With the likes of Brazil, Germany and Spain having booked their spot in next summer’s World Cup, Goal takes a look at some stars destined to shine
With just one game remaining of their World Cup qualifying campaigns, it was unsure if Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo would be playing on the largest international stage next summer.
Their places at the 2018 Russia World Cup were threatened, but eventually both helped their nation to a deciding victory to ensure the top two talents in world football would be present.
With the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Spain having now confirmed their spot in next summer’s World Cup, Goal takes a look at some stars destined to shine next summer.
LIONEL MESSI | ARGENTINA
As touched upon, going into the final game of qualifying Argentina did still not know whether or not they would be involved in the final stages of the competition next summer.
The talk of a Messi-less World Cup was short lived, though, as the 30-year-old rescued his nation and booked the Albiceleste’s spot in Russia with a stunning hat-trick.
CRISTIANO RONALDO | PORTUGAL
In similar fashion to Messi, there was a suggestion that Ronaldo would not be making an appearance in Russia next year.
The Real Madrid star didn’t have as much of a direct impact on his country’s deciding fixture as his La Liga nemesis, but was involved in Portugal’s 2-0 victory over Switzerland on Tuesday.
NEYMAR | BRAZIL
Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar was central to Tite’s side becoming the first nation to qualify for the tournament, alongside hosts Russia, ending the campaign as Brazil’s top scorer with six goals in 13 appearances.
Brazil 6/1 to win WC
EDEN HAZARD | BELGIUM
Diminutive Belgium playmaker Eden Hazard made eight appearances for the Red Devils in qualifying, scoring six goals and claiming five assists. The Chelsea star also made 24 key passes throughout the campaign.
ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI | POLAND
In Poland’s 10 qualifying fixtures, Robert Lewandowski struck on 16 occasions and in turn smashed the standing record. With 30 Bundesliga goals last season, though, and eight in seven outings so far this season, his international tally was somewhat expected.
TONI KROOS | GERMANY
Real Madrid maestro Toni Kroos was, as usual, the glue that held Joachim Low’s Germany side together throughout their campaign. With one World Cup trophy already under his belt, will Kroos be able to lead his country to another in 2018?
PAUL POGBA | FRANCE
Manchester United ace Paul Pogba will be going up against many of his club colleagues in Russia next year, with France going qualifying as group winners with a 2-1 win at home to Belarus on Tuesday.
GABRIEL JESUS | BRAZIL
Another player who has been a part of Tite’s Brazil revolution has been Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus, registering four goals and as many assists in his nine Selecao appearances.
MOHAMED SALAH | EGYPT
In extraordinary circumstances, it was Mohamed Salah’s stoppage-time penalty which saw Egypt qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 27 years. The Liverpool winger will have the pressure of a nation on his shoulders next summer.
HARRY KANE | ENGLAND
A shining light in England’s otherwise turgid qualification process, Tottenham striker Harry Kane was on hand to score five goals in six starts for the Three Lions.
GYLFI SIGURDSSON | ICELAND
Though the Everton man is finding it difficult to establish himself in a struggling Toffees side at present, Gylfi Sigurdsson fired Iceland into their first ever World Cup finals, becoming the smallest nation ever to do so, by scoring the opening goal in their historic 2-0 victory over Kosovo.
NEMANJA MATIC | SERBIA
Manchester United man Nemanja Matic was seen in tears on the final whistle of Serbia’s narrow 1-0 victory over Georgia on Monday as they topped a tight Group D to qualify for the main stage.
ALVARO MORATA | SPAIN
Alvaro Morata struck on five occasions in as many outings for Spain, including two during La Roja’s 8-0 thumping of Liechtenstein last month, and will almost certainly lead the line for Julen Lopetegui’s side in Russia.
LEROY SANE | GERMANY
Manchester City winger Leroy Sane only managed 116 minutes of action for Germany during the qualifiers but his Premier League form will at least put him in the reckoning for a spot in Low’s XI next summer.
ANTOINE GRIEZMANN | FRANCE
Atletico Madrid attacker Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring for France in their final fixture against Belarus, kickstarting their final-day victory to ensure their place in Russia was sealed.
In all, the 26-year-old scored four and assisted four over his 10 appearances for Les Bleus.
MARCO ASENSIO | SPAIN
Another on the peripheral of his national team, Real Madrid attacker Marco Asensio has an incredible pool of talent to compete with.
Promised to bag a spot in the Spain squad travelling to Russia, Asensio is sure to feature during the finals.
ROMELU LUKAKU | BELGIUM
Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku has proved one of the deadliest finishers in Europe over the past five seasons in the Premier League, and his seven goals in his first seven United games will see him slot into the leading role for Belgium next summer. The 24-year-old scored 11 goals in his eight Belgium games in qualifying.
PHILIPPE COUTINHO | BRAZIL
Relationships may be frosty at Liverpool, but Philippe Coutinho’s displays will be key to Brazil’s success in Russia, along with the aforementioned Neymar and Jesus.
ANDRES INIESTA | SPAIN
With the Spain captain turning 34 before the start of the World Cup finals, Russia threatens to be Andres Iniesta’s last chance of adding to his 2010 winners’ medal. He has, at least, booked himself onto the plane with his Spanish team-mates.