The two best players in the world may have begun their summer holidays early, but there’s no lack of superstar power remaining in Russia.We ranks the top-ten best players still in the World Cup.
10. Diego Godin, Uruguay
The closest thing to an immovable object in Russia, Godin anchors a Uruguay defence that’s conceded just one goal in its last seven matches – all wins. Godin helped erase Cristiano Ronaldo in La Celeste’s round-of-16 win, and his next assignment will be slowing down Kylian Mbappe. The 32-year-old can’t match the teenager’s speed, but Godin’s rare ability to read the game and always be in the right place means he likely won’t have to.
9. Edinson Cavani, Uruguay
Cavani scored both of Uruguay’s goals against Portugal and has overshadowed infamous running mate Luis Suarez in Russia thus far. Now, it’s a question of Cavani’s fitness, as his dominance of Portugal ended with him hobbling off late with a shin injury. If the forward is operating at or near the peak of his abilities, Uruguay can go all the way.
8. Philippe Coutinho, Brazil
Likened by some to the great Rivaldo, Coutinho lacks the oversized personality of other Brazilian stars past and present, but might be the glue that holds this Selecao squad together. He shies away from the cameras, but Coutinho’s been almost everywhere on the pitch at this World Cup, orchestrating Brazil’s attack and elevating the play of midfield teammates Paulinho and Casemiro.
7. Eden Hazard, Belgium
Belgium’s captain has scored twice in three matches and assisted on two other goals, but equally important has been the confidence he’s projected off the field. Hazard has openly discussed his intention to take a perennially underachieving Belgium side all the way to the final, along with his desire to step up and become the tournament’s signature star following the eliminations of Messi and Ronaldo.
6. Paul Pogba, France
While somehow flying under the radar as teammate Mbappe steals the show, the polarizing Pogba’s distribution of precise passes from midfield has been perhaps the crucial cog in France’s attack. He’s also been praised by manager Didier Deschamps for his leadership, as the 25-year-old is something of a savvy veteran among the youngest squad in the tournament.
5. Kylian Mbappe, France
Speed kills, and this 19-year-old isn’t just the youngest player left in Russia – he might also be the fastest. Mbappe’s quick-strike capabilities were on full display against Argentina, first leaving Messi and company gasping for air on a scorching 11th-minute run to draw a penalty, and then choking the life out of his opponents with a pair of goals in a four-minute span after the hour mark. Every World Cup produces a young breakout superstar. This is him.
4. Luka Modric, Croatia
Is calling Modric the best Croatian footballer of all time a slight? Some would argue it actually limits the midfield maestro, who deserves to be debated alongside Messi, Ronaldo, and the greatest players in the world irrespective of birthplace. With four Champions League titles under his belt at Real Madrid, Modric now has a very real shot at guiding Croatia to the World Cup title that’s always eluded the aforementioned stars.
3. Harry Kane, England
Now two goals clear of the field in the race for the Golden Boot, England’s 24-year old captain is proving to be just the sort of steady, deadly finisher the Three Lions have sought for decades. The stage isn’t too big for Kane; perhaps it’s truly a platform grand enough to accommodate his talents.
2. Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium
We hadn’t seen the best of De Bruyne in Russia until his piercing run 60 yards down the field in stoppage time helped Belgium plunge a dagger into the heart of Japan, but one gets the feeling the best is yet to come. The midfielder’s fit in Roberto Martinez’s preferred 3-4-3 formation remains a work in progress, but something seemed to click against Japan when Martinez inserted Marouane Fellaini for Dries Mertens. With Brazil on deck, Belgium must shed its inhibitions if it hopes to continue its path to the final. That means featuring a De Bruyne who’s fully unleashed to slash into the final third and wreak havoc as he does at Manchester City.
1. Neymar, Brazil
With his foot injury now in the rear-view mirror, Neymar is poised to propel his talented teammates to the title they failed to capture on home soil four years ago. The most expensive player in history scored a hat-trick of sorts in Brazil’s round-of-16 win over Mexico: a goal, an assist, and a dive. The theatrics won’t win over many neutrals, but they’ll fade from memory if the final image of this tournament is Neymar with the trophy in his hands.