Who are the secret stars set to shine at Russia 2018?
The big names will be there, but there is a raft of young talent set to thrive at Russia 2018. Arm yourself with the niche knowledge that you can pull out at your mate's World Cup party or the pub to dazzle everyone with your brilliance. Read this and bask in the smugness.
No, the Panama defence isn’t just a congregation of full-time farmers, part-time footballers. Murillo thrived in Major League Soccer last season for the New York Red Bulls. The right-back will test himself against the likes of Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford, but will also bomb forward to present a danger for the Three Lions.
A mazy, beguiling winger, Sisto marries craft with pace. He will be a major facet of Denmark’s attack in Russia. Having chipped in with nine assists and five goals for Celta Vigo in La Liga last season, Sisto is productive in the final third. The Ugandan-born 23-year-old already caught the eye of Premier League sides. Southampton are mooted to be interested. They may want to be quick, though. Sisto’s fee will surely rise with a good World Cup.
Tagged the ‘Iranian Messi’, Azmoun is more like the ‘Iranian Zlatan’ given his preference for direct play rather than the dribbling that defines the Barcelona great. The 23-year-old has an impressive 23 goals in 31 caps for his national side and is very much the focal point of their forward play. Already linked with moves to Liverpool and Milan, the Rubin Kazan star will look to increase his value with a stellar World Cup.
Brandt is unlikely to start given the constellation of stars at Joachim Low's disposal, but he will be called upon should the Germany boss need impetus from the bench. The Bayern Leverkusen youngster is a versatile forward who can play across the front line. Netting nine times and turning provider on three occasions in the Bundesliga proved Brandt's efficiency in the final third.
Kahraba is Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim’s nickname. It translates into ‘electricity'. The 23-year-old midfielder’s moniker is a clear indication of his dynamism. Kahraba was a surging force for Al Ittihad this season, leading them to the King's Cup in the Saudi league. He has already stated his intent to sign with a European club after the tournament. Look for the Egyptian to forge a partnership with Mo Salah in the Pharaoh's attack.
Set to be another Eredivisie export after Russia 2018, the Mexican is a potent, driving winger. He found the net 17 times for Eredivisie champions PSV Eindhoven last season. Add his 8 assists and you can see he's extremely dangerous. Everton have allegedly set their sights on him but Lozano's could be higher if he replicates his domestic form on the international scene.
The 6' tall 24-year-old operates from the left-wing for Boca Juniors, modeling himself on the contemporary wide-man. He loves to cut inside onto his right foot a la Anthony Martial of Manchester United. Cardona was instrumental in Colombia’s qualification, scoring in wins over Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay. His support will be needed in Russia, as well.
Bentacur moved from Boca Junior to Juventus in 2017. Although the £9.5 million man has played only a bit-part role in the Old Lady’s campaign, his quality is evident. Capable of playing anywhere in the midfield, Bentacur is technically sound and certainly one for the future.
The 21-year-old won't be travelling to the World Cup only because he stars for CSKA Moscow and will kit up for the hosts. While everything points to a deflating performance for the Russians, enough to make Vladimir Putin put his shirt back on and then perhaps a hoody, Golovin could perhaps upset the odds. The midfielder is the heartbeat of CSKAs midfield and could be a dictating force in the middle of the park for his country if given the right support.
Luan is a top player in the Campeonato Brasileiro. The attacker has quick feet and makes intelligent, incisive runs. The Gremio man may well be called upon from the bench if any issues arise with Neymar or Philippe Coutinho. The 25-year-old has been suggested as a possible replacement for Phillipe Coutinho at Liverpool. Should he approach his compatriot’s ability, Luan will have an illustrious career.