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Top 25 players to watch at the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Top 25 players to watch at the 2018 FIFA World Cup

June 11, 2018 By Emmanuel K. Budu-Annor
The upcoming World Cup in Russia may not have received as much hype as that of previous editions but there are exciting days to look forward to

The convergence of 32 countries from various continents also means the arrival of some of the finest stars in the sport. With pride and glory at stake, the competition will undoubtedly serve up some excellent duels.

Here, our interest is predominantly in the players who have the potential to lead the charge for their countries in their quests to become world champions. We are all aware of Messi and Ronaldo's capabilities right? So without much ado let's take a look at the 25 other top players who could stand out at the 2018 World Cup :

**The players listed are not ranked in any specific order.**

25. Willian - Brazil

With a lot of talents in their ranks, it will be interesting how Brazil sets up their team. Nevertheless, Chelsea winger, Willian, is expected to secure a spot in the attacking front for the Seleccao. The 29-year-old forward, despite his club side's poor campaign this season, was one of their standout performers. In Russia, he is expected to feature alongside Neymar, Coutinho and co. Blistering pace and quick dribbling will be of great importance for the Seleccao.

24. James Rodriguez - Colombia

After scoring THAT volley against Uruguay in the last edition of the World Cup and subsequently scooping the Puskas Award, James Rodriguez's career is still on an ascendency. With 61 caps to his name and 21 goals on the international stage, the 26-year-old forward will aim to exceed his performance at Brazil 2014 when he makes a bow at Russia.

23. Christian Eriksen - Denmark

Christian Eriksen, skipper of the Danish national team, single-handedly fired his country to the World Cup by bagging a hat-trick in their playoff game against the Republic of Ireland. He impressed for Tottenham Hotspur in the EPL in the just ended league season and he is already in Russia with his country.

Don't be fooled by his calm and bleak demeanor because he can drop a thunderbolt from miles out. Underestimate him at your peril.

22. Gabriel Jesus - Brazil

Four years ago, all Gabriel Jesus could do to help his motherland was to paint and decorate the pavements and streets in his neighborhood as Brazil hosted 31 other countries at the World Cup. On June 17, the 20-year-old forward could be handed his debut at the competition against Switzerland.

The prodigious Manchester City forward was part of the illustrious Seleccao squad that won gold at the Olympic Games in 2016 and is expected to make waves on the world stage once again.

21. Thomas Muller - Germany

With 10 goals in his first two World Cups, Thomas Muller is six goals away from equaling compatriot Miroslav Klose's record of being the World Cup's top-goalscorer. Leading the charge as Germany's star striker, Muller will certainly have a lot up his sleeve in Russia.

20. Goncalo Guedes - Portugal

Surprised? Don't be. The 21-year-old forward has been tipped to be Cristiano Ronaldo's successor and at the moment, he is certainly on track. The Benfica academy graduate earned a spot to feature at the World Cup by impressing for Valencia in the just ended La Liga season.

His name may not readily come to mind when naming a formidable starting XI for the Seleccao, but he certainly has a role to play for Fernando Santos' side.

19. Edinson Cavani - Uruguay

Edinson Cavani has been a prolific goalscorer for his club Paris Saint-Germain. The 31-year-old striker usurped Zlatan Ibrahimović to become the French club's all-time goalscorer earlier this year and finished the just ended season with 40 goals across all competitions.

Having already clocked over 100 caps and accumulating 42 international goals in the process, Cavani will be leading the lines for La Celeste alongside Barcelona star Luis Suarez. Lit partnership, huh? Watch out for his outrageous volleys!

18. Ousmane Dembele - France

Rennes in 2015, Dortmund in 2016 and Barcelona in 2017, it has undoubtedly been an incredible uprising for Ousmane Dembele's professional football career. Despite suffering a hamstring injury which caused him to be ruled out of action for four months, the prodigious forward recovered just in time to make France's 23-man squad.

On his left foot or right, he is equally capable of punishing goalkeepers. He will be dazzling on the wings in Russia in France's star-studded lineup.

17. Sadio Mane - Senegal

The Senegalese captain has been part of Liverpool's prolific front trio comprising Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. Mane scored 19 goals for the Reds this season and will be heavily relied upon to get the goals for Senegal in their second-ever appearance at the World Cup.

16. Raheem Sterling - England

Raheem Sterling will aim to put the fiasco about his gun tattoo behind him and propel England forward at the World Cup with his admirable work rate and pace. The 23-year-old winger managed to bag 23 goals for Manchester City in their domineering league campaign this season.

As such, any performance reminiscent of this will be very beneficial for England. He is certainly a star man for the Three Lions.

15. Philippe Coutinho - Brazil

Philippe Coutinho managed to secure his dream move to Barcelona from Liverpool and ended the season with 23 goals across all competitions – his England days inclusive. With nine goals under his belt after 35 caps, the 25-year-old former Liverpool man will be aiming to unlock defenses with his incredible passing range and nifty feet at this year's World Cup. Be on the lookout for his long-range shots as well. He will drop a few.

14. Paul Pogba - France

The Manchester United midfielder enters Russia on the back of a top-turvy ride in the Red Devils' midfield. He is on a mission to prove his critics wrong and should he keep a level head and recapture his form, exciting times could be awaiting French football lovers. He is bringing the haircuts too, obviously.

