Few of the 736 players who could feature in Russia can be classed as total unknowns but there will still be some unfamiliar faces looking to announce themselves on the global stage.
Here is the 15 young players from outside the Premier League who are worth watching out for this summer.
1. Hirving Lozano (Mexico)
|Age: 22||Position: Winger||Club: PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands)|
Steve Wilson: With 19 goals and 11 assists in 34 games, Lozano’s statistics in PSV’s Eredivisie-winning season – his first campaign in Europe – show the potential he showed at Pachuca is now being fully realised.
Having played his way into Mexico’s Confederations Cup team last summer, he scored in a 2-1 win over Russia before the semi-final defeat by Germany. His brace in a 3-3 draw in Belgium in November was another headline-grabbing performance from a forward who can play on the right or left of a central striker.
Jonathan Pearce: Lozano is a brilliant, fiery prospect and could well light up these finals – he has searing pace and loves to roll in off the left to score with his favoured right foot.
As well as his goals at club level, he has seven strikes in 27 senior internationals for Mexico, which is a good return for a young player.
There’s a catch – he was sent off twice for PSV this season and for Mexico at the 2016 Olympics – but he seems determined to make an impact one way or another.
2. Cristian Pavon (Argentina)
|Age: 22||Position: Winger||Club: Boca Juniors (Argentina)|
Guy Mowbray: With such a stellar list of names ahead of him in the Argentina side, the Boca Juniors prospect might not get any game time in Russia – but if he does get off the bench it’s a chance to show he will soon belong in the best company.
Pavon looks set for a move to Benfica, following the European path trodden by Angel di Maria – an obvious player for comparison, and one who might soon make way for the young pretender.
3. Aleksei Miranchuk (Russia)
|Age: 22||Position: Attacking midfielder||Club: Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia)|
An attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, Aleksei has developed well since his brief appearance in last summer’s Confederations Cup.
4. Breel Embolo (Switzerland)
|Age: 21||Position: Striker||Club: Schalke 04 (Germany)|
Ian Dennis: I first saw Embolo play four years ago when his FC Basel side beat Liverpool in the Champions League. As a teenager, he was raw but had electrifying pace to trouble defenders.
He left Switzerland in the summer of 2016 to move to Schalke but an ankle injury that October ended his first season in Germany prematurely.
Embolo still needs to add goals to his game but he’s a powerful striker and still only 21.
5. Renato Tapia, Peru
|Age: 22||Position: Midfielder, centre-half, right-back||Club: Feyenoord (Netherlands)|
Renato Tapia is a rising star, and a versatile one too. He has been schooled in Dutch football since he moved to Europe to join FC Twente in 2013 and is now at Feyenoord. Despite his age, he is an important part of a Peru team going to the World Cup with form and confidence – and is viewed as a future captain of Los Incas.
6. Sardar Azmoun (Iran)
|Age: 23||Position: Striker||Club: Rubin Kazan (Russia)|
Alistair Bruce-Ball: Azmoun scored 11 goals in 14 games in qualifying and has a fantastic strike rate of 23 goals in 32 international appearances.
Iran are very good defensively – Carlos Queiroz’s side kept nine consecutive clean sheets in their final round of qualification games – but, if they’re going to progress in Russia, they will have to score with the few chances that come their way. A lot of that will be down to Azmoun.
7. Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)
|Age: 19||Position: Full-back||Club: Real Madrid (Spain)|
At 19, Hakimi already has winner’s medals from the Club World Cup and Champions League. He played at right-back in both Real’s matches against Spurs in the latter competition this season – and made 17 first-team appearances in all – but may start at left-back for Morocco in Russia.
Former Real boss Zinedine Zidane liked him so much he was happy to sell Brazil international Danilo to Manchester City. Enough said.
8. Andre Silva (Portugal)
|Age: 22||Position: Striker||Club: AC Milan (Italy)|
Conor McNamara: Silva is still finding his way at AC Milan and was mainly used as a substitute last season in Serie A, but he was given more of a chance in the Europa League and scored six goals in eight starts in that competition in 2017-18.
So far in his international career he has averaged a goal every three shots, and apparently Wolves and Huddersfield are interested in bringing him to the Premier League next season.
Wherever he ends up playing his club football, Cristiano Ronaldo has already said Silva can be his long-term successor as Portugal’s main goalscorer.
9. Rodrigo Bentancur, Uruguay
|Age: 20||Position: Midfielder||Club: Juventus (Italy)|
Good things are expected of this tall, two-footed midfielder who has just finished his first season with Juventus and only made his senior international debut in October 2017.
I’m expecting Uruguay to do well and, if they do, Bentancur could well get his chance to shine.
10. Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Iran
|Age: 24||Position: Striker||Club: AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands)|
It would be a surprise if Carlos Queiroz can guide Iran out of the group stage above either Spain or his native Portugal, but in AZ striker Alireza Jahanbakhsh he has a player of quality who’s being linked with a move to the Premier League.
Sure, the Eredivisie isn’t the top level these days, but to finish as top scorer is still no mean feat – he’s following some major players to the honour.
A goal against one or both of the big guns in Group B might not get Iran through to the last 16, but it might get his Dutch club side a few more million euros later this summer.
11. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Serbia
|Age: 23||Position: Midfielder||Club: Lazio (Italy)|
Born in Spain, Milinkovic-Savic has been a great success for Lazio – scoring 14 goals from midfield last season – and is reported to be on Manchester United’s shopping list.
The 23-year-old has won both the Under-20 World Cup and the Under-19 European Championship with his country and is vying with Andrija Zivkovic of Benfica for the title of Serbia’s brightest young thing.
He only has three caps for his country because the former manager Slavoljub Muslin didn’t pick him, much to the chagrin of the Serbian fans. Russia could be his chance to shine.
12. Youri Tielemans, Belgium
|Age: 23||Position: Midfielder||Club: Monaco (France)|
This 21-year-old midfielder might go under the radar behind Belgium’s big names, only four appearances in qualifying but has clearly been noticed by a lot of scouts.
From his play against Manchester United in the Europa League last year, when he was being tracked by Premier League clubs prior to his move to Monaco from Anderlecht. It is easy to see why – he has all the attributes, technique, vision and provides real drive from midfield.
13. Ismaila Sarr, Senegal
|Age: 20||Position: Forward||Club: Rennes (France)|
A left-sided attacker who is drawing inevitable comparisons to countryman Sadio Mane, Sarr has fought back well from a serious tendon injury in September 2017 to make the £15m Rennes paid Metz for him look like money well spent.
Sarr chose Rennes and regular football ahead of a move to Barcelona, which must have been a tough but level-headed choice. If he does as well as many expect in Russia, then another queue for his signature will be forming.
14. Uros Spajic, Serbia
|Age: 25||Position: Centre-back||Club: Krasnodar (Russia)|
Spajic turned 25 this year so is a little older than most on this list, but remains an excellent prospect and I was surprised he recently headed east – he’s just signed for Russian side Krasnodar for 7m euros from Belgian side Anderlecht.
A dependable, brave centre-back who is good in the air, he is a player who is alert to danger and also happy to put his body on the line.
15. Maxi Gomez, Uruguay
|Age: 21||Position: Striker||Club: Celta Vigo (Spain)|
With Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez around, getting playing time for Uruguay is going to be the problem for Gomez, who has been a huge success in his first season in Europe with Celta Vigo.
A big-money move to Beijing Guoan which would reportedly have increased his wages tenfold stalled in January as Gomez got cold feet about China. He was wise to think twice – further fame and fortune are just around the corner.