James Rodríguez. Asamoah Gyan. Keylor Navas. The World Cup is the ultimate stage for breakout stars to thrust their name into global recognition.
As Qatar 2022 looms, so does the prospect of lesser known players capitalising on the greatest audition of them all. Forget the likes of Vinicius Junior, Jude Bellingham and other youngsters who have operated at the top level for considerable time already; we are focusing on those who are potentially about to take the next step.
Keep an eye out for these names. They could be about to explode.
Takefusa Kubo, Japan
We tried so hard not to mention the "Japanese Messi." Takefusa Kubo is actually a very well-known talent after spending a few years in Barcelona’s academy before Real Madrid snuck in to capture his signature in 2019.
He’s even a key ambassador for Konami’s eFootball alongside the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Trent Alexander-Arnold, so huge things are expected of the 21-year-old whose potential has been making headlines for over a decade.
It hasn’t all gone to plan for Kubo, though. He failed to force his way into Madrid’s plans and spent the last few years on loan at Mallorca (twice), Villarreal and Getafe before joining Real Sociedad in the summer.
The versatile attacker has two goals and two assists in 12 La Liga appearances this season. He is part of a Japan squad who are unbeaten in their last five matches, but he has an almighty challenge to overcome Germany, Spain and Costa Rica in the group stage. The headline matches against those first two names are the perfect platform for Kubo to galvanise excitement in his career.
There are similarities to Martin Ødegaard here. It took him longer than people expected, with many writing the teen wonder off, before he settled and became club captain at Premier League-leading Arsenal. Kubo is crafty and plays with great flair, but he needs to improve his goal threat. Now is the perfect time to start.