The World Cup in Russia lost football’s two biggest stars in one afternoon with Leo Messi’s Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal both bowing out of the competition, however, this creates an opportunity for the multitude of other stars to now come to the fore.
Kylian Mbappe (France)
The 19-year-old was exceptional against Argentina as he scored the third and fourth goals in a 4-3 victory, as well as going on a mesmeric 70 yard run to win a penalty which Antoine Griezmann converted to make it 1-0.
Mbappe also scored in the win over Peru, and he is doing all of this while being France’s youngest ever player to play at a World Cup.
Neymar is finding it difficult to shine at this World Cup, but little by little he is finding his rhythm.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward came into the tournament on the back of a long injury lay-off but his class always shines through.
He was also the player who had the most shots at goal in the group stages with 17, yet only one of those has resulted in a goal (against Costa Rica).
Antoine Griezmann (France)
The Atletico Madrid forward has thus far scored two goals at the World Cup, both of which were penalties, and the French attacker still has another level to reach at this tournament.
His ability allows him to rise to the occasion in the blink of an eye, and he – and his teammates – appear to be raising their game in the knockout stages.
Didier Deschamps knows the quality of the 27-year-old and considers him to be “the leader of the French attack,” but as such expects more from him. “He has to do more,” the coach said after the Australia game.
Eden Hazard (Belgium)
The vision and creativity of Hazard allows Belgium to become an even more formidable force in the attacking third of the pitch, and he is looking to have a clear impact on any game by having an eye for goal, too.
He scored two in the match against Tunisia and has provided assists as well.
After resting in the match against England, Hazard and his Belgium teammates will face Japan in the Last 16.
Harry Kane (England)
The current Pichichi of the World Cup is England striker Harry Kane with five goals.
After scoring a double in a 2-1 opening victory over Tunisia, the 24-year-old scored a hat-trick against Panama.
He is in spectacular form and is close to beating a record held by Gary Lineker from the 1986 World Cup, who scored six goals.
If Kane scores against Colombia on Tuesday, he will be level with the former Barcelona poacher.
The Real Madrid midfielder has become the key player for Spain at this World Cup as he gets involved with all aspects of the play, particularly passing and creating.
Along with Diego Costa, Isco has been Spain’s best performer and he is one of the few that no-one questions in the starting line-up.
After scoring the first in the 2-2 draw against Morocco, Isco will look to carry his form into the Last 16 match against Russia.
He is 32 years old and this could be his final World Cup, so he wants to make the most of it.
With two goals already, Modric has been fundamental to how Croatia have played and he was exquisite in Croatia’s 3-0 victory over Argentina in the group stages.
Ultimately the chances of his country rest on his shoulders but in this form, Modric could help take Croatia a long way.
Philippe Coutinho (Brazil)
With Neymar not performing at his highest level, it is Coutinho who has stood out for Brazil in the early matches.
He scored a golazo against Switzerland with a powerful hit from outside the area, and he was decisive again in the game against Costa Rica as it was his goal that gave Brazil a 1-0 lead in the 91st minute.
Brazil are certainly playing to Coutinho’s rhythm at this stage.
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
Lukaku scored a brace against Panama and then a brace against Tunisia, and he is in great form heading into Belgium’s knockout tie against Japan.
The 25-year-old has come into this World Cup looking to do something special and is tied with Cristiano Ronaldo on four goals.
Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
The unexpected injury of Edinson Cavani, who scored a brilliant brace against Portugal, leaves Luis Suarez as the only option in attack for the quarter-final against France.
The Barcelona striker has two goals in the tournament so far, with one coming against Saudi Arabia and the other against Russia.
In addition to scoring goals, his hard work will inspire his teammates.
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