Every 4 years, the greatest show on earth arrives to take us on a month long roller coaster ride. Throughout this time, nations become footballing monsters, players become legends.
Every World Cup, there comes a lot of young players with almost little to no limelight. And some of them leave with the world chanting their names and the Barcelonas, the Real Madrids, the Manchester Uniteds swarm around to snap them up.
Today, we look back at the top five youngsters who lit up the World Cup with their brilliant performances.
Juan Fernando Quintero (Colombia)
Seems like every World Cup, one Colombian star will show their worth and leave everyone astounded. In 2014, it was James Rodriguez. In Russia, it’s been Juan Fernando Quintero. Coming to this World Cup, Quintero had a point to prove to everybody, especially his parent club FC Porto. He’s been on the loan move for four years now, being unable to convince Porto about his credentials and to take him back. In the tournament where a lot of things were at stake for the little winger cum attacking midfielder, he proved his worth. In the unexpected loss against Japan in their opener, Quintero scored a very cheeky ‘under the wall’ free-kick to bring his side level. But it was against Poland that he truly came to his own.
— Referinho (@Referinho) June 19, 2018
After losing to Japan, it became a ‘must’ for Colombia to beat Poland to stay alive. And with Quintero in full flight, they did exactly that. His attacking prowess, complemented by his zeal to track back and help the defence; Quintero was a pivotal player for Jose Pekerman. He also swung in the corner which Yerry Mina headed home to seal their qualification as Champions from Group H. Even against England, before bowing out, Quintero played very well. With performances worthy of a proper footballer, the world now knows exactly what he’s made of.
Juan Quintero has been directly involved in three of Colombia’s five group goals at the 2018 World Cup.
2 assists 🅰
1 goal ⚽
Special delivery. pic.twitter.com/hRVO7JU7SB
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 28, 2018
Ante Rebic (Croatia)
After a very disappointing World Cup back in Brazil in 2014, Ante Rebic was almost vanished from Croatia’s national scene. But ever since Zlatko Dalic came in as Croatia’s manager, Rebic has been like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of 2014 and so on. Since then, there was no looking back. Along with Mandzukic and Perisic, Rebic has turned into a very important cog in the Dalic machine.
Caballero with an absolute howler of a clearance that gifts Rebic a goal for Croatia 😂😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/i6wk7mh379
— InterYaSkriniar (@InterYaSkriniar) June 21, 2018
In this World Cup, Rebic has been a star. In terms of work rate of forwards, very few can match him. And who can forget his acrobatic volley to give Croatia the lead against Argentina, a match that sounded the arrival of the Croats. Against Denmark, Rebic was again pivotal. It was him who earned Croatia the penalty in extra time against Denmark. Even though Modric missed, Rebic’s contribution weren’t to be belittled. And with his rise, there’s already been reports of Premier League outfits Arsenal and Manchester United battling hard to snap up the Eintracht Frankfurt man.
Denis Cheryshev (Russia)
If you’re not an avid La Liga fan, it’s highly unlikely that you’d have heard about him before the World Cup. The man who caused elimination of his former club Real Madrid simply by playing (he was illegible to play for suspension) hadn’t played in the grandest stage of them all ever. And having played just nine league games in 2017-18, even Cheryshev wouldn’t have imagined himself in the Russian squad. But coach Stanislav Cherchesov saw his potential.
— Football GIFs (@FootballGIFs4) July 7, 2018
When Alan Dzagoev went off injured, he was brought on and boy did he grasp the opportunity! With two sensational strikes against the Saudi Arabia, Cheryshev burst onto the scene. He scored his third against Egypt. Cheryshev scored in the shootout against Spain well. Already an undisputed starter for Russia, Cheryshev had saved the best for Croatia. With the game still scoreless, he curved in an astonishing left footed curler to give the hosts the lead. Even though Russia went out that night on penalties, Cheryshev has proven exactly how good he is with performances worthy of a warrior.
Aleksandr Golovin (Russia)
At first sight, you’d mistake him for German winger Marco Reus. Almost identical faces, similar haircuts, similar playing technique- it’s easy to see the similarities. Not many people knew about the CSKA Moscow midfielder. Golovin’s pace, dribbling skills, vision and immaculate set piece abilities make him a defender’s nightmare. And that’s exactly what he was this World Cup.
3 #WorldCup games
80% take-on success
11 tackles won
5 chances created
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 4, 2018
In the very first match, after providing two assists, Golovin stepped up and curled in a sensational free-kick against the Saudi Arabia. Since then, there’s been no looking back for the youngster. Golovin ran the show against Egypt, a match where Russia, the lowest ranked team coming to this World Cup, all but sealed qualification to the next stage. Against Spain, Golovin again impressed. Both fullbacks Jordi Alba and Nacho Fernandez had a really tough time dealing with his prowess. Golovin also scored from the spot in the famous shootout against Spain. With a string of brilliant World Cup performances in the bag, it’s no surprise that clubs like Chelsea are hot on their heels to sign the winger.
Takashi Inui (Japan)
Japan has been one of the biggest fairy tales of this World Cup. In a group amassing Poland, Colombia; no one really gave the Asians much chance. And that sense of being underestimated added fire to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’. They shocked the world after beating Colombia in their opener. But it was from the match against Senegal and onwards that Inui really came into the fold.
Takashi Inui What a goal! Japanese on fire. 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/gZxSY5eBNK
— InterYaSkriniar (@InterYaSkriniar) July 2, 2018
Against Senegal, Inui levelled the score in a match they’d go on to share the spoils. Throughout the group stage, Inui impressed with his pace, vision and dribbling. At 30, he was well and truly the oldest forward in the Japanese setup. Against Belgium in the round of 16, Inui scored an absolute thunderbolt from around 25 yards. Eventually Belgium prevailed, but Japan’s contributions weren’t to be belittled. None more so than Inui’s who had been brilliant throughout the World Cup. Inui’s new club Real Betis should consider themselves lucky they got such a star on free transfer. Imagine the bidding war from him after the World Cup had he been a free agent!