1. Aleksandr Golovin
Club: PFC CSKA Moscow
The hosts may be the lowest ranked team in the tournament, but they still have a few players worth keeping an eye on. Hopes are high for Golovin, a midfielder known for his quick feet and quicker thinking. A £10 million move to Arsenal is rumoured to be on the cards – a small fee to pay for the “Russian Ronaldo”. That price tag looks certain to skyrocket if Golovin manages to demonstrate what he’s capable of with the whole world watching, but he’ll have to shoulder the expectations of a passionate home crowd.
2. Joshua Kimmich
Club: FC Bayern Munich
Germany coach Joachim Löw is a huge fan, calling Kimmich “one of the greatest talents of the past decade”, so it’s safe to say that big things are expected of the youngster. Like predecessor Philipp Lahm, Kimmich is as comfortable going forward as he is defending, though he prefers to play as a right-back. His fine showings at Euro 2016 saw him named in the Team of the Tournament as one of the best players in the competition, and you wouldn’t bet against him repeating the trick here.
3. Dele Alli
Club: Tottenham Hotspur FC
During the last World Cup in 2014, Alli was plying his trade in the third tier of the English Football League with Milton Keynes Dons FC. Four years and over 40 goals later, he’s one of the Premier League’s star talents. Alli’s confidence – or overconfidence, depending on who you ask – has made him a popular figure among Spurs fans, though supporters of other London clubs may find his tricks, flicks and back-heel kicks less endearing. Nonetheless, all of England will be hoping he can recreate his partnership with Spurs teammate Harry Kane in Russia.
4. Alisson Becker
Club: AS Roma
When you think of Brazilian football, you’d probably picture the flair and trickery of big-name forwards like Neymar, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. But the country has also produced some top-quality goalkeepers, with Ederson Moraes and Alisson leading the pack. Alisson’s remarkable form has earned him the nickname “the Messi of Goalkeepers” and given him a slight edge over his compatriot. The AS Roma stopper now faces the task of proving that Brazil manager Tite has chosen the right man for the job.
5. Aleksandar Mitrović
Club: Fulham FC
The Serbian striker is affectionately known as “Mitrogoal”, though during his time at Newcastle he was also called “Mad Mitro” and “Mitro, Calm Down, You’re Going to Get Sent Off”. Indeed, Mitrović is very much capable of roasting three defenders and scoring a 30-yard screamer before getting red-carded for drop-kicking an opponent while celebrating. Mitro has mellowed considerably during his loan spell at Fulham FC, scoring numerous goals while cutting a much calmer figure. But will he be able to demonstrate this new-found maturity and poise at an international level?
This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine.