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Eden Hazard, Neymar and 10 Young Stars Set to Light Up World Cup 2014

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterOctober 9, 2012

Eden Hazard, Neymar and 10 Young Stars Set to Light Up World Cup 2014

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    These 10 players are ready to light up the next World Cup in the summer of 2014.

    All of them are really, really young, and all of them play for nations that should be expected to play in Brazil two summers from now.

    First, a note on age. This list is limited to players 21 years old and under as of Oct. 1, 2012.

    Got it? Check out the list, and make sure to add your suggestions to the comments below.

Eden Hazard

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    Age: 21

    Country: Belgium

    Club: Chelsea

    Video evidence: Here and here

    If you're not aware of Eden Hazard, you haven't been paying attention.

    Hazard, a 21-year-old Belgian starlet, joined Chelsea in a highly publicized, big-money move over the summer. The pressure clearly hasn't affected him negatively.

    In seven league matches with English Premier League-leading Chelsea, Hazard has recorded a whopping six assists along with two goals. Last season, he had 20 goals and 15 assists with Lille in France's Ligue 1.

    If the past year is any indication, Hazard can go as far as he wants in football.

Neymar

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    Age: 20

    Country: Brazil

    Club: Santos

    Video evidence: Here and here

    Brazilian wunderkind Neymar shot to fame in 2011 by winning the FIFA Puskas Award for the year's best goal. That is, the best goal anywhere in the world. You can view the now-famous goal here.

    Not that 2011 was his first good year. Neymar scored 42 goals in all competitions for legendary Brazilian club Santos in 2010, and so far in 2012, he's got 36 more in 38 total matches.

    With an irresistible sense of creative flair and an unstoppable nose for goal, Neymar is so good at such a young age that the comparisons to Pele actually don't seem all that outlandish.

    And like Pele once did, Neymar holds the hopes of nation on his shoulders. When Brazil host the 2014 World Cup, Neymar and his teammates (more on a couple of them momentarily) will be expected to work wonders.

Oscar

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    Age: 20

    Country: Brazil

    Club: Chelsea

    Video evidence: Here

    Oscar is a rising Brazilian star with tons of flair and a gift for the spectacular (sound familiar?). He signed for Chelsea over the summer in a highly-publicized, big-money move (sound familiar?).

    As he settles into life in London, Oscar continues to improve and gel with creative teammates like Eden Hazard and Spanish midfielder Juan Mata.

    Sometimes, though, he doesn't need anything but his own brilliant touch.

Lucas Moura

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    Age: 20

    Country: Brazil

    Club: São Paulo

    Video evidence: Here

    Lucas Moura, yet another immensely promising Brazilian talent, combines creative flair with almost unreal ball-control skills.

    After impressing with Brazil at the Olympics this summer, he flirted with Manchester United before signing a deal that will take him to Paris Saint-Germain in January for a reported €45 million.

    There's a reason PSG shelled out that kind of cash, and it's not just because they can.

Mario Gotze

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    Age: 20

    Country: Germany

    Club: Borussia Dortmund

    Video evidence: Here and here

    The rise of German attacker Mario Gotze has coincided with the rise of Borussia Dortmund. Or is it more than just coincidence?

    Dortmund, the back-to-back Bundesliga champions, have produced an impressive series of talented young players in recent years, and Gotze is the most promising.

    A brilliant creative passer, Gotze is also known for strong dribbling, finishing, crossing and free kicks. If Germany finally take the next step and win a World Cup in the coming years, Gotze will almost certainly play a starring role.

Andre Schurrle

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    Age: 21

    Country: Germany

    Club: Bayer Leverkusen

    Video evidence: Here

    Still just 21, Andre Schurrle has already made 17 senior appearances for Germany, a team renowned for its wealth of young talent. In those 17 appearances, Schurrle has scored seven goals.

    That precociousness is normal for Schurrle, who made 31 league appearances and scored seven times in 2011-12, his first season with Bayern Leverkusen. The previous campaign, he tallied 15 league goals in 33 appearances with Mainz.

    All the impressive performances have led to reported interest from foreign clubs, including Chelsea (sound familiar?).

Thiago Alcantara

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    Age: 21

    Country: Spain

    Club: Barcelona

    Video evidence: Here

    The success of Spain and Barcelona in recent years has been built on the creative genius of midfield playmakers like Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Thiago Alcântara, a 21-year-old who's already breaking into both teams, looks to be the heir to their throne.

    Last season, Alcântara made 27 league appearances in Barcelona's ultra-competitive midfield. He has only three caps with Spain for now, but that number is sure to rise in the coming months.

Xherdan Shaqiri

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    Age: 20 (turns 21 on Oct. 10)

    Country: Switzerland

    Club: Bayern Munich

    Video evidence: Here

    Xherdan Shaqiri was a key member of the FC Basel side that shocked Europe last year by beating Manchester United in the Champions League group stage before advancing to the knockout stage.

    Basel were knocked out by Bayern Munich at that stage, but Shaqiri's impressive performances throughout the season earned him a move to Bayern over the summer.

    With six goals from 21 international appearances, Shaqiri makes Switzerland a must-watch team in UEFA qualifying.

Stephan El Shaarawy

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    Age: 19

    Country: Italy

    Club: AC Milan

    Video evidence: Here

    The man known as "The Pharaoh" is starting to display the skills that could let him reign over Serie A for years. After scoring just twice last season for AC Milan, Stephan El Shaarawy has already notched four strikes in six league matches this time around.

    If that doesn't convince, consider this. After allowing megastar Zlatan Ibrahimovic to leave for PSG, Milan signed the 19-year-old Shaarawy to a new five-year deal this summer (via FIFA.com).

    With El Shaarawy and the unpredictable Mario Balotelli potentially in the strike force, Italy might show an exciting new flair at the next World Cup.

Christian Eriksen

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    Age: 20

    Country: Denmark

    Club: Ajax

    Video evidence: Here

    It's easy to write off Christian Eriksen. Still only 20, the Dane has already been to a World Cup, and he largely disappointed at Euro 2012.

    All the same, the key here is that number 20. Despite his young age and disappointing Euro 2012, Eriksen has attracted interest from across Europe for his steadily strong performances with Ajax.

    Last season, Eriksen recorded 19 assists and seven goals in 33 league matches with Ajax, and this campaign, he already has two goals and two assists in six appearances.

    As he continues to gain experience and add polish to his game, Eriksen will only become more important to Denmark's hopes.

     

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