For any football player anywhere in the world, there is nothing quite like playing in a World Cup. It is every player’s dream to not only play at the biggest tournament but also to score a goal wearing your country’s flag.
Not all players get to fulfill that dream. But, there are those who do, and even more impressively, those who do it on their debut.
There are over 20 players making their World Cup debut in Qatar this year. But these are the six players who opened their first matches a step above the rest.
1. Jude Bellingham
Club: Borussia Dortmund
England’s opening game against Iran marked Jude Bellingham’s 18th appearance for the country and his first World Cup match. 35 minutes in, he established the tone for the team with an assertive header off of Luke Shaw’s perfectly-timed cross—the first out of six for England.
At 19 years old, Jude Bellingham is one of the most sought-after young players in the sport. Many big clubs around Europe have been linked to signing the English player, such as Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool. And now, after scoring England’s first goal in Qatar 2022, it’s likely that he is only becoming more desirable.
2. Bukayo Saka
England’s 6-2 win last night was truly an effort led by the youngsters of their team, looking to cement their place on the world stage. Bukayo Saka impressed on his World Cup debut with not one, but two goals—redeeming himself from the Euro 2020 final.
Saka’s last major international match was the Euro 2020 final last year in July, and his miss in the penalty shoot-out has loomed over his reputation for the English team. But after scoring two out of England’s six goals last night, he has secured a spot for himself on Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad.
3. Jack Grealish
Club: Manchester City
There’s certainly something about England’s debutants this year because Jack Grealish is the third Englishman to score a goal on his World Cup debut.
Coming on as a sub, Grealish scored the final dagger to put England up, 6-1. And his celebration made it even more special. His celebratory “worm” dance was a dedication to a young fan named Finlay, to whom the Manchester City player promised his next goal.
“I’ll do it for you, I promise, next time I score,” he told Finlay. And he did it—at the World Cup, no less.
4. Cody Gakpo
Club: PSV Eindhoven
In the Netherlands’ opening game against Senegal, it looked as though the two teams would end the match at a stalemate. But, with just about five minutes left on the clock, on his World Cup debut, Cody Gakpo gave the men in orange their first goal of the tournament, which eventually led to their 2-0 win.
Like Bellingham, Gakpo is another sought-after around Europe, with teams like Manchester United previously interested in him. Now, more eyes will be on the youngster as he continues to make his case on the world stage.
5. Timothy Weah
In the United States’ first World Cup appearance in eight years, Tim Weah was the star. The Americans were visibly pressuring Wales in the first half. 36 minutes in, Christian Pulisic (who was also making his debut) slotted the ball through to Weah, who found the back of the net easily.
With Weah’s debut goal, the Americans ended the first half in the lead.
Weah’s father was also a star football player, winning the Ballon d’Or back in 1995. Though he never got to play in a World Cup, Timothy is doing him proud.
6. Gareth Bale
Club: Los Angeles FC
The United States may have had the upper hand coming into the second half, but with Wales making their first World Cup appearance in 64 years, they weren’t going to let the Americans off that easy.
Though the United States dominated much of the match, Walker Zimmerman took Gareth Bale down, giving Wales a chance to level the game with a penalty. Understanding the magnitude of this opportunity, Bale did what Bale does best—he put one into the top corner of the net. The Welsh fans chanted his name at the end of the match.
Wales didn’t win, but the draw kept them from giving up three points to the Americans.
With more first-matches still to come, who else do you think will be added to Qatar 2022’s list of debutant scorers?
Banner image from FIFA World Cup on Twitter.