We are just months away now from the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which should be one of the highlights of the summer of sport. 32 nations have qualified for the tournament and the draw has been made so they can plot their paths to the final. Here is a look at five players who could shine in the competition.
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The Brazilian forward has just secured a £142 million move from Liverpool to Barcelona and will be one of the key players in Brazil’s bid to win the trophy in Russia. The 25-year-old is sure to flourish for the Spanish giants over the next six months so he will go into the tournament full of confidence. Brazil coach Tite also has the likes of Neymar, Jesus, Roberto Firminho and WIilian to lean upon, but Coutinho could be the difference maker as his form for club and country over the last 12 months has been up there with the very best players on the planet.
France are at the envy of every nation in world football as their squad of players set to travel to Russia is incredibly strong, so much so they could probably field three teams that would be competitive in the tournament. At the age of 26, Griezmann is at the peak stage of his career and will be looking for a big World Cup, which could lead to a move from Atletico Madrid to either Barcelona or Manchester United when he returns from the tournament. The French forward was one of the best players at the 2016 European Championship where his team fell just short but they could be ready to go all the way this time. They are sure to be a popular selection in the outright market with bookmakers, especially with punters who use one of the best sign-up offers reviewed by Oddschecker ahead of the tournament.
Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne is on course to be the player of the season in Premier League as he has been outstanding for high flyers Manchester City, who look on course to lift the title at the end of the campaign. The European side have underachieved recently in major tournaments but with De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku in their ranks, they should be one of the main challengers. Belgium boss Roberto Martinez will be hoping De Bruyne can show the same form for his country than he has for his club during the tournament this summer as that will give them a great opportunity of having a big shot at the trophy.
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Germany go into the 2018 World Cup as the defending champions after they defeated Argentina 1-0 following extra time four years ago in Brazil. One of the stars of their back four in the tournament was Mats Hummels and the Bayern Munich defender remains an integral player for his country. The 29-year-old has a wealth of experience at international level as he has picked up 62 caps for Germany. Hummels has also popped up with some crucial goals from set-pieces as he is very dangerous in the air, as he proved with the winner in their 1-0 victory over France in the quarter-final of the 2014 World Cup.
Liverpool’s Mo Salah has just been named African Footballer of the Year for 2017. The Egyptian has taken the Premier League by storm since his £34 million move from Roma last summer. Salah has 17 league goals to his name already this season and has proved to be one of the best bits of business done by any club in Europe over the last six months. Egypt will be looking to their star man to try and help them get out of their group which includes hosts Russia, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia. The African country has never been beyond the group stage of the competition but will fancy its chances of doing that for the first time this year. Salah has 32 goals in 56 appearances for his country and he should add to that tally in Russia.
The 2018 World Cup begins on June 10 when Russia host Saudi Arabia in Group A.