13 players to keep an eye on at the World Cup

12 June 2018

The World Cup is a showcase for the best footballing talent around. Here are a number of players Liverpool could keep an eye out for in Russia.


While new talents will emerge during the tournament, it might be unwise to judge a player on one tournament alone.

With this in mind, this list contains players who are already making waves in the game, and would be worth an extra look on the high pressure stage that is the World Cup.

 

Rodrigo Bentancur – Uruguay

Age: 20
Position: Central Midfielder
Club: Juventus
When to watch: Egypt (June 15), Saudi Arabia (June 20), Russia (June 25)

Uruguay are a team to look out for at this tournament, and they have plenty of talent behind their world-class forward line of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez.

Rangy midfielder Bentancur is the first of four Uruguayans on this list. He has a wide skill set which he uses to propel his side from central midfield areas towards the opposition box.

His stature has led to comparisons with Paul Pogba, and he could stand out in more ways than one in Uruguay’s midfield this summer.

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? Would add height, skill and forward-thinking to the midfield.

 

Aleksandr Golovin – Russia

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - Monday, June 20, 2016: Russia's Aleksandr Golovin during the final Group B UEFA Euro 2016 Championship match against Wales at Stadium de Toulouse. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

Age: 22
Position: Central Midfielder
Club: CSKA Moscow
When to watch: Saudi Arabia (June 14), Egypt (June 19), Uruguay (June 25)

Another midfielder, Golovin is the home nation’s emerging star, and if they’re to progress from their group it’s likely that they’ll be dragged through by the 22-year-old.

He’s a threat from set-pieces as well as in general play, and his versatility has seen him play a number of games on either wing.

He currently plays for CSKA Moscow alongside compatriot Alan Dzagoev, but he is now beginning to outshine his team-mate of whom big things were once expected.

Golovin could eclipse Dzagoev and be the next Russian to make the step into the big leagues.

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? Would be a versatile squad option in midfield with the potential to be a starter.

 

Benjamin Pavard – France

Stuttgart's Benjamin Pavard in action during the German 2nd Bundesliga soccer match between TSV†1860 Munich and VfB†Stuttgart in the Allianz Arena in Munich,†Germany, 05 April 2017. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa

Age: 22
Position: Centre-Back
Club: Stuttgart
When to watch: Australia (June 16), Peru (June 21), Denmark (June 26)

France’s No. 2 is another versatile player who has played all across the back line as well as in central midfield.

Measuring up at just over 6′ he’s not the tallest centre-back, but is good on the ball and could also do a good job in a back three.

He could go on to be a similar type of player to Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian defender Marquinhos, and current club Stuttgart could receive a few bids for his services after the World Cup.

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? Cover across the back four. New Alvaro Arbeloa?

 

Alisson Becker – Brazil

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 3, 2018: Brazil's goalkeeper Alisson Becker during an international friendly between Brazil and Croatia at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Age: 25
Position: Goalkeeper
Club: Roma
When to watch: Switzerland (June 17), Costa Rica (June 22), Serbia (June 27)

The Brazilian goalkeeper has been heavily linked with Liverpool during the past six months, but the hefty transfer fee Roma are demanding means that the club have looked around at other targets.

Alisson wears the Brazil No. 1 shirt ahead of highly regarded Man City goalkeeper Ederson, so the pressure will be on the 25-year-old to perform in order to keep his place. He seems to be handling it so far.

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? Would be the new first-choice goalkeeper.

 

Jose Gimenez – Uruguay

Jose Maria Gimenez, Atletico Madrid (Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport)

Age: 23
Position: Centre-Back
Club: Atletico Madrid
When to watch: Egypt (June 15), Saudi Arabia (June 20), Russia (June 25)

Back to Uruguay, and it seems they have finally found their long-term successor to Diego Godin.

It was once Sebastian Coates, who is also in the squad, and could well end up partnering Gimenez at some point, but for Atletico Madrid and Uruguay the 23-year-old is the new defensive warrior.

He’s also decent on the ball when he needs to be, but for now he’ll be learning Godin traits, which are rarer in the game at the moment.

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? A partner for Virgil van Dijk? Atleti won’t let him go without a fight.

 

Giorgian De Arrascaeta – Uruguay

02.07.2010, Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg, RSA, FIFA WM 2010, Viertelfinale, Uruguay (URU) vs Ghana (GHA) im Bild Fans of Uruguay celebrate after penalty shots, EXPA Pictures (C) 2010, PhotoCredit: EXPA/ Sportida/ Vid Ponikvar, ATTENTION! Slovenia OUT

Age: 24
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Club: Cruzeiro
When to watch: Egypt (June 15), Saudi Arabia (June 20), Russia (June 25)

At the other end of the scale from Godin and Gimenez, Uruguay will try to accommodate their No. 10 and playmaker De Arrascaeta.

The 24-year-old still plays his club football in South America, for Brazilian side Palmeiras, and could be the perfect foil and ideal provider for Suarez and Cavani.

He scored an eye-catching goal in a recent friendly, laid on by an equally impressive Suarez assist. He’s played from either wing as well as a false nine, but is best when roaming in attacking midfield positions.

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? A wildcard alternative to Nabil Fekir?

 

Bruno Fernandes – Portugal

Age: 23
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Club: Sporting CP
When to watch: Spain (June 15), Morocco (June 20), Iran (June 25)

Speaking of Fekir alternatives, Portugal’s Fernandes could be another option for the role, particularly now he is looking to terminate his contract with Sporting.

