10 Most Exciting Under-21 Players Named in World Cup Squads
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is fast approaching with the opening game just 12 days away.
While there are many ageing players who are likely to be playing in their last international tournament— such as Italy's Andrea Pirlo, England's Frank Lampard and Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba— there are many young players hoping to make their mark on the World Cup this summer.
England have two names who make the list, with the players in question playing for the two Merseyside giants in the Premier League.
Germany, France and Spain typically continue to churn out talented young players who could really shine on the big stage this summer, with each aforementioned nation boasting a player on the list, too.
So who are the brightest young talents to look out for? Here are the 10 most exciting under-21 players named in the World Cup squads.
Serge Aurier: Ivory Coast
Ivorian defender Serge Aurier is tipped to have a good World Cup with Les Elephants, as reported on ITV. Last season for French side Toulouse, the 21-year-old scored six goals and made six assists from right-back.
He's deadly going forward, evident with his 191 crosses being made in Ligue One, and he's comfortable in possession, with 1577 passes attempted and 1213 completed.
It's no wonder Arsenal have been linked with his signature this summer, according to the Telegraph, to replace the out-of-contract Bacary Sagna. Look out for him rampaging up and down the right wing for the Ivory Coast in June.
Ross Barkley: England
Everton's exciting midfielder Ross Barkley is a player who could make the difference for England.
Such has been the impressive nature of his performances this season, Barkley has been compared to former England attacking midfielder Paul Gascoigne by his own club manager Roberto Martinez, via ESPN.
The 20-year-old has enjoyed a superb breakthrough season with the Toffees, scoring six goals and making 80 successful dribbles in 34 Premier League games from midfield.
He's more than merited his call-up for this summer's World Cup and will look to make an impression. Fearless Barkley has shown himself to be unfazed by the occasion in games and will certainly get minutes on the pitch for England in the World Cup.
Julian Draxler: Germany
Germany boast an impressive midfield in their World Cup squad, but Schalke's Julian Draxler is certainly one of the most exciting.
The 20-year-old has enjoyed a good campaign with the Bundesliga outfit, scoring five goals and making seven assists in the league and Europe.
Draxler averages more successful dribbles per game than Chelsea's Eden Hazard, Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben and Barcelona's Neymar.
Such is the strength of the Germany midfield, Draxler could be limited to substitute appearances, but he's sure to impress when he does get on the pitch.
Mateo Kovacic: Croatia
The lesser-known Mateo Kovacic of Inter Milan is perhaps devoid of notoriety but not quality.
The 20-year-old Croatian international has featured in all but six of the Nerazzurri's league games last season.
He's a box-to-box midfielder who drives the ball from deep and into dangerous areas in the final third.
Kovacic has made four assists in the league and boasts 71 successful dribbles from midfield. He's also made 44 tackles and 28 key passes. The Croat played a pivotal part in Inter finishing in a Europa League place, too.
Memphis Depay: Netherlands
Promising PSV Eindhoven winger Memphis Depay is a name to remember. The 20-year-old only made his Netherlands debut in October 2013, but he's now a player who could play an important part in the side in this summer's World Cup.
Depay has scored an impressive 12 goals and made eight assists in 32 league games. He's made just a handful of appearances for the Netherlands side but has more than proved he's ready for the next step.
According to the Mirror, Manchester United have been eyeing up Depay this summer, with Netherlands and new United manager Louis van Gaal a big fan of his ability.
Gerard Deulofeu: Spain
While it can be difficult for newcomers to the Spain squad to force their way into the first team, Barcelona's Gerard Deulofeu may be one player to whom manager Vicente Del Bosque looks in the World Cup.
The 20-year-old spent last season on loan with Everton, scoring three goals and making three assists. He quickly built up a reputation for his penchant for trickery to beat his opponent, with 44 successful dribbles made, while proving to be a genuine goal threat, too.
While he failed to make the initial 30-man provisional squad, Deulofeu was called up for the pre-tournament friendly against Bolivia and could put himself in the driver's seat for a place on the plane should anyone pull out.
He does have Pedro, Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla, Jesus Navas and Andres Iniesta to contend with for a place in the Spain side, but Deulofeu isn't there to make up the numbers and could be a successful wildcard this summer.
Joel Campbell: Costa Rica
While Arsenal winger Joel Campbell came to the attentions of many following his superb curled effort for Olympiakos against Manchester United (via @LO on Vine) in the Champions League last season, the Costa Rican international has been in incredible form during his loan spell.
Campbell, 21, has scored eight goals and made 12 assists for the Greek side. He returns to Arsenal following his temporary spell with Olympiakos but could be the catalyst for the Costa Rica side this summer and could hamper England’s hopes of qualifying from the group stages when the two sides meet in June.
Raheem Sterling: England
The Premier League's 2014 Young Player of the Year nominee Raheem Sterling, who currently plays for Liverpool, is another England hopeful who can really make a difference in this summer's World Cup.
The 19-year-old winger scored nine goals and made five assists for the Reds in the Premier League, and he could be an important impact player for England manager Roy Hodgson.
According to David Woods of the Daily Star, Sterling has impressed in training so much that Hodgson could consider him for England's opening World Cup game against Italy.
Paul Pogba: France
Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba is well known but has yet to play in a major international tournament at senior level for France.
The 21-year-old joined Juve in 2012 and has gone on to win back-to-back Serie A titles and Supercoppa Italianas, as per Wikipedia.
Pogba's fast rise to glory has been incredible. The talented midfielder won the Golden Ball to go with his FIFA U20 World Cup triumph with France in 2013. He only made his international senior team debut in March that year.
Scoring seven goals and making seven assists, while also boasting having made 74 successful dribbles and 48 key passes in Serie A, Pogba is set to play an important part in the France side this summer. Certainly one to watch.
Romelu Lukaku: Belgium
Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku showed an example of what's to come in this summer's World Cup after scoring a superb solo goal in the 5-1 win against Luxembourg on May 26 in a game that also saw him bag a hat-trick.
On loan at Everton from Chelsea last season, the 21-year-old scored 15 goals and made six assists in the Premier League. He's now scored 32 goals and made 10 assists in his two full campaigns in the English top flight.
Belgium are expected to go far in the World Cup, according to ITV, and with striker Lukaku in great form, they could well reach the final stages of the tournament.