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World Cup 2018: Golden Boy XI

Mbappe was the best young player of the tournament
Mbappe was the best young player of the tournament
Nived Zenith
Modified 18 Jul 2018, 22:31 IST

After 64 matches and 32 days, the curtains have finally come down on what has been a spectacular FIFA World Cup in Russia. France was crowned champions in the end, thanks to a healthy 4-2 win over Croatia in a dramatic final - only fitting to the nature of the most unpredictable tournament in recent memory, at the Luzhniki Stadium.

The tournament was the perfect breeding ground for many breakout stars, who landed in Russia as unknown quantities only to let their feet do the talking as plenty of superstars flattered to deceive at the global spectacle. However, what stood out glaringly was the fact that many who donned the colours of their nation, defied age and yet again proved that it is just a number.

Perhaps none so more than Essam El Hadary of Egypt who became the oldest player to make an appearance in the history of the tournament and the electrifying Kylian Mbappe who became the poster boy of the tournament even before it started, and rightfully so.

Mbappe became France's youngest ever goal-scorer at the World Cup and was also named the best young player of the tournament after Les Bleus triumph in the final. The honour, earmarked for the 'Golden Boy' of the tournament, was first introduced in the 2006 edition and is awarded to the best player aged 23 or under.

Surely, there was very little contest this time around and Mbappe - who does not celebrate his 20th birthday up until December, made a clean sweep to join a list that includes Lukas Podolski (2006), Thomas Muller (2010) and Paul Pogba (2014).

However, the tournament offered a lot more youngsters this time around and some of them excelled in their respective roles. The idea behind this article is to try and formulate the best possible XI of players aged 23 or under, strictly based on their performances in the World Cup this summer. Without further delay, let's take a closer look at our all-star Golden Boy XI:

GK - Francis Uzoho (Nigeria)

Uzoho will look at the World Cup as a learning curve
Uzoho will look at the World Cup as a learning curve

The decision is a no-brainer considering the fact that only two goal-keepers under the age of 23 have featured in this year's tournament.


Mouez Hassen of Tunisia suffered a disheartening shoulder injury against England in the Eagles of Carthage's opening game of Group G and was eventually ruled out of the tournament while Francis Uzoho played every single minute of Nigeria's World Cup campaign in Russia.

Uzoho will look back at the World Cup as a huge learning curve following Nigeria's group stage exit, but he is likely to become a mainstay for the Super Eagles in the future.

Still only 19, Uzoho will get better with age and the exposure of playing in the World Cup at such a young age will certainly help him improve.

The shot-stopper spent the majority of last season with the reserves at Deportivo La Coruna and is expected a fight for first-team involvement in the upcoming season.

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Published 18 Jul 2018, 21:06 IST
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