Ten rising stars to watch across Europe’s World Cup qualifying campaignFrom Italy’s 17-year-old keeper to Poland’s Premier League winger, we choose the most exciting youngsters to watch out for in the forthcoming Europe’s World Cup games –
Marco Asensio – Spain
Elevated into Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid team during the opening two weeks of the La Liga season, the attacking midfielder was included in Julen Lopetegui’s first squad for a friendly with Belgium and Monday’s visit of Liechtenstein, though he did not make it off the bench for the win in Brussels on Thursday.
Capable of operating centrally and out wide, the 20-year‑old will need to bide his time for opportunities but such has been his rapid rise it would not be a massive surprise if he became a regular later in the campaign.
In the meantime it would be good to see him get some game time in noncompetitive fixtures. His only cap so far came against Bosnia‑Herzegovina at the end of last season.
Ousmane Dembele – France
Previously uncapped, the midfielder was brought into Didier Deschamps’ squad for the friendly with Italy and Tuesday’s trip to Belarus, and he came on against theAzzurri in Bari on Thursday.
As with Asensio and Spain, the depth of choice available to Les Bleus means the midfielder may not be given too many minutes immediately.
But he has already left an impact at Borussia Dortmund following his move from Rennes, with the Mainz defender Leon Balogun calling him “freaking amazing” after their Bundesliga meeting last week.
He will be aiming to leave a similar impression on his international team-mates over the coming months.
Emre Mor – Turkey
After playing up to Under-19 level for Denmark, the country of his birth, the midfielder swapped allegiances this year and showed glimpses of his potential during Turkey’s mostly awful Euro 2016 campaign.
Having signed with Borussia Dortmund from Nordsjaelland, his development should accelerate further but his career path has been unusual.
Turned down by Saint-Étienne and released by Lyngby in 2015, his one season at Nordsjaelland showed a dramatic improvement.
Turkey could also do with fresh impetus in a team that looked stale throughout their dismal campaign in France and Mor possesses the fearlessness and excitement to provide the boost Fatih Terim’s side need.
He started the midweek friendly against Russia and should begin the qualifier against Croatia on Monday evening.
Bartosz Kapustka – Poland
Recently signed by Leicester from Cracovia for £5m, the 19-year-old winger made quite an impression during the European Championship – notably in the group game against Northern Ireland, leading to Wojciech Szczesny saying afterwards: “It’s ridiculous, you shouldn’t be allowed to play at that level when you’re 19.”
Although well established in Adam Nawalka’s team, this qualifying campaign, which has given Poland a kind group – starting in Kazakhstan on Sunday – could open the door to him becoming a big name across the continent.
He has not yet featured for the Foxes but should be called on when fixture congestion becomes an issue for the Premier League champions.
Gianluigi Donnarumma – Italy
His namesake Buffon cannot go on for ever, so it was interesting to see the 17-year-old Milan goalkeeper named in Giampiero Ventura’s squad and his introduction at half-time in the friendly defeat by France on Thursday night.
Buffon will remain first choice for Monday’s game against Israel but Donnarumma is the undisputed No1 at San Siro and the 38-year-old veteran has anointed the teenager as “a chosen one”.
Comparisons to Buffon are inevitable but Donnarumma should be judged on his own performances – and the early evidence suggests that he is capable of a long international career. Mino Raiola, his agent, believes he is worth €170m, too.
Ondrej Duda – Slovakia
Acquired by Hertha Berlin from Legia Warsaw in recent weeks, the young midfielder was monitored for some time by Arsenal and would likely have gone to Internazionale only for financial fair play rules to get in the way.
He earned the nickname Ondrej di Maria at Legia, giving an insight into how highly he was thought of at the Polish champions.
Wales fans will recall his cameo from the bench during the Euros in their group opener, which was enough to earn Duda a starting role in the game against Russia.
The 21‑year‑old is happy playing in central midfield and as a second striker and could start against England on Sunday evening.
Elseid Hysaj – Albania
The 22-year-old Napoli defender, who like so many of his international team‑mates grew up away from Albania, is a key figure in the team that played with distinction during the European Championship and secured a first tournament, in the final group game against Romania.
Most suited to playing at right-back, he is able to fill in on the left and his work-rate means he gets forward quite often.
His club are desperate to keep him but the vultures are circling.
Now Albania have ticked a tournament appearance off the bucket list, there will be an onus on Hysaj to help ensure it was not a one-off, in a campaign that begins at home to Macedonia on Monday.
Alessandro Schopf – Austria
The 22-year-old midfielder was one of the few members of Austria’s squad – predicted by some to be a dark horse – to depart the Euros without his reputation being harmed, scoring their only goal of the tournament against Iceland.
Marcel Koller’s squad must now pick up the pieces, beginning in Georgia on Monday, and much focus will be placed on Schöpf’s impact, along with that of David Alaba.
Schöpf was nurtured in Bayern Munich’s junior ranks but could not make the jump from reserves to first team and moved to Nürnberg in 2014.
His form there earned a move to Schalke in January and that led to a call-up to the national team in March.
He has not looked back, instantly becoming a key influence.
Breel Embolo – Switzerland
The striker was hit and miss when coming off the bench during Euro 2016, indicating he must become more consistent if he is to reach the level many expect of him.
He had broken into Basel’s first team at 16 and was playing Champions League games while still in school, so it is important to remember he is still only 19 and has a lot of development to come.
Considering the numerous clubs who were interested in him this summer – Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Arsenal among others – it is understandable that Schalke viewed their signing of him as a coup, despite the £20m fee.
Expect him to secure a starting role during these qualifiers, though perhaps not at home to Portugal on Tuesday, and he needs to improve on his record of one goal from 14 caps.
Bersant Celina – Kosovo
There will be significant focus on Kosovo’s first competitive match, against Finland, on Monday and it will be particularly fascinating to see how the Manchester City graduate, on loan at Twente, fares having chosen to switch from Norway, where he grew up.
Kosovo will not be expected to produce results immediately – especially when there is still uncertainty surrounding certain players’ availability – but Celina is clear to play and has the potential to be a star.
He is highly rated at City, where he has focused on learning from David Silva, and if opportunities prove plentiful in the Netherlands this season, the attacker will be well worth watching throughout his country’s maiden campaign.