Meet Little Pep and the Arsenal Liberator

Meet Little Pep and the Arsenal Liberator

Host Country: Qatar Appointment: November 20-December 18 Cover: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-to-day TV programsFull coverage details

Frenchman Kylian Mbappé was the star of the 2018 World Cup, but who will make a name for himself at Qatar 2022?

The 22nd edition of the tournament has more players than ever before, a total of 832 across the 32 teams.

Among them are many established global superstars, but there are plenty of less familiar faces looking to shine on football’s biggest stage.

Here, BBC Sport TV and radio World Cup commentators Guy Mowbray, John Murray and Vicki Sparks have selected 10 non-Premier League players worth watching this winter.

1.Daichi Kamada (Japan)

Age: 26 Position: Midfielder Club: Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany)
Daichi Kamada from Japan
Kamada was dubbed ‘the liberator of Arsenal’ in a cheeky edition of Wikipedia after his two goals for Frankfurt at the Emirates Stadium in 2019 marked the end of Unai Emery’s tenure as Gunners boss. The entry was changed soon after, but his performance – and his nickname – are remembered whenever he is linked with a move to England, including when Tottenham were reportedly interested last summer.

Guy Mobray: He’s not exactly a young prospect, but Daichi Kamada is a player we could see soon in the Premier League, with Everton apparently leading the English interest.

Kamada is having a stellar season in the Bundesliga and Europa League, having initially struggled following his transfer from Japan to Frankfurt in 2017. A versatile midfielder whose best strengths are in the attacking side, but he can play deeper and enjoys a tackle as well.

Shinji Kagawa was just ‘ok’ for Manchester United and we never saw the great Hidetoshi Nakata in his prime for Bolton – could Kamada be the first Japanese star to really shine here?

Or, with his contract at the end of the season and Borussia Dortmund keen, he could even be the key to Jude Bellingham’s ‘homecoming’ to the Premier League.

2. Pédri (Spain)

Age: 19 Position: Midfielder Club: Barcelona, ​​Spain)
Spanish and Barcelona midfielder Pedri
How good is Pedri? Barcelona manager Xavi said in February: “There is no player in the world with as much talent as Pedri – and he is only 19 years old.”

Vicki Sparks: Already established in Barcelona’s midfield, Pedri is closing in on 100 first-team appearances for the side he supported as a child, despite missing four months last season with a club injury. hamstrings.

Intelligent player, who says he tries to deceive his opponents because he is not the strongest physically, he has already made an impression during a major tournament.

In last season’s European Championship, he was part of the Spanish squad that reached the semi-finals, but was also named the Young Player of that tournament and made the squad of the tournament.

Will his first World Cup equal that?

3. Antonio Silva (Portugal)

Age: 19 Position: Central defender Club: Benfica (Portugal)
Portugal and Benfica defender Antonio Silva
Silva celebrates his first Champions League goal after opening the scoring against Juventus in Benfica’s thrilling 4-3 victory on October 25, five days shy of turning 19. Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris-St Germain, Barcelona and Real Madrid are all reportedly following him

John Murray, Radio 5 live football correspondent: Antonio Silva’s star has risen very quickly this season with his breakthrough into the Benfica first team, who are the unbeaten leaders in the Portuguese league and won their Champions League group ahead of Paris St-Germain.

New Benfica manager Roger Schmidt turned to Silva when injuries struck and the teenager impressed as he was given a new contract with a €100million buyout clause. He went from his first-team debut to the World Cup squad in less than three months.

4. Noah Okafor (Switzerland)

Age: 22 Position: Forward Club: RB Salzburg (Austria)
Noah Okafor of Switzerland and Red Bull Salzburg
Manchester City and Liverpool are among the clubs who have been linked with a January move for Okafor

Vicki Sparks: A versatile forward who can play through the middle or out, Noah Okafor has found the net 10 times in 22 games in all competitions for his club this season.

That includes three Champions League goals, with his goals having earned Red Bull Salzburg draws with Chelsea and AC Milan.

Okafor also scored an important goal for his country, opening the scoring in the 4-0 win over Bulgaria that secured Switzerland’s place in Qatar, and he is attracting the attention of some top clubs across Europe. .

5. Pedro (Brazil)

Age: 25 Position: Striker Club: Flamengo (Brazil)
Brazilian striker Pedro
Pedro played just four times in Serie A for Fiorentina in the 2019-20 season, without scoring

Guy Mobray: How do you celebrate being selected as the biggest nation in the World Cup? In Pedro’s case, immediately proposing to his girlfriend! A touch of class from a class player.

