Best XI of World Cup Players Who Are 21 or Under

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentMay 25, 2014

Best XI of World Cup Players Who Are 21 or Under

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Here are the best XI footballers selected in their respective provisional 2014 FIFA World Cup squads who are 21 years or under.



    Long-List Cuts

    • Alberto Moreno (Spain)
    • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (England)
    • Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Iran)
    • Bernard (Brazil)
    • Heung Min Son (South Korea)
    • Juan Quintero (Colombia)
    • Julian Draxler (Germany)
    • Kevin Volland (Germany)
    • Lucas Digne (France)
    • Luke Shaw (England)
    • Mateo Kovacic (Croatia)
    • Mattia De Sciglio (Italy)
    • Memphis Depay (Netherlands)
    • Nabil Bentaleb (Algeria)
    • Ogenyi Onazi (Nigeria)
    • Raheem Sterling (England)
    • Ramon Azeez (Nigeria)
    • Ross Barkley (England)
    • Sead Kolasinac (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
    • Tonny Vilhena (Netherlands)

GK: Mattia Perin (Italy)

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Mattia Perin, Genoa's 21-year-old Italian goalkeeper, will be watching and learning at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. 

    That was what Dino Zoff did at the 1970 World Cup when he was the backup to Enrico Albertosi.

    Twelve years later, Zoff won the 1982 World Cup. 

    Perin had an outstanding season for Genoa making 139 saves, per Fox Soccer

RB: Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast)

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Toulouse's 21-year-old Ivorian international Serge Aurier is a fascinating prospect. 

    You expect him to slot in at a major club at right-back, but it won't be a seamless transition because he has played the season as a right wing-back in a 3-5-2 and contrasted those performances with an extended run as a centre-back. 

    Don't play him at the back. 

    Aurier scored and created a combined 12 goals in Ligue 1, so start him as a right attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 or a right-forward in a 4-3-3. 

    When you watch Aurier, you go back a few years and think to the time when you wondered what type of footballer Gareth Bale would turn into if he was a midfielder or a forward. 

    That hypothesis was tested when former Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp changed his stance on Bale being the new Cyril Knowles.

    Several years later, Bale scored the defining second goal in Real Madrid's 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid in the 2014 UEFA Champions League final. 

    This could be Aurier down the line. 

    He has more upside attacking than defending. 

CB: Raphael Varane (France)

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    Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    Real Madrid's 21-year-old French international Raphael Varane is headed for the top.

    That was what former Real manager Jose Mourinho envisioned. 

    "My initial feeling was that [moving to Real] wasn't worth it and that I wouldn't get a game," Varane said, per "It was Jose Mourinho who convinced me. He said that I'd progress, that I'd reach the very highest level and that the move would be nothing but positive for me."

    Varane just completed his fourth season of professional football. 

    He won a La Liga title in the 2011-12 season and he is now a UEFA Champions League winner.

    Mourinho was right. 

CB: Matthias Ginter (Germany)

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    Michael Sohn/Associated Press

    Matthias Ginter, Freiburg's 20-year-old German international, has tremendous upside. 

    He is a 6'2", 187-pound footballer, who is a passing outlet and can play in defence and midfield. 

    While he has exhibited some positional flaws, Ginter can develop into a world-class centre-back in the next few years. 

LB: Ricardo Rodriguez (Switzerland)

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    Marc Eich/Getty Images

    Alberto Moreno, Lucas Digne, Luke Shaw and Sead Kolasinac are not playing at the standard Ricardo Rodriguez is for Wolfsburg. 

    Rodriguez, a 21-year-old Swiss international left-back, has shown he is a two-way player. 

    He made 103 tackles, scored five goals and registered nine assists this past season.

RCM: Paul Pogba (France)

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    David Rogers/Getty Images

    Paul Pogba will need to self-destruct in order for Sir Alex Ferguson to save face.

    Ferguson being wrong to let Pogba go proves the unexpected nature of football can humble anyone. 

    Pogba, a 21-year-old French international, could not get a game at Manchester United and then started playing like a once-in-a-generation type midfielder at Juventus.

    The move at the time was bizarre because he would have to compete with Juve's MVP midfield (Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo).

    The same arrogance Pogba used to strong-arm Ferguson and United's front-office helped the Frenchman transition into a star. 

CM: Marco Verratti (Italy)

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Paris Saint-Germain's 21-year-old Italian international Marco Verratti is one of the most metronomic passers in Europe. 

     Passes Per GamePass Completion %

    Verratti is PSG's version of Xavi.

    Verratti's movement off the ball combined with his high football IQ is why he is such a productive passer. 

LCM: Granit Xhaka (Switzerland)

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    Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

    Granit Xhaka, Borussia Monchengladbach's 21-year-old Swiss international, had a tough first season in the Bundesliga.

    He was overly bombastic toward his teammates, wasn't living up to expectations and contemplated quitting, per Aachener Zeitung (h/t Stephan Uersfeld at ESPN FC). 

    Xhaka's combination with Christoph Kramer has coincided with both players making significant gains from the previous campaign. 

CAM: Adnan Januzaj (Belgium)

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    Jan Kruger/Getty Images

    What you love about this crop of Belgian footballers is how honest they are. 

    You can't help but chuckle at Everton right attacking midfielder Kevin Mirallas' insecurity when Adnan Januzaj was called up to the FIFA World Cup squad, per the Guardian

    Januzaj, Manchester United's 19-year-old midfielder, can play in any attacking midfield position and is the creme de la creme.

    Understandably, Mirallas is worried.

    United manager Louis van Gaal can take Januzaj to the next level. 

CF: Josip Drmic (Switzerland)

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    Marc Eich/Getty Images

    Yes, Josip Drmic flashed world-class moments for Nurnberg and deserves his move to Bayer Leverkusen, but Hiroshi Kiyotake pulled the strings. 

    Drmic, a 21-year-old footballer, who played out wide and up front demonstrated ruthlessness and footballing smarts to score 17 league goals. 

    Both he and Kiyotake found ways to make meaningful plays despite tight marking. 

CF: Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)

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    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Romelu Lukaku now has four seasons where he has scored 15 league goals or more. 

    Is that enough for Chelsea to finally give the 21-year-old Belgian a chance? 

    Gamble on his track-record, his world-class potential and him being a Chelsea fan, rather than splashing money on Diego Costa. 



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