The World Cup presents the opportunity for the world’s top players to produce their quality onto the world stage.
Many teams have at least one player who can make a difference on the field.
Here is a list of 10 players that you should watch.
1) Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
The stage is set for Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best players in the world, to stake his claim as the best player ever. He captained his team to win the 2016 European Championship against France but was unfortunately taken of injured in the first half of the final.
The Real Madrid forward won his fifth Champions League trophy last month, with four coming in five years. This should indicate just how indispensable he is to not only his country but to club.
At the age of 33, this may well be Ronaldo’s last World Cup. Scoring goals may not be enough to salvage glory in Russia.
2) Lionel Messi – Argentina
With Lionel Messi’s rival Cristiano Ronaldo dominating the Ballon d’Or since 2013, this is arguably the best chance to win the prestigious award and secure himself to go down as the best player ever by winning one title that has eluded him – the World Cup.
Argentina have lost four straight finals in major competitions, including the 1-0 defeat to Germany in the World Cup final in 2014.
There are many comparisons to Argentina legend Diego Maradona, and with the pressure of carrying a nation on his shoulders, at 30 years old, this could be his last opportunity to produce his very best football while still in his peak.
3) Neymar – Brazil
Brazil head into the tournament as one of the favourites. Neymar has huge responsibility on his back in ensuring Brazil grab their sixth World Cup trophy.
If Neymar wants to prove he is better than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, winning the World Cup may state that Ronaldo and Messi’s stranglehold as to who is the world’s best player could be fainting.
The 26-year-old striker moved to Paris-Saint Germain for £200 million last summer, making him the world’s most expensive player.
Neymar was part of the squad that lost 7-1 to Germany in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup, held in Brazil. Neymar and his team will aim to get rid of those bad memories.
4) Harry Kane – England
The expectations for England are unsurprisingly low, which may benefit the team to actually perform on the international stage. After the disgraceful 2-1 defeat to Iceland in the 2016 European Championship, The Three Lions somehow need to prove themselves all over again.
Harry Kane was named England’s captain. He is one of the best strikers in the world, scoring 41 times for Tottenham last season.
Having recently signed a six-year contract for Spurs, Kane’s mindset should now be fully focused on producing the best performances he can for England.
5) Kylian Mbappe – France
France forward Kylian Mbappe could be a star at the World cup in Russia. He is the second most expensive plater in the world, moving to Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco for £166 million.
The right-winger will be widely expected to produce similar performances at the World cup just as he did for his club, with Mbappe grabbing 21 goals and 16 assists for PSG and is regarded as one of the most highly-rated youngsters in the world.
6) Mohamed Salah – Egypt
It was a storming 2017-18 season for Mohammed Salah. He bagged 44 goals for Liverpool, although his goals were not enough for the Reds to win a trophy.
Egypt will compete in the World Cup for the first time in 28 years, and Salah will be instrumental to his team’s chances of achieving success, albeit the quarter-finals may prove to be the last hurdle.
However, Salah’s fitness is in doubt having injured his shoulder in the Champions League with Real Madrid 3 weeks ago. It would be a massive blow for the Egyptian side who rely heavily on him, so they will pray for a speedy recovery.
7) Andres Iniesta – Spain
The 2018 World Cup will be Andres Iniesta’s last. The former Barcelona man joined Japanese Club Vissel Kobe to commence 1 July 2018.
Iniesta is known for keeping possession in the most difficult situations, as well gliding past defenders.
The 34-year-old is renowned to be one of the best midfielders of his generation. He has been integral in seeing Spain win back to back European Championships along with the 2010 World Cup, where he scored the winning goal.
8) Kevin De Bruyne – Belgium
Belgium have a team full of Premier League talent but Kevin De Bruyne is without doubt the most important of all the players. The midfielder was critical to Manchester City’s season in winning the Premier League with a record breaking 100 points, alongside the Carabao Cup.
De Bruyne is a brilliant passer of the ball, and the 26-year-old will be Belgium’s main creative force going forward.
Dubbed the ‘golden generation’, Belgium must now prove to the world that for all their amazing talent, they can back that up by going all the way and winning the most prestigious prize in football.
9) Thomas Muller – Germany
Bayern Munich Thomas Muller is not the most extravagant of players but he has substance. He has scored 10 World Cup goals, with five of them both coming in 2010 and 2014.
He was essential in Germany securing their fourth World Cup in 2014, and the Germans have a great opportunity of reclaiming their title.
The 28-year-old is going to have another major role to play for the Germans if they are to lift the prominent trophy in July.
10) Luka Modric – Croatia
Luka Modric was at the heart of Croatia’s World Cup 2018 qualification campaign. The Croatian skipper stamped his authority on the competition and scored a rare goal in the qualification play-off match against Greece.
He will be hoping to score for the first time at the World Cup, having failed to score once in the tournament.
Modric is well-known for his skills as a superb playmaker and the Croatia midfielder has the ability to make quick and rapid passes – both short and long.