Phil Foden is one of Manchester City’s key players and so is Jadon Sancho for Manchester United. Both were part of England’s title-winning team of the Under-17 Men’s World Cup held in India in 2017. It was called England’s golden generation at junior level with many others from that team going on to play for Premier League clubs—Conor Gallagher is at Chelsea, Emile Smith Rowe is with Arsenal, Marc Guehi is playing for Crystal Palace and Callum Hudson-Odoi is currently on loan with Bayer Leverkusen from Chelsea.
Other nations also saw their players graduate to top clubs. Finalists Spain had Ferran Torres and Eric Garcia on their roster and they now play for Barcelona. Frenchman Aurelien Tchouameni is Real Madrid’s first choice defensive midfielder after they sold Casemiro to United. Japan’s Takefusa Kubo was with Real Madrid since 2019 before sealing a permanent move to Real Sociedad this season. American Sergino Dest is on loan to AC Milan from Barca.
The recent Under-17 Women’s World Cup in India showcased the future of women’s football with some of the best young talent on display. Time will tell how far they will go, but here’s a list of players who impressed in the tournament.
Vicky Lopez (Spain, attacking midfielder)
She is already on Barcelona’s books and hopes that her performance in the World Cup will help break into the senior team. Lopez is a busy player and likes to dictate proceedings, roam the pitch and work as a link between the defence and forwardline. The 16-year-old playmaker also likes to play on the wing or in forward positions. She scored twice in the tournament and won the Golden Ball for playing a crucial role in Spain’s title win.
Linda Caicedo (Colombia, forward)
The Deportivo Cali player is a strong presence in front of goal and keeps switching position—on the wings, top of the forwardline and sometimes as false nine. She won the Silver Ball and Bronze Boot for her four goals in the tournament. She played a huge role in Colombia reaching the final. Colombia coach Carlos Paniagua calls her a born leader–on and off the pitch–and a key figure for the team. By next season, Caicedo plans to make a move for the top leagues in the USA, England or Spain.
Loreen Bender (Germany, forward)
She had a choice between football and gymnastics. She picked football and her decision was vindicated when she won the Golden Boot courtesy her four goals in the competition, two assists and the lowest minutes-per-goal ratio. The forward is a busy player and keeps the defenders on their toes. She likes to move around the 16-yard box and showed great ability to drop her markers. She plays for Eintracht Frankfurt’s second team in Bundesliga 2 for women and hopes to graduate to the senior team soon.
Amalia Villareal (USA, forward)
She didn’t start against India in the opening game but showcased the full range of her skills against Brazil. She can turn on a dime, has good close control and was described as a “special player” by USA coach Natalia Astrain. Hailing from Lansing, Michigan, she scored eight goals in the North American championships victory that gave USA the ticket to India. She got the equaliser in the quarter-final against Nigeria.
Onyeka Gamero (USA, forward)
Her runs down the right and the ability to whip in a cross made the player from Cerritos, California a force to reckon with. It was her assist that helped put USA ahead against Brazil, the goal coming from Nicollete Kiorpes. It was Gamero’s assist that helped USA equalise against Nigeria in the round of eight.
Guta (Brazil, defender)
Tall and strong, she was an imposing presence at the back for the team in canary yellow. Sure in tackles, never hesitating to put her body on the line, the player from Porto Alegre who represents Internacional can also surprise by moving up field as she did with a solo run against USA in the group league.