18 hidden gems to watch out for at World Cup 2018

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Goal has compiled a list of 18 future stars who are set to shine at next summer's competition in Russia.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and all the world's biggest names will be at the 2018 World Cup but, as with every major international tournament, a whole host of new stars will emerge throughout the group and knockout stages.

Here, Goal has compiled a list of 18 future stars who are set to shine at next summer's competition in Russia.


LUAN (BRAZIL)


Luan Guilherme Brasil treino 29082017

Luan was a latecomer to professional football. Having only moved up to the Brazilian top flight with Gremio at 21, he burst onto the scene a few years older than contemporaries like Gabriel Jesus, and was the unheralded hero of Brazil's 2016 Olympics triumph. He is now regarded as the best player in the Brasileirao and was a key member of the his club's Copa Libertadores triumph in 2017, and is unlikely to be in Porto Alegre for much longer with clubs like Spartak Moscow, Sampdoria and Liverpool all interested.


HENRY ONYEKURU (NIGERIA)


Henry Onyekuru

The 20-year-old forward excelled with Eupen last season, and is back in Belgium with Anderlecht on loan this term after signing for Everton for £7 million. He’s currently proving that he’s not a one-season wonder – even if he has been employed out of position at left-wing-back as Hein Vanhaezebrouck perhaps tries to replicate Victor Moses’s impact at Chelsea last term. He only made his Nigeria debut in June 2017, but his versatility could earn him a spot in Gernot Rohr's Super Eagles squad.


RODRIGO BENTANCUR (URUGUAY)


Rodrigo Bentacur

When Juventus sold Carlos Tevez to Boca Juniors in 2015, part of the deal included a first-option on midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur. Massimiliano Allegri's side decided to complete the signing ahead of this season, bringing the 20-year-old to Serie A for €9.5m. Bentancur is capable of playing anywhere across the midfield, and his excellent power and passing ability saw him follow his European move with a maiden international call-up.


ALEKSANDR GOLOVIN (RUSSIA)


Aleksandr Golovin

So far, only one of Russia's 2013 European Under-17 Championship winning squad has made the breakthrough into the senior side. Shortly after turning 19, Golovin was handed his Russia debut and has gone on to feature 15 times for his country in the past two years. The midfielder has become an essential part of the CSKA Moscow engine room, ensuring they sought more than €10m for his services in order to ward off advances from Arsenal.


JULIAN BRANDT (GERMANY)


Julian Brandt 09042016

With Joachim Low deciding not to choose his veteran players for the Confederations Cup, Germany's squad was filled with a lot of young and fringe players. Timo Werner, Julian Draxler and Leon Goretzka received a lot of the plaudits as they lifted the trophy, while Brandt featured only sporadically. However, his performances with Bayer Leverkusen have put him into the conversation for a place at the World Cup thanks to his ability to pick out a team-mate with excellent vision and crossing.


GIOVANI LO CELSO (ARGENTINA)


Lo Celso PSG

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have made headlines for their impact at PSG following mega-money moves during the summer. Last year, the Ligue 1 side spent €9m on Rosario Central's attacking midfielder Lo Celso, and loaned him back to Argentina. He finally made his PSG debut in April, and has started to become an important squad member in Unai Emery's side this season, with his immense technical ability making him look comfortable alongside the world's most expensive players.


LEANDER DENDONCKER (BELGIUM)


Leander Dendoncker, Anderlecht

"When you have the chance to go there, you don’t hesitate." That is what Leander Dendoncker answered when asked about rumours of a transfer to Manchester United. Anderlecht chose to hold onto the 22-year-old defensive midfielder as the transfer window closed, but if he continues his progress, a move to Old Trafford could definitely happen in the future. Dendoncker helped Anderlecht lift the Belgian title last season, and has picked up where he left off with commanding displays in the centre of the park.


ARKADIUSZ MILIK (POLAND)


Arkadiusz Milik Napoli

A lot was expected of Arkadiusz Milik when he was chosen as the successor to Gonzalo Higuain at Napoli. A €35m signing, the striker has failed to live up to expectations thanks to a series of unfortunate injuries. The 23-year-old is once again sidelined in Serie A, and missed much of Poland's qualifying campaign, but has a phenomenal international record with 12 goals in 36 appearances for his country.


