3 players who could be World Cup stars

One of the best things about the World Cup is identifying Breakout Stars. 

We all watch every match desperate to spot something special, a gem that has not been uncovered yet on a worldwide scale. That will happen in the coming days.

While much attention will be on England, Netherlands and Argentina in the opening matches of Qatar 2022, there are nations with lower expectations preparing to make an impact too.

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In this column I run through some of the men you need to keep an eye out for as Qatar, Ecuador and Iran make their first impressions in the tournament. These are players that may not only decide key games, but might even land big transfers in the not-too-distant future… 

Qatar: Akram Afif

The hosts begin this tournament as relative unknowns but they are not as bad as most people will expect. In fact, they have a few players that give them reason to believe they can cause a shock from the first game.

If that is going to happen it will most likely mean 25-year-old Akram Afif has lived up to his potential against Ecuador. Watch out for this lad, he’s got something special about him.

In the Middle East he’s been causing a stir for a while thanks to his flair in attack and this new stage could catapult him to global fame.

He will get at defenders, he loves to set up goals and he will score them too. He has spent time with Sevilla and Villarreal in the past and while he now plays for Al-Sadd, it would be no surprise if he rocks up in La Liga or the Premier League next year. A joy to watch.

Ecuador: Gonzalo Plata

Tell your friends to watch out for this lad ahead of World Cup opening night – he’s got the potential to be a player we talk about at the top level for many years.

He’s 22 and ready to shine. He’s got pace to burn, he’ll mesmerise people with his trickery and he’s got a finish on him as well. Plata is one of those players you could watch for hours on end.

Currently Plata plays for Real Valladolid and Newcastle United rate him already but Brighton already have three Ecuadorians so might fancy their chances of adding another if things go well for him in Qatar. 

A game-changer, a man who can produce something out of nothing – he is exactly what the World Cup is all about.

Iran: Ali Gholizadeh

The most obvious names that Iran will rely on to help cause an upset at this World Cup are Mehdi Taremi or Sardar Azmoun, but keep an eye out for Ali Gholizadeh too.

He plays for Charleroi but has been long considered as one of the most skilful players the country has ever produced and he will play a key role in this side.

Iran will play on the counter against England in their first match so any time on the ball will have to be effective. In the next two matches against Wales and USA though we could see him become more influential.

He loves to dribble and run at defenders when he gets the chance. If things get really desperate for Iran, he may even attempt take matters into his own hands to change the game. He’s been known for solo goals in the past.

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