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FIFA WC 2018: Key Players To Watch Out For In The Remainder of Knockouts

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The knockout stage of the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 got underway on Saturday, when France faced Argentina in Kazan, a match that went on to capture the imagination of fans all around the world. The next game later at night saw Uruguay taking on Portugal. Both Argentina and Portugal bit the dust in striking fashion.

Argentina lost against France in a 7-goal feast, as Portugal went down to South American giants Uruguay 2-1 on the blockbuster Super Saturday. On Sunday, Spain was ousted by hosts Russia which came as the biggest shock of the World Cup 2018. Russia advanced after clinching the tie via penalty shoot-out after the scoreline remained 1-1 until extra-time. In the 2nd game, Croatia then prevailed 3-2 via penalties after a 1-1 scoreline till 120 minutes.
The round of 16 have seen 4 matches already been played and another four remain over the next two days. It was spread across seven cities across Russia.  France has set a quarters battle with Uruguay as, Russia is set to take on Croatia. Monday sees Belgium and Japan face each other besides Brazil facing Mexico. On Tuesday, England face Colombia with Sweden and Switzerland to play in the other game.
What is important for fans to note is that if the scores are level after 90 minutes in knockout games, 30 minutes of extra time will be played, followed by penalties if necessary. That’s what happened in the Spain versus Russia encounter. Also if a match goes to extra time, each team will be allowed to make a fourth substitution, the first time this has been allowed at a World Cup. Russia became the first country to implement the same against Spain.
Some of the world’s best players have already seen their sides getting knocked out and there are many more still alive. Here we look at the players that could make a definite say in the remaining of the knockout stages in Russia.

Harry Kane – England

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Harry Kane
Harry Kane in action (Image: Fox Sports Asia)

The English Skipper was given a timely rest against Belgium so that he could be absolutely fit for the round of 16 clash against Colombia. Kane is the current Golden Boot leader with five goals in his kitty. In the first game against Tunisia, he was there in the right pockets before scoring to absorbing penalties and another from a deflected shot against Panama.
Kane is England’s major hope in finding the right gaps against the South American powerhouse. The Tottenham Hotspur striker will be England’s main asset going into the game and he could be the key to unlock their defence.

Paul Pogba – France

Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba will be key to France performance (Image: Evening Standard)

The Manchester United midfielder has given a sound account of himself for the France side so far. He has already scored a goal besides being a key figure in setting up the rest. Against Argentina in the round of 16, he once again showed his mettle. He looked decisive and composed alongside Blaise Matuidi. The presence of Chelsea stalwart N’Golo Kante is a pivotal factor and his control and marking as a defensive midfielder gives Pogba the freedom to wander forward and find those spaces.
After having dictating terms against Argentina in the 4-3 win, a lot will depend on Pogba on how he shapes up against Uruguay in the quarters. The latin side has impressed with their all-round skills and Pogba needs to rise further above to stake his authority.

Eden Hazard – Belgium

Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard in action at FIFA World Cup 2018 (Image: Talking Baws)

There were some doubts creeping on the fitness of Eden Hazard, but after the rest against England, his calf issues have seemed to recover well. Hazard is a class entity and his versatility is something Belgium attacking line will desire for. His link-up play with striker Romelu Lukaku could unsettle Japan. Moreover, the surging passes of Kevin de Bruyne could set Hazard up to go and make inroads.
Hazard has already scored twice so far in two matches and his presence could see Japan be ready for a series of attacks in store. The Belgian skipper could have a definite say and his composure on the ball will be handy.

Kylian Mbappe – France

Kylian Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe scored two goals against Argentina (Image: Sports Illustrated)

The 19-year-old was top notch for France in the round of 16 battle. His second-half double turned the game decisively in France’s favour and inflicted more pain on Argentina. In doing so, the 19-year-old became the first teenager to score two in a World Cup match since Pele netted twice for Brazil against Sweden in the 1958 World Cup final.
His two goals utterly wiped out Argentina’s gathering momentum and announced his supreme talent to the world. What pace he had during the game. It left Argentina shell-shocked. Mbappe has already scored thrice in this World Cup and is a contender for the Golden Boot award. Should Mbappe continue to perform as he did in Saturday’s thriller, this could develop into a very special tournament for him and France.

Other notable players in fray

Philippe Coutinho
Philippe Coutinho (Image: 2018 FIFA World Cup)

Brazilian star Phillipe Coutinho is the main player coach Tite has at his disposal. Quick, determined and powerful – Coutinho’s contribution has been immense. Two goals and two assists make him a dangerous entity. His pass to Paulinho against Serbia was one of the highlights of the tourney.
Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku could tear apart the Japanese defence. He has already netted four goals in two matches and the timely rest has given him the cushion to get his ankle injury sorted. The powerful Belgian provides a lot of power and finesse upfront.
Edinson Cavani may be a doubt for the game against France, but he could make the difference for his side if declared fit. He scored both the goals against Portugal and was decisive in the group stages too.

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