at their maiden World Cup, having reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

The World Cup is a wonderful occasion – drawing together some of the biggest and most obscure names in football.

Since the first two tournaments where, naturally, most teams appeared for the first time, 2006 featured the third-most debutants, with Angola, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago and Ukraine all making their bows.

The World Cup usually turns out to be a colourful affair, with nations from all four corners of the world congregating in one place.

Who can forget iconic Zaire defender Mwepu Ilunga, who broke from the wall prior to the referee’s whistle with legendary Brazilians Rivelino and Jairzinho stood over a free-kick and booting the ball away at the 1974 tournament.

While Zaire’s debut will live in infamy, at least they have a spot reserved in World Cup folklore, unlike many of the minnows who serve as little more than cannon fodder for the big fish.

But, there have also been some scintillating performances on debut. Here’s a look at some of them.

CROATIA

Third place 1998

Croatia sensationally finished third in 1998.

Croatia sensationally finished third in 1998.

Croatia’s performance in 1998 was among the best debuts at the World Cup, equaling Portugal’s third place in 1966 and the USA in 1930. As a result, they rose to number three in the January 1999 FIFA world rankings, their highest ranking to date.

Led by Miroslav Blazevic, a golden generation beat Jamaica and Japan and lost to Argentina in the group phase, before defeating Romania to reach a quarter-final tie against Germany, then ranked second in the world.

Croatia won 3-0 with goals from Robert Jarni, Goran Vlaovic and Davor Suker, thanks in large part to Christian Worns’ red card. They lost to hosts France 2-1 in the semis but claimed third place by beating the Netherlands 2-1, with Suker winning the Golden Boot after netting six goals in seven games. Incredible.

PORTUGAL

Third place 1966

Eusebio's goals took Portugal to third place in 1966.

Eusebio’s goals took Portugal to third place in 1966.

“Without doubt, Eusebio was one of the finest players I ever had the privilege to play against”. The words of Manchester United and England legend Sir Bobby Charlton.

England won on home soil but the tournament belonged to Portugal and their undoubted star, known as the Black Panther, and he certainly pounced to make his mark.

The 1965 Ballon d’Or winner scored nine goals in the tournament, including four in a 5-3 quarter-final victory for the debutants against North Korea, who had raced into a 3-0 lead at Goodison Park. He had earlier scored a brace in a 3-1 group stage win over reigning two-time champions Brazil that saw Pele and Co make an early exit.

They came up against Charlton and England in the semi-final, Eusebio again scoring but unable to have quite the same impact as they were defeated 2-1.

That placed Portugal into a third-place play-off against the Soviets, during which Eusebio scored his ninth goal of the tournament and finished as tournament top scorer as he led his country to a 2-1 win.

UNITED STATES

Third place 1930

More renowned for playing the game of football with their hands and helmets, the US have nevertheless been regulars at the World Cup, making 10 appearances.

They featured in the first tournament, in 1930, beginning in style by beating Belgium 3-0. Bert Patenaude, who was originally credited with two of the goals, was awarded the third by FIFA in 2006 and he is thus credited with being the first player to score a hat-trick at a World Cup.

In the semi-finals, the US lost to Argentina 6-1. There was no third place game but, using the overall tournament records in 1986, FIFA again came to their aide and credited them with a third-place finish ahead of fellow semi-finalists Yugoslavia.

This remains America’s best World Cup result, and is the highest finish of any team from outside South America and Europe.

UKRAINE

Quarter-finals 2006  

Andriy Shevchenko starred for Ukraine in 2006.

Andriy Shevchenko starred for Ukraine in 2006.

In their first World Cup, Ukraine emerged from a group containing Spain, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. They recovered from a 4-0 thrashing in their opener against the Spanish to defeat the other two and reach the knock-out stage.

In the round of 16, they overcame Group G winners Switzerland, claiming victory on penalties. In the quarter-finals, they were finally beaten 3-0 by eventual champions Italy.