13. Isco - Spain

Francisco Roman Alarcon Suarez is a real force to reckon with on any given day. A fine string of performances from the camp of the Spaniard caused big-money signing Gareth Bale to be demoted to Los Blancos' bench in most of this season's games.

Despite having to compete with the likes of Iniesta and David Silva for positions in the national team, Isco will be very instrumental for Los Roja should he be given the nod.

12. Sergio Agüero - Argentina

Sergio Agüero, yet again, ended the season as Manchester City's top goalscorer. The 30-year-old amassed 30 goals in all competitions for the Citizens this season.

Although Gonzalo Higuain is Sampoali's apparent first-choice forward, Aguero could really be as equally prolific should he be mandated in Argentina's pool of attackers. He so far has 37 goals in 85 caps for the Albiceleste.

11. Luka Modric - Croatia

The Croatia skipper was an integral element in Real Madrid's quest to a securing a third successive Champions League. He will be aiming to slice open defenses with his passes and also create spaces for the likes of Mandzukic and Kramaric to do damage for Croatia. His presence will be felt. No doubt.

10. Sergio Ramos - Spain

He has been criticized heavily by many for "deliberately" injuring Mohamed Salah but Ramos' recent comments suggests that he barely cares what the mainstream narrative is. Tough guy, huh?

The Spanish skipper who was present in the heart of defense during La Roja's triumphant campaign at the 2010 World Cup will be in Russia for what might arguably be his last appearance on football's biggest stage.

His prowess is already a testament to all and with him and Pique forming the backbone of the Spanish set up, teams will really have to knock harder to get goals.

9. David Silva - Spain

Consistent, yet, most underrated. David Silva has been the core architect in the midfield for both Spain and Manchester City for some time now. The least said about him, the better.

With a heart like that of a marathon runner, his work rate will be pivotal to Spain's success at the World Cup.

8. Mesut Ozil - Germany

Often despised for his off-ball work rate, the Arsenal midfielder consistently makes amends with his assists. Mesut Ozil played a huge role in Germany winning the last edition of the World Cup and will aim to put in similar shifts at Russia.

He so far has 89 caps and 41 assists for Die Mannschaft. Expect to see some of Germany's goals coming through the "smooth operator".

7. Antoine Griezmann - France

Need a goal? Just make Griezmann's hotline bling! Aside his trendy goal celebrations, Antoine Griezmann has the ability to be a nuisance to whichever opponent that comes his way. He has so far managed to bag 19 goals in 59 caps for the French national team. When coming against him, take care or you will take the "L"!

6. Eden Hazard - Belgium

Pace, flair, and agility. All these attributes will come to show when Eden Hazard announces his presence to fans in Russia. Currently the skipper of the Belgian national team, the Chelsea winger is expected to pull the strings with his nimble feet and cause havoc to defenses as him and the rest of Belgium's "Golden Generation" aims at World Cup success before they fade out.

5. Luis Suarez - Uruguay

He is despised by many for being a villain at the last two World Cups. Firstly, for his handball in Uruguay's quarterfinal game against Ghana in 2010 and secondly for biting Chiellini in country's game against Italy back at Brazil 2014. Will he make it a hat-trick? Time and ill-fortune have the final say on this one.

However, aside Suarez's despised dramaturgy, he is frequently the man La Celeste calls upon when they need goals. He shone for Barcelona once again in their journey to clinching La Liga and the Spanish Cup and he is expected to carry on at Russia as well.

4. Harry Kane - England

Super Hurricane, they call him. The Tottenham forward has been one of the prolific goalscorers in the Premier League in the last three seasons. With Gareth Southgate naming him as the captain of the Three Lions, a huge tasks lies on the shoulder of Harry Kane.

His ability to drop deep into midfield might come in handy and but him leading the lines, expect goals to flow.

3. Robert Lewandowski - Poland

Unlike Bayern Munich where he is mostly surrounded by a hoard of attacking talents, Robert Lewandowski is often the main man when he puts on his Polish shirt. The 29-years-old forward has recorded 53 goals in 93 caps and his goals in the qualifiers were very essential for Poland to secure a World Cup spot. 

2. Mohamed Salah - Egypt

The Egyptian King fired his country to their first World since 1990 by scoring a late penalty during the qualifiers and has been one of the best players in football at the moment. The Liverpool forward, despite scoring 44 goals across all competition, ended the season on a sad not after injuring in the Champions League final.

He has apparently recovered in time for the World Cup and the weight of a whole country will be on his back when he steps onto the pitch at Russia.

1. Neymar Jr. - Brazil

The world's most expensive player's fitness was one which made lots of headlines ahead of Russia 2018. However, the 26-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward seemingly defied lots of odds to be ready for the summer's competition.

Before injuring, Neymar scored 28 times for the French champions and, upon returning, got on the scoresheet for Brazil against Croatia in a 2-0 victory. He is ready and he will certainly be a focal point at Russia. Rejoice, Brazil fans! The savior has arrived!


Since we can not name every single player in Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Spain and France's star-studded squads, here are a few more honorable mentions: 

1. Kevin De Bruyne - Belgium

2. Toni Kroos - Germany

3. Marcelo - Brazil

4. Kylian Mbappe - France

5. Casemiro - Brazil

6. Diego Costa - Spain

7. Romelu Lukaku - Belgium

8. Bernado Silva - Portugal

9. Ivan Rakitic - Croatia

10. Marco Asensio - Spain

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