By Simone Gambino
In 1998, a young Michael Owen announced himself to the planet with a stellar performance against Argentina and was promptly awarded the title of best young player of the World Cup. Four years later, Ronaldinho led Brazil to victory and claimed the award.
Germans Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller won it in 2006 and 2010. As the latest edition of the World Cup kicks off, Goal has put together a ranking of the current Under-21 stars, based on their performances at both club and international level, as well as their status in the squads for the tournament.
|1||Paul Pogba (France)||-||=|
A real pillar of Didier Deschamps' side, this could be the Juventus midfielder's time to shine. The former Manchester United man provides goals, assists and real athleticism and is certain to be in the XI for the game against Honduras.
|2||Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)||-||=|
Belgium have been touted as dark horses for the tournament and Lukaku's goals will be key to their hopes of pulling off a shock. He seems to have put a few niggles behind him and is ready to make his mark against Algeria.
|3||Julian Draxler (Germany)||-||=|
Marco Reus' injury could well prove to be the making of Draxler. The Schalke youngster is pushing for a first-team spot and could star for this young Germany team. However, he has Muller, Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle and Podolski for company in the side.
|4||Adnan Januzaj (Belgio)||-||=|
Januzaj was eligible for a variety of countries but pledged his future to Belgium and was promptly called up to the squad for the World Cup. He has the likes of Kevin Mirallas and Dries Mertens for competition but could emerge as a key player.
|5||Mateo Kovacic (Croatia)||-||=|
The Croatian has shone for Inter and Kovacic is currently persuading Niko Kovac of his qualities behind the strikers. He has a great chance to show both club and country what he is capable of.
|6||Raheem Sterling (England)||-||=|
After a sensational season for Liverpool, Sterling has a few arts of his game that need to ironed out, but looks to be a real star of the future. He may not start for Roy Hodgson but his pace is a real weapon off the bench.
|7||Raphael Varane (Francia)||-||=|
Has struggled with injuries this season but his talent is there for all to see. One of the best young players France can look to, he will be a key cog in Deschamps' defence.
|8||Memphis Depay (Netherlands)||-||=|
Louis van Gaal is a big believer in Depay's abilties, having shown his technique, strength and speed for PSV. It's hard to predict the Oranje line-up but he could be decisive as a substitute if he doesn't start.
|9||Ross Barkley (England)||-||=|
Barkley has blossomed since Roberto Martinez's arrival at Everton and the stage is set for him to make a big impact in Brazil this summer. He has quality and creativity and shone during the friendlies. He could be a surprise star of the tournament.
|10||Juan Quintero (Colombia)||-||=|
The former Pescara star is trying to convince Jose Pekerman to give him a spot in midfield after a decent campaign at Porto. Quintero is creative and unpredictable and is competing for a midfield berth with Fredy Guarin.
|THE OUTSIDERS: FROM 11th TO 20th|
|11 Shaw||12 Digne||13 Balanta||14 Bentaleb||15 R. Silva|
|16 Olinga||17 Azmoun||18 Kongolo||19 Green||20 Najar|
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