The World Cup Best Young Player award will be handed out on December 18 and Enzo Fernandez and Josko Gvardiol are the leading candidates for the honor.
Who do Bettors Favor?
According to the best-rated online sportsbooks three young players are favored by bettors to win the Young Player of the World Cup award. Enzo Fernandez is the short-priced favorite at -120, with Josko Gvardiol at +450 and Jude Bellingham at +500 chasing him. The underdogs in this market are Eduardo Camavinga at +5000 and William Saliba, rated a +10000 chance.
|FIFA Young Player Award|
World Cup Best Young Player Betting Briefing
The Young Player award is one of the newest of the individual prizes handed out to players at the end of the World Cup tournament, having officially launched in 2006.
If you look up the World Cup Young Player award, you will find that winners have been named going all the way back to Pele in 1958, but all winners up to the 2006 tournament were chosen via a poll held on the FIFA website, so for our purposes, we have just four past winners to analyse.
The award, which is restricted to players aged 21 and under, is announced at the end of the tournament on December 18 and is chosen by a FIFA committee so is essentially subjective.
There are some patterns to consider, however. All four winners have been strikers or attacking midfielders, and all four came from teams that reached the quarter-finals or further, with two coming from teams that exited at the semi-final stage and one (Kylian Mbappe in 2018) playing for the winners.
Fernandez a Strong Favorite
Of the three leading contenders for this award, Enzo Fernandez is a strong favorite. He announced his arrival on the World Cup stage with a spectacular goal against Mexico in a game that Argentina had to win, and had another good game against Australia in the Round of 16.
Fernandez has been one of the hottest properties in world soccer for a while now. He began his career at River Plate, but after scoring eight times and claiming six assists in his first 20 games, he attracted the attention of the big European clubs, with Benfica ultimately winning the battle for his signature.
Ostensibly an anchor player in midfield, he dictates the pace of the game, processing the ball from defense to attack, and excels in transition, thanks to his ability to read the game.
He would be the most defensive player ever to win the Young Player award but one more great performance in the final would be enough for him to claim the title. Still, there is enough uncertainty and two other strong candidates, so his current price is unattractive.
Stalwart Gvardiol a Defensive Contender
There is no rule that says a defensive player cannot win the Young Player of the tournament award, and Josko Gvardiol is the leading defensive contender.
The 20-year-old, who currently plays for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga has significantly raised his profile in this tournament, with a series of high-quality displays, particularly in the Group game against Belgium, when his resolution and reading of the game in defense enabled Croatia to earn a crucial draw.
It is harder to make a statistical case for defenders than for attacking players, but Gvardiol has recorded more clearances than any other player in the tournament, and ranks joint third for interceptions. He has also shown considerable bravery in playing every game wearing a face mask following a broken nose incident just prior to the World Cup.
The 3-0 semi-final loss to Argentina may damage his case, but being beaten by Lionel Messi is no disgrace and Gvardiol, who did little wrong in the game could be the first defender to win this award.
Bellingham Best of the Rest
Further down the betting ranks, there are some less obvious candidates. French duo Eduardo Camavinga and William Saliba both make the list, but neither is a good option, having made only one substitute appearance apiece so far, in the only game that France has lost so far.
That leaves Jude Bellingham as the best of the rest and the English midfielder is a strong candidate. Still a teenager, Bellingham has already set records as the youngest Borussia Dortmund goalscorer ever, the youngest English player to start a Champions League game, and the second-youngest scorer in that competition. He has also now the second-youngest England scorer at a World Cup.
His stats are remarkable. He has contributed a goal and an assist, is tied with Kylian Mbappe for the number of goal-creating actions in the tournament and he also ranks third in the combined tackles plus interceptions stat, indicating the magnitude of his all-round contribution. England’s quarter-final exit may count against him, but Bellingham still has a great chance of winning this prize.