10 Youngest Soccer Players to Feature at FIFA World Cup

Youngest Soccer Players to play at the World Cup

Last Updated on October 1, 2021

Most of the Youngest Soccer Players featured at the FIFA World Cup as Debutants did not eventually win the trophy. But it is still important for the record’s sake to talk about these players.

The FIFA World Cup is the biggest competition any footballer can be involved in. Since its inception in 1930, so many footballers have graced the tournament and made their marks. Some of these players who made records started at a very young age.

Hence, we will look at the 10 youngest Soccer Players to feature at FIFA World Cup.

Christian Eriksen FIFA World Cup Debut

Christian Eriksen (18 years 4 months)

One of the youngest FIFA World Cup debutants is Denmark’s Christen Eriksen. The Danish footballer’s first FIFA World Cup experience was in 2010. His country was one of the 32 nations that participated in the first-ever FIFA World Cup hosted in Africa.

Eriksen’s debut came in Denmark’s 2-0 loss to the Netherlands in their first group match. Although he did not start the match, he came on as a 73rd-minute substitute. Since then, he became one of the Youngest Soccer Players to feature at the World Cup.

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Manuel Rosas (18 years 2 months 26 days)

Rosas is a former Mexican midfielder nicknamed Chaquetas. He participated in the first-ever FIFA World Cup in the year 1930 as a teenager. Alongside his brother Felipe Rosas, Chaquetas made his debut in their team’s first match against France.

Besides being one of the youngest FIFA World Cup debutants, Chaquetas is one of the youngest goalscorers. Ironically, he holds the record as the first player to score an own goal in the tournament.

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Carvalho Leite (18 years 25 days)

Like Manuel Rosas, Leite participated in the first FIFA World Cup tournament held in Uruguay. However, Leite was about two months younger than Rosas when he debuted with Brazil at the tournament.

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He made his debut in Brazil’s 2-1 loss to defunct Yugoslavia and was the youngest player at the tournament. Hence his place on this list of youngest FIFA World Cup debutants.

Rigobert Song (17 years 11 months 18 days)

One of the best African defenders of all time made his debut at the FIFA World Cup at a very young age. He played in four different FIFA World Cups before he retired from football in 2010.

He made his debut in Cameroon’s 2-2 draw against Sweden during the 1994 tournament. At that time, he was the youngest ever African debutant at the tournament.

Unfortunately, Song also made headlines in Cameroon’s next match against eventual champions Brazil. He became the youngest player to be sent off when he was issued a red card.

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Bartholomew Ogbeche (17 years 8 months 1 day)

Former Nigeria striker Ogbeche is one of the youngest FIFA World Cup debutants. He made his debut in the first-ever FIFA World Cup hosted in Asia. Ogbeche was in the Nigerian team that lost its opening match to Argentina at Korea, Japan 2002 tournament.

Also, he featured in the second match against Sweden, in which Nigeria lost 2-1 but was absent in the team’s final group-stage match.

Pele (17 years 7 months 23 days)

One of the greatest footballers in history made his mark at a very young age. He had a fairytale debut tournament with Brazil at the 1958 FIFA World Cup tournament. Despite carrying an injury, Pele was selected by Brazil in the team to participate in the tournament.

He made his World Cup debut in Brazil’s final group-stage match against the defunct Soviet Union. Thus, he became one of the youngest FIFA World Cup debutants. Although at that time, he was the youngest ever to feature in a World Cup match.

Pele’s performance in that tournament was impressive. He ended the tournament as the second top scorer and the second-best player. Remarkably, he won the trophy and was seen in tears at the final match against Sweden.

During his time, Pele was one of the youngest soccer players to light up Football.

Salomone Olembe (17 years 6 months 3 days)

Olembe is one of three Cameroonians on the list of the 10 youngest FIFA World Cup debutants. He was named in Cameroon’s team to the 1998 FIFA World Cup hosted in France.

Although he was not starting XI, Olembe was introduced in the 64th minute of Cameroon’s opening match against Austria. That appearance in the 1-1 draw against Austria made him the youngest African debutant in history, replacing Rigobert Song at the summit.

However, the record only lasted for a few minutes when another Cameroonian made his debut in the next match against Italy.

Olembe is 4th on the list of Youngest Soccer Players to feature at the World Cup.

Femi Opabunmi (17 years 3 months 9 days)

Nigeria’s Femi Opabunmi’s footballer career is one that left people wondering what could have been. Recurring injuries put the spanner in the player’s career. The talented winger played a stellar role at the under-17 FIFA World Cup tournament hosted in Trinidad and Tobago in 2001.

He won the silver shoe and was voted as the third-best player at the tournament. It did not come as a surprise that Nigeria included him in the 2002 FIFA World Cup squad.

However, he did not feature in the team’s first two group-stage matches. Opabunmi made his debut in Nigeria’s final group stage match against England, which ended 0-0.

He is Nigeria’s youngest ever FIFA World Cup debutant, Africa’s second youngest, and the World’s third youngest.

Opabunmi is a Product of one of the best Football Academies in Nigeria.

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Samuel Eto’o (17 years 3 months 7 days)

Samuel Eto’o is actually the Most decorated African Footballer. Many people regard him as one of Africa and the world best players in the history of football. His career kicked off at a very tender age.

Eto’o had not celebrated his 16th birthday when he made his national team debut with Cameroon in 1997.

A year later, he was featured at the 1998 FIFA World Cup hosted in France. It was he who replaced Olembe as Africa’s youngest debutant at the World Cup. He was substituted for team captain Francois Omam-Biyik in the 66th minute of Cameroon’s 3-0 loss to Italy.

Eto’o is Africa’s youngest soccer player to debut at the World Cup and the second-youngest in the world. He beats Nigeria’s Opabunmi to the second by just 2 days!

Norman Whiteside

The top of the youngest Soccer Players to feature at the FIFA World Cup is Northern Ireland’s, Norman Whiteside. He featured in all five of his team’s matches at the 1982 FIFA World Cup hosted in Spain.

Whiteside made his debut in his country’s opening match against defunct Yugoslavia, which ended 0-0. Besides being the youngest debutant in the history of the FIFA World Cup, Whiteside holds several records.

He is the youngest player to score for Manchester United and the youngest to score in the FA Cup and League Cup Final history.


It is always beautiful to see the youngest soccer players making their debut for their clubs or national teams. However, it is one thing to feature at the FIFA World Cup; it is another to lift the trophy.

Hopefully, the Qatar 2022 World Cup will produce the youngest player who will win the tournament.

Of the top 10 youngest FIFA World Cup debutants, only Pele won the tournament. In fact, he won it thrice.

Also, there are more Africans on the list than from any other continent. Does it give more credence to the Football Academies in Africa?

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