With less than three months to go until this summer’s festival of international football, anticipation is rising.
For millions of football fans around the world, the 21st edition of the ultimate football event will be the sports highlight of the year, and for those lucky players who have a chance to line up to represent their nation, it will be an opportunity to write their name in the annals of football history.
Heroes and villains will be created when the pick of the game’s players take the field – so which players should we look out for this summer?
In the headline category, there are the long-established global stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo is the undisputed figurehead of the Portuguese team, the current European Champions.
Some pundits appear to have overlooked Portugal, which is good news for shrewd punters who check out the World Cup odds with Stakers.com, but any team that includes the Real Madrid phenomenon can never be overlooked.
His great rival, Messi, will also be in action this summer, and for both players, now in their 30s, it represents perhaps their last chance to shine on the world stage.
It would be fitting for the two greatest stars of the modern era to produce vintage displays this summer, but Argentina can also boast the likes of prolific striker Sergio Agüero and rising Juventus midfield prodigy Paulo Dybala, both of whom will be keenly followed by fans.
Both Dybala and Agüero have been in sparkling form for their clubs this season, but the same can’t really be said for Brazilian ace Neymar, who has had a disappointing first season at Paris Saint-Germain.
Nevertheless, Brazil, with their deadly forward line that also features the gifted Philippe Coutinho and the mercurial Gabriel Jesus, will be a force to be reckoned with.
What of the World Cup holders? A number of senior German players have retired since the last World Cup, but Thomas Müller is still there, along with midfield maestro Toni Kroos and a host of talented newcomers, including the free-scoring Timo Werner.
Both the Spanish and French squads are also packed with young talent. Spain can still call upon the genius of Andrés Iniesta, and France have a staggering array of stars to call upon, with Atlético Madrid’s deadly forward Antoine Griezman the most notable.
Outside of the favored nations, we can expect more fireworks from Uruguay’s Luis Suárez, who has been such a hit with Barcelona fans, and it will be fascinating to see whether a Belgian side featuring Kevin De Bruyne – a contender for the Premier League Player of the Season award – and Chelsea’s star player Eden Hazard can finally get it together at a major international tournament.
Throw in the likes of Liverpool’s quicksilver forward Mohamed Salah and young English Premier League hopefuls Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford, and all the ingredients are in place for a truly spectacular feast of international football!
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