Football fans around the globe had to wait a little bit longer this year to experience the World Cup, but the anticipation has been well worth it. We’ve been privy to some memorable performances and the game being played at the absolute highest level.
At this juncture, betting odds for powerhouse countries have shifted, as well as for those nations who have made a surprise run. Watching the rest of the tournament play out will be thrilling as the calendar year concludes.
While we’re enjoying the current action on the pitch, attention for certain fans is diverted to the future if their team does not make the knockout stage. With this forward-thinking audience in mind, let’s take a look at three players to keep an eye on before the 2026 World Cup kicks off in North America.
Although he’s already a household name amongst world football fans, Gianluigi Donnarumma is conspicuously absent from the 2022 World Cup. The Italian national team failed to qualify for the tournament in this run but has been a strong squad historically. It would be disappointing for them not to be part of the field in 2026.
Donnarumma was tremendous in the 2020 EuroCup, which was played in the summer of 2021. His play in goal helped catapult the Italians to a EuroCup title, inclusive of some key saves made in a shootout against England in the final match. It’ll be interesting to see if he has the same type of magic on the big stage in 2026 as he had earlier in the decade.
His name might not be the easiest to pronounce, but Kvicha Kvaratskhelia has a bright footballing future. At just 21 years of age, he’s making a name for himself in Serie A as a left winger for Napoli. He joined the club in the summer of 2022 and has two goals and three assists in club play in his five appearances before the World Cup break.
As he continues to develop against high-level competition, it will be fascinating to see whether Kavaratskhelia will have the star power to lift the Georgian national team to new heights. The 2026 World Cup will feature an expanded field, meaning that fans might have the chance to see countries participate that have not made it previously.
The French national team is one of a handful that is favored to win major tournaments every time they take the pitch, so the players that make the final squad have to be exemplary. He may not be there just yet, but Naouirou Ahamada may yet put a body of work together that allows him to play for Les Blues in 2026.
Ahamada currently plays his professional football in Germany for Stuttgart, where he has received ample playing time. He’s a midfielder with great athleticism and solid technical skills. Ahamada will need to improve in one-on-one situations, but there’s reason to think he could be an asset for France in the near future.