5 rising stars who are poise to take the World Cup by storm

Russia World Cup 2018 countdown—4 DAYS 

HERE’S no better event to announce that HT180 SPORTS to the football world than a World Cup. 

Here are 5 budding superstars who are poised to erupt on the world stage 

**MARCO ASENSIO, 22, Spain 

There has been plenty of smoke around Asensio for some time but this season the Real Madrid midfielder appears to have lit the fire. Anyone who has seen his goals against Barcelona in the Spanish Cup knows we could be looking at the next great Spanish talent. 

With Cristiano Ronaldo now in the late stage of his great career, Madrid needs a new star, preferably someone who can match the legends of the past — and Asensio has already been likened to Bernabau icon Raul for his ability to produce the unexpected. Former Madrid coach Zidane had been careful with the young star, however, so how much game time Spain coach Julen Lopetegui remains to be seen. But Asensio certainly has the ability to be a game-breaker. 

**OUSMANE DEMBELE, 21, France 

When Barcelona pay $160m for a 20-year-old (even more with add-ons), you better sit up and rub your eyes in disbelief. A flying attacker of dizzying pace and superb technique, expectations have been high but progress has been slow for the Frenchman at Barca, and rumours surround his future — but there is no doubting his skill. Like Asensio, his age is likely to prevent him from being a starter but don’t be surprised if you see something special. 

**GABRIEL JESUS, 21, Brazil 

EPL fans are already aware of Jesus’s ability, given his title-winning season under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. But what Brazil wants now is another world-beating superstar and the 21-year-old striker could have that ability. He’s already scored nine goals in 15 games for the Selecao and can play pretty much anywhere across the attack — the perfect Guardiola player. Having been Brazil’s top scorer in qualifying, he clearly holds no fear and is expected to lead the line in Russia — what Brazil would give to make amends for 2014... 

**KYLIAN MBAPPE, 19, France 

Probably the hottest prospect in world football right now, everyone will be hoping to see what Mbappé is capable of in Russia. Having broken all kinds of scoring records on his way through ranks, he signed with Paris Saint-Germain for an eye-watering $224m. Yes. And he’s only 19. Mbappé scored twice in France’s 3-1 warm-up win over tournament hosts Russia in March and it would appear Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps is set to let his widely talented attacking unit of the leash, which is why so many people are tipping France as favourites. Mbappé scored 21 goals in 46 appearances for PSG this season, all but upstaging club teammate Neymar. So, second most expensive player in the world — and World Cup winner? This could be the beginning of a legend. 

**TIMO WERNER, 22, Germany

The retirement of World Cup great Miroslav Klose means reigning champions Germany have a hole in their attack — step forward attacking sensation Timo Werner. Another record-breaking goalscorer, Werner has set the Bundesliga alight with RB Leipzig this season, and scoring 32 goals in 56 games since Leipzig won promotion in 2016. One of the most sought-after talents in Europe, Werner has said he intends to stay with Leipzig for another season — but a red-hot World Cup could see big clubs with even bigger money turning his head.

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