The world’s biggest sporting event has finally arrived. After highlighting one key player from every World Cup team that has played, it is time to finish with Thursday’s final fixtures, Group F and Group G.
Group F –
Brazil: Neymar Jr.Embed from Getty Images
It goes without saying that Neymar Jr. is the jewel in the crown in this star-studded Brazilian squad, armed and ready to win the tournament.
Neymar is central to how this Brazilian side lines up, as he plays in the central attacking midfield position, inside of a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Given a similarly free role in his Paris Saint-Germain side, Neymar has flourished in Ligue 1, dispatching 11 goals and setting up nine in just 14 matches.
The Brazilian magician’s talent seems endless at times, with his ability to dribble around his opponent while being a deadly finisher and creative passer can make him an impossible threat to nullify.
The 30-year-old was Brazil’s main man, being crucial to their convincing qualifier run. Neymar managed to score eight goals and assist a further eight in only eleven games, making his side the favourite for this tournament.
Cameroon: Carl Toko-EkambiEmbed from Getty Images
Being a forward who possesses many aspects to his game, Carl Toko-Ekambi can play either as a striker or a winger in this Cameroon side.
Toko-Ekambi has made a name for himself in Ligue 1, since his arrival at Lyon two seasons ago.
Fourteen goals and six assists in his first season with Lyon were then backed up by a second season last year when Toko-Ekambi scored twelve and assisted five.
The Lyon man acquires bundles of pace, enjoying attacking spaces in behind by making runs into the box, making him a constant threat if a side decides to play a high line.
Due to Cameroon being likely to surrender possession to some sides in their group, Toko-Ekambi could prove to be a vital threat attacking the spaces in behind, using his finishing prowess to convert the opportunities.
Serbia: Aleksander MitrovicEmbed from Getty Images
Serbia’s Aleksander Mitrovic has been a revelation for club side Fulham in the last two seasons.
Last season he scored 43 goals in 44 appearances in the Championship to help promote his club side into Premier League football for this season.
The Serbian however, did not stop there, scoring nine goals in his first 12 Premier League starts, Mitrovic will plan to take his goalscoring boots into the World Cup.
While his goalscoring record is superb, Mitrovic brings a whole lot more to a side than just the ability to finish chances off. The striker also has the ability to occupy centrebacks, using his physical strength to compete with them. To further add to this, he also possesses the ability to play with his back to the goal and secure possession.
But one current marker against Mitrovic’s name is that he is still recovering from a broken foot injury, although after returning to training the day before the Brazil game, it seems he may be back in action soon for his national side.
Switzerland: Granit XhakaEmbed from Getty Images
Currently flying at club level for an Arsenal side that are currently top of the Premier League, Granit Xhaka is currently loving his football life.
The Swissman is a key figure in the Switzerland midfield, being a mainstay in the side for over a decade, with much of Switzerland’s play being centred through him.
The midfielder has enjoyed a goal-scoring season at Arsenal, being given the license to arrive in the box and get into more threatening areas, Xhaka has been clinical when given an opportunity this season.
But it is unlikely that Xhaka will be used as freely in the Swiss midfield, as Xhaka is primarily used as a deep playmaker for his side, sitting deeper and dictating the pace and direction of a game.
All of Switzerland’s passing sequences will involve Xhaka at the root of it, meaning Xhaka’s performances will be crucial to Switzerland’s chances of making it out of the group stages.
Group D –
Ghana: Thomas ParteyEmbed from Getty Images
Another high-flying Arsenal midfielder is Ghanaian, Thomas Partey.
The defensive midfield is as superbly important in midfield for Arsenal as he is in a Ghana shirt, using his defensive acumen to sniff out danger and stop opponents’ attacks through the middle.
However, on his national side, Partey tends to get into more advanced positions, allowing his talent for finishing to be expressed.
The 29-year-old scored three goals in the qualifiers helping his side qualify for this tournament while also running the show in midfield.
The midfielder’s issues in the past have mainly been due to injuries, but with Partey seemingly fit and playing with consistency, he will certainly be one to look out for in Ghana’s midfield.
Portugal: Cristiano RonaldoEmbed from Getty Images
Cristiano Ronaldo is currently making all the headlines with his recent club issues, leaving Manchester United on a ‘mutual agreement’ in the last few days.
But Ronaldo will feature in what looks like his last World Cup, leaving the 37-year-old with plenty of motivation to have one last push at World Cup glory.
The Portuguese forward will be key for his national side, but will need to improve his clinical nature, as he has been poor in comparison to his previous standards since the turn of the new season
Ronaldo will need to finish his chances, as his national side is not known for their defensive solidity and may need a hero to come and save them.
Despite his age, Ronaldo is still one of the great talents to ever grace the game and with a goalscoring record that still impresses he is still far from finished at high-level football.
South Korea: Heung-Min SonEmbed from Getty Images
South Korean icon, Heung Min-Son, looks to get ready for another World Cup, where his side will attempt to shock the world by qualifying through a tough Group H.
Son will be absolutely vital for any chance of South Korean resistance, as his threat to run in behind, score from range and beat a man, leaves him a threat that the opposition will need to try and set up against.
The Tottenham forward had a phenomenal season last time out finishing the Premier League joint top-scorer, however, has not been in great form for his club side this campaign, struggling to make a goalscoring impact
But the scoring has never stopped for South Korea, as Son helped his side through to the tournament by scoring five in the qualifications.
The threat and quality of Son alone will allow South Korea more time on the ball in scenarios and will help provide quality in the final third, an area that lacks quality outside of Son.
Uruguay: Federico ValverdeEmbed from Getty Images
Frederico Valverde has burst onto the scene for his club side, Real Madrid this season, being vital to Uruguay’s midfield plans.
Times have changed for Valverde after struggling to make an impact for Real Madrid, six goals and two assists from midfield for Valverde have helped him become a regular threat from midfield.
The 24-year-old has been given a unique role under manager Carlo Ancelotti, being used as a false winger in the right-hand channel, Valverde occupies the right central and wide areas, using his energy and quality to break up and distribute play.
He was also a major part of the Uruguay team that qualified for the World Cup, having played fourteen times and performing consistently.
It remains to be seen if Valverde will be able to replicate his Real Madrid form in World Cup performances for Uruguay, due to the nature of a more central position for his country, but if there is anyone that has the ability to affect the outcomes of games for Uruguay, it is Valverde.