Five players to watch at World Cup 2018 in Groups D, E and F.
Argentina - Maximiliano Meza
Like their big South American rivals Uruguay, Argentina are still looking for the right mix in midfield. Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano are both talented and hardworking midfielders but they’re not the most creative players around. Manager Jorge Sampaoli looks set to go with a front three of Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero and Ángel Di María. That leaves one final, pivotal spot for a link between defence and attack. Meza could be the man for that job. The Independiente midfielder isn’t much of a goalscorer but he’s versatile, quick, consistent and skilful.
Croatia - Andrej Kramarić
Some English football fans may remember Kramarić from his ill-fated spell at Leicester City back in 2015. A lot has changed since then, however. Under the expert guidance of Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim, he has become one of the Bundesliga’s best attackers. Last season, he scored 13 goals and set up a further 7. Kramarić’s partnership with Mario Mandžukić could help lead Croatia through the Group of Death in World Cup 2018.
Switzerland – Manuel Akanji
Vladimir Petković’s Switzerland side is built on strong foundations. Full-backs Stephan Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodríguez, for example, have over 150 international caps between them, not to mention 13 international goals. Centre-back Akanji is a little younger but he’s no less solid or dependable. Borussia Dortmund paid £18million for the powerful defender in January and his value should rise even higher after World Cup 2018.
Germany – Timo Werner
From Gerd Müller to Thomas Müller - will Werner be the latest in Germany’s long line of World Cup specialists? The signs are promising. The young RB Leipzig striker scored 21 club goals last season and his international record currently stands at 8 goals in just 14 games. With a supply line that includes the likes of Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos and Julian Draxler, Werner is surely destined to be one of the tournament’s top scorers.
Mexico – Hirving Lozano
‘Chucky’ has been Mexico’s next great hope for a while now, but at the age of 22, World Cup 2018 should be his time to shine. Lozano goes into the tournament after grabbing 17 goals and 9 assists in his first Eredivisie season, and leading PSV Eindhoven to the Dutch title. The tricky winger is yet to fulfil his full potential for Mexico but his 2 goals against Belgium back in November 2017 could be a sign of things to come.