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The World Cup is officially underway and the first game gave us just what we wanted to see, goals. But the World Cup isn’t just about scoring goals, it gives us an opportunity to see some players that we wouldn’t normally see. In Brazil 2014, James Rodriguez lit up the tournament with fantastic displays for Colombia throughout the group stages and right up until their heartbreaking defeat to Brazil. There remains much anticipation for who the young star will be at this year’s World Cup, so I’ll look at five players that I think might have a breakthrough for their country.
5) Goncalo Guedes (Portugal – Valencia/PSG)
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The 21-year-old Portuguese international had an outstanding season for Valencia. After departing PSG in the summer of 2017 searching for more game time, Valencia took him in with open arms. Since then, he and his attacking partners have been terrorizing Spanish defences. He claimed 14 goal contributions this season helping Valencia to an impressive 4th place finish only just losing out on a 3rd place finish above Real Madrid in the last few games of the season.
Now heading into the World Cup, Guedes will be hoping to partner up with Cristiano Ronaldo in a two up front formation for Portugal. The European champions will be expected to easily get out of their group but after that, they won’t be able to solely rely on Cristiano Ronaldo to carry them through. Players like Guedes will have to stand up and make a name for themselves and the timing of this tournament is perfect for a player like Guedes. He has the opportunity to score a few goals, prove himself fit for the European elite teams and either get more playing time at PSG or open up a big money move to England, Germany or potentially one of the bigger teams in Spain.
4) Hirving Lozano (Mexico – PSV Eindhoven)
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The Eredivisie has long been known for its ability to produce world-class talent and distribute it out to the rest of Europe, the likes of Arjen Robben, Luis Suarez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all came from the Netherlands. While Lozano shouldn’t be expected to follow in their footsteps and go on to become players at the very highest level, he should feel confident that off the back of a brilliant debut season for PSV that he can carry that form to the World Cup for Mexico. The 22-year-old winger got himself 22 goals and 8 assists in all competitions this season and if he can get firing in Russia alongside Chicharito, Mexico should feel confident about getting out of their group.
The Mexican winger will also know that this competition opens up a range of options for him in the future if he’s able to perform well. Big clubs will be on the lookout and a move to the Premier League with Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton all reportedly interested in the signature already. An impressive campaign and Lozano could get his breakthrough for the rest of his career and continue showcasing his talent at the highest level.
3) Aleksandr Golovin (Russia – CSKA Moscow)
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Before the World Cup starter, this was probably a name that no one was too familiar with, myself included. But an outstanding display on the first day of the competition showed us all what this young winger is about. One goal and two assists in the opening match of a World Cup no matter the opposition is impressive so Golovin will have already caught the eye of some big teams. His season for CSKA Moscow produced 8 goal contributions which isn’t all that impressive but showing your ability in the big games is what matters and Juventus’ reported interest proves that.
The 22-year-old will have to continue his form against Uruguay and Egypt and potentially into the knockout stages if the hosts get there if he is to earn himself a move to the European elite clubs. The Russian star doesn’t have much experience though and his impressive start can’t make him complacent, he must take each game as it comes and continue to put in good performances. If he manages that, we could be finding ourselves a new Arshavin…
2) Timo Werner (Germany – RB Leipzig)
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Germany isn’t known for their strikers, yes of course Klose and others have been impressive in the past but in recent years, Gomez and Gotze have been able to cut it. The rise of Timo Werner last season with Red Bull Leipzig showed the world that Germany not only are immense in defence and midfield but they’ve now also got someone to score their goals in Russia and the 22-year-old will want to do just that. With more than 30 goal contributions in all competitions this season he should be aiming for glory with Germany and even a Golden Boot as a possibility.
Red Bull Leipzig are one of the better teams in the German division but he won’t want to stay there for his whole career. A potential move to Bayern Munich or another European elite could be irresistible for the forward and he can earn himself a big money move this summer. The likes of Suarez, Cavani, Benzema and Lewandowski are all getting to their final years as top-level strikers and Timo Werner will soon be considered in that calibre of footballers. His success, however, might depend on this World Cup, if he has a good campaign then he might get the move earlier than expected and go on to become one of the best finishers in world football supported by midfielders like Modric, Kroos, Coutinho, James, De Bruyne at the top level of European footballer.
1) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia – SS Lazio)
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Serbia has been tipped to be dark horses at the World Cup this summer and looking around their squad, there’s no real reason why they can’t go far in the squad. They’ve got bags of ability, bags of experience and bags of quality. The likes of Nemanja Matic, Branislav Ivanovic, Aleksandar Kolarov, Dusan Tadic all offer something to the team but Sergej Milinkovic-Savic will surely be their main man. He offers strength, goals, assists and is a brute force in the centre of the park. However, he’s still young and is likely to be leaving Lazio this summer in a big money move. His destination, however, is perhaps dependent on his performances in Russia.
The 23-year-old provided 14 goals and 6 assists from midfield in all competitions this season for Lazio and will hope for his breakthrough in the World Cup this summer. He could potentially be the next James Rodriguez, we’ve seen James go from Porto to Real Madrid just because of his World Cup performances so there’s no reason to suggest that world-class performances from Savic won’t get him a big move.
So there it is, that’s my top 5 breakthrough players for this summer, who are yours? Where do you think they’ll go and will we ever see someone have a breakthrough like Rodriguez again? Let us know using the comment section below or tweeting us @AllOutFootball_ using #AOF.