We’ve picked out our top 10 World Cup 2022 star players ahead of the action getting under way in Qatar.
Most of the planet’s biggest names will be present and we’re looking at a mix of golden oldies, proven performers in their prime and young starlets poised to break through.
Kylian Mbappe (France)
The 23-year-old is one of the favourites to win the Golden Boot as he seeks to enhance his position as football’s latest poster boy having been named best young player in Russia four years ago. The Paris St Germain forward is averaging a goal every other game for France and will spearhead the 2018 winners’ defence of their title having been prolific for the French team this season.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
It appears the world has been waiting for Lionel Messi to really light up a tournament and deliver on the biggest stage from the moment he made his debut in 2006. Now, at the age of 35, this looks likely to be his last hurrah with Argentina and while his career appears to be winding down at PSG, he is still capable of brilliance.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
The 37-year-old has cut a frustrated figure at Manchester United this season and again hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons by hitting out at the club and head coach Erik ten Hag in a TV interview. However, linking up with Portugal should put him in a better mood and Ronaldo will be determined to add to his record 117 international goals.
Messi or Ronaldo to win the Golden Ball @ 4/1
Another player who carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders and, at the age of 30, this appears to be prime time for the forward. The Brazilian missed their semi-final in his homeland in 2014 through injury and was eliminated in the last eight four years ago, so will feel he has unfinished business despite six goals in 10 World Cup appearances.
Neymar to score 4+ goals @ 5/2
Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands)
Amazingly, the Holland captain is playing in his first major tournament, having missed Euro 2020 through injury and the previous World Cup due to his country’s failure to qualify. His leadership and defensive capabilities make the Dutch more resilient and provide security for the more attacking players.
The Barcelona midfielder may still only be 19 but he has already been hailed a generational talent and his club manager Xavi describes him as a “superlative footballer”. The Spain team he is playing in is not at the same level as the one his mentor pulled the strings in but that will not faze Pedri, who was named Young Player of Euro 2020 last year.
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
The Manchester City playmaker is the kingpin of Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ but this too could be the last time for him to deliver with this group. He has been immaculate and inspirational for his club for several seasons, who have benefited hugely from his passing ability and vision, and having helped Belgium to third in 2018 he will be key to them going further.
De Bruyne top Belgium scorer @ 3/1
Joshua Kimmich (Germany)
The Bayern Munich midfielder has proved his versatility at the highest level, filling in at right-back when required, but his real talent is centrally where he dictates the play, sets the tempo and organises the team. Inspired by former Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso, the 27-year-old’s progressive passing is a significant component in Germany’s tactics.
Jude Bellingham (England)
Already touted as the most sought-after midfielder of next summer’s transfer window – Real Madrid and Liverpool have been heavily linked – Bellingham has shown in a number of performances for his club Borussia Dortmund and country this season that he has all the attributes to be able to slot into an elite side. The nature of England’s tactics means there will be a huge emphasis on Bellingham as the midfield creator.
Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
Lewandowski has long been the world’s premier number nine and his move to Barcelona in the twilight of his career has far from dulled his instincts. The difficulty for him – and Poland – is harnessing his talent to that of his international team-mates to be more effective in tournament football.
Lewandoski to win Golden Boot @ 40/1
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