?The FIFA Under-17 World Cup might be turning into an adult with its 18th instalment later this year in Brazil, but the competition remains the go-to destination for scouts across the globe to catch a glimpse of the latest batch of wonderkids.
It’s a platform which has already seen the likes of Cesc Fàbregas, Toni Kroos, Landon Donovan and most recently Phil Foden shine as players of the tournament since its inception in 1985.
England won’t have a chance to defend their title after failing to qualify for the Under-17 World Cup in Brazil, but fans might still want to tune in to catch a glimpse of the biggest stars of tomorrow.
And just in case you do, here’s 11 players from 11 different counties who are bound to leave their mark on the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
11. Lucien Agoumé
It’s been an unbelievable year for Lucien Agoumé, who made his senior debut at Sochaux as well as reached new heights with the French youth teams before securing a £4m move to join Serie A giants Inter.
Even though he’s already being promoted into France Under-18 side, Agoumé is still eligible to compete at the Under-17 World Cup and he’ll even be one of the oldest players in Brazil later this month.
Did you know? France are the only side to ever win an Under-17 World Cup final by more than two goals (3-0 vs Nigeria in 2001).
10. Marcelo Flores
At the other end of the age spectrum at the World Cup will be Mexico’s Marcelo Flores, who joined Arsenal’s famous academy system earlier this year from Ipswich Town.
He’s joined in north London by his two sisters Silvana and Tatiana, and crucially for fans he already has experienced football above his normal age group so could have a staring role for El Tri at the Under-17 World Cup.
Did you know? Mexico conceded just three goals during qualification for the Under-17 World Cup – one every 210 minutes.
9. Alexander Aravena
Club: CD Universidad Católica
He’s not the only player on this list who still doesn’t have any senior minutes under his belt at club level, but Alexander Aravena could be fast-tracked into the top flight of Chilean football if he continues to provide goals and assists at youth level.
Aravena finished as the third top goalscorer at the recent Under-17 South American championships and he’ll be looking to replicate that form alongside Luis Rojas.
Did you know? Chile scored more goals (17) than any other South American qualifier. But they also conceded the most (nine).
8. Etienne Eto’o Pineda
Club: RCD Mallorca
While the likes of Federico Chiesa, Giovanni Simeone and Justin Kluivert have already broken through youth football being compared to their fathers, the son of former Barcelona and Inter striker Samuel Eto’o is about to go through the same.
Having only recently been selected for Under-17 duty with Cameroon, Etienne Eto’o Pineda could be in action for Les Lions Indomptables sooner rather than later.
Coming through the ranks with Spanish side Mallorca – where his dad scored 66 goals in 154 games – Eto’o Pineda has already been named in Cameroon’s provisional squad for the Under-17 World Cup.
Did you know? Eto’o Pineda’s teammate Steve Mvoue, who was named Player of the Tournament at this year’s Under-17 Cup of Nations, is the son of former Cameroon women’s international Regine Mvoue.
7. Noah Botic
Club: TSG Hoffenheim
The cousin of Australia international Tomi Juric, teenager Noah Botic has already taken his first steps in European football after swapping his native side Rockdale City Suns for TSG Hoffenheim in Germany.
He’s already made three appearances in Germany’s Under-19 league this season, playing out of position in midfield on the opening day, then again on the left wing the next week, before scoring in his preferred place as a centre-forward against Ingolstadt.
Did you know? Australia came close to winning the Under-17 World Cup in 1999, but ultimately lost 8-7 in a penalty shootout to three-time champions Brazil.
6. Sebastiano Esposito
Italy striker Sebastian Esposito will be one of the oldest players at the Under-17 World Cup, with an outstanding record in the Azzurri’s youth sides already under his belt.
He’ll also be one of the most experienced at a senior level, as although Esposito has only ever made one senior appearance for Inter, he was included in their matchday squad which travelled to Barcelona in the Champions League earlier this season.
Esposito has also made the bench three times in Serie A under Antonio Conte, but he hasn’t made an appearance for Inter since he came off the bench in last season’s Europa League clash against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Did you know? At the age of 16 years and eight months, Esposito became the third-youngest player in Inter’s 111-year history in March.
5. Matías Palacios
Club: San Lorenzo
If you can do enough to make Lionel Messi smile during a training session, then you’ve got to be doing something right.
Matías Palacios has had a lot of hype around him for quite some time, having made his first-team debut for Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro at just 16 years, four months and 11 days – making him the club’s youngest ever player.
He’s spent time training with Argentina’s senior squad and is already making appearances with their youth teams that are above his age range.
Did you know? Argentina goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo went five games without conceding a goal during the South American Championships.
4. Giovanni Reyna
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Country: United States
The United States have never reached a final of the Under-17 World Cup, with their best place finish currently coming from their star-studded squad which included the likes of Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, who finished fourth in 1999.
At the heart of this year’s challenge will be Borussia Dortmund midfielder Gio Reyna, who moved to Germany during the summer transfer window after coming through New York City FC’s academy system.
He hasn’t featured for Lucien Favre’s first-team this season, but Reyna has already taken the Under-19 Bundesliga by storm, scoring two goals and picking up six assists in just seven appearances.
Did you know? Midfielder Gianluca Busio is the second-youngest player to sign for a Major League Soccer club, joining Sporting Kansas at the age of just 15. In August 2018, aged 16, he became the third-youngest player to start an MLS match.
3. Xavi Simons
Club: Paris Saint-Germain
Xavi Simons, whose father Regillio made over 100 appearances in the Eredivise, is still in his first season at Paris Saint-Germain but he’s already made two appearances in the UEFA Youth League – an Under-19 competition.
He spent nine years being nurtured in Barcelona’s La Masia academy and even qualified for Spanish citizenship, but Dutch football’s next big thing has already assured the Netherlands he won’t switch his allegiances.
Did you know? Ajax’s Naci Ünüvar, who became the youngest player to score in the UEFA Youth League in 2018, was also the first 15-year-old to net in a UEFA Under-17 Championship final.
Eligible for the Under-17 World Cup by just over two weeks, Reinier is already a regular in first-team football with Brazilian Série A side Flamengo, having already featured in the top flight and Copa Libertadores.
Brazil Under-17’s captain might be an attacking midfielder by trade but he’s already proven he can be a threat in front of goal, scoring five in ten with the international team’s youth side.
Did you know? Brazil legends Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Geovanni (both 1997) and Adriano (1999) have all lifted the Under-17 World Cup, while Marcelo was a runner-up in 2005.
Club: UD Las Palmas
The most recognisable player at the Under-17 World Cup could have been Barcelona’s Ansu Fati, but it’s already been confirmed that the 16-year-old will instead stay in Catalunya, where he could feature in El Clásico.
Instead, Spain could look towards Las Palmas midfielder Pedri to guide them through the competition in Brazil, with the 16-year-old already playing (and scoring) for La Roja’s Under-18 squad.
Pedri has missed just one match this season due to commitments with the national team, but in nine appearances he’s scored three goals and picked up one assist in Spain’s second division, helping Las Palmas to within three points of the top two – Cádiz are already 10 points clear at the top of the table.
Did you know? Seven of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad in 2010 – Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres – are also graduates of the Under-17 World Cup.
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