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Ones to Watch

Introducing The Boot Room’s World Cup 2018 ‘Ones to Watch’

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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

Hirving Lozano

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

Timo Werner

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

Giorgian De Arrascaeta

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

Giovani Lo Celso

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

Kelechi Iheanacho

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

Jordan Pickford

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

Sardar Azmoun

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

Hakim Ziyech

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

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

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.

Chris is the founder of The Boot Room. He is a Swindon Town supporter, having lived in Wiltshire for most of his years. His work has also featured on Squawka, Bleacher Report and Eurosport.

Liverpool

Liverpool fans react on Twitter to Timo Werner performance v South Korea

Liverpool have been linked with the Germany forward, who struggled in Russia.

Mathew Nash

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Germany are out of the World Cup after losing 2-0 to South Korea. Sweden and Mexico now advance from their group with the Germans heading home in the first round for the first time since 1938.

The inquiry now begins into what went wrong for Germany. Too much reliance on the old guard? Manuel Neuer back too soon? Leroy Sane?

But for many German fans, it was the performances of Timo Werner that will be to blame.

The RB Leipzig forward came into the tournament on fire. The 22-year-old scored 21 goals in 45 games last season. However, he failed to find the net at the World Cup in hard-working but ultimately toothless displays.

His performance in the South Korea game, where he squandered chances, caught the attention of Liverpool fans.

(Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

Liverpool have long been linked with a move for Werner. Jurgen Klopp is believed to be a big fan of his countryman. Bild reported Klopp was ready to sanction a £87 million move for the player back in March, only for the Liverpool Echo to insist Werner was not on a list of targets for this summer.

His performances at the World Cup are hardly going to change that.

Liverpool fans on Twitter certainly don’t see what all the fuss is about and would rather see Werner left be. Apart from some, who think now might be the perfect time to strike and sign Werner at a lower price.

It seems unlikely Werner will be at Liverpool next season and, based on the World Cup, that’s probably for the best right now…

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Liverpool

Liverpool fans won’t be disheartened by lack of Timo Werner talks after World Cup display

The German has been heavily linked with Liverpool but is still not the finished article.

Mathew Nash

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One man who has been consistently linked with a move to Liverpool in recent seasons is German striker Timo Werner. The Leipzig star was, therefore, being watched closely by Reds fans when Germany took on Mexico in the first game of Germany’s World Cup defence.

Werner, who has also been tipped as one of 10 players to watch at the World Cup by The Boot Room, did not have his best game.

The Leipzig striker struggled throughout the game to make any sort of impact against Mexico’s excellent defenders. In the end, he was hauled off, limping, after a poor display in Moscow, with El Tri winning the game 1-0.

Whilst Liverpool continues to be a rumoured destination for Werner, it is clear that the Reds are not apparently interested. It was reported by the Liverpool Echo that the club made it clear he was not a target as far back as March. Which was a surprise, considering he has scored 21 goals this season.

(Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

But based on this performance, Liverpool fans will not be too disappointed in the decision.

With Nabil Fekir no longer arriving, the Werner rumours had recently come back to the surface. But it would appear Rhian Brewster, handed a new deal by Liverpool this weekend, may now get a pathway to the first-team.

As for Werner, his ability is not in doubt. This summer he may make a move and wherever he goes he will surely be a success.

But Liverpool will not be overly concerned about their decision to let a transfer move slide.   

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Manchester United

Fans react on Twitter to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic performance

Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move for the Lazio midfielder.

Mathew Nash

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Photo: Getty Images

Serbia took on Costa Rica in the World Cup today and put in a solid performance, eventually coming away with a 1-0 win. Aleksandar Kolarov scored the winner with a fantastic long-range free-kick.

But for Manchester United fans the man to watch was Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

Tipped by The Boot Room as one of 10 players to watch at the World Cup he has been linked with a move to United recently.

Valued at £87.5 million, did he live up to the hype?

The reaction to his performance was, in parts, mixed.

What was clear is that Milinkovic-Savic is a fantastic talent. Big and strong he rivals United midfielder and Serbia teammate Nemanja Matic for physicality.

But he is also extremely agile and nimble. Quick-footed, he often left Costa Rica players chasing shadows with some brilliant skill.

The highlight of his performance was perhaps an overhead kick attempt in the first-half. He leaped out of nowhere, defying his frame, before unleashing an acrobatic effort at Keylor Navas’ goal.

It was a good performance and one perhaps more indicative of potential than the finished article. Manchester United are undoubtedly in the running for the player but are not alone, with Juventus, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain all chasing the player.

His display v Costa Rica certainly showed why there is so much hype over a player who can do so many different jobs in midfield. Improvements still need to be made, but the raw talent is clearly there.

Here is how fans reacted on Twitter…

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