With the World Cup less than two months away, we look at the best player on every team at the tournament.
Although every nation has their star players, some nations are more dependent on theirs than others. Countries like Spain or the current world champions, Germany, enter this summer’s tournament better known for having a great team rather than having one or two standout individuals. In these cases, the player most crucial to their respective nation’s style of play was chosen over a more talented individual. Honorable mentions are given in some cases.
So from Uruguay to Panama, here’s every World Cup team’s most important player.
Russia: Fedor Smolov
Russia enter their own World Cup hoping to make more of an impact than they have in recent tournaments. When they began their bid to host the 2018 World Cup, they had just reached the quarterfinals of that year’s Euros, knocked out by eventual winners Spain.
Since then, they failed to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa, and were knocked out in the group stages of Euro 2012 despite being favorites to top the group. They failed to win a game during the Brazil World Cup and once again went out at the group stages (meaning the country have not progressed into the knockout rounds of the World Cup since the breakup of the Soviet Union). Another winless campaign during the most recent Euros in France means Russia haven’t won a game in an international tournament in six years.
In a bid to end their miserable form, Russian manager Stanislav Cherchesov looks likely to trust in youth for his final World Cup squad. Among the predicted squad is 26-year-old Fedor Smolov. The striker, who plays his football at FC Krasnodor, has scored 12 goals in 18 appearances for his team this season. His talent has attracted some top European clubs with Borussia Dortmund heavily linked with a move for the forward during the winter. Should Russia feed Smolov the chances, he will score them, something which the hosts will likely appreciate having been drawn in a group containing Saudia Arabia, Eygpt and Uruguay.
Honorable mention: Igor Akinfeev