With less than a week to go until the World Cup kicks off, I have looked at players that if given the chance could impress for their nation.
I have tried to focus more on the countries that will have to put up a fight to get out of their groups, rather than the favourites for the competition.
The Iranian Winger has had an impressive season in the Eredivisie for AZ Alkmaar. Jahanbakhsh managed 21 goals and 12 assists in 33 games, winning 14 Man of the Match awards in the process which was a lot more than anyone gained in the league. These numbers made him the top goal scorer and the 3rd highest in the assists table. Out of players that played more than 15 games, he ranked 6th for successful dribbles and 11th for Key passes in Per 90 stats
Jahanbakhsh prefers to play right wing, cutting inside to take shots outside or just inside the box. However, he is difficult to defend against because he can use both feet and he has shown before that he is effective on either wing due to this. Many of his assists come from simple layoffs making it easier for team mates to score or effective through balls past defenders.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh played 1 game for Iran in the 2014 World Cup, but he was a 20-year-old at the time. He is 24 now and has progressed immensely since then and will be key player for Iran this time around.
The 20-year-old Striker was on loan at Frankfurt this season from Benfica and he certainly used every minute to prove his ability. Jovic was involved in 22 games but only started 9 of them, meaning he only played 929 minutes out of a possible 3060.
Despite the lack of game time, he was very effective coming off the bench for Frankfurt and ended up being their 2nd highest goal scorer with 8 goals, scoring past elite teams such as Dortmund, Monchengladbach and Hoffenheim. He also scored in the semi-finals of the DFB Pokal cup against Schalke to make his team win 1-0, Frankfurt eventually went on to win it beating Bayern Munich.
Luka Jovic has been called up to the Serbia World Cup squad from the U21 side, Serbia have only named 3 strikers so Jovic could come off the bench often for Serbia which may work in his favour as he was already used to doing this for Frankfurt which could be interesting to see how he performs for Serbia.
New York Red Bulls’ 22-year-old Right Back is representing Panama this summer and although Panama are massive underdogs, Michael Murillo has the ability to catch the eye this World Cup. He has played 7 games out of their 14 league games so far in the MLS, gaining 1 goal and 1 assist whilst also performing solidly all round in these appearances.
Michael Murillo played in 5 World Cup qualifier games for his International side and recently played 90 mins vs Denmark and 45 mins vs Switzerland in friendly games. Hopefully Murillo gets his chance in the team and can show his ability in a side that will inevitably struggle.
Mahmoud Hassan (Trezeguet)
Mahmoud Hassan (known as Trezeguet) has recently caught the eye whilst at Kasimpasa for his strong 2017/2018 season. The 23-year-old Egyptian winger scored 13 goals and assisted 6, gaining 8 MOTM’s along the way. 8 MOTM’s was the 2nd highest amount in the league and Eygpt will be hoping he can create and score goals whilst Mohammed Salah is gaining fitness.
Out of players who played at least 15 games, he ranked 6th for successful dribbles Per 90. Whilst he ranked 1st for unsuccessful dribbles, he also attempted a lot more than anyone else, so you’d naturally expect him to be high in unsuccessful dribble stats. You should expect Trezeguet to be on the ball a lot for Egypt.
Trezeguet, plays a similar way to Jahanbakhsh, mentioned earlier, in the sense that he likes to cut inside and can shoot with either foot however, Trezeguet scores mainly inside the box rather than from distance.
The 22-year-old Centre Back has played in every minute this season in the Bundesliga for Stuggart. Only 3 outfield players managed to do this and Pavard was by far the youngest player to achieve this.
Benjamin Pavard is a defender who is confident on the ball and can get himself out of tricky situations.
These are Benjamin Pavard’s defensive Per 90 stats out of all players that appeared in more than 15 games in the Bundesliga this season:
Considering Pavard played every minute this season and was part of a mid table team. These stats are quite impressive and you can see why he was given a chance in the International stage. He also gained 4 MOTM’s this season which was the 2nd most for Stuggart.
Pavard played in a range of positions this season such as Right Back, Centre Midfield and Defensive Midfield, showing he is versatile, which can be effective in a big competition.
He is also effective at playing the ball down the line leading to fast attacks. Although he plays Centre Back for Stuggart, he played Right Back when recently being called up to International level against teams such as Russia and Italy, which is an example of how versatile he is. Pavard will be competing with Djibril Sidibe for the Right Back spot in this World Cup and he has the ability to make it his spot in the team.
Panama’s 29-year-old Striker has scored 9 goals in 15 appearances for Huachipato in the Chilean league this season. Obviously the World Cup is by far a higher stage to play and perform in and his opponents will have a lot more quality, but Gabriel Torres will be coming into the tournament high on confidence and Panama will be looking to Torres to get them crucial goals.
Gabriel Torres also showed he can score in the International stage, as he scored 3 goals in 11 qualification games to help them qualify for this tournament. Torres will no doubt see the step up in competition and will have to take every chance he gets however, he has shown that he can score goals in both club and International football.
This goal he scored for Panama shows the pace he has to get away from defenders.
Leicester’s Centre Midfielder has had an impressive season, certainly for his age. The 21-year-old made the most tackles in the Premier League this season which was the job he was selected to do in the team.
Ndidi gained 4.3 tackles Per 90, which was joint 1st out of all players that played more than 15 games in a European league, only Filipe Luis from Atletico Madrid managing to match him. His impressive performances saw him being linked with Liverpool, however since then, Liverpool have signed players in that area so you can’t see that happening now, but it shows how well he has played.
Ndidi played 6 games for Nigeria in qualification and he should expect to get game time during the World Cup. If he continues his form from the Premier League, he could be an important midfielder for them this World Cup.
The only stat he needs to concentrate on is reducing the amount of yellow and red cards received, as he gained the joint most red cards this season, alongside Jonjo Shelvey, with 2 and received 6 yellow cards. He needs to be careful because if he gets a red card early on then he could miss the rest of Nigeria’s World Cup campaign which would be a huge disaster for both him and Nigeria.
Mitrovic resurrected his career in January, with a loan move to Fulham, after he struggled to get onto the Newcastle team sheet regularly. At Fulham, the 23-year-old managed 12 goals in 17 league games, which works out at 0.7 goals per game. This was the highest out of all players that played more than 15 games in the Championship.
He also gained 1 assist and 6 MOTM’s along the way, helping Fulham push into the playoff places and were so close to being automatically promoted on the last day of the season. Fulham were eventually promoted through the playoffs and many Fulham fans believe Mitrovic’s transfer in January was a massive part of them managing promotion.
Aleksandar Mitrovic also scored 6 goals in 9 games during the qualification stages and Serbia only naming 3 strikers, you’d expect Mitrovic will be given a lot of game time during their World Cup campaign due to the confidence he will have coming into this competition and the fact he has clearly shown his scoring abilities for club and country.
The youngest player involved in the 2018 World Cup is Daniel Arzani from Australia. Arzani is 19 years old and plays on the wing for Melbourne City FC. He now also becomes the youngest Australian ever to be in a World Cup squad. This season Daniel Arzani has started 15 games, taking part in an overall 18 for Melbourne City, where he has scored 2 and assisted 3. He plays with the ball close to his feet whilst dribbling past players and has a burst of pace to get away from defenders.
He has only played 6 minutes of International football, where he came on as a sub for Matthew Leckie against Czech Republic on the 1st June and then was named in the World Cup squad in the same week.
He has received 5 yellow cards in 18 games for his club so if he does feature for Australia, he will have to keep his head under the pressure of the occasion.
Arzani is the only player going born in 1999, but there are 6 more teenagers going to the World Cup.
These are the others: