The 2018 World Cup is right around the corner, and as the opening ceremonies approach, this year’s cup is filled with talent, speculation, and always, just a little bit of drama. Here is a list of the top ten stars you will want to pay attention to in this year’s tournament:
Kylian Mbappé (France)
The nineteen-year-old Frenchman has captured the hearts of fans around the world as he took Ligue 1 by storm, becoming one of the premier players. At just the age of eighteen, he was able to lead AS Monaco to their first semi-finals match in the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2004, scoring 6 goals along the way. A star with superior goal scoring and dribbling ability, paired alongside players such as Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé, this France team is shaping up to be a serious threat for this World Cup.
Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
Keylor Navas became a star during the 2014 World Cup, as he was able to hold the likes of Italy, England, and the Netherlands all scoreless. After the ’14 Cup, Navas was signed by powerhouse Real Madrid and has continued to establish himself as one of the top goalkeepers in the game today. Navas will be the anchor on a hopeful Costa Rica team, looking to build off of their performance in which they fell to the Netherlands in shootouts in the Quarterfinals.
Luis Suárez (Uruguay)
One of the elite strikers in the tournament, Luis Suarez has been a focal point of Uruguay’s national team for years now, playing huge roles in both their semi-final run in the 2010 World Cup, as well as their Copa América title in 2011. The 31-year-old has continued to dominate throughout both the Premier League, and La Liga, and will be looking to put on another show in this upcoming World Cup.
Gabriel Jesus (Brazil)
One of the premier players on one of the top three favorites to win it all, 21-year-old Gabriel Jesus will be looking to continue his success for what is already a strong Brazil team. Jesus notched 3 goals in the 2016 Olympics, helping Brazil capture gold, and has already scored 7 goals in the World Cup qualifying matches. As one of the most promising rising stars in the game today, Jesus will be playing alongside fellow Brazilian star Neymar Jr. creating quite the threat to opposing defenses.
Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
The hero of the Egypt team, who struck a 95th-minute penalty in the team’s final qualification game, has sent Egypt to its first World Cup in 28 years. Salah broke out as a star this past season with Liverpool, as they reached the Champions League final where they suffered a loss to Real Madrid. Salah who was anticipated to have a spectacular World Cup suffered a shoulder injury during the finals loss, which forced him to leave the match.
Speculation immediately began that he would have to miss the tournament altogether, but after meeting with team doctors, it has been determined that his absence for this World Cup “will not exceed” more than three weeks. As someone who was set to be a premier player in the tournament, Salah will definitely be a player to keep an eye on once he returns to see if he can continue to help this Egypt team reach new heights.
The next in a long line of stars for Spain’s international team, Isco has grown into an elite player during his time with Real Madrid. After scoring 6 goals for the team in the qualifying matches, Isco is set to be the leader for a Spain team that is looking to bounce back from a disappointing run of recent tournament performances.
Toni Kroos (Germany)
Regarded by many as the best player in the 2014 World Cup, Kroos played a pivotal role in helping Germany capture their 4th World Cup. As the German team chases history in tying Brazil for the most cups by any team, as well as defending their current championship, not much needs to be said about one of the best players on arguably the best team in the tournament.
Neymar Jr. (Brazil)
The highest paid man in soccer, Neymar Jr. shocked the world when he went to PSG, and while many have been skeptical about the move, it remains to be seen whether or not it will pay off as Neymar suffered a season-ending injury back in February, and underwent surgery in March. Many wondered if he would even be able to play in the upcoming tournament, but Neymar has since confirmed that he will, in fact, be ready for this year’s World Cup.
After suffering a fractured vertebra in the 2014 Cup’s quarter-final, and having to watch his team get decimated by the German team in the semi-finals, there is no doubt Neymar will be looking to make an even bigger impact in this year’s tournament. As one of the best players on the planet coming off of a serious injury, on one of the best teams on the planet, there is no doubt Neymar will be a player to watch this year.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Cristiano Ronaldo is a player to watch every time he steps on the pitch. As one of the best players of all time, and arguably the best ever, there is really only one achievement left for Ronaldo to obtain, and that is a World Cup.
After not even making it out of the group stage in the 2014 World Cup, there is no doubt that Ronaldo will be looking to lead his team to a much better run in this year’s tournament. If watching one of the most polarizing players the game has ever seen chase history isn’t enough, Ronaldo has also stated that he will begin answering questions about his upcoming free agency once he is settled with the national team, creating yet another headline to watch out for.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Not much needs to be said for Lionel Messi. The Barcelona and Argentina star has dominated for over a decade now no matter the stage. The only achievement that he lacks, is a major championship for the Argentina team, and considering many have speculated this could be his last World Cup, he is running out of time. Although his legacy has already been cemented as one of if not the greatest player of all time, there is nothing Leo wants more than to raise that cup for the blue and white.