10 breakout stars we can't wait to see at World Cup 2018

Leon Goretzka (Germany)

Goretzka shone brightly at the Confederations Cup, scoring three goals and bossing the midfield en route to Germany's win in the tournament. Remarkably, the Schalke midfielder will finish as the top scorer for his national team in 2017, having notched three goals in the World Cup qualifiers – including an absolutely majestic backheel effort against Azerbaijan.

Joachim Low is a big fans of Goretka's all-round abilities; the 22-year-old is magnificently effective in his tackling and distribution, and there's a decent chance that he'll be a starter for the world champions in Russia on his way to superstardom.

Goncalo Guedes (Portugal)

The 21-year-old winger is less covered than the likes of Ousmane Dembele or Christian Pulisic, but make no mistake – Guedes is one of the greatest talents of his generation and has a potential to become one of the best in the world. The Portuguese starlet is technically sublime, lightning fast, blessed with incredible vision and extremely unselfish, and big things are expected in coming years.

His decision to move from Benfica to PSG last January might not have been good for his development, but Guedes is flourishing this season on loan at Valencia. The youngster tries to escape comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo, but he can be the Real Madrid man's ultimate heir – and may even be ready to take charge in Russia.

Karol Linetty (Poland)

Poland could be the dark horses of this tournament, with a superstar striker (Robert Lewandowski) ably supported by a balanced and talented squad that packs both experienced and young performers.

Quite a few Poles can make a big name for themselves in Russia, and Linetty is definitely one of them. He's compared to Andres Iniesta in his home country, and has made remarkable progress under Sampdoria coach Marco Giampaolo since moving to Serie A from Lech Poznan in 2016.

Linetty is an elegant distributor who contributes defensively as well, and has become an important player for Poland coach Adam Nawalka over the last year.

Denis Zakaria (Switzerland)

Arsenal's Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka established himself at Borussia Monchengladbach, and now his compatriot Zakaria is following the same path. The 21-year-old has been a revelation in the Bundesliga since his €12 million transfer from Young Boys in the summer, and even earned plaudits from Lothar Matthaus.

Zakaria combines sheer physical strength with vision and dedication, and it looks like he could start in Russia alongside Xhaka after his positive displays in the play-off matches against Northern Ireland. He could end up even higher rated than his more experienced partner.

Hirving Lozano (Mexico)

PSV Eindhoven fans have never witnessed a better start by a newcomer. Romario, Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy don't even come close to the 10 goals scored by 22-year-old Mexican Lozano in his first 11 Eredivisie matches – and he isn't even a pure striker.

The winger, who arrived in the Netherlands from Pachuca, is quickly making a huge name for himself in the national team as well. He scored the crucial goal against Russia at the Confederations Cup, netted four times in the World Cup qualifiers, and his class and self-confidence should be very important as he tries to emulate idol Cristiano Ronaldo.

Rodrigo Bentancur (Uruguay)

Juventus acquired the rights to sign the 20-year-old Uruguayan from Boca Juniors as part of the Carlos Tevez deal back in 2015. Now that the midfielder has joined the Italian giants, the deal looks like a steal.

Two-footed, versatile, mobile and a very good passer, Bentancur looks like a star in the making. His arrival was very low profile, but his impact is going to be immense and national team coach Oscar Tabarez is counting on the youngster ahead of the World Cup. The schemer started playing for La Celeste towards the end of Uruguay's qualifying campaign and could become a starter come summer.

Pione Sisto (Denmark)

The 22-year-old Danish winger will be the first player of Sudanese origins to play at the World Cup. Lightning quick and confident, he is capable of taking defences apart and has been gaining valuable experience at Celta Vigo since moving to La Liga from Midtjylland in summer 2016.

Sisto's biggest dream is to play for Barcelona, and he did such aspirations no harm when scoring and starring in Celta's 4-3 win over the Catalans last season. He is much more consistent this term, though, and a good show in Russia could pave his way to a top club.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Iran)

Under Carlos Queiroz, Iran are built around solid defence first and foremost – but they have two potentially explosive weapons up front as well. Sardar Azmoun was their free-scoring star in qualifying and should be massively important in Russia, but he is currently benched at Rostov, while his partner is flourishing in Holland.

Jahanbakhsh scored 11 goals for AZ Alkmaar in 2016/17, and added four more at the beginning of the current season. However, his all-round contribution is much more significant and the versatile 24-year-old can play anywhere across the frontline. He was barely noticed during three short substitute appearances at Brazil 2014, but should catch a lot of attention next summer.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)

One of the biggest mysteries in Serbia during qualification was the decision of coach Slaboljub Muslin to ignore the 22-year-old central midfielder who was widely considered among the best in his position in Serie A. With Muslin controversially relieved of his duties since, Lazio man Milinkovic-Savic duly got a call-up and should play a crucial role for his country in Russia.

Strong, tall and physically imposing, he is also immensely talented technically, blessed with supreme vision and a deft touch of the ball. Milinkovic-Savic is experienced beyond his years and already attracting interest from top clubs, and his market value could reach dizzy heights if he can fulfil his potential in the summer.

Amine Harit (Morocco)

As Schalke staged their incredible comeback to reverse a 4-0 half-time deficit at fierce local rivals Borussia Dortmund, Harit was definitely the star of the show. He came on when the situation looked hopeless, and the 20-year-old winger's boundless energy and trickery helped the Royal Blues save the game.

Nantes supporters already knew how good their beloved star was: he took Ligue 1 by storm last season before departing for the Bundesliga. Harit is a magnificent talent, and the Moroccan FA must be delighted that they managed to convince the Frenchman to switch his allegiance to the Atlas Lions this year. It makes sense for the youngster, though, who wouldn't have been able to go to Russia with France but could prove to be one of Morocco's brightest stars. 

See also...

EXPLAINER When and what time is the 2018 World Cup draw?

GUIDE EVERYTHING you need to know about each team in Russia

GALLERY 50 years of nonsensical World Cup draws in pictures

QUIZ Can you name all 79 countries to have appeared at a World Cup finals?

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