Egypt: Mohamed Salah
There were few better feel-good stories from the World Cup qualifiers than Egypt. The African side have suffered some painful lows since they last qualified for the World Cup in 1990, failing to qualify to the African Cup of Nations between 2013 and 2015, despite being its most successful side with seven wins. Luckily for Egypt, coach Hector Cuper has turned fortunes around, leading the Pharaohs all the way to the African Cup of Nations final last year, where they lost to Cameroon before qualifying for their first World in nearly 30 years in dramatic circumstances.
In their penultimate qualifier, Mohamed Salah scored a 95th minute penalty to secure World Cup qualification for his side. The Liverpool winger will be key to his country’s hopes, having scored in five of Egypt’s six qualifiers in the final round of qualifying and if his club form is anything to go by, the 25-year-old won’t disappoint.
The former Roma man is on course to break the Premier League record for most goals in a 38-game season and is also on track to reach the 50-goal mark for the season. He tops the Golden Shoe race over the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Harry Kane. It’s a stunning debut season, but it would be unfair to say the Egyptian has been solely responsible for such stunning numbers as he’s supported by some truly talented teammates on Merseyside. With all respect to his national teammates, Salah won’t have the same support for Egypt as he has had for Liverpool and he’ll need to continue to show the clinical touch if he wants his country to succeed in Russia.
Honorable mention: Ahmed Khalil