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World Cup 2022: Young team of the tournament

Which young stars impressed the most in Qatar?

The World Cup always throws up plenty of young talent making their bows on the biggest stage, and 2022 was no different.

114 players under 23-years-old took part in the Qatar showpiece, with the likes of Pedri, Gavi, Goncalo Ramos and Gabriel Martinelli all representing their country at their first World Cup.

But who stood out the most? 101 have selected their young team of the tournament based on players under 23. You can read our full Team of the Tournament here.

GK: Diogo Costa (Portugal)

Okay, so technically Diogo Costa is the only man who qualifies for this team, with the Portuguese goalkeeper the youngest shot-stopper at the tournament.

But, a couple of shaky moments aside, Costa was okay in between the sticks for Fernando Santos’ side, making 11 saves and keeping a clean sheet on his way to the quarter final. His mistakes, however, will be remembered.

RB: Sergino Dest (USA)

Dest’s reputation has taken a hit in recent months, with the Barcelona defender having been sent on loan to AC Milan for the season, and having only made 5 Serie A appearances this campaign.

CB: Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)

The standout young defender at the tournament, Josko Gvardiol was already set for a big move this summer, but may now have added to his transfer value significantly.

Croatia’s next talent was immense at the heart of defence, as he helped guide his side to a third-place finish to follow their runners-up finish four years ago.

CB: Jurrien Timber (Netherlands)

Linked with a move to Manchester United last summer, Timber showed everyone why he was so highly rated by the Premier League side as he turned in a series of great performances for the Netherlands en-route to their quarter-final shoot-out knockout.

The 21-year-old displaced Matthijs De Ligt in Louis Van Gaal’s defence, and was impressive in the heart of the Oranje defence.

LB: Strahinja Pavlović (Serbia)

Serbia had a pretty poor World Cup, failing to make it out of the group stages despite being the dark horses of plenty of fans.

One small light, however, was Pavlovic. The RB Salzburg centre-back, still just 21-years-old, offered a strong defensive performance and capped it with a goal as he put his name in lights in Qatar.

CM: Jude Bellingham (England)

England’s future in the heart of midfield, Jude Bellingham justified the pre-tournament hype with a series of excellent showings for Gareth Southgate’s side, not least in the round-of-16 tie with Senegal.

Playing with a maturity well beyond his years, and set for a big-money move this summer, he is set to be one of the greatest midfielders in the world on current trajectory.

CM: Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco)

If you were frantically googling who Azzedine Ounahi was midway through one of Morocco’s group stage games, you weren’t alone.

The relative unknown, plying his trade at Ligue 1′s bottom club Angers, was excellent in the Atlas Lions engine room as helped them to a semi final, a first for African football.

Now linked with a move to top club across Europe, the 22-year-old was certainly one of the tournament’s breakout stars.

CM: Enzo Fernandez (Argentina)

Unlucky not to be in the main team of the tournament, Fernandez was a shoo-in for this spot, with the Argentine having been central to the Albiceleste’s renaissance after their opening loss to Saudi Arabia.

A goal and an assist in seven outings hides plenty of the good work he did for Lionel Scaloni’s side, with the young Benfica midfielder getting through plenty of work in the Argentina midfield.

RW: Bukayo Saka (England)

England’s best player at the tournament, Bukayo Saka continues to go from strength to strength following his Euro2020 heartbreak, and was the most dangerous player on the pitch against France, winning the first penalty with a driving run.

Still just 21 years old, the Arsenal man looks to have England’s right side locked down for the next decade, and could prove key to their tournament hopes in the years to come.

ST: Julian Alvarez (Argentina)

Sitting as second choice to Erling Haaland in domestic football, Alvarez’s introduction turned Argentina’s World Cup on it’s head. The striker grabbed four goals for the Albiceleste, and offered a much-needed outlet as well as linking up with Lionel Messi in the South American’s frontline.

Still just 22 years old, he is a star of the future, and should he be deployed with Erling Haaland, it could be curtains for the rest of the Premier League.

LW: Vinicius Junior (Brazil)

With all the spotlight on Neymar, Vinicius Junior was quietly very impressive for Brazil. A superstar in his own right, the Real Madrid man stepped up in Neymar’s absence during the group stage, grabbing a goal and two assists in four World Cup outings.

Though it was far from the tournament that he and the rest of the Selecao expected, Vinicius nonetheless had a good World Cup on a personal note.

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Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.

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