Youngest World Cup Players Ever

Roy Hodgson has picked a few youngsters for England, such as Ross Barkley (20) and Raheem Sterling (19), whilst Luke Shaw is the youngest player in the squad at just 18 years of age.

But those are old-timers compared to some of the players in our top 10 youngest players in World Cup (finals) history.

1. Norman Whiteside (17)

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Before he became partial to the odd drop and incredibly injury-prone, Whiteside was one of the most talented young players in the world and made his World Cup debut at the age of just 17 years, one month and 10 days.

Whiteside featured in Northern Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Yugoslavia at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

2. Samuel Eto’o (17)

Samuel Eto'o
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Exactly 16 years after Whiteside, Cameroonian legend Eto’o featured at France ’98 at the age of 17, three months and seven days, losing 3-0 against Italy.

3. Femi Opabunmi (17)

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Unlike the first two, not a name many will be familiar with but Opabunmi played for Nigeria when he was just two days older than Eto’o was for his World Cup bow.

The Nigerian helped his nation to a 0-0 draw with England in 2002.

4. Salomon Olembe (17)

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Another Cameroonian but unlike Eto’o not a household name, Olembe was part of the same 1998 squad and featured six days prior to his colleague against Austria in a 1-1 draw.

5. Pele (17)

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Arguably the greatest player ever and undoubtedly the finest in World Cups, Brazil’s Pele may suffer from erectile dysfunction but at the 1958 World Cup he played against the USSR at the age of just 17 years, seven months and 23 days.

He would go on to win the competition, a feat he repeated in 1962 and 1970.

6. Bartholomew Ogbeche (17)

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Ogbeche was a few days older than Pele when he made his World Cup finals debut in 2002 in a 1-0 defeat against Argentina.

The striker now plies his trade in the Netherlands.

7. Rigobert Song (17)

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Song played in four World Cups, the first in 1994 at the age of 17 years, 11 months and 18 days.

Another Cameroonian on our list, Song played for Liverpool before finishing his career in Turkey. His cousin Alex plays for Barcelona after a spell at Arsenal.

8. Carvalho Leite (18)

Carvalho Leite

The second young Brazilian on the list played at the first ever World Cup in Uruguay in 1930 just 25 days after his 18th birthday.

A striker, Carvalho Leite was the youngest player in World Cup finals until compatriot Pele broke his record many years later.

9. Manuel Rosas (18)

Manuel Rosas

Rosas was a couple of months older than Carvalho Leite when he played for Mexico at the same 1930 tournament in a 4-1 defeat against France.

10. Christian Eriksen (18)

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Spurs fans will be hoping Eriksen can build on a solid debut season with them, the former Ajax midfielder having moved to the Premier League in 2013. He showed his class from a very early age though and at just 18 years and four months of age took to the field in the 2010 World Cup against Netherlands, a game Denmark lost 2-0.

So, whilst playing in a World Cup at such a young age is an incredible achievement, it’s clearly no guarantee of future success. Can Shaw, Barkley and co prove themselves to be the Eto’os or Peles of the future? Fingers crossed!

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