Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba Reuters

The exhilarating group stages of the Fifa World Cup drew to a close on Thursday and it is time to rate the most promising youngsters to light up the competition at the half way stage.

So far young stars across the globe have been given the perfect platform to stand out from the crowd and prove their superb quality. In Brazil this summer some are beginning to show they have the ability to become international stars while others are simply honing their already burgeoning reputations.

IBTimes UK picks its best XI of the first two weeks of the World Cup, sticking to a traditional 4-4-2 formation.


Thibaut Courtois (Belgium): At 22-year-old, the young Belgian was already key player for Atletico Madrid before he travelled to Brazil, having been instrumental in Los Rojiblancos successful season. Courtois has earned a place among the best goalkeepers in the world and has maintained that reputation on international duty, conceding just once - from the penalty spot - in his country's opening three games.


Fabian Johnson (USA) Johnson deserves in his place in our best XI. He was key to securing victory against Portugal, helping nullify the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo while also providing an attacking threat down the left.

Eder Alvarez Balanta (Colombia) The young centre half is considered one of the brightest defensive prospects in South America since making his debut for River Plate. Although he has made just one appearance for his country in Brazil this summer, he has all the skills required of a top level defender.

Raphael Varane (France) The 21-year-old is one of the greatest defensive talents in European football right now. Although he was largely recognised as one for the future at Real Madrid, he swiftly became a pivotal member of the first team under Jose Mourinho during the 2012/13 season and has developed a similar reputation in the French national team.

Marcos Rojo (Argentina) The Argentine international entered the competition off the back of an impressive season with Sporting Lisbon and is already shining in Brazil The 24-year-old's versatility allows him to operate either in a central defensive role or as a left-back and has subsequently attracted Barcelona's interest. Rojo excelled for Argentina during their World Cup opener against Bosnia and Herzegovina and scored his first international goal during the 3-2 win over Nigeria.


Paul Pogba (France) The France international has already garnered a reputation as one of the best midfielders in Europe. The 21-year-old left Old Trafford and joined Juventus in the summer of 2012 and in the last two seasons with the Bianconeri, Pogba has been one of the key players for Antonio Conte's side. He has already made a place for himself in the heart of the French midfield and is unlikely to be moved from it for some time.

Hector Herrera (Mexico) An impressive first season with FC Porto has helped enhance his reputation as a genuine box-to-box midfielder with attributes that allow him to excel at either end of the pitch. A graduate from the much-famed Pachuca academy in Mexico, he has been the heartbeat of Miguel Herrera's well-drilled Mexico side.

Mario Gotze (Germany). The 22-year-old is already considered one of the best attacking talents in Europe and his stock remains high after another excellent campaign at the Westfalenstadion having scored 21 goals in all competitions this season having provided a further 18. His importance to Germany's hopes of winning the World Cup is likely to grow as the tournament heads into the knock out phase.

James Rodriguez (Colombia). The winger scored nine goals and managed 12 assists from 34 league appearances in his debut season with Monaco. The Colombian international was one of the players who shone brightest during the groups, form that was epitomised by his outstanding performance in his side's 4-1 win over Japan.


Divock Origi: (Belgium) While Romelu Lukaku has flattered to deceive in Brazil, another starlet off Belgium's production line has taken his chances to fill the void up front. The 19-year-old has come off the bench in all three of his country's games, scoring against Russia and added some much needed verve to the attack that eventually overcame South Korea.

Eden Hazard (Belgium) The Chelsea star came into the competition off the back of a stunning season where he netted 14 goals in 35 league appearances. Like many of his other teammates, his start to his World Cup has been marked by flashes of brilliance rather than consistency. But if Belgium are to achieve success with what many have identified as their very own 'Golden Generation', Hazard is likely to be central to that.