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The 2018 World Cup in Russia is approaching fast and it’s fair to say that we’re getting pretty excited at this point for the most prestigious of soccer competitions. We already have our eyes on what Group Stage games we can’t miss, but here we’ve also pinpointed a few top players that we’re really keen to see in action on the big stage. Some of these players are household names by now, thanks to their prolific talent, but we’ve also dug a bit deeper to highlight some perhaps lesser-known names who are really worth checking out as the tournament progresses. Make a note of these names now, as they’ll be talked about again and again over the coming months. With that said, here’s our list!

Lionel Messi – Argentina

Messi is one of the most popular and famous soccer players of recent years and one who will be closely watched by everyone throughout the tournament. A true “once a generation” player, Messi’s attacking style and dribbling ability make him almost untouchable. And the statistics back this up – he regularly scores 50+ goals a season, putting him firmly on course to become one of the sport’s greatest ever players. If you want to see entertaining football and individual prowess, keep an eye on Messi.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal

You knew this man would be on the list. A prolific goal scorer and assist machine – left foot, right foot, head – it doesn’t matter. Ronaldo is always pitted against Messi when it comes to claiming Player of the Year accolades, and for a very good reason. First gaining prominence for his speed, skill and unique shot, Ronaldo has always found a way to stay on top. In his older years, he has adapted his game, further progressing his positioning and always finding the back of the net. If you’ve watched Goal of the Season videos, then you’ve definitely seen some of Ronaldo’s strikes. A fascinating player to watch at this year’s World Cup, he’s sure to be a game changer in any match he plays. What’s more, he will be full of confidence on the international stage, having captained his country to success in the European Championship in 2016.

Mohamad Salah – Egypt

Salah could be a new name for some on this list. The forward has had a fantastic season with Liverpool, comfortably leading the top scorers in the Premier League and battling neck and neck with Messi for the top scorer accolade in Europe. Regarded by all as an exciting player, Salah attacks the game and uses his electrifying pace and a keen eye for the goal to be a literal game changer. He is one of those rare players that you can pretty much bank on scoring in nearly every game. If you’re looking for entertainment, you definitely don’t want to miss this guy at the World Cup!

David De Gea – Spain

We’re so used to hearing about forwards and wingers – the types of players who create and score goals – that sometimes the defenders and goalkeepers don’t get a look in. Well, we’re going to change all that with David De Gea, a goalkeeper who is certainly worth watching. A terrific keeper isn’t always a common thing in soccer, but De Gea has been Manchester United’s best player for a couple of seasons in a row now. Known for making big saves in particularly important moments, he is a keeper that Spain can feel confident in. And for viewers, seeing someone make a near impossible save, or a triple save, can be as exciting as seeing a brilliant goal scored. Basically, if you can beat De Gea, then you’ve scored a pretty sweet goal – hats off.

Samuel Umtiti – France

Like De Gea, Umtiti might not get the recognition that he deserves. The young central defender has impressed massively over the past few seasons, cementing his place in the Barcelona backline as well as the French national team. A strong defensive line is key to a successful team and world-class defenders are few and far between. Umtiti’s impressive performances have placed him in good stead to become one of the best, so be sure to check him out this year as he stops some of soccer’s best attacking players.

Paulinho – Brazil

It wouldn’t be a list of players to watch in the World Cup without a name from the Brazilian team. Paulinho, again of Barcelona, is a powerful box-to-box midfielder who is a strong presence on the field and has the ability to control the pace of a game. If you watch Brazil play in the World Cup this Summer – and you should – keep an eye on this guy and observe how he controls the tempo of the game and makes an impact all over the field. That is, if you’re not too distracted by the next player…

Neymar Jr – Brazil

Again of Brazil, and formerly of Barcelona, Neymar became the most expensive footballer in the world when he moved to Paris Saint-Germain for an eye-watering £198 million! That’s about $270 million! It’s certainly a staggering figure, but those in the know believe that if anyone is worth that amount of cash, it’s Neymar, as he has been lighting up the sport for some time now. Flamboyant, skillful, confident and always entertaining, he is sure to make many a highlight reel!

And there you have it, our list of must-watch players at the 2018 World Cup. There are plenty of other players worth noting, but the above provides a good mixture of pure attacking talent, along with a nod to those in defensive positions. And whatever happens this Summer, there will be skill, excitement, joy, sadness and every other emotion – you gotta love the beautiful game!

Did we miss anyone? Who are you most looking forward to seeing? Tweet us @Roadtripsinc to let us know. While you’re here, why not check out these Awesome World Cup Facts You Probably Didn’t Know, and, if you’re new to the competition, take a look at our Ultimate World Cup Guide.

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