Players you NEED to look out for at the World Cup 2022

By Hal Wallis

If you’re as excited for the World Cup as we are, you’ll probably want to watch as much of the action as you can. We’ve compiled a list of the most exciting and intriguing Ones to Watch at the World Cup 2022, to keep you entertained throughout all of the tasty fixtures. From household names to under-the-radar wonderkids, there’s an incredible amount of talent on display in Qatar this winter, with a number of teams looking like potential World Champs.

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Christopher Nkunku

In a France squad packed with talent, Nkunku could prove to be an under-the-radar starlet.

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Nkunku, currently at RB Leipzig in Germany, is being linked with a big move back to PSG this Summer, no surprise given his ridiculous stats last season. Playing mainly as a second striker alongside Dominic Szobozlai or Andre Silva, he bagged 32 goals and 20 assists in 50 appearances across all competitions. Liverpool and Real Madrid are also said to be interested in his services, showing the quality and potential Nkunku possesses.

Despite his electric form this season at club level, it’s yet to happen for the Frenchman at international level, with just six appearances so far for Les Bleus. It’s not clear where he might fit into the French system, with two world-class strikers in Benzema and Mbappe, but Nkunku’s versatility might be key for France when rotating their team. He can play as a central or central attacking midfielder, a second striker, and even a right or left winger if needed. Nkunku hasn’t set the world alight on the international stage yet, but if his form continues there’s no way Deschamps can leave him sidelined, and we think he’ll be one to watch at the World Cup come November.

Darwin Nunez

Uruguay’s strikers have a history of performing at World Cups.

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Having secured a big-money move to Liverpool, Darwin Nunez has announced himself as one of the most promising young strikers in the world. Following in the footsteps of his compatriot Luiz Suarez, his move to Anfield will be watched closely by everyone interested in football, with a lot of people (Man City fans included) hoping he isn’t as deadly as the €75 Million price tag suggests. Come the World Cup in November, he’ll have settled into the world-class level the Premier League offers, and could be Uruguay's star man in Group H.

He does have big boots to fill, with his predecessors Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez both holding impressive footballing CVs and World Cup experience (who could forget that brace against England in 2014), but Nunez’ 48 goals in 2021-22 show that he’s got the quality to match, and perhaps even surpass, the achievements of his Uruguayan teammates. His clever movement and clinical finishing have many pundits reeling, and he could set himself apart as a generational talent in Qatar.

Gavi

Spain’s future might lie in the hands (well, feet) of their boy wonder Gavi.

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Gavi (Pablo Gavira) is a player you will love to watch. His technical ability is out of this world, with flair to match, and he runs games for Spain and Barcelona by himself. The best part; he’s still only 18 when the World Cup starts. The latest wonderkid to come out of La Masia, he’s got vision and understanding way beyond his tender years, and he’s got to be on your ones to watch list at the World Cup this winter.

Most of us at 18 were probably working weekends in a clothes shop, or heading straight down to one of Belushi’s bars (wink), but Gavi is about to head to his first major tournament, arguably as one of his nation’s key players. He’s so far impressed on the international stage, and he looks ready to take it up a level. We could see him dominating games in Group E.

Eden Hazard

Hazard looks ready for a comeback season after struggling for form at Real Madrid.

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We’re going to go out on a limb here; Eden Hazard is ready for a comeback season. A player that barely needs an introduction, the right-winger has been disappointing since his dream move to Real Madrid. He’s previously been criticised for turning up to pre-season unfit, but this season looks in fantastic shape, and is raring to go. In a Los Blancos team packed with talent, Hazard should be the crowning jewel, and at 31 it feels like it’s now or never for the Belgian.

Belgium have an interesting group, but they should be favourites to go through in first place. As a team, they’ve never lived up to the expectations of most pundits, and much like Hazard’s career, this World Cup feels like a last chance saloon for many of their key players. Hazard is one of a few players in the world who have the natural ability to change a game single handedly, with his chinking runs and incredible ball control. Could he be the catalyst for Belgium to finally impress on the biggest stage?

Josko Gvardiol

Gvardiol is swiftly becoming one of the best defenders in Europe.

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At just 20, Gvardiol is one of the hottest centre-backs in world football right now, and is reportedly being courted by the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, amongst others. At over 6 foot (185 cm) tall, he’s powerful enough to perform the classic (‘meathead’) centre-back role, but he has excellent pace too, making his recovery runs and close pressing an important part of his game. Croatia are a team that have recently seemed to perform consistently well at major tournaments, notably reaching the final of the World Cup in 2018, and Gvardiol will be key if they are to do so again in Qatar.

A left-footed centre-back who can also perform as a stand-in left back, Gvardiol has immense physical presence, but also plenty of technical ability. He started his youth career as a central midfielder, and his quality on the ball is easy to see. Expect to watch him picking apart the opposition's lines with clever long balls and dictating play at the back for Croatia in November.

Robert Lewandowski

Lewandowski will be one to watch at Barcelona and the World Cup.

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Robert LewanGOALski (as former teammate Thomas Müller called him) is still arguably the best striker in the world aged 34. His move to Barcelona is an interesting one, and it will be fascinating to see how he fits into Xavi’s system this season. One of the best headers of the ball in recent history, Lewa is a force to be reckoned with in any game, and Poland will need him on top form if they’re to progress through a tricky Group C.

Poland’s most consistent player by a long way, Lewa is immensely talented, strong and creative, but also hard-working. You might be able to draw comparisons between Lewandowski and Harry Kane, as he often comes deep for the ball to begin Poland’s attacks - frequently finishing the phase off too with his clinical finishing. Any budding strikers should watch his movement and positioning closely.

Honourable mentions

Obviously we couldn’t not include Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in what might be their last World Cups. They don’t need much introduction if you like football, so yeah, watch them.

Hirving Lozano - Mexico
Ismaila Sarr - Senegal
Jude Bellingham - England
Joakim Maehle - Denmark
Jonathan David - Canada
Antony - Brazil