By Jack Hamrick
The greatest event in sports is underway in Russia. The host nation kicked us off with an impressive 5-0 slaughter of Saudi Arabia, who should get eaten alive by the likes of both Egypt and Uruguay. The heavy favorites, like Germany, France, and Brazil have top-to-bottom talent, but who will be the players that make the biggest impact?
Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
You can’t write/talk enough about this guy. One of my favorite players to watch in recent years, Salah has torched every Premier League and Champions League defender who has attempted to mark him. Not so much flash, but blisteringly fast and an amazing finisher. And once he’s on, there just simply isn’t an off switch. Salah is not only the highest scoring African-born player in a single season, but holds the Premier League record for single season goals. The golden boot winner, and a hopeful Balon d’or finalist, absolutely has the fire power to charge Egypt into the elimination stages.
Sadio Mane (Senegal)
The Senegalese winger plays alongside Salah in the front 3 at Liverpool, the highest scoring trio of this past season. Scoring 10 goals in just 13 games for Liverpool in the Champions League, it’s obvious Mane can score against the best of the best. the pacey striker doesn’t need flash (like his teammate Salah), just sheer speed. Partnered with Keita Balde-Diao, the counter attack for Senegal should be their greatest weapon.
Christian Eriksen (Denmark)
The creative and intelligent central midfielder put on a show for Tottenham in the BPL last season, and is hoping to do the same thing for the Danes. Although they won today 1-0 over Peru, Denmark still has to play the two harder teams in the group, France and Australia. Eriksen isn’t necessarily a goal scorer, but a chance creator. Eriksen had an above average performance today, but he hopes to do more for his country in their final two games of the group stage.
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
Belgium is stacked top to bottom with talent, but their scoring all runs through Lukaku. When he is hitting his shots, not too many teams can match up with the Red Devils. His size and speed go hand and hand, making his a tough matchup for any center back. Although Belgium does have England in their group, they shouldn’t have too high of a mountain to climb to get to the elimination stage.
We all saw Ronaldo’s amazing 3 goal brace, and Messi’s disappointing start, but hopefully these smaller named stars can help their country get far, and maybe even win the World Cup.