He’s used to playing behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1, and could also do a job as the most advanced midfielder in a 4-3-3.

In terms of like-for-like he is close to Fekir positionally and technically, but he’s right-footed rather than left.

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? Would add creativity to the midfield and attack.

 

Hakim Ziyech – Morocco

Hakim Ziyech of Ajax during the UEFA Champions League third round qualifying first leg match between Ajax Amsterdam and OGC Nice at the Amsterdam Arena on August 02, 2017 (VI Images/PA Images)

Age: 25
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Club: Ajax
When to watch: Iran (June 15), Portugal (June 20), Spain (June 25)

One playmaker who might fit the bill from a left-footed standpoint is Ajax and Morocco attacking midfielder Ziyech.

The 25-year-old is widely considered one of the best players in the Eredivisie, and could make a move soon.

He has a tendency to try a few too many long shots, but like Philippe Coutinho he could be lethal from this distance if the skill was honed.

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? Fekir-lite?

 

Lucas Torreira – Uruguay

Lucas Torreira of U.C. Sampdoria during the Serie A TIM match between SSC Napoli and UC Sampdoria at Stadio San Paolo Naples Italy on 23 December 2017. (Photo Franco Romano)

Age: 22
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Club: Sampdoria
When to watch: Egypt (June 15), Saudi Arabia (June 20), Russia (June 25)

Torreira is one of the most highly regarded defensive midfielders playing in Europe, and has been linked with a number of teams already this summer.

The Uruguayan spent last season at Sampdoria, where he initially interested Serie A opponents, before word spread across the continent.

He’s a diminutive midfielder which leads to descriptions such as ‘combative’ and ‘dogged’, but he also has good passing ability and can create from deep.

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? Much more than the new Mascherano.

* Update: Torreira looks to be on his way to Arsenal.

 

Wilmar Barrios – Colombia

Age: 24
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Club: Boca Juniors
When to watch: Japan (June 19), Poland (June 24), Senegal (June 28)

Moving to the north of the South American content, and to the area of Colombia which is almost Central America, you reach Cartagena, the birthplace of Barrios.

The defensive midfielder has since moved south and now plays for Argentinian giants Boca Juniors, but should he get game time at the World Cup he’ll be interesting numerous clubs in Europe.

Given his competence in the position, he could do a job for most teams and even those at Champions League level.

A emerging 24-year-old who could raise a few eyebrows this summer in Russia, and would be the more-than-able Torreira alternative in defensive midfield.

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? These players would rotate with Fabinho or allow the Brazilian to play further forward—or join them in a double-pivot which could do everything.

 

Hirving Lozano – Mexico

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - Sunday, June 17, 2018: Mexico's Hirving Lozano celebrates scoring the first goal during the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Group F match between Germany and Mexico at the Luzhniki Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Age: 22
Position: Forward
Club: PSV Eindhoven
When to watch: Germany (June 17), South Korea (June 23), Sweden (June 27)

PSV Eindhoven fans would dispute the claim that Ziyech is the best player in the Eredivisie, and would be convinced that it is their Mexican attacker Lozano.

More than a winger, the 22-year-old scored 17 goals in the league last season, and along with his eight assists steered PSV to the league title ahead of Ajax.

Like Ziyech with Morocco, the extent to which his star rises at this tournament will depend on whether Mexico get out of their group, but either way he will be able to test his skills in a high-profile game against Germany.

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? An Eredivisie gamble which could pay off.

 

Cristian Pavon – Argentina

27.06.2010, Soccer City Stadium, 27.06.2010, Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg, RSA, FIFA WM 2010, Argentina (ARG) vs Mexico (MEX), im Bild Johannesburg, RSA, FIFA WM 2010, Argentina (ARG) vs Mexico (MEX), im Bild Fans of Argentina celebrate during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. EXPA Pictures © 2010, PhotoCredit: EXPA/ Sportida/ Vid Ponikvar +++ Slovenia OUT +++

Age: 22
Position: Winger
Club: Boca Juniors
When to watch: Iceland (June 16), Croatia (June 21), Nigeria (June 26)

When Lionel Messi wants you in the side you must have something about you. Another Boca player, Pavon could make a few appearances for Argentina after the unfortunate injury to Manuel Lanzini.

The 22-year-old plays mostly as a right winger, but has also played the odd game in the centre and on the left.

“I’ve found a new partner in Pavon, he’s a really good player,” Messi explained ahead of the tournament.

“He’s very quick and is different to what we have in the squad. He’s not only really quick, but his decision-making is also excellent.”

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? Messi’s mate, and a much-needed option on either wing for Liverpool behind Salah and Mane.

 

Yerry Mina – Colombia

Yerry Mina (Barcelona), FEBURUARY 11, 2018 - Football / Soccer : Spanish "La Liga Santander" match FC Barcelona 0-0 Getafe CF at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Mutsu Kawamori/AFLO) [3604]

Age: 23
Position: Centre-Back
Club: Barcelona
When to watch: Japan (June 19), Poland (June 24), Senegal (June 28)

Made the big move from South America to Barcelona around the same time Coutinho moved to Catalonia.

Was tipped for big things but hasn’t had a fair chance to shine at Barcelona, and was unfortunate to be present in the only game they lost in the league last season.

Due to non-EU player limits, Barcelona could be looking to offload the lanky, marauding centre-back this summer, and this competition could be his shop window.

At 23 he’s far from inexperienced, but still needs games in Europe in order to adapt. Goal threat from the back.

Where would he fit in at Liverpool? Alongside Van Dijk.

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