Let’s face it, to be selected in a team as full of attacking talent as Brazil, you have to have something special.

He’s scored goals with regularity since returning to Brazil after a short, unsuccessful stint with Fiorentina in 2019-20 (shortly after knee surgery), with 12 in the Copa Libertadores en route to Flamengo winning the competition last month – including four in one game in the round of 16 against Colombian club Deportes Tolima.

He’s not fast but he’s a great finisher. A star substitute role awaits when the Selecao needs something different.

6. Gavi (Spain)

Age: 18 Position: Midfielder Club: Barcelona, ​​Spain)
Gavi, Spanish and Barcelona midfielder
In September, Gavi signed a new contract with Barcelona which runs until 2026, with a €1bn (£865m) buyout clause.

Vicki Sparks: It’s certainly no surprise on this list – he’s already made 66 appearances for Barcelona, ​​despite only turning 18 in August – but could Gavi be one of the stars of his debut tournament? major ?

The midfielder is no stranger to records – he is Spain’s youngest debutant and youngest goalscorer – and has proven that his young shoulders can handle the burden of responsibility at senior level. You don’t make your La Liga debut just weeks after your 17th birthday, quickly followed by your debut for Spain in the Nations League semi-final against Italy, if you can’t rise to the challenge – and it continues to do it with aplomb.

7. Jewison Bennette (Costa Rica)

Age: 18 Position: Forward Club: Sunderland (England)
Jewison Bennette from Costa Rica
Bennette, pictured here celebrating Costa Rica’s World Cup play-off victory over New Zealand, has scored one goal in nine substitute appearances for Sunderland

Vicki Sparks: He’s yet to make his Sunderland debut after signing in the summer, but Jewison Bennette has certainly settled into the Stadium of Light.

The left winger is a fan favorite for his raw speed and first touch – and the fact that he takes the bus to train with his father, who was also a Costa Rican international.

Bennette became Costa Rica’s youngest ever player when he made his debut against El Salvador in August 2021 and quickly became a key player. He put Joel Campbell’s winner over New Zealand in the play-off that sealed their place in Qatar.

8. Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)

Age: 20 Position: Central defender Club: RB Leipzig (Spain)
Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol
Gvardiol is known as Little Pep in a nod to Manchester City manager Guardiola due to similarities in their surnames

John Murray, Radio 5 live football correspondent: There was real concern in Croatia earlier this month when Josko Gvardiol broke his nose and suffered a swollen eye during RB Leipzig’s game against Freiburg. The relief when the centre-back was cleared for the World Cup tells you how well-rated he is.

At 19, Gvardiol started all of Croatia’s matches at the European Championship last year, and last season he was part of the Leipzig side that won the German Cup, the DFB-Pokal , and reached the semi-finals of the Europa League.

He finished sixth in this year’s Kopa Trophy table, for the best players under 21, and last month scored his first Champions League goal in Leipzig’s 3-2 win over Real Madrid.

9. Garang Kuol (Australia)

Age: 18 Position: Forward Club: Central Coast Mariners (Australia)
Australian striker Garang Kuol
Garang Kuol made his international debut against New Zealand in September aged 18 years and 10 days, making him the youngest Australian debutant since Harry Kewell in 1996.

Vicki Sparks: It’s already been a whole year for Garang Kuol. He made his senior debut last December, signed his first professional contract in June and, in September, agreed a deal to join Newcastle United in January.

He was called up to Australia’s World Cup squad before making his first A-League start, but his statistics as a substitute are just as spectacular as his progress in his budding career, with four goals in of his first seven appearances off the bench for Central. Coastal sailors.

Born in Egypt, Kuol came to Australia as a refugee from South Sudan. He still hasn’t started for Australia either – his only cap so far has also come as a substitute – but he’s definitely a player to watch in Qatar.

10. Bilal El Khannouss (Morocco)

Age: 18 Position: Midfielder Club: Genk (Belgium)

Moroccan midfielder Bilal El Khannous

Guy Mobray: El Khannouss is one of those potential World Cup gems – an uncapped teenage talent.

The midfielder has been rewarded for becoming a Genk regular this season and has the technical ability to be a real player. He plays in an attacking midfield role and is slowly gaining the confidence to back up what he has with numbers – assists and goals.

The best story would be if it manifests in Morocco’s second group match – against their home and native country Belgium.

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