Watch out for these players, as the tournament gets down to the nitty-gritty…
2018 FIFA World Cup, continues live on BBC + ITV
Who’s ready for even more action, excitement and possible V.A.R. madness at the World Cup? This fantastic festival of football isn’t done yet, because the knockout stage of the tournament is about to burst into life in Russia.
Harry Kane is the man currently carrying England's hopes of reaching their first quarter-final at a major tournament since 2012, thanks to a stunning start to the competition for the Spurs striker. The 24-year-old currently leads the race for the coveted Golden Boot with five goals, while the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo trail in his wake. Keep this up and he'll be getting a knighthood...
But it's not just Captain Kane who's poised to propel his country into the quarter-finals and potential further glory. Here's who else you should be looking out for in the next round...
Denis Cheryshev (Russia)
Russia’s star man has set the tournament alight in the group stage, but it could all have been so different – the left winger was a surprise inclusion in coach Stanislav Cherchesov’s squad when it was first announced. A creator of goals and a fine finisher, Cheryshev is now integral to the host nation’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.
Paul Pogba (France)
Death, taxes, criticism of Paul Pogba; some things in life are unavoidable. The midfielder’s subdued performances have been indicative of France as a whole at the World Cup, but a Pogba with a point to prove is never anything but compelling. Expect the Manchester United star to turn on the style in the knockout round.
Ivan Rakitić (Croatia)
Few players at the tournament have been able to elicit sighs of dreamy adulation from fans like midfield master Rakitić. Runs from deep, an expansive range of passing and a threat in front of goal with his pinpoint shooting – the pint-sized playmaker has got the lot. If Croatia are going to go all the way (and they’re capable), Rakitić will play a massive part.
Diego Costa (Spain)
Football’s ultimate pantomime villain, you just don’t know what Costa is going to do next – and that’s what makes him one of the most watchable players at the World Cup. Is he going to whack the ball past the goalkeeper? Is he just going to whack the goalkeeper? We have no idea. Just strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.
Philippe Coutinho (Brazil)
Forget Neymar, Brazil’s most scintillating player is Barcelona magician Coutinho. Dangerous outside the penalty area with his precision finishing, and also a threat inside the box, he’s already proved at this tournament why he’s one of the most exciting stars in the world’s game. Let him out of your sights at your peril.
Javier Hernández (Mexico)
Mexico’s master marksman is the sort of striker many teams have been crying out for at the World Cup. Playing on the shoulder of the last defender is Hernández’s strength, losing his man in the blink of an eye. And when it comes to the art of putting the ball in the back of the net, few players at the tournament are as effective as the West Ham United forward.
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