9 World Cup breakout stars you need to know
THERE'S no better event to announce yourself to the football world than a World Cup.
Just ask James Rodriguez. The Colombian star hammered home a ridiculous volley against Uruguay in Brazil, 2014 to picked up the goal of the tournament - and a short time later had a six-year deal with Real Madrid sewn up.
Here are 10 budding superstars who are poised to erupt on the world stage.
MARCO ASENSIO, 22, Spain
There has been plenty of smoke around Asensio for some time but this season the Real Madrid midfielder appears to have lit the fire. Anyone who has seen his goals against Barcelona in the Spanish Cup knows we could be looking at the next great Spanish talent.
With Cristiano Ronaldo now in the late stage of his great career, Madrid needs a new star, preferably someone who can match the legends of the past - and Asensio has already been likened to Bernabau icon Raul for his ability to produce the unexpected. Former Madrid coach Zidane had been careful with the young star, however, so how much game time Spain coach Julen Lopetegui remains to be seen. But Asensio certainly has the ability to be a game-breaker.
OUSMANE DEMBELE, 21, France
When Barcelona pay $160 million for a 20-year-old (even more with add-ons), you better sit up and rub your eyes in disbelief. A flying attacker of dizzying pace and superb technique, expectations have been high but progress has been slow for the Frenchman at Barca, and rumours surround his future - but there is no doubting his skill. Like Asensio, his age is likely to prevent him from being a starter but don't be surprised if you see something special.
GABRIEL JESUS, 21, Brazil
Premier League fans are already aware of Jesus's ability, given his title-winning season under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. But what Brazil wants now is another world-beating superstar and the 21-year-old striker could have that ability. He's already scored nine goals in 15 games for the Selecao and can play pretty much anywhere across the attack - the perfect Guardiola player. Having been Brazil's top scorer in qualifying, he clearly holds no fear and is expected to lead the line in Russia - what Brazil would give to make amends for 2014.
KYLIAN MBAPPE, 19, France
Probably the hottest prospect in world football right now, everyone will be hoping to see what Mbappé is capable of in Russia. Having broken all kinds of scoring records on his way through ranks, he signed with Paris Saint-Germain for an eye-watering $224 million. Yes. And he's only 19. Mbappé scored twice in France's 3-1 warm-up win over tournament hosts Russia in March and it would appear Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps is set to let his widely talented attacking unit of the leash, which is why so many people are tipping France as favourites. Mbappé scored 21 goals in 46 appearances for PSG this season, all but upstaging club teammate Neymar. So, second most expensive player in the world - and World Cup winner? This could be the beginning of a legend.
TIMO WERNER, 22, Germany
The retirement of World Cup great Miroslav Klose means reigning champions Germany have a hole in their attack - step forward attacking sensation Timo Werner. Another record-breaking goalscorer, Werner has set the Bundesliga alight with RB Leipzig this season, and scoring 32 goals in 56 games since Leipzig won promotion in 2016. One of the most sought-after talents in Europe, Werner has said he intends to stay with Leipzig for another season - but a red-hot World Cup could see big clubs with even bigger money turning his head.
BERNARDO SILVA, 23, Portugal
Another attacking talent from the Manchester City stockpile, Silva has found it difficult to breakthrough at the Etihad, mostly due to his namesake David - but the lightweight attacking midfielder has the ability to do some real damage. Nicknamed a "bubblegum footballer" because of his ability to make the ball look like it's stuck to his boot, Silva is one for the future for City - but certainly one for right now for Portugal, who need to show there is more to their chances of progressing in Russia than Cristiano Ronaldo.
DELE ALLI, 22, England
Alli has already announced his talent to the Premier League, with some truly inspiring performances for Tottenham. An all-action attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, Alli also has a bit of the devil in him, making him a likely candidate for England's traditional foolish red card. But if coach Gareth Southgate can keep his fire under control, Alli has the pace and technical ability to link with club teammate Harry Kane and ignite England's somewhat subdued hopes in Russia.
SERGEJ MILINKOVIĆ-SAVIĆ, 23, Serbia
Manchester United have been warned off Lazio's midfielder with a $140 million price tag - but that might not be enough to put them off signing Serbia's "sergeant". A box-to-box midfielder who has the capacity to control the game from deep, Milinković-Savić is no goal machine - but he is the sort of beating heart you can build a successful team around. Watch out for him in Russia - and then daydream about his much better he would make your team's midfield.
ALEKSANDR GOLOVIN, 21, Russia
There hasn't been much mention of the host nation's chances during the build-up to the World Cup but Golovin is probably the one name to keep an eye on. The CSKA Moscow midfielder doesn't score a lot of goals but his technique and ability on the ball are more about assists than goals. That means one or two good performances on home turf will put him in the shop window, and one lucky club could pick up a post-World Cup bargain.