The sun is out, England flags are on houses and cars, and Waka Waka is being blasted on the radio. After four long years, the World Cup is back.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, unites a country more than a World Cup. It is the only possible event that sees everyone from all walks of life cheer for the same nation as we hopelessly support a country that will ultimately disappoint us.
But the World Cup isn’t just all about supporting your country. For many, the greatest football tournament on Earth is all about one thing and one thing only, watching players perform at the highest level and put themselves on the map.
We have seen this so many times in previous competitions. James Rodriguez’s heroics for Colombia in 2014 saw the playmaker earn a £67 million move to Real Madrid, and in 2010 a young Mesut Ozil impressed for Germany, which also won him a move to Los Blancos.
So today we are going to profile three youngsters who could light up the World Cup and become heroes for the national teams and beyond, and more than likely win themselves a move to Real Madrid if history is anything to go by.
Mexico’s secret nightmare
Not many players go by the nickname of ‘Chucky’ and make it their own and ride with it. Who would want to be named after that terrifying doll that gave your older brother nightmares?
But, for Mexican winger Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano, him, and his nickname, have been terrifying the Eredivisie this season, and the World Cup is next on his hit list.
Since joining Dutch giants PSV in the summer of 2017, Lozano has become one of the league’s deadliest and most promising young stars. Signed from CF Pachuca for a fee of €8 million, the versatile winger was one of the main cogs behind Eindhoven’s championship winning team, scoring 17 and assisting another 11 in 29 leagues Eredivisie appearances.
Starting alongside Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and Carlos ‘Scores Chips for Dayz’ Vela, Lozano is one of the future stars of Mexican football. Despite making his debut in 2016 the 22-year-old has already made 25 appearances for El Tri, scoring seven along the way.
Dangerous on the ball and full of flair off it, Lozano is a player born for the big occasion. He stunned Holland with his incredible debut season, and he is an already established member of the Mexican national team.
Drawn in a group with South Korea, Sweden, and the current World Cup holders Germany, Mexico have a fantastic chance to make it to the round of 16 for a fifth consecutive World Cup, and hopefully this time make it that bit further.
Mexican football fans are still mad about Arjen Robben’s antics in the previous World Cup, but at least this year they can sit back and smile knowing that Chucky is there and Robben isn’t.
The Uruguayan Rottweiler
Uruguay have seen somewhat of a resurgence since the 2010 World Cup. The two-time winners of the competition shocked everyone when they made it all the way to the semifinals, granted on very lucky circumstances, and in the 2014 they made it out of a group containing Italy, England and Costa Rica.
Their squad in both tournaments was experienced but clearly old and in desperate need of some new blood, and in Russia this summer they will have just that in the form of some truly promising players with the likes of Jose Gimenez, Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur.
But the Uruguayan to keep a close eye on this World Cup is Lucas Torreira of Sampdoria.
The 23-year-old midfielder has had a breakout year in Italy this year with Serie A underdogs Sampdoria as the Genoa-based club came close to clinching European football for the first time in two years, and Torreira was at the heart of their impressive season.
Despite his small frame and innocent looking face, Torreira has been a nightmare for attackers to deal with in Italy due to his defensive prowess and ability to cover every inch of grass at least twice in every game. The midfielder averaged 2.8 tackles a game in Serie A this season, the seventh highest, as well as 2.1 interceptions per game.
The host nation and Egypt could be in for some brutal group stage games with this kid likely to start for Uruguay.
The €100 million man
It’s rare that a player comes around with a release clause of €100 million and it’s not crazy to think that some clubs with pockets that deep will pay that for him. That player this time around is Sergej Milinkovic-Savic of Lazio, and the midfielder nicknamed ‘The Sergeant’ could add a couple more millions to his already ridiculous price tag should he impress this summer.
A key player Serbia in a difficult Group E containing the likes of Brazil and Costa Rica, Milinkovic-Savic has been one of the breakout stars this season in European football with Lazio.
The powerhouse of a midfielder has been praised by fans and critics for his ability to operate as the complete midfielder with his towering 6”3’ stature making him a difficult man to beat for attackers, yet his dynamic passing, awareness of free space on the pitch and attacking drive make him one of the most lethal players in Lazio’s team.
Milinkovic-Savic’s touch-map for most games with the Serie A side show that he is a player who contributes all over the pitch, and the Serbian’s goal output for a central midfielder is considerable high, standing at 0.3xG for the 2017/18 season.
The 23-year-old has all the tools needed to become the next great central midfielder in football, and with the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea all sniffing around for his signaturedespite his release clause, Milinkovic-Savic could make the World Cup his own should he impress.