One of the most exciting young players in the world, Gerard Deulofeu has been chased by a host of Premier League sides, despite playing less than an hour of league football for Barcelona’s senior team so far. He scored 18 goals in 33 league appearances for Barcelona’s B team in the season just gone, and is an exciting, all-round attacker capable of playing on the wing as well as through the middle. A tricky, skilful player, Deulofeu’s direct running will scare opposition defenders, while excellent composure and good vision make him comfortably more than just a flair player.
Juan Fernando Quintero
Colombian playmaker Juanfer Quintero didn’t get much of a chance to show his skills in Serie A at relegated Pescara this season, though established his credentials with a brilliant showing at the Sudamericano Sub-20 tournament -- which Los Cafeteros won. He was at the centre of all of Colombia’s play, playing behind the striker and carving out copious chances with mazy runs and clever passes. Oh, he scored a 35 metre free-kick, too. Quintero will almost certainly be joining a bigger club this summer, and should be one of Colombia’s key protagonists again at this tournament.
Fulham’s Kerim Frei could probably qualify to play for just about every nation on earth, though the Austrian-born midfielder has changed his mind on representing Switzerland, and is now turning out for Turkey. He’s made four appearances for the senior national side since switching allegiance last year, despite not yet being able to establish himself as a regular at Craven Cottage. An attacking midfielder capable of playing through the centre or out wide, his driving runs and quick interchanges mean he’s a pesky offensive threat -- and a good set-piece taker to boot. Reportedly subject to interest from Borussia Dortmund, he’ll be at the heart of a lot of Turkey’s attacking play.
An attacking midfielder who oozes class, Bryan Rabello played a starring role in the Chile team that finished runners-up in the Sudamericano Sub-20 tournament a few months ago. He’s already made a few first-team appearances in La Liga for Sevilla, and will no doubt be at the centre of many of an extremely talented team’s attacks. Not a flashy or particularly explosive player, Rabello relies on his fantastic vision and effortlessly slick passing to create chances.
Snapped up by Manchester United from Chilean giants Universidad de Chile last year, Angelo Henriquez spent the past season on loan at Wigan Athletic. He frustratingly only made four league appearances -- scoring once -- but that hasn’t hidden the fact he’s a greatly talented attacker. Dominating at U-20 level with 14 goals in 10 appearances thus far, Henríquez is a tall, powerful, classic centre-forward, whose talent lies in scoring goals before anything else. Chile will be hoping he continues his great form at youth level at this tournament, having already opened his account for Chile’s senior side.
The incredibly-named Jim Morrison Varela -- called so because of his father’s obsession with The Doors (and that's not a joke) -- has only made a handful of appearances for Uruguayan champions Peñarol, though is still being linked with a move to Europe -- with supposed interest from Napoli and Bayern Munich among others. He’s a defensive midfielder charged with intercepting and breaking up opposition attacks, and was a part of the Uruguay squad which finished as runners-up to Mexico in the U-17 World Cup in 2011. Probably not the flashiest player on the list, he still seems to be one of the most highly-regarded.
Another Varela from Peñarol, Guillermo has recently shot to prominence by signing for Manchester United -- despite only making one appearance for the Aurinegros. The right-back impressed the Red Devils after a two-week trial, having established himself as a regular in Uruguay’s youth ranks over recent years. A small, slight defender, his pace should ensure he provides a threat in attack, while also enabling him to recover position quickly defensively. Having played for the U-20s for the last couple of seasons, he’s expected to be a star performer for La Celeste again.
Currently with his playing rights split between Italian champions Juventus and Genoa in a co-ownership deal, Ghanaian striker Richmond Boakye has spent the last couple of seasons on loan at Sassuolo in Serie B -- this season scoring 11 goals on the way to the second division title. He’ll likely be given his first taste of regular top division football in Italy next season, and will hopefully show the promise he’s demonstrated inconsistently so far. A mobile young striker, his finishing has sometimes let him down, though he’s Ghana's striker to watch.
Midfielder, United States
The Real Salt Lake midfielder has been a highly-touted prospect since his early teenage years and signed with Major League Soccer at 16. He became an impact substitute for the club back in 2011 and finally became a first-choice midfielder at the start of this MLS season. He has touch and passing ability rarely seen in young American midfielders, along with plenty of athleticism and a nose for goal to go with it.
One of the rising stars of Mexican football, Pachuca striker Marco Bueno was named the Best Rookie of the Liga MX Clausura last year. Still a pretty inexperienced player, he’s only scored five goals in his 23 professional league appearances so far. But, having been a member of the U-17 World Cup winning side in 2011, as well as reportedly signing a pre-contract agreement with Liverpool, Bueno is already making a name for himself. Being quick, strong in the air and with good finishing, Bueno is able to play as both a centre-forward and second striker; linking play and converting chances of his own.
Despite his youth, Southampton’s midfielder James Ward-Prowse made 15 Premier League appearances last season -- albeit with all but the first four from the bench. A small, well-rounded midfielder, capable of distributing well from deep as well as breaking forward and creating chances for himself, Ward-Prowse is one of the most intriguing players in the England squad -- despite being one of the youngest. He only made his U-20 debut in a 3-0 warm-up game win over Uruguay earlier this week, though will still likely see game time at the World Cup.