World Cup 2022: Players to watch out for in Qatar

We take a look at the players destined to shine bright on the global stage at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

By James Descombes Published: 16 November 2022 - 10.54am
Cody Gakpo for Holland

Playing well at a World Cup can launch a footballer's career into the stratosphere. 

And with the transfer window arriving hot on the heels of the World Cup, expect the players that turn it on to be in hot demand among Europe's elite clubs come 1 January 2023. 

With that in mind, these are the players worth looking out for. They're already making waves with their clubs but can they do it on the world stage? 

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Gavi – Spain

Pablo Martin Paez Gavira, or Gavi as he's more commonly known, is an 18-year-old midfield sensation who broke into Barcelona’s first team last season.

The Catalan club have a fine tradition when it comes to producing incredible playmaking midfielders. Gavi has already been compared to the very best in Barca’s history.

In 2021, Gavi made his first appearance for the Spanish national team, beating Italy 2-1 in the Nations League and ending the Azzuri’s 37-match unbeaten run, as well as becoming the youngest ever player to represent the senior side at just 17 years and 62 days old.

Earlier this year he scored against the Czech Republic in the Nations League, becoming the youngest ever player to score for La Roja at just 17 years and 304 days.

Gavi won this year’s Golden Boy award, given to Europe’s best player under the age of 21 as chosen by sports journalists. 

Josko Gvardiol – Croatia

Tottenham and Chelsea have both shown interest in Josko Gvardiol – RB Leipzig’s and Croatia’s strong and cultured centre back.

At just 20 years old, Gvardiol has a bright future ahead of him. Starting out at Dinamo Zagreb, the Croatian sealed a move to RB Leipzig in 2021, where he proved to be one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga and has performed well in the Champions League.

Gvardiol is a defender who appears to have it all – he’s strong on the ball and capable of playing out from the back, finding teammates with a precise pass.

In his 66 appearances for Leipzig so far he only has three goals, but showed against Wolfsburg last season that he’s a decent finisher in front of goal too. 

josko gvardiol for croatia

Cody Gakpo – Netherlands

With ex-Spurs forward Steven Bergwijn operating on the right and PSV’s Cody Gakpo on the left, Netherlands look like a pacy and direct team on the attack.

23-year-old Gakpo has proved this season that he’s happy to score and assist, with nine goals and 12 assists in 14 Eredivisie appearances, plus three goals and two assists in five matches in the Europa League.

His attacking prowess has alerted Premier League clubs, so don’t be surprised to see him plying his trade in England soon if he continues his great form at the World Cup. 

Jonathan David – Canada

Canada have only been to a World Cup once before – in 1986 when they crashed out at the group stage without scoring a single goal. They should fare better this time around.

Canada arrive in Qatar having topped their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying group above fellow World Cup 2022 nations the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica.

Striker Jonathan David is a Ligue 1 winner with Lille, with 37 goals in 90 league appearances for the club since joining from Belgian club Gent in 2020.

David scored nine goals for Canada in their World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign, but didn’t manage to strike against either the USA or Mexico, which begs the question whether he’ll be able to effectively lead the line against Morocco, Belgium and Croatia in Group F?

His link-up play with Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies will be key to Canada progressing beyond the group stage. 

jonathan david for canada

Kaoru Mitoma – Japan

Karou Mitoma has been seriously impressive in the short time he’s had to shine in a Brighton shirt this season.

The 25-year-old was signed by the Seagulls from Japanese club Kawasaki Frontale in 2021, but immediately went out on loan to Belgian side Union SG, where he played 27 times and scored seven goals.

He returned to the south coast this season and has proved a pain for opposition defences with his direct running into the box.

In 11 matches for Brighton he has two goals and one assist – performing particularly well against Chelsea in the Premier League and Arsenal in the League Cup.

Brighton have a habit of uncovering top talent. Can the upward trajectory continue for Mitoma at the World Cup?

Kaoru Mitoma Japan

Jude Bellingham – England

Earlier this season, Jude Bellingham became the youngest Bundesliga captain ever at 19 years old, following that up by becoming the youngest ever Englishman to captain a side in the Champions League and the youngest captain to score in the competition.

He was also the first English midfielder to score in three consecutive Champions League matches (scoring in Dortmund’s first four group games).

So it’s fair to say that Bellingham is making his mark in Europe’s elite competition and in one of the best leagues in the world. Now it’s time to see if he can perform on the highest international stage.

Bellingham has forced his way into Southgate’s side thanks to his ability to assist and provide when it matters most at club level, but he still awaits his first international goal after 17 appearances for England.

Europe’s top clubs are already circling the youngster and Dortmund may be open to sell if they receive a sensational offer, which could come from a Premier League club such as Man City, Chelsea or Liverpool.

The World Cup will provide a platform to show a global audience just how good he is. 

Jamal Musiala – Germany

Despite being born in Germany, Jamal Musiala lived in England from the age of seven, where he joined Chelsea’s academy.

But in 2019, aged just 16, Musiala left the Blues to join Bayern Munich. It turned out to be a good move because a year later he made his Bayern Munich debut, becoming the club’s youngest ever player to play in the Bundesliga at just 17 years and 115 days old.

A little under 100 days later he went on to become the club’s youngest ever goalscorer too.

The versatile midfielder can play on either wing or in the centre, with the ability to see space and score goals.

At 19 years old, Musiala has played 100 times for Bayern Munich and scored 27 goals, and won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich last season.

His talent has been compared to Dortmund’s young English starlet, Jude Bellingham and ex-Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho. But with his place in Germany’s side assured can he prove to be the best of the bunch on the world stage? 

Jamal Musiala for Germany

Kim Min-jae – South Korea

While Heung-min Son carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders, don’t overlook the importance of defender Kim Min-jae.

The Spurs forward topped the Premier League goalscorers chart last season and will need to be at his sharp-shooting best to help South Korea progress past the group stages in Qatar.

But in a group that also features Uruguay, Portugal and Ghana, South Korea’s defence is going to have to be solid too – it will be facing the likes of Ronaldo, Luiz Suarez, Darwin Nunez and Mohammed Kudus.

Step forward Kim Min-jae. The centre-back was heavily linked with a move to Spurs before joining Italian side Napoli from Fenerbahce at the start of this season, replacing Kalidou Koulibaly who signed for Chelsea.

In just his second month in Italy, Kim Min-jae scooped the Serie A Player of the Month Award.

The strong, positionally astute centre-back has played 20 times for Napoli this season and has scored two goals, as Napoli currently sit top of Serie A. 

Kim Min-jae for South Korea

Mohammed Kudus – Ghana

The 22-year-old attacking midfielder was heavily linked with a move to Everton in the summer, but stayed with Ajax.

Manager Alfred Schreuder must be glad he did – Kudus has scored five goals in 14 appearances in the Dutch Eredivisie and managed four goals in six Champions League matches before being knocked out and demoted into the Europa League for next year.

He has five strikes in 18 matches for Ghana and offers both club and country much more than goals, with the ability to open up defences in a false nine position.