We already know about the superstars who could light up the 2018 Fifa World Cup, but what about those lesser-known talents who could use the tournament as an opportunity to showcase their talents?
Away from the limelight of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the stars of the global game, there will be a number of more unfamiliar faces looking to announce themselves to the world.
Ahead of the tournament, The Boot Room‘s editorial team have picked 10 of the lesser known players expected to play the majority of their nation’s upcoming fixtures in Russia.
Many of these young talents are emerging off the back of stand out seasons for their respective clubs, with big money moves anticipated if they are able to impress at the World Cup.
Watch this space throughout the summer tournament as we track the individual journeys of our 2018 FIFA World Cup Ones to Watch.
Hirving Lozano – Mexico
PSV Eindhoven’s Hirving Lozano will be one of the first names on the team sheet when Mexico kick off their World Cup campaign against Germany this month.
‘Chucky’, a nickname given to the 22-year-old as a youth player when he would hide under the beds of team-mates before springing out to scare them, is set to terrify opposition defences in Russia with his blistering pace and dribbling ability.
Likely to be the next world-class star off the PSV production line, Lozano has proven his ability to adapt and thrive when pushed outside of his comfort zone – a trait that will be of great benefit to Juan Carlos Osorio’s Mexico side this summer.
For the Mexico international’s full One to Watch profile, click here.
Timo Werner – Germany
RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner is Germany’s first-choice striker going into the FIFA 2018 World Cup and one of the most coveted young forwards in Europe.
The 22-year-old has been tasked with the responsibility of leading the line for the tournament holders in Russia after netting 13 times and providing eight assists in 32 outings this season.
Should he approach the summer in the same manner as the rest of his career, to date, he could really stamp his authority on the World Cup.
For the Germany international’s full One to Watch profile, click here.
Giorgian De Arrascaeta – Uruguay
Cruzeiro attacker Giorgian De Arrascaeta is the spearhead of a new-look Uruguay National Team looking to make an impact in Russia.
His inclusion in Oscar Tabarez’s World Cup plans is yet another reason to get excited about the upcoming tournament, for he is an exciting talent who will have gone under-the-radar to most European onlookers.
An attacking midfielder with a penchant for a skillful dribble and an eye for a killer pass, De Arrascaeta will offer a new threat to opposing defences this summer.
For the Uruguay international’s full One to Watch profile, click here.
Giovani Lo Celso – Argentina
Argentina are one of the favourites to win this year’s FIFA World Cup after a runners-up finish last time out in Brazil.
Nonetheless, they travel to Russia a more well-rounded side compared to that which tasted defeat to Germany four years ago, largely due to the addition of Paris Saint Germain youngster, Giovani Lo Celso.
Overshadowed by Lionel Messi for his country and Neymar for his club, Lo Celso falls under the category of ‘under-appreciated, but highly influential’ at each level he plays.
At just 21 years of age, the Argentine has reinvented himself as a balanced midfielder throughout his time in the French capital, proving to be the missing ingredient for both of the teams he turns out for.
An impressive passing range, above average technique and the capability to play from deep and recycle possession, makes him a particularly important player in Argentina’s current system.
For the Argentina international’s full One to Watch profile, click here.
Kelechi Iheanacho – Nigeria
Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho will be one of the more familiar names to Premier League fans at this month’s World Cup.
The 22-year-old, who is set to represent Gernot Rohr’s Nigerian National Team in Russia, will be hoping to build on a strong finish to the season at club level.
While more experienced players such as Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel will be hugely important for Nigeria, the Foxes striker has the tools to make the difference.
For the Nigeria international’s full One to Watch profile, click here.
Jordan Pickford – England
After an impressive Premier League season for Everton, it perhaps comes a little surprise that Jordan Pickford has been named as England’s first choice goalkeeper for the summer World Cup.
At a time when England’s goalkeeping options have never looked stronger, the Everton number one has emerged as Gareth Southgate’s preferred option ahead of the June’s competition in Russia.
The 24-year-old, preferred to Stoke City‘s Jack Butland and Burnley‘s Nick Pope, now has the opportunity to build on an outstanding season at club level.
For the England international’s full One to Watch profile, click here.
Sardar Azmoun – Iran
Iran’s Sardar Azmoun will be perhaps one of the lesser known quantities at this summer’s World Cup in Russia, although that is unlikely to remain the case for long.
Referred to by the press as the “Iranian Messi”, the youngster, himself, prefers to be compared to former Sweden icon Zlatan Ibrahimovic, thanks to a rare aerial prowess developed during a childhood playing both football and volleyball.
The 23-year-old forward, who plays his club football in the host country for Rubin Kazan, is so highly rated back home that supporters are expecting him to become his Iran’s most successful player ever.
Touted as the successor to legendary Team Melli’s all-time top goalscorer, Ali Daei, Azmoun carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders ahead of a tough group stage line-up, consisting of Morocco, Spain and Portugal.
For the Iran international’s full One to Watch profile, click here.
Hakim Ziyech – Morocco
Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech, Dutch Footballer of the Year, arrives at the World Cup on the back of a stellar year in Dutch football, key to Morocco’s hopes of progressing from a Group B full of hurdles.
The 25-year-old attacking midfielder has enjoyed two fine seasons with Ajax and has been earning plaudits across the Netherlands for his ability to craft a goal, be it for himself or one of his teammates.
With a big European move on the horizon, this summer’s tournament in Russia provides the perfect opportunity for the Morocco star to showcase his creative talents.
For the Morocco international’s full One to Watch profile, click here.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – Serbia
Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is perhaps already a household name at club level, due to transfer gossip columns.
However, the Serbian international still has everything to prove for his country and the summer World Cup will provide the perfect stage to validate the buzz that follows his name.
The 23-year-old will travel to Russia as one of the most sought-after players in the world game thanks to his impressive form in the Italian top flight throughout the 2017/18 season, and rightly so.
For the Serbia international’s full One to Watch profile, click here.
Gonçalo Guedes – Portugal
Labelled ‘the next Cristiano Ronaldo’, the pressure is certainly on Goncalo Guedes from Portugal. This may be the last major international tournament where he remains in the five time Ballon d’Or winner’s shadow, but it won’t stop him from being one of Portugal’s biggest threats.
The comparisons do not only take into account his ability to cut inside from the left flank and cause havoc or his knack of scoring stunning goals, but also consider the fact that he is the one man to have made the Portugal squad at 18 years of age since the Real Madrid ace broke onto the scene.
Now 21-years-old, Guedes has established himself after a fine season in Spain with Valencia on loan and following a break-out season, he has a point to prove as he travels to Russia.
For the Portugal international’s full One to Watch profile, click here.