The 10 players to watch out for at World Cup 2022

France’s Mbappe is our No 1 pick, followed by Argentina’s Messi. Portugal’s Ronaldo makes the cut at No 5.

France's Kylian Mbappe will be among the most exciting players to watch at the World Cup [Justin Setterfield/Reuters]

All 32 teams have named their squads for Qatar 2022.

Every team will have 26 players in their ranks to choose from but here are the top 10 players you should keep an eye on:

Harry Kane, England

The captain of the Three Lions has averaged a goal per World Cup game. The Tottenham talisman needs only two goals in an England shirt to equal Wayne Rooney’s 53 goals as England’s all-time top scorer.

Kane is a solid all-round player, comfortable working as a solo striker or in central midfield. Referees will be watching out, however, for his tendency to back into defenders jumping for a ball in the box, which often sends the defender to the floor.

England’s Harry Kane won the Golden Boot award for being the top goal scorer at the 2018 World Cup in Russia [Glyn Kirk/AFP]

Robert Lewandowski, Poland

A veteran of the game who shows no sign of retiring, Lewandowski scored 18 times in his first 19 games for Barcelona. Let’s be clear: No one’s expecting big things from Poland at this World Cup. But if something major does happen, then you can be sure that 34-year-old Lewandowski will be at the centre of it.

He has been the top scorer in Germany’s Bundesliga for seven seasons. He scored 41 goals in the 2020-21 season alone. Lewandowski is a 6’1″ goal-scoring machine, and possibly one of the greatest centre-forwards of all time. He is a mature player in all senses, prioritising hard work and discipline in his pursuit of greatness.


Poland’s team is built around veteran powerhouse Robert Lewandowski [Kacper Pempel/Reuters]

Michy Batshuayi, Belgium

This Belgium team is not without its superstars. Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard seem to score goals for fun. But Batshuayi scores when it’s needed the most – netting 26 times for Belgium. He has speed and strength and will link up superbly with teammates to create opportunities out of thin air.

It might be tough to stand out in this team, who surely have to be one of the favourites to raise the trophy.

Belgium’s Michy Batshuayi is an integral part of a top-class team [Yves Herman/Reuters]

Fabinho, Brazil

The 29-year-old Liverpool midfielder is unlikely to see his name on the score sheet at this World Cup. He has yet to score for Brazil in 28 appearances and head coach Tite has named a squad featuring nine attackers, so he may not get much of a look-in when it comes to penalty box action.

But his robust style makes him one of the best defensive midfielders in the sport. He can drop down to a centre-back when needed, and has such great vision of game play that he is well-regarded for winning possession and recycling balls, turning threats into new attacks.

Brazil’s Fabinho is a world-class defender [Washington Alves/Reuters]

Gareth Bale, Wales

Gareth Bale may not be holding the hopes of a nation returning to the World Cup for the first time in 64 years on just his shoulders alone, but it probably feels like it. Wales do have some decent players in their squad, but Bale is a global superstar. When he’s on form, he’s devastating. But personality clashes and a lack of game time at Real Madrid saw him transfer to Los Angeles, where he probably isn’t facing the same calibre of opposition as during his spells in the Premier League and La Liga.

Wales’s Gareth Bale is the nation’s superstar player [Matthew Childs/Reuters]

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

Portugal’s all-time top goal scorer may be slowing down a bit at 37. But he’s still a remarkable force in front of the goal. Often given a good deal of freedom to roam out of traditional positions, Ronaldo is a creative playmaker, a showman who knows and loves that the world is watching him.

Ronaldo has scored 117 times for Portugal. If he can leave his issues with his Manchester United club behind him when he gets on the plane to Qatar, we’ll be seeing him score a few more for sure.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players of his generation [Pedro Nunes/Reuters]

Hakim Ziyech, Morocco

Accuracy, speed, dribbling, technical wonderment and stellar free-kicks make Hakim Ziyech one of the most dangerous players at this tournament. If Morocco do make it out of Group F, where they have been drawn with Belgium, Canada and Croatia, it will be largely down to the Chelsea winger, who was nicknamed “The Wizard” while at Ajax.

Watch out for moves starting way out wide on the right, playing pinpoint passes to teammates on diagonal runs. But he’s not just about the assists. His speed means he can lose opponents and create his own chances, with 17 goals for Morocco under his belt.

Morocco’s Hakim Ziyech is always one to watch [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

Neymar, Brazil

What is there to be said about Neymar that hasn’t already been said? He’s scored 75 goals for Brazil. He can play as a striker, or on the wing, or in midfield. He’s got speed, he’s got all the skills and tricks and flicks you could hope for. He’s a champagne footballer who is a delight to watch. He will run rings around defenders and can score with either foot – or his head. You might even see a rainbow flick if he really wants to humiliate an opponent.

But Neymar’s got a big target on his back. Expect to see plenty of physical challenges against him, as well as him making the most of each one, diving and rolling around on the pitch in dramatic fashion.

Brazilian soccer player Neymar
Sparks fly when Brazil’s Neymar takes to the pitch [Amanda Perobelli/Reuters]

Lionel Messi, Argentina

Messi is almost certainly the finest footballer of his generation. Possibly of any generation. He’s been called the “PlayStation footballer” because of his unreal skill of appearing like he’s hard-coded by a computer programmer. He’s won seven Ballon d’Or awards. He’s broken every record in Europe.

But he hasn’t yet won a World Cup. And, at 35, he probably won’t have another chance.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi is among the best the world has ever seen, and this may be his last chance to win a World Cup [Amr Alfiky/Reuters]

Kylian Mbappe, France

Who among the next generation could fill Messi’s shoes? At Paris Saint-Germain, you only have to look over Messi’s shoulder to see one candidate: Mbappe.

The 23-year-old already has 28 goals for France. Another forward who can play on either wing because of his both-footedness, Mbappe’s versatility sees him provide chances and assists for his teammates, especially coming from the right.

He’s creative, with explosive acceleration and a sudden change of pace and direction that leaves opponents bewildered. A prodigious talent, Mbappe has the potential to be among the best the world has ever seen. This World Cup is a huge stage for him to get closer to that goal.

France’s Kylian Mbappe heralds a new generation of footballing greats [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera