7 Players to Watch Closely in Russia31st May 2018 |
Every 4 years the World Cup magically thrusts some of the world’s newest footballing talent into the gaze of the world. Who can forget the magic of Michael Owen bursting on the scene at France 98 or Bastian Schweinsteiger bagging two epic long-range goals against Portugal in Germany 06 to make his name?
As we are fast approaching the kickoff on 14th June at the showpiece Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow it’s a good time to pick out a few players who could make their mark on the world stage this summer.
Timo Werner – Germany
The 21-year-old German is certainly a red-hot prospect to set the tournament alight as we head into the World Cup Finals in Russia. He’ll head to the tournament as Germany’s number one forward after an astounding 18 months since moving from his hometown club of Stuttgart.
Rumoured to be currently worth in excess of £54 million, Werner’s value has skyrocketed since Feb 2017 when he was valued at a lowly £10 million. His key contribution to the national team’s success at the Confederations Cup in Russia last year was proof that he’s got the skills to make a real impact on the world stage.
He’s sure to be in the pack chasing the Golden Boot having bagged the award at the Confederations Cup for 3 goals and 2 assists in Germany’s 5 matches.
Paulo Dybala – Argentina
More than a few comparisons have been drawn between the 23-year-old Paulo Dybala and his legendary Argentine teammate Lionel Messi. As early as 2014 Don Balón named him one of the 100 most promising young players in the world.
Currently being touted to have a transfer market value of around £100 million, should he choose to leave Juventus, it’s safe to say he has a very bright future indeed. Rumours are rife that Liverpool is keen to sign Dybala should their current talisman, Mo Salah, heads off to Real Madrid as also openly discussed in the sporting press.
He’s twice bagged a hatrick in his 150+ appearances for Juventus with his speed and creativity combined in the 2017/18 season. So, Dybala is sure to be a much-needed boost to his nation as they aim to progress well beyond the last 16 this summer.
Mohamed Salah – Egypt
Despite the best efforts of Sergio Ramos in the Champions League Final, Mr Salah should be back in action for at least the last two of Egypt’s three Group A matches.
After a blistering season for Liverpool, it’s hard not to be excited about Mo’s appearance in Russia this summer. Despite not being surrounded by the same level of talent that his Liverpool team-mates provide, you wouldn’t bet against the ‘Egyptian Wizard’ casting a few spells on the pitch.
There’s hope offered to Salah and his national squad looking at their performance in a friendly against Portugal back in March. It could have been an epic 1-0 victory, with a Salah goal coming in the 56th minute, only for Ronaldo to ruin the party with 2 goals in extra time. Boo.
He’s already picked up the 2018 PFA and FWA Player of the Year and looks set to grab the Premier League Golden Boot too. Could he be adding a World Cup to that ever-growing list too?
Harry Kane – England
Another player who’s been in fine form in the Premier League all season long, banging in a total of 28 goals for Spurs, just 3 behind Mo Salah. At 24 years old he’s already become Tottenham’s all-time leading goalscorer and bagged a record 6 hat tricks in the League in 2017.
Making his England debut last June, Kane has since captained his national side and has now netted 12 times in 23 appearances for England. His presence in the box and height combined certainly give England a boost, harking back to another star player at times, Teddy Sheringham.
His Golden Boot fortunes depend greatly on the other 10 men around him. However, there’s no doubt that if he can maintain his club form into the World Cup then he’s sure to be up there with the best of them.
Kylian Mbappé – France
Another rapidly rising star who’s enjoyed a stellar season in Ligue 1 for French giants Paris Saint-Germain on loan from Monaco. His tally of 13 goals in 26 appearances for PSG certainly suggests he’s in fine form and sure to feature heavily for the Les Blues in Russia this summer.
The signs were good early on as Mbappé capped a superb debut senior season for Monaco by scoring five times for his national side, helping them to win the 2016 UEFA European Under-19 Championship. His blinding pace has been a key part of his success thus far.
He’s since knocked in 3 goals for the national side in his 12 limited appearances for France and has already got an experience of the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg back in March. He bagged a brace to help France to a convincing 3-1 win over the Russians.
Philippe Coutinho – Brazil
The Brazilian playmaker has had a divided season, having moved to Barcelona from Liverpool during the January transfer window for a hefty £105 million fee. He’s since put away an impressive 4 goals in 16 appearances for Barca.
The right-footed player is well known for his crisp passing and set-pieces, which makes him a perfect attacking midfielder in any squad. His dribbling pace combined with his agility makes it difficult for defenders to mark him tightly as he moves the ball quickly from one position to another.
There are still questions about Brazil making their numerous attacking talents work together as one for the national team. If he can click alongside fellow national and PSG star, Neymar, then he could bag a fair few goals in Russia as Brazil make their bid to get to the final.
Isco – Spain
It seems like quite a while since Spain was an unstoppable force in world football. In the past few years, they have faded and will be keen to overcome the disappointment of failing to escape the group four years ago.
The national side is now ready to roar once more with Isco, or Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez to give him his full name, central to their plans for victory in Russia. They now have one of the most balanced teams around, with some saying they possess the best midfield in the tournament.
Isco has bagged 10 goals in 26 appearances for the national side, managing a very impressive hat trick as part of the 6-1 battering of Argentina back in March. If he carries on in that form then maybe the Golden Boot will fit this 26-year-old?