EDWIN CARDONA (COLOMBIA)


Edwin Cardona Boca

While playing for Colombia, Edwin Cardona made headlines in November for all the wrong reasons, after making a racist gesture during the 2-1 friendly defeat to South Korea. The incident overshadowed the Monterrey attacking midfielder's strong qualifying campaign, where he scored in wins over Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay. Currently on loan at Boca Juniors, the 24-year-old attacking midfielder can make the right type of headlines in Russia next summer.


HIRVING LOZANO (MEXICO)


Hirving Lozano Bélgica vs México

Mexico attacker Hirving Lozano has been a revelation in the Netherlands following his transfer from Liga MX side Pachuca. An inverted winger in the style of Arjen Robben, Lozano cuts in from the left to shoot with his favoured right foot, and has netted 10 goals in 11 games to make the perfect start with PSV. He showed his pace and vision at the Confederations Cup with Mexico, netting a superb goal against Russia to ensure his side's progress from their group.


MICHAEL MURILLO (PANAMA)


Michael Murillo, Panama

Right-back Michael Murillo learned his trade with Panama-based San Francisco FC before moving to the U.S. to join New York Red Bulls on loan. After establishing himself in the NYRB team, he earned a permanent move to the States and will be a full member of the squad next season. Still just 21, he has become a key part of the Panama defence alongside club-mate Fidel Escobar, who is just a year older than him.


PIONE SISTO (DENMARK)


Pione Sisto Celta Genk Europa League

Christian Eriksen took all the plaudits with his stunning hat-trick as Denmark smashed Ireland 5-1 to qualify via the play-offs, but over both legs, Pione Sisto caused the Boys in Green as many problems as the Spurs ace. The Celta winger impressed in his native country with Midtjylland before earning a €5m move to La Liga, and has shown great improvements in his second season at the club following a solid, if not spectacular, debut campaign.


LUDWIG AUGUSTINSSON (SWEDEN)


Antoine Griezmann Ludwig Augustinsson France Sweden 11112016

As a back-to-back Danish Superliga and three-time Danish Cup winner with Copenhagen, a move for Ludwig Augustinsson was inevitable during the summer. The left-back chose to move to Werder Bremen over a number of other suitors, and is displaying a level of confidence and maturity above most other 23-year-olds. A member of Sweden's 2015 European Under-21 Championship side, he has seamlessly progressed into the senior set-up and will be looking to recreate his underage performances on a bigger stage.


KAHRABA (EGYPT)


Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim Kahraba Egypt 31032017

Kahraba is the nickname of 23-year-old winger Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim, who is currently on loan at Saudi Arabia's Al-Ittihad from Egyptian giants Zamalek. In Arabic, Kahraba means electricity, and his impressive pace was praised by Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone after a friendly encounter in January: “I was impressed by the performances of some Ittihad players, led by the #10 [Kahraba], due to his impressive speed and skill."


ISMAILA SARR (SENEGAL)


Ismaila Sarr Rennes

Ismaila Sarr had not long turned 19 when he signed for Rennes for almost €20m. The teenager is in just his second season as a professional, having netted five Ligue 1 goals for Metz during his breakthrough campaign. On his international debut, he came on to replace Sadio Mane, with the young winger tipped to follow in the footsteps of the Liverpool star with both club and country. He has already scored twice for Senegal, and could see his value increase further at the World Cup. 


SARDAR AZMOUN (IRAN)


Sardar Azmoun Iran

Despite turning 22 this year, Sardar Azmoun is already Iran's fifth highest international goalscorer with 22 goals in 30 games for his country. The striker has been prolific at every age group for his national side with 30 goals in 29 games from Under-17 through U-21 levels. His club form has been patchy with Rubin Kazan and Rostov in the Russian Premier League, but he is transformed when he puts on the white jersey of Iran.


SOFYAN AMRABAT (MOROCCO)


Sofyan Amrabat, AZ - Feyenoord, Eredivisie 10012017

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The younger brother of Nordin, Sofyan Amrabat was signed by Feyenoord this season after impressing with FC Utrecht last term. He only made his Morocco debut earlier this year, but is an effective box-to-box midfielder and looks set to be the long-term successor to either Mbark Boussoufa or Karim El Ahmadi.


HWANG HEE-CHAN (SOUTH KOREA)


Hwang Hee-Chan RB Salzburg 23112017

RB Salzburg is becoming known as one of the best producers of excellent young talent in Europe, and a pathway for the likes of Naby Keita, Sadio Mane and Kevin Kampl to gain experience before progressing to a bigger team. Next off the conveyor belt could be South Korea's Hwang Hee-Chan, who has already won two doubles with the club and has netted four European goals this season for the Austrian side.

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