Rising stars to watch at the World Cup: Pedri, Bellingham, Reyna

ROME (AP) — Spaniard Pedri González will highlight the list of teenagers who could make an impact at the World Cup. Others include England’s Jude Bellingham, Germany’s Jamal Musiala and American teammates Gio Reyna and Yunus Musah.

All five players are 19, although Reyna turns 20 on November 13 and Pedri and Musah both turn 20 at the tournament in Qatar.

The World Cup opens on November 20 and the final is scheduled for December 18.


Like his childhood idol Andrés Iniesta, Pedri is becoming a fixture in midfield for Barcelona and Spain. Although he does score on occasion, it’s Pedri’s passing and footwork with the ball that sets him apart, as does Iniesta. “I always liked Iniesta and the way he played football, because of the way he was both on and off the pitch,” Pedri told The Associated Press in an interview last year. “He was my reference and I tried to model myself on him.” A member of the Spanish squad that lost last year’s Olympic final to Brazil, Pedri will be looking to help his side go even further in Qatar.


While playing for Borussia Dortmund in October, Bellingham became the third teenager to score in four consecutive Champions League appearances after Erling Haaland (five appearances ending in November 2019) and Kylian Mbappé (four appearances ending in April 2017) – with a significant difference: Bellingham is a midfielder, not a striker like Haaland and Mbappé. This is because Bellingham is able to use his 6ft 1in (1.86m) frame to beef up opposing players both in defense and attack. A strong World Cup will only increase Bellingham’s price in the transfer market as he is expected to follow the examples of Robert Lewandowski and Haaland and leave Dortmund for one of Europe’s top clubs after this season.


Capable of playing any position in midfield, Musiala could be key to Germany’s revival after a group stage exit four years ago in Russia as defending champions. Born in Germany to a Nigerian father and German mother but brought up mainly in England – the team he played for at under-21 level – Musiala said he ‘just listened to my feelings’ when decided to represent Germany at senior level. Already known for his passing skills, Musiala is also showing his goalscoring abilities this season with eight goals in 15 appearances in all competitions for Bayern Munich. His impact was seen when he was involved in three of the four goals in Bayern’s 4-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in September.


The son of former USA captain Claudio Reyna never saw his father play for the national team. That’s because Gio was too young when Claudio made his last national team appearance in a 2006 World Cup loss to Ghana. His mother, Danielle Egan Reyna, also played briefly for the United States in 2003. An attacking midfielder or winger, young Reyna is back in form after an injury-plagued 2021-22 season. He curled a shot inside the far post for Borussia Dortmund in a win over Stuttgart in the German league last month. Reyna’s previous appearance against Stuttgart ended when he suffered a muscle and tendon injury just after kick-off – ending prematurely last season in April.


Born in the United States to Ghanaian parents, Musah grew up mostly in Britain and played for England’s youth teams before eventually deciding to represent his native nation. A midfielder, Musah helped Spanish side Valencia win the Copa del Rey final last season but was the only player to miss his shot on goal in a penalty shootout, which allowed Real Betis to win the trophy. Recently returned from a groin injury, Musah is a first-choice midfielder for USA coach Gregg Berhalter, alongside Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie.


Slightly older players who look set for standout performances include Canada’s Alphonso Davies, Portugal’s Rafael Leão, Senegal’s Boulaye Dia, South Korea’s Kim Min-jae and Ghana’s Mohammed Kudus.

Born in a refugee camp in Ghana to Liberian parents, Davies, who turns 22 on November 2, is a regular starter at left-back or on the wing for Bayern Munich. He had a big impact helping Canada qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Leão, 23, was instrumental in helping AC Milan win the Serie A title last season and has been even better in the Italian league this season. With Rafa Silva recently announcing his retirement from the Portugal national team, Leão is likely to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s preferred attacking partner in Qatar.

Among Serie A’s first top scorers with Salernitana this season (on loan from Villarreal), Dia worked as an electrician before his footballing career took off. He scored against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals last season.

Napoli fans protested when defensive stalwart Kalidou Koulibaly was sold to Chelsea and lesser-known Kim was replaced as centre-back. But Kim was instrumental in Napoli’s sensational debut in the Italian league and was named Serie A player of the month for September.

Attacking midfielder Kudus, 22, had scored nine goals in 16 appearances for Ajax in all competitions by the end of October.


AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf


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