|Written by:||Meshack Masibo|
10.. ROMELU LUKAKU (BELGIUM)
A lot has been said and written in international news about the Belgians’ so-called golden generation – with many doubtful of their ability to band together and work as a team and shake off the perception that they’re a collection of talented players rather than a cohesive team. Something they could learn from the German 201v world cup side. However, if Lukaku maintains the tempo he had as his team faced off against less known Panama, those questions may be silenced. The Belgian star got off to a fiery second half leading his side to a well deserved victory against Panama which makes him open this list of top performances in the ongoing 2018 world cup in Russia.
- KIERAN TRIPPIER (ENGLAND)
During the first set of group matches no player has made more key passes than England wing-back Trippier. Of the 14 chances England crafted against Tunisia, the winger was responsible for six of them. A fete that only David Beckham had done in a world cup before since 1966. Trippier also earns a point for staying within the confines of the pitch as the rest of the team celebrated Harry Kane’s winner – meaning Tunisia weren’t able to kick off unopposed and grab an equaliser according to soccer rules.
- HIRVING LOZANO (MEXICO)
According to international news ‘Chucky’ Lozano was many people’s player to watch coming into the tournament – and his performance against the Germans seemed to even surpass expectations. He rose to the limelight last year as the top-scorer for Mexican side Pachuca as they won the CONCACAF Champions League. This fete raised his profile enough to get a move to Europe with PSV where he had a spectacular season finishing it with 17 league goals helping PSV to clinch the Eredivisie title
If the opening group stage match is anything to go by, Lozano has carried his club form into the World Cup for Mexico. For his winner against Germany, the forward kept his composure brilliantly to take a touch and fire beyond German keeper Manuel Neuer. This launched Mexico City into a big celebration.
- ALFRED FINNBOGASON (ICELAND)
Iceland continue to go from strength to strength, and have long proved that there performance in EURO 2016 was not just mere luck. Just qualifying for that tournament two years ago was an exceptional achievement for the country and to reach the quarter-finals was utterly remarkable.
Getting to World Cup 2018 ahead of Croatia, Turkey and Ukraine in qualifying cemented their growing reputation, but in Russia they face arguably their toughest test yet to progress from a group featuring heavyweights Argentina and Croatia. However, It is so far, so good for the European side. While the Argentines boasted 78% possession and had 27 shots on goal in the first game, Iceland fought hard to win their first point in World Cup history courtesy of Finnbogason’s equaliser.
- ALEKSANDR GOLOVIN (RUSSIA)
Russia were written off in news headlines before the tournament with even the Russian president giving them a slim chance of world cup success. They were one of the two lowest-ranked teams in the competition and everything pointed to Cherchesov’s side falling at the first hurdle. Russia hadn’t won in their previous seven matches, failing to score in three. But all the negative pre-tournament predictions were made to look pretty silly in the opening two matches thanks to, among others, CSKA Moscow schemer Golovin. The 22-year-old created two goals and scored another as the home nation stumped a magnificent 5-0 win against Saudi Arabia.
- HARRY KANE (ENGLAND)
In one match, Kane scored twice as many World Cup goals as England’s record goalscorer managed in 11 matches in any other world cup. Wayne Rooney netted only once at international football’s showpiece event – in defeat to Uruguay four years ago. That Kane has surpassed Rooney’s total means little, of course, but it bodes well for the rest of the tournament and for England going forward. If international football was a step too far for Rooney – or maybe more reasonably, for England at that point – we already know it isn’t the case for England’s new captain who has taken his club form to the world stage.
- DIEGO COSTA (SPAIN)
Former Chelsea man Costa was at his belligerent, irritating and devastating best against Portugal, with his first goal a thing of brute force that left everyone’s favourite pantomime villain, Pepe, on his backside as the net rippled. But while that was all his own doing, his second was a striker’s goal – in the right place at the right time to finish off a sweeping team move. If not for Ronaldo’s incredible performance against Spain, Costa would have been the catalyst for a vital victory over their closest group rivals. Either way, he is proving his soccer prowess in Russia after a nightmare in the 2014 World Cup held in his birth nation of Brazil.
- JOSE MARIA GIMENEZ (URUGUAY)
Pre-world cup discussions focused on attacking duo Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez tormenting defences and Uruguay are indeed through with two wins and no goals conceded. Their pragmatic approach has stifled their attacking prowess. For many sides that would be a big problem, but less so for Uruguay, who boast arguably the best centre-back partnership in the competition. Luckily for Oscar Tabarez, they love scoring international goals too: Gimenez’s wonderful header was enough to secure all three points for a lacklustre Uruguay against Egypt in their opening match and earn him place in this list.
- DENIS CHERYSHEV (RUSSIA)
Cheryshev started Russia’s World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia on the bench but ninety minutes later, the winger who also plays for Villaereal had grabbed a record: the first substitute to score in a World Cup opener, which he doubled with another in the 91st minute.
Cheryshev’s first goal was a beautiful touch of both controling the ball and overwhelimg two defenders, before rifling it into the top corner beyond Saudi keeper. His second – Russia’s fourth – was even better. After getting on the end of Artem Dzyuba’s knockdown, the 27-year-old’s first touch controlled the ball perfectly and his second, struck with the outside of his left foot, sent it sailing over Al-Mayoof and into the net.
- CRISTIANO RONALDO (PORTUGAL)
Portugal were generally overlooked in the run-up to the world cup in spite of being reigning European champions. The manner in which they won Euro 2016 was seen much more as a weakness than a strength, yet their ability to get a result when they don’t deserve it has proved to be a huge plus once again. Portugal weren’t particularly great against neighbours Spain and also then scrapped a 1-0 against Morocco having been the inferior side for much of the contest. Neither nation could cope with Ronaldo, whose development from being one of the game’s best wingers to its best penalty-box predator is nothing short of spectacular. He was perfect against Spain to the tune of a hat-trick. His headed winner from a corner against Morocco took him above Ferenc Puskas and into second for all-time international goal scorer.