Meet Little Pep & the Liberator of Arsenal

Meet Little Pep & the Liberator of Arsenal

Host nation: Qatar Date: November 20-December 18 Reporting: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and BBC Sport website and app. Day by day TV listingsFull coverage details

France’s Kylian Mbappe was the breakout star of the 2018 World Cup, but who will make a name for themselves in 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 lesser-known faces looking to shine on football’s biggest stage.

Here, BBC Sports TV and radio World Cup commentators Guy Mowbray, John Murray and Vicki Sparks pick 10 non-Premier League players to watch out for this winter.

1. Daichi Kamada (Japan)

Age: 26 Place: Midfielder Club: Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany)
Japanese Daichi Kamada
Kamada was dubbed “Arsenal’s liberator” in a cheeky Wikipedia edit after his two goals for Frankfurt at the Emirates Stadium in 2019 spelled the end of Unai Emery’s time as Gunners boss. The post was amended shortly afterwards but his performance – and nickname – is being recalled as he is linked with a move to England, including when Tottenham were reportedly interested last summer

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

Kamada is having an outstanding season in the Bundesliga and Europa League, having struggled initially following his move to Frankfurt from Japan in 2017. An all-round midfielder whose best strengths are on the attacking side, but he can play deeper and likes a tackle. also.

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

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

2. Pedri (Spain)

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

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

An intelligent player, who says he tries to trick his opponents because he is not the strongest physically, he has already broken through in a major tournament.

At last season’s European Championships, he was in the Spanish side that reached the semi-finals but was also named Young Player of the Tournament and made the team of the tournament.

Will his first WC match it?

3. Antonio Silva (Portugal)

Age: 19 Place: Center back 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 win on October 25, five days before he turned 19. Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris-St Germain, Barcelona and Real Madrid are all reportedly tracking him

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

New Benfica coach Roger Schmidt turned to Silva when injuries hit and the teenager has impressed to the extent that he has been handed a new contract that includes a €100m buyout clause. He has gone from first team debut to World Cup squad in less than three months.

4. Noah Okafor (Switzerland)

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

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

That includes three goals in the Champions League, with his goals earning Red Bull Salzburg draws against Chelsea and AC Milan.

Okafor has 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 attention from some big clubs across Europe.

5. Pedro (Brazil)

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

Guy Mowbray: How do you celebrate being selected for the biggest World Cup nation? In Pedro’s case, by immediately proposing to his girlfriend! An elegant touch from an elegant player.

Let’s face it, to be picked in a squad as loaded with attacking talent as Brazil’s, you have to have something special.

He has scored with regularity ever since returning to Brazil after an unsuccessful short spell 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. match in the round of 16 against Colombian Deportes Tolima.

He is not fast but is an excellent finisher. A substitute in the lead role awaits when the Selecao needs something else.

6. Gavi (Spain)

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

Vicki Sparks: Certainly not a surprise inclusion on this list – he has already made 66 appearances for Barcelona, ​​despite only turning 18 in August – but could Gavi be one of the stars of his first major tournament?

The midfielder is no stranger to breaking records – he is Spain’s youngest debutant and youngest goalscorer – and has proven his young shoulders can shoulder 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 Spain debut in the Nations League semi-final against Italy, if you can’t rise to the challenge – and he continues to do so with conviction.

7. Jewison Bennette (Costa Rica)

Age: 18 Place: Forward Club: Sunderland (England)
Jewison Bennette from Costa Rica
Bennette, pictured here celebrating Costa Rica’s play-off win against New Zealand, has scored a goal in nine substitute appearances for Sunderland

Vicki Sparks: He is yet to make his full Sunderland debut after signing last summer, but Jewison Bennette has certainly settled in at the Stadium of Light.

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

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

8. Josko Guardiol (Croatia)

Age: 20 Place: Center back Club: RB Leipzig (Spain)
Croatia defender Josko Gvardiol
Gvardiol is known as Little Pep in a nod to Manchester City manager Guardiola due to the similarities in their surnames

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

As a 19-year-old, Gvardiol started all of Croatia’s games in the European Championship last year and last season he was part of the Leipzig team 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 standings, for the best under-21 players, and last month scored his first Champions League goal in Leipzig’s 3-2 win over Real Madrid.

9. Garang Kuol (Australia)

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

Vicki Sparks: It has already been a 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 into Australia’s World Cup squad before making his first A-League start, but his stats as a substitute are as spectacular as his progress in his burgeoning career, with four goals in his first seven games off the bench for the Central Coast Mariners.

Kuol was born in Egypt and came to Australia as a refugee from South Sudan. He still hasn’t started for Australia either – his only cap so far also came as a sub – but he’s definitely a player to watch out for in Qatar.

10. Bilal El Khannouss (Morocco)

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

Morocco midfielder Bilal El Khannous

Guy Mowbray: El Khannouss is one of those potential World Cup gems – an unlimited 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 needed to back up what he has with numbers – assists and goals.

The best story would emerge in Morocco’s second group game – against the country of his birth and homeland, Belgium.

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