One of the major debates before any World Cup squad announcement is whether the coach should be prioritising experience or youthful exuberance.
Of course, a mix is often the way to go but sometimes in certain positions, a coach may have no choice but to go with a young star who has never been to a World Cup but has shown enough promise to be worth a go.
At the 2022 Qatar World Cup, the youngest squad by average age is Ghana, who are also the lowest-ranked team in the tournament. The average age of Otto Addo’s squad is 23.5 years old, narrowly beating the USA and Ecuador who have average ages of 24. Having used the median squad age, Ghana are the youngest. Other measurements of age can give USA as the youngest, showing how fine the margin is.
Despite being ranked 61st in the world right now, there are some undoubtedly good players in the Ghana squad and they are surely set to climb the rankings fairly quickly with their talented and youthful squad.
The African side missed the 2018 tournament and many of the old guard have been phased out for young stars since then. In terms of names that may be recognisable to Premier League fans, there is former Fulham man Denis Odoi, Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey, Leicester City’s Daniel Amartey, Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu, Arsenal’s Thomas Payet, Andre Ayew and his younger brother Jordan.
In terms of other names who have made something of a splash in Europe, there is Athletic Club’s Inaki Williams, Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus, and Kamal Sowah who has impressed at Club Brugge in the Champions League this season.
Ghana will be taking on Portugal, South Korea and Uruguay in Group H so they have got their work cut out to take this young squad to the next round.
Half of this Ghana team have got five national team caps or fewer. The Ayew brothers are bringing the bulk of the experience to Qatar.
The youngest player in the Ghana squad is Abdul Fatawu Issahaku. The Sporting CP attacking midfielder is 18 years old and will not be 19 until March 2023. He’s not the youngest player at the whole tournament as that honour goes to German forward Youssoufa Moukoko, but he will be one to keep an eye on nonetheless.
He has only made three substitute appearances for Sporting in Liga Portugal this season and he has come off the bench in the Champions League and the Taca de Portugal. He isn’t expected to be a starter for Ghana this summer but it would be great to see him get some minutes.
The accolade of youngest player in World Cup history still belongs to Normal Whiteside, who was capped for Northern Ireland at the 1982 World Cup at 17 years old and 40 days. He narrowly beats Samuel Eto’o by 58 days.
These sorts of records are often held by someone fairly obscure but Whiteside made over 200 appearances for Manchester United in the 1980s and won the FA Cup twice. He then spent the rest of his career at Everton before retiring in 1991.
He made 38 appearances for Northern Ireland during his career too, scoring nine goals.