Group G has some of the typical World Cup powerhouses. Brazil, obviously, are fixtures in the tournament — they’ve never missed one and have more wins than any other country. Switzerland, too, are regulars at the tournament, having only missed the tournament once since the turn of the century.
Cameroon missed out on qualification in 2018, but before that, they had qualified for all but two tournaments since 1982. Modern-day Serbia has only missed the tournament once, in 2014. Despite the tradition of these teams, they are very dependent on young players — and this year, they all have some exciting prospects. Here are the best U21 players on every Group F team:
Brazil: RW Rodrygo, 21
World Cup favorites Brazil have brought two U21 players to the tournament, Rodrygo and Gabriel Martinelli. Martinelli has been in impressive form for Arsenal and is a big reason they are top of the Premier League this season.
Rodrygo started his career with Santos FC, a club famous for developing some of Brazil’s top talents. At the age of 18, he joined Real Madrid, scoring nine goals and assisting three strikes in his first season. His efficiency went down the next season, but last year Rodrygo reappeared in a big way for Madrid. He finished with 19 goal contributions, including a crucial late brace against Manchester City that helped Real Madrid reach (and win) the Champions League final.
Because of the sheer depth Brazil have in attack, Rodrygo will not start at the World Cup. Expect him to star in a similar super-sub role as he does in the Champions League with Real Madrid.
Serbia: CB Strahinja Pavlović, 21
Serbia brought three U21 players to the tournament: Pavlović, Strahinja Eraković, and Ivan Ilić. Ilić has become an important player for Hellas Verona, while Eraković is enjoying a rapid rise through the ranks with Red Star Belgrade.
Pavlović came through Partizan Belgrade’s academy before being sold to AS Monaco at the age of 18. He made a whopping 12 appearances with the club, constantly being loaned out in order to aid his development. This season, Pavlović was shipped to RB Salzburg for a bargain fee — seven million euros, less than what Monaco paid — and has starred for the Austrian side, playing every minute in the Champions League.
Pavlović will likely start in Serbia’s three-man defense, having made more than 20 appearances for his country. He’ll be key for Serbia’s hopes of reaching the knockouts.
Switzerland: CM Fabian Rieder, 20
Rieder is one of two U21 players selected to the Swiss squad, with the other being Ardon Jashari. Jashari is in the midst of a good season with FC Luzern in the Swiss Super League.
Rieder is a player I highlighted as one of the potential stars of the Super League season. A Young Boys academy player, Rieder has spent his entire career with the club, making nearly 100 appearances. This season, Rieder has nine goal contributions, including a goal and an assist against rivals FC Basel.
Rieder comes into the tournament without a senior appearance for Switzerland, and will not be a starter. However, Rieder will be a dynamic option off the bench, able to create chances and also reinforce the midfield.
Cameroon: CB Christopher Wooh, 21
Cameroon brought two U21 players to Qatar, Wooh and goalkeeper Simon Ngapandouetnbu. Ngapandouetnbu clearly has potential but has yet to debut for Marseille.
Wooh is a great example of the scouting and recruitment of RC Lens. Wooh joined Lens for free from AS Nancy in 2021, despite having played less than 15 games for the club. One year later, Wooh was sold to Stade Rennais for nearly ten million euros, and he has gotten off to a strong start. The French club remains undefeated in the six games where he has played, with two matches being clean sheets.
French-born Wooh comes into the tournament as one of Cameroon’s top center-backs, and will definitely be in contention to start for the nation. He could help the African nation spring some surprises.
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