7 Stars set to light up the World Cup last 16
It’s been an exciting World Cup so far, eh? England are, at the time of writing, looking like a set of lads who’ve actually met each other before, there’s been goals galore and VAR has got everyone well and truly up the wall.
In hope that the the tournament continues in this vein as we head into the latter stages, and doesn’t become a cagey snooze-fest, we’ve taken a light-hearted look at seven stars that we expect to light up the last 16 and beyond.
1 – Harry Kane
We were close to opting for Jordan Henderson here, if only for the needle. But, in all seriousness, if England are to progress deep into the competition, they’re going to need main-man Harry Kane to carry on bagging. Already in with a shout of claiming the Golden Boot, Kane is in fantastic form and capable of scoring all types of goals – as proven with his remarkable edge of the box back heel versus Panama. (Cough.)
2 – Cristiano Ronaldo
What a guy Cristiano is! Given, if he was a lolly-ice he’d have licked himself to death years ago but he has every right to think that he’s God’s gift to football. When most mere mortals would be on the wane at 33 years of age, Ronaldo seems to get better and better – like a fine Maderia wine. Who’d put it past him to drag Portugal to World Cup glory, to go with the European Championship he won on his own? Not me. Besides, I want to see another statue cast in his honour.
3 – Romelu Lukaku
Too cumbersome, too lazy, terrible first touch. We’ve all said these things about Rom over the years but his numbers don’t lie. The man has bagged a remarkable 41 goals for his country in just 70 games and he’s only 25. With the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne supplying the ammunition, you just know that the goals are going to continue to flow. Could well prove to be the man to fire Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ to glory. Got a soft spot for him based on all the goals he bagged for me on Football Manager ’14.
4 – Neymar Jr.
According to Joey Barton, Neymar is the Justin Bieber of football, “brilliant on the old Youtube, cat p*ss in reality”. Full of goals, flicks, tricks, dribbles and a dead-ball specialist to boot, Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, as his ma calls him, is the most expensive player in world football. He’s also already claimed 269 career goals and is the man that Brazil will be depending upon to lead them to a remarkable 6th World Cup win. Shows what you know, eh Joey?
5 – Andres Iniesta
Being a world-class footballer is not all about scoring loads of goals. It’s not even about racking up the most assists or winning your fair share of tackles. Hang on, where was a I going with this? Oh, yeah – Andres Iniesta, what a player. Despite not being noted for any of the attributes mentioned, the diminutive Iniesta is one of the finest midfielders to ever grace the game and has claimed a remarkable haul of honours including the 2010 World Cup. If he can get this Spain side firing, even for just the 60 mins per game he’s on the pitch, then Lo Roja will have a chance of claiming the big one again.
6 – Luis Suarez
I got Uruguay in The Guide Liverpool sweep. That’s the only reason I’m including you, Luis. Kidding aside, if Uruguay are to spring a shock and be in with a chance of making a final, they’ll need Luis Suarez to be at his diving, cheating, biting, hand-balling, goal-scoring, magnificent best. Can imagine him recreating Maradona’s Hand of God against England in the final and some dodgy ref allowing the goal to stand despite the clear replays on VAR. You heard it here first.
7 – Lionel Messi
What a goal that was from Leo against Nigeria. The way he gets the ball under control is mind-boggling, really. Quite possibly the greatest player to have ever played the game, let’s hope that Messi can keep producing the magic in the knockout stages. Just don’t let him party with Maradona if they win the thing, whatever you do.
So, that’s it then. The seven men who, whether through sheer brilliance or sumptuous skulduggery, will keep World Cup 2018 interesting to the last.