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Top 10 Players to watch in the World Cup 

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6 mins read
Top 10 Players to watch in the World Cup

There isn’t a bigger football tournament than the FIFA World Cup. As the best international men’s football teams in the world gear up to fight it out in Qatar, fans try to predict which teams and players will do well at the upcoming World Cup.

Some players are coming into this World Cup with incredible form, while some are in the spotlight for other reasons. Some make the headlines simply because of their reputation and previous success in world football.

Whatever the reasons, the following ten players are, in my opinion, the ones to watch at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Also Read – Qatar World Cup, Orientalism and the West’s worst fears

Cristiano Ronaldo

With all that is going on in the background, there is no one whose eyes will not be on Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese made the headlines after clips of his interview with Piers Morgan were made public recently.

The situation with Ronaldo and Manchester United has left pundits and fans divided in opinion. Whilst some believe that Ronaldo has little to nothing to offer to the footballing world, some believe that he is still the go-to man. Ronaldo has just scored once in the Premier League for Manchester United this season. Critics have also questioned his work rate and ability to press ever since he came back to the club.

The World Cup will undoubtedly allow us to assess the charismatic Ronaldo. If he truly succeeds, whether he was right in the things he said will be asked. However, these are hypotheticals. For now, we will focus on Ronaldo and his performance in Qatar.

Lionel Messi 

It is impossible to leave out arguably the greatest ever player to play football out of any list. In Qatar, Lionel Messi will attempt to win the most coveted trophy in football for one last time. The elegant left-footed Argentine has fans in his corner after the shenanigans with Ronaldo in the days just before.

Regardless of the Ronaldo drama, fans will be rooting for Messi to lift the World Cup. He has scored seven goals and has ten assists to his name in Ligue 1 this season — decent numbers going into the World Cup. Argentina also has a team this time to succeed in the tournament.

Kevin De Bruyne 

Many believe that Kevin De Bruyne is the best player in the Premier League at the moment. His closest competition could well be his Manchester City teammate, Erling Haaland. However, De Bruyne has been showcasing his ability consistently for a few years now.

De Bruyne manages a goal involvement in nearly every game in the league. He has three goals and nine assists in the league so far this season. He’s on top of the assists chart this season, ahead of Bukayo Saka, who has six. He also tops the charts for the most shot-creating actions and non-penalty goals across the top five leagues in Europe. The eye test for De Bruyne also tells us that he simply scores brilliant goals. His goal against Brighton & Hove Albion this season was one from the top drawer.

Aurélien Tchouaméni

Aurélien Tchouaméni already looks like the perfect defensive midfielder. He made his big move to Real Madrid ahead of the 2022/23 season and has played twelve out of the fourteen league games this season. The 22-year-old has also been a part of the French national set-up that played the UEFA Nations League earlier this year.

Tchouaméni breaks play and looks to make progressive passes. He also has a goal in him and can strike the ball sweetly from distance. He has two assists to his name this season in LaLiga and averaged nearly three interceptions every game in the last year, a stat which is nearly the highest across the top five European leagues.

Tchouaméni also averages over five progressive passes in a game. In short, he can break up play and drive his side forward. He will be crucial to France’s chances of going all the way to this World Cup.

Granit Xhaka 

Granit Xhaka

Many say that Granit Xhaka is a transformed player this season. However, in the last two seasons, Xhaka has been Arsenal’s most consistent player. A noticeable change in Xhaka this season is his temperament and maturity. Apart from a tactical tweak employed by Mikel Arteta, Xhaka has continued to do the things he always did well.

Xhaka continues to be a fine passer of the ball and works hard for his side. A change in his role has seen him take up attacking positions and make penetrative runs into the opposition’s box. This has resulted in the Switzerland international registering more significant offensive numbers. Xhaka has scored three goals and provided three assists in the Premier League so far this season. He also found a place in Alan Shearer’s Premier League team of the season so far.

Xhaka plays a slightly different role for his national side, being a little more defensive-minded. He will carry his confident run into the World Cup and possibly lead Switzerland to a successful campaign in Qatar.

William Saliba 

William Saliba showed promising signs during his loan spell at Marseille last season, but it was not until his performances in the Premier League this season that people started taking proper notice of the young Frenchman.

Many pundits and fans believe Saliba to be the best centre-back in the Premier League at the moment. He is, in every sense, a modern centre-back. Saliba loves the ball at his feet, is quick, and is brilliant in the air. He is currently averaging eighty passes a game, proving his comfort with the ball at his feet. He also chips in with goals and has already scored twice for Arsenal this season, which includes the screamer he scored against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.

Saliba finds himself in the French squad for the World Cup and most certainly should start for the side in Qatar. If he does start, many will watch how he goes about his business at the tournament.

Jude Bellingham 

The 19-year-old midfielder from Borussia Dortmund has been picked for his first World Cup experience with England. The youngster has impressed in the last two seasons and continues to do well at club level. This season, he has already registered two assists and has scored three goals.

Bellingham will be taking up a similar role in the national side compared to the one he fulfills at Dortmund as he will have Declan Rice sitting beside him in midfield. He will most likely have the added assurance of a third centre-back that Gareth Southgate often likes to play with in his side. If Bellingham gets the license to get forward and cause havoc, we could see the youngster light up the tournament with his ability.

Christian Eriksen 

Many would not have expected the Danish midfielder to come back and play football after what he suffered during the last Euros. Eriksen made a hard-fought comeback into football by joining Brentford for the second half of the 2021/22 season and then moved to Manchester United before the commencement of the 2022/23 season. He has been an integral part of Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United side ever since joining the club.

On occasion, Eriksen has filled in as the holding midfielder who drops deep into the Manchester United box to transition the play. However, nowadays, he is back to his box-to-box role and finds himself doing most of his work in the opposition half.

Eriksen scored his first Manchester United goal in their win over Fulham during the last gameweek before the World Cup break. He also has three assists this season to add to his solitary goal.

Cody Gakpo

Cody Gakpo is a name that was doing the rounds in the latest summer transfer window. The youngster plays out wide for Dutch club PSV Eindhoven. His numbers in the Eredivisie tell the story of his quality. Gakpo has scored nine goals and provided twelve assists in just fourteen games so far this season, averaging nearly two goal contributions per game.

This season, Gakpo has scored three goals and provided three assists in the Europa League. To put that into perspective, He has three more goal contributions than Arsenal’s frontman, Eddie Nketiah, who also plays in the same group of the Europa League. Nketiah has also played a game more than Gakpo, who has also averaged more non-penalty goals in the last year in the top eight European leagues than anyone else.

Gakpo has already broken into the Dutch national setup. However, this will be his first World Cup experience. The youngster looks cool and assured in his finishing, which should make him a threat at the World Cup.

Thiago Silva 

Thiago Silva will lead Brazil into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. When he made his move to Chelsea in 2020, not many would have expected him to become one of Chelsea’s most important players. Even at 38, Silva’s presence in any team is invaluable. Not only does he read the game brilliantly, he can also play with the ball at his feet and win a large number of headers.

It would surely not be overstating his importance if one remarked that Silva is the most crucial player in the Brazilian setup. Not only does he bring an abundance of experience, he also brings lots of quality. Silva has played nearly every Premier League game for Chelsea this season and has two assists to his name. Although he does not have a goal yet, one only needs to look at his previous season, during which he scored three times for Chelsea.

Silva has been the shining light in a struggling Chelsea side in many ways. Therefore, eyes will be on him to deliver for his national side as he often does for his club.

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