World Cup 2014: Five youngsters to watch

Sports Mole picks out five young players who we believe will be worth looking out for at this summer's World Cup in Brazil.

1. Paul Pogba (France)

Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba in action for France against Ukraine on November 15, 2013.© Getty Images

There is every chance that by the time that Pogba hits his prime years, his exit from Manchester United in the summer of 2012 will be regarded as one of Sir Alex Ferguson's biggest mistakes. Ferguson and former chief executive David Gill have both claimed that the midfielder and his agent demanded too much money, but when you consider that Tom Cleverley earns a reported £40,000 a week at Old Trafford and Pogba asked for £20,000, the latter's departure on a free transfer to Juventus becomes even more staggering.

It was thought initially that the 21-year-old would be used sparingly throughout his debut season in Turin, but under the management of Antonio Conte, he featured on 27 occasions as Juve won the Serie A title. His influence was even greater last term, as he appeared 49 times in all competitions, scoring nine goals in the process.

That form in Serie A could not be ignored by Didier Deschamps, who has handed the imposing Pogba eight caps to date. While some midfielders are viewed as holding players and others attacking, Pogba is a complete midfielder. He has the ability to weigh in with important goals, as well as the vision to pick out a teammate, but is also not shy to use his physical presence to win back possession for his team. Consequently, the inevitable comparisons with his compatriot Patrick Vieira have surfaced, although Pogba has stressed his desire to become even better than the former Arsenal player.

2. Son Heung-Min (South Korea)

Son Heung-Min celebrates scoring for South Korea on March 26, 2013.© Getty Images

The South Korean international has had a canny knack of being in the right place at the right time since arriving in the Bundesliga with Hamburg in 2008. Over the course of his three seasons at the Imtech Arena, the versatile Son scored 20 times, which convinced Bayer Leverkusen to part with around £7.5m for his signature last summer.

He would return to haunt his former employers last November by scoring a hat-trick for Leverkusen during a 5-3 victory, while along with centre-forward Stefan Keissling, his goals helped Bayer to qualify for next season's Champions League behind Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04.

The 21-year-old has been by no means prolific during his 23 appearances for South Korea, having scored just six goals. However, there is a growing feeling that following his campaign with Bayer, he has matured as a footballer. His greatest appeal is that he can operate as a lone striker, but is also comfortable playing as part of a front two or on either flank, which is helped by the fact that he is relaxed using both feet.

3. Raheem Sterling (England)

Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling in action for England against Denmark on March 05, 2014.© Getty Images

Particularly during the second half of the most recent Premier League campaign, Sterling showed sophistication that far exceeded his 19 years. Among many memorable moments, the goal that the winger scored in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Manchester City was a major highlight. With both Vincent Kompany and England teammate Joe Hart blocking his route to goal, Sterling displayed great pace, movement, skill and composure to roll the Reds into a 1-0 lead.

What's more, Jamaica-born Sterling has shown a keen willingness to learn under the management of Brendan Rodgers. Between the middle of October and beginning of December, Rodgers took his starlet out of the firing line, citing that he needed a rest. It would prove to be a masterstroke from the Liverpool boss as Sterling returned reinvigorated and with a more consistent end product as a part of his armoury.

He has just two senior international caps to his name ahead of the tournament in Brazil and as such, he may not be a member of the starting lineup for the group opener against Italy in Manaus. Yet, his speed and trickery will make him a useful asset against tiring opposition and if he does make an impact from the bench, it will be hard for Roy Hodgson to ignore Sterling next time around.

4. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)

Thibaut Courtois of Belgium throws the ball during the International friendly match between Belgium and France at the King Baudouin Stadium on August 14, 2013© Getty Images

At the age of 22, just one major honour eludes Courtois. The goalkeeper won the Belgian Pro League with Genk, before lifting the La Liga title, Copa del Rey, Europa League and UEFA Super Cup in his three years with Atletico Madrid. The Belgian was also between the posts as Atletico got to within two minutes of winning the Champions League for the first time in their history last night, before city rivals Real Madrid rallied to claim the trophy for the 10th time.

The fact is, Courtois is not Atletico's commodity. He has been on loan at the Vicente Calderon since 2011 from Chelsea and his future has been a hot topic of late. Rumour has it that Jose Mourinho will recall the young stopper this summer with a view to him replacing the trusty Petr Cech. If Mourinho does have any doubts, positive displays in Brazil may tip the scales in Courtois's favour.

An ever present as the Red Devils cruised through the qualifying phase for Brazil, there are many that consider Courtois to be the jewel in the crown of Belgium's 'Golden Generation'. If Marc Wilmots's side are to live up to their tag as the tournament's dark horses, 15-capped Courtois is likely to play a key role.

5. William Carvalho (Portugal)

William Carvalho takes part in a Portugal training session on November 11, 2013.© Getty Images

Outside of Portugal, there was not too much known of Carvalho prior to the start of last season. Having risen through the youth ranks at Sporting Lisbon, the 22-year-old spent time on loan with Fatima and Cercle Brugge before returning to his parent club in 2013. He would end up becoming a regular fixture in the Sporting starting linuep, contributing four goals from his 30 outings.

The holding midfielder's influence was so great that of the first 16 SJPF Player and Young Player of the Month awards, he won nine of them. Such form alerted Manchester United's previous manager David Moyes, who is known to have had the 22-year-old watched over 10 times. It remains to be seen if that pursuit will be continued by new United boss Louis van Gaal, but it is certainly an area of the pitch where the 20-time champions of England require an athletic and physical presence.

He has also captured the attention of Portugal coach Paulo Bento, who handed Carvalho his debut in the World Cup playoffs against Sweden. Having made Bento's 23-man squad, there is every chance that he will be included in the starting lineup for the group opener against the Germans.

 Ed Woodward prepare to ring the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange on August 10, 2012
Read Next:
Scholes: 'Woodward has a lot to prove'
You May Like
Recomended from Sports Mole

Loading ...

Failed to load data.

1Manchester CityMan City23202167175062
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd23155348163250
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs23135546212544
8Leicester CityLeicester238783432231
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham2367102941-1225
12Crystal Palace2367102133-1225
14Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2366111939-2024
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2365122131-1023
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2358101729-1223
18Stoke CityStoke2355132350-2720
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom23310101830-1219
20Swansea CitySwansea2345141435-2117
Login, I already have my ad-free pass
Log in with Facebook to customise Sports Mole
Buy ad-free access (show me the options)
Buy monthly ad-free access for £1.20/month
Buy yearly ad-free access for £12 (2 months free)
Settings - Logout - Manage your account
Settings - Logout - Manage your account