With the quarter-finals just around the corner, FIFA.com caught up with three scouts in Poland to ask them whose names they have been jotting down in their notebooks and what has stood out for them at the competition so far.
Gabriel Ruiz (Leeds United)
Italian and South American prospects
“Overall, the players of Ecuador, Italy and Uruguay have impressed me. Italy goalkeeper Alessandro Plizzari has been excellent, as have the defenders Davide Bettella and Raoul Bellanova. Gianluca Scamacca hasn’t scored yet but he’s had three good matches so far. As for Uruguay, I’ve been very impressed by Brian Rodriguez, who I think can look forward to a bright future, as can Nicolas Acevedo.
“The Ecuador midfield has been superb too, with Alexander Alvarado and Jordan Rezabala, while midfielder Alex Mendez and forward Sebastian Soto have done really well for USA. Not to be outdone, New Zealand players have done some interesting things, not least their left-back Liberato Cacace.
“I like Luis Sinisterra and Ivan Angulo of Colombia a lot. France’s Moussa Diaby and Amine Gouiri have shown that they have big futures ahead of them too.”
Bartosz Barnas (Willem II)
Potential from outside Europe
“The standard of play that we’ve seen at the tournament has been really very high. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the non-European teams, who I don’t necessarily get to see in my day-to-day work. Of the African teams, Mali and Senegal have really impressed me, as have some of the South American sides. New Zealand have also done an excellent job.
“I’ve been following Argentina’s Ezequiel Barco and Portugal’s Jota for a long time. The best match to date? There have been a lot but I’d go for Argentine versus Mali, which was full of drama and excitement. The atmosphere here has been great. The fans have been getting behind the teams in a friendly positive spirit.”
Ibrahim Ba (AC Milan)
Looking off the radar
“There are a lot of players who’ve caught my eye here. It’s been a very good World Cup. It’s like everywhere else, though. There are six or seven very good players in every team, but you don’t often see a team with 11 excellent players. My job is not about promoting one player or another. It mainly involves passing information on to a club, who take over after that. If you say Milan’s interested in this or that player, it’s only going to raise the price.
“I can tell you, though, that I’ve seen a lot of good things from countries you don’t hear a lot about, like Korea Republic and Japan. Everyone has their eye on Portugal, France, Italy, Argentina and the rest, but there are some Asian players out there who would be worth seeing in Europe.”
THE NUMBER: There are 155 accredited scouts in Poland looking for the next big things. Germany has sent more than any other country with 23, followed by England (20), Italy (18), France (13) and Spain (12).