Pele, Eto'o & the youngest players in World Cup history

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As we near ever closer to the finals in Russia, Goal takes a look at the youngest players to have represented their countries at the tournament

  1. #15 Chris Wood - New Zealand - 18y 6m 8d

    Chris Wood was long touted as the future of the New Zealand football team and his performances during 2007 FIFA Under-17 World Cup would lead to him being called into the senior set-up in 2009 ahead of the Confederations Cup in South Africa. Wood then travelled with the first-team squad to the 2010 World Cup and replaced Chris Killen during his nation's 1-1 draw with Slovakia in the group stages as the All Whites claimed their first-ever point at a finals.
  2. #14 Michael Owen - England - 18y 6m 1d

    Michael Owen, the once-Golden Boy of English football, represented his country at three World Cups, scoring in all of them. His three goals in four games for England Under-17s during the 1997 FIFA Youth Championship led to the Liverpool youngster making his senior debut as an 18-year-old, then to him becoming the country's youngest ever player at a World Cup as he replaced Teddy Sheringham in the Three Lions' 2-0 win against Tunisia.
  3. #13 Assimiou Toure - Togo - 18y 5m 12d

    A graduate of the Bayer Leverkusen academy, Toure played twice for the Germany Under-18 team before representing his native Togo at senior level at the 2006 World Cup. Toure would play two of his side's three group stage games before they were eliminated from the tournament.
  4. #12 Vincent Aboubakar - Cameroon - 18y 4m 28d

    The Porto forward has 65 senior Cameroon appearances to his name but his success at international level started at the 2010 World Cup as an 18-year-old. Aboubakar was the only player in the selected squad based in Cameroon at the time, making his debut at the tournament against Denmark as a late substitution in place of Pierre Webo.
  5. #11 Bertus de Harder - Netherlands - 18y 4m 22d

    Bertus de Harder played only three games for the Netherlands national side, with his only World Cup experience in 1938 in France. De Harder's tournament debut, at just 18 years of against Czechoslovakia, came before his side were eliminated in the round of 16.
  6. #10 Christian Eriksen - Denmark - 18y 4m 0d

    Christian Eriksen's World Cup bow came at the 2010 finals in South Africa, replacing Thomas Kahlenberg late in Denmark's 2-0 group loss to the Netherlands. Eight years later, as he approaches 100 senior appearances for his country, Eriksen fired the Dane's into the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, where they will come up against Australia, France and Peru.
  7. #9 Manuel Rosas - Mexico - 18y 2m 26d

    Manuel Rosas, nicknamed Chaquetas, became the first player in the history of the World Cup to score a goal from a penalty, against Argentina in 1930, while also becoming the youngest player to net at the finals. It was against France, however, which Rosas made his debut in the opening group game of the tournament at the age of 18 years, two months, and 26 days.
  8. #8 Carvalho Leite - Brazil - 18y 0m 25d

    At the 1930 World Cup, Brazil were alongside Bolivia and Yugoslavia in Group Two and conceded top spot to the latter, ultimately being knocked out of the tournament after just two games. In the second, a 4-0 victory over Bolivia, a teenage Carvalho Leite made his debut at the competition, breaking records as a result, and would be the final surviving player from the 1930 Brazil team when he passed at the age of 92 in 2004.
  9. #7 Rigobert Song - Cameroon - 17y 11m 18d

    Rigobert Song has a long, colourful relationship with international football, representing Cameroon at four World Cups - 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2010 - the first of which he was just 17-years-old. Song made his World Cup debut in a 2-2 draw with Sweden on June 19, 1994 before he was sent off in the following game against Brazil, becoming the youngest player ever to have done so.
  10. #6 Bartholomew Ogbeche - Nigeria - 17y 8m 1d

    The 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan was one to forget for the Nigeria national team, though one which Bartholomew Ogbeche will always remember. At just 17, the Paris Saint-Germain youngster would play two of the Super Eagles' three group games before retiring from international football just two years later with 11 senior appearances.
  11. #5 Pele - Brazil - 17y 7m 23d

    Pele's first involvement in a World Cup came in the 1958 finals in Sweden, where the young Brazilian started in his country's 2-0 victory over the Soviet Union. Pele was the youngest player to have ever played in a World Cup at the time, the youngest player to score a hat-trick following Brazil's 5-2 win over France, and would also later simultaneously became the youngest player to participate in, score, and win a World Cup final, as he netted twice to secure the trophy for the Selecao.
  12. #4 Salomon Olembe - Cameroon - 17y 6m 3d

    Former Leeds and Wigan midfielder Salomon Olembe made his World Cup debut six months from his 18th birthday, coming on to replace Samuel Ipoua in Cameroon's 1-1 draw with Austria in 1998. Olembe would go on to make 64 appearances for the senior side before his international retirement in 2007.
  13. #3 Femi Opabunmi - Nigeria - 17y 3m 9d

    Femi Opabunmi's international career with Nigeria was brief, but he was a member of the 2002 squad which travelled to Asia. Opabunmi played in Nigeria's final group stage game, a 0-0 against England, as his side were dumped out of the tournament without a point. The winger retired from football in 2006 due to injury problems with three Super Eagles caps to his name.
  14. #2 Samuel Eto'o - Cameroon - 17y 3m 7d

    Samuel Eto'o earned his first senior cap with Cameroon a day before his 16th birthday in 1997 and a year later became the youngest participant in the 1998 World Cup in France. Eto'o first appeared at the tournament during a 3–0 group stage defeat to Italy at the age of just 17 years, three months and seven days. The former Barcelona, Inter and Chelsea forward ended his international career with 118 appearances, second in the country's most-capped players behind Rigobert Song.
  15. #1 Norman Whiteside - Northern Ireland - 17y 1m 10d

    Norman Whiteside snatched Pele's record as the youngest player to play at the World Cup during a 0-0 draw with Yugoslavia at the 1982 Spain finals. Northern Ireland then drew with Honduras and beat hosts Spain to top Group Five, before being knocked out in the following round, though Whiteside played all five of his side's games in the tournament.