WC 2022: Bellingham, Gakpo, Fernandez and other breakout stars

Host Nation: Qatar Dates: November 20-18. December Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sounds and BBC Sport website and app. Day by day TV listingsFull coverage details

A young, dynamic midfielder helped Morocco make World Cup history by reaching the semi-finals. Croatia were ranked at the back of the 20-year-old man in the mask on the run to the last four.

A newly-started Argentine can get hold of the trophy after Sunday’s final against France. An English teenage stock continued to rise. And a Dutchman and a Portuguese, both in their early 20s, hit different trebles.

BBC Sport assesses six players who have impressed with their performances in Qatar…

Cody Gakpo (Netherlands)

Winger Cody Gakpo was the first The Netherlands player who scored in his first three World Cup matches.

At 6ft 4in and athletically built, the 23-year-old has scored 13 goals and provided 17 assists in 24 games for PSV Eindhoven this season and has impressed those around him on the international stage.

“Cody has everything it takes to be a star,” said Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal, who resigned after their World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of Argentina.

Oranje skipper Virgil van Dijk said Gakpo – who has been linked to a transfer to Manchester Unitedexternal link — can “go to the moon and back,” and his asking price has likely skyrocketed.

Enzo Fernandez (Argentina)

Midfielder Enzo Fernandez had not started a match for Argentina before the World Cup, but he has been an outstanding performer for a team led to the final by the magician Lionel Messi.

The 21-year-old scored a wonderful curling goal in the second group match victory over Mexico, a crucial encounter after being stunned by Saudi Arabia in the opener.

In the semi-final win over Croatia, no player made more tackles (four) than Fernandez, while his 62 passes were joint-highest for Argentina with Messi.

Fernandez, who was signed by Portuguese side Benfica for a reasonable initial fee of £8.6m six months ago. reported release clause of £103mexternal link and Liverpool have been linked with a move.

Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco)

Azzedine Ounahi has scored two goals in 16 international matches for Morocco

“My God, where is this guy from? I was pleasantly surprised by number eight. I can’t remember his name, sorry…”

Morocco midfielder Azzedine Ounahi was a relative unknown before the tournament. Spain’s coach certainly didn’t know who he was, but he won’t be forgetting his name in a hurry anymore.

The 22-year-old was a vital cog in the African side’s historic run to the semi-finals, helping to dump Luis Enrique’s Spain at the last-16 stage – a result that led to the manager’s resignation – with an all-round, energetic performance .

He covered 14.7km against the 2010 champions, more than any other player, while no team-mate had more dribbles (three) or won more duels (seven) in the quarter-final win over Portugal.

Ounahi plays for French top-flight bottom side Angers but a move to the big time could be on the cards with the La Liga giants Barcelona are reportedly considering a move in January.external link

A mention must be made of midfield partner Sofyan Amrabat, who has also been very impressive – and Fiorentina may well receive an offer for the 26-year-old next month.

Josko Guardiol (Croatia)

Josko Gvardiol in action for Croatia
Josko Gvardiol has been linked with a £70m move from RB Leipzig

The man in the mask.

Guardiol suffered a broken nose playing for club side RB Leipzig in the run-up to the World Cup and entered the pitch looking like Batman.

The 20-year-old’s superhero performances at the heart of Croatia’s defense helped them to a semi-final place, where they were beaten by Argentina.

Gvardiol is an aggressive and pacey centre-back, while being elegant on the ball with a sharp passing game, prompting BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Pat Nevin to describe him as the “Rolls-Royce of a defender”.

Former England striker Alan Shearer added: “He’s been massive in most games, he’s had to defend and work a lot because of the way Croatia play.

“He has stood his ground, he has been brave on the ball and strong in the tackle.” However, the great Messi turned him around during the 3-0 semi-final loss to Argentina.

However, Europe’s giants are circling, with Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich all reportedly tempted to make a £70m move.

Jude Bellingham (England)

“I think he will be the best midfielder in the world.” It was England teammate Phil Foden’s assessment of Jude Bellingham during the World Cup.

You might forget it, but Bellingham is – amazingly – still only 19, but the teenage sensation has an old head on young shoulders.

Just look at the maturity he showed in running over to Harry Kane after the penalty miss against France, comforting the skipper by putting an arm around him. Will he take the Three Lions armband in the future?

By scoring in the opening 6-2 win over Iran, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder became England’s second-youngest goalscorer at a World Cup, after Michael Owen in 1998.

But his star performance came in the Round of 16 win over Senegal, a virtuoso display in which he became the first teenager to assist in a World Cup knockout match since at least 1966.

England’s run ended in the next round, but Bellingham’s performance has sparked reported interest from European champions Real Madrid and Liverpool.external link

Goncalo Ramos (Portugal)

What a way to announce yourself on the global stage.

Goncalo Ramos had the unenviable task to step into Portugal the starting line-up in place of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was dropped to the bench for the round of 16 against Switzerland.

But the 21-year-old performed spectacularly, taking a hat-trick and an assist in his first World Cup starts – and already has more goals in knockout matches than the former Manchester United striker.

Ramos became the first player from his country to score a treble in a World Cup qualifier since the great Eusebio in 1966 – and now the youngster must chase down the Portuguese legend’s record of 473 goals at Benfica.

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