WALES   

Quarter-finals 1958  

A 17-year-old Pele (l) scored the only goal was Wales were beaten by Brazil in the 1958 quarter-finals.

A 17-year-old Pele (l) scored the only goal as Wales were beaten by Brazil in the 1958 quarter-finals.

When Wales tend to get to football’s grandest stage, they make the most of it. The problem is their presence is very rarified, having only appeared at one World Cup. Though they made a triumphant return to the global stage at the 2016 European Championships – where they made it to the semi-finals and lost to eventual champions Portugal – their one previous appearance at the World Cup was 60 years ago, in 1958.

How was their debut? Pretty impressive as it turns out. Jimmy Murphy’s men made it all the way to the quarter-finals, where a little known 17-year-old Brazilian wonderkid – Pele – scored the only goal in a 1-0 win as the Samba Boys lifted their first trophy.

SENEGAL

Quarter-finals 2002

Senegal sensationally beat France at the 2002 World Cup.

Senegal sensationally beat France at the 2002 World Cup.

The Lions of Teranga will be roaring again in Russia, qualifying for just the second time. They reached the quarter-finals on their debut in 2002, one of only three African teams to do so (the first being Cameroon in 1990; the other being Ghana in 2010).

After defeating a French team dogged by in-fighting in their opener, they drew with Denmark and Uruguay, enough to see them emerge from the group. They would sensationally beat Sweden in extra-time in the round of 16, before losing to Turkey in the quarter-finals, Ilhan Mansız’s strike cruelly knocking them out in extra-time.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Quarter-finals 1958

Northern Ireland’s best World Cup performance was on debut at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, where they reached the quarter-finals after beating Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the play-off. They were knocked out by France in their following game, thrashed 4-0. But they had certainly made their mark.

They became the least populous country to qualify for the World Cup, a record that stood until Trinidad and Tobago made it to Germany in 2006.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND          

Quarter-finals 1990

Pat Bonner saves a penalty as Ireland overcame Romania in a shootout.

Pat Bonner saves a penalty as Ireland overcame Romania in a shootout.

Having reached the last eight of Euro 88 on their major finals tournament debut, three draws in the group stage against England, Egypt and the Netherlands was enough to see the Republic make the knockout stages of Italia 90. Virtually the entire country watched as they beat Romania on penalties, with Pat Bonner making a vital save and David O’Leary scoring the decisive spot-kick.

Ireland were then beaten cruelly 1-0 by hosts Italy in the quarter-final at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. During the tournament, the team were afforded an audience with Pope John Paul II, the only team to receive such an honour.

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Thiago Silva says Brazil will turn on the style at World Cup

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Brazil captain Thiago Silva has promised his side will deliver great football at the World Cup this summer.

The Samba Boys, who were the first team to qualify for the tournament in Russia, have a point to prove after their humbling on home soil four years ago.

They will be among the favourites to lift a sixth World Cup in July, but whatever happens, Silva expects it to be entertaining.

“We have prepared for this World Cup, first with Dunga and now with Tite, and in the two years we were developing,” he said.

“We have the chance to play in another World Cup and rewrite our story. We cannot promise the title, we can promise great matches.

“You will see we will play really well in the next match and by the time of the World Cup you will see great football.”

Brazil are famed for their extravagant style, with people fondly remembering the way they played, particularly in 1970.

With some of the top attacking talent in the world in the shape of Neymar and Philippe Coutinho, they are sure to be easy on the eye again, but Silva says they have some way to go before they emulate those famous sides of the past.

“I think that every generation has had their style and history and titles,” he added.

“We are different and I don’t want to make comparisons. We are making another moment in football, with other players.

“We are trying to reach our objectives and we are close and also a little bit far.

“We are doing our preparation right now and we have two friendlies to get more prepared and confident for the World Cup.

“Year by year we are growing and developing our football and getting more experienced.”

On his own form, the Paris St Germain defender added: “For me I am living my best moment in my career, playing a high level.

“I am 33 but feel like a child. I am giving the maximum I can.”

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