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Watch: Breakout stars of the 2022 World Cup

Jude Bellingham has enjoyed an excellent World Cup for England on his debut appearance.

The 2022 World Cup may have been the last hurrah for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but the tournament also witnessed the arrival of a new crop of talented young players.

AFP looks at some of rising stars who shone during the finals in Qatar.

Jude Bellingham (England)

England teenager Jude Bellingham arrived in Qatar tipped as a potential World Cup star and left as one of the hottest properties in global football.

The Borussia Dortmund player – a modern box-to-box midfielder – opened England’s account at the tournament with a fine header in the team’s 6-2 romp against Iran.

The 19-year-old also shone in the 3-0 quarter-final win against Senegal, crossing for Jordan Henderson to stroke home the first and driving through the midfield to launch the attack that led to the second.

“I think he’s a fantastic player. He has everything with and without the ball, presses really well, gets around the pitch, tackles,” said captain Harry Kane.

Cody Gakpo (Netherlands)

The 23-year-old Dutch forward was the only player to score in all three group games as he carried over his red-hot form for PSV Eindhoven onto the biggest stage. 

Gakpo’s header in the Netherlands’ opening match against Senegal broke the deadlock late on in a 2-0 victory. He drilled the Dutch ahead with a fierce left-footed drive against Ecuador in a 1-1 draw and again set the Oranje on their way with another tidy finish as they beat Qatar 2-0. 

Gakpo did not add any more goals but still played his part as Louis van Gaal’s side only succumbed on penalties to Argentina in the quarter-finals.

“He has everything it takes to become a star,” said Van Gaal. It is surely only a matter of time before he is prised away from his boyhood club, with Manchester United a possible destination.

Goncalo Ramos (Portugal)

The forward showed he has the potential to be the successor to Cristiano Ronaldo at international level, seizing his opportunity in sensational style when he was selected ahead of Portugal’s captain for the 6-1 demolition of Switzerland in the last 16. 

Known as “Pistoleiro” for his gun-toting celebration, Ramos shot his way into world football’s consciousness with a hat-trick on his full debut. 

The 21-year-old took just 17 minutes to open the scoring and achieve something Ronaldo never has – net in a World Cup knockout game. 

Ramos could not replicate his heroics as Portugal lost in the quarter-finals, but the Benfica striker has time on his side and will surely get a long run in the team once Ronaldo steps aside, if not before.

Julian Alvarez (Argentina)

The 22-year-old striker is the latest to roll off Argentina’s conveyor belt of attacking talent. 

A year that began with a high-profile transfer from River Plate to Premier League champions Manchester City ended with the forward being acclaimed as one of the brightest talents in world football after a dazzling World Cup.

Left on the bench for Argentina’s opening two group games, Alvarez started and scored in a 2-0 win over Poland and then netted a crucial second goal in the 2-1 last-16 win over Australia.

Another solid showing against the Netherlands was followed by two goals in the semi-final win over Croatia.

“At his age it is normal that he wants to conquer the world,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said of Alvarez. “He is a boy who will do whatever you say to him.”

Josko Gvardiol scored Croatia’s first goal against Morocco in the third-place play-off.

Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)

The 20-year-old defender rose to prominence on the biggest stage with a series of excellent displays during Croatia’s run to the semi-finals.

Gvardiol’s World Cup was nearly over before it started after he fractured his nose and suffered severe swelling around his right eye while playing for RB Leipzig last month, forcing him to wear a protective mask in Qatar. 

Not only was the centre-back easy to spot, but he stood out for his unforgiving defending and comfort on the ball. His tackle on Romelu Lukaku late in Croatia’s final group match spared them an early exit. 

He then helped nullify Brazil’s attacking threats in a shock quarter-final win on penalties and capped off an impressive tournament with the opening goal in a man-of-the-match display against Morocco in the third place play-off.

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