Competition
  • Champions League

WORLD CUP 2018

10 players to keep an eye on in World Cup qualification

Diego Costa (Spain)

The Premier League’s top scorer with six goals from seven games, Chelsea’s Spanish-Brazilian striker seems to have broken his bad spell with the national team by netting twice against Liechtenstein. His excellent form and his rapport with Lopetegui should see him included in the starting XI against Italy at the Juventus Stadium. He has to be la roja’s reference up front, the team’s Mr Goal.

Photo: Getty Images

Update:

Aymeric Laporte (France)

The Laporte saga will finally come to an end this week with the Athletic Bilbao centre-back in line to make his senior debut for France. It had been rumoured that Spain, his home since the age of 16, could have tempted him to play for la roja had he not been called up for the country of his birth. With Mathieu, Mangala and Zouma all unavailable, Laporte is likely to start.

Photo: REUTERS

Update:

Alessio Romagnoli (Italy)

The young AC Milan defender is likely to replace the suspended Chiellini against Spain on Thursday night. Just 21, Romagnoli has the trust of Italy coach Giampiero Ventura despite the fact that he has little experience of playing in a back 3. Formerly at Roma, the young centre-back has been touted as one of the most promising defenders in Italy, so much so that AC Milan splashed out €25 million to bring him to the San Siro. His match-up with Diego Costa will be a tough test for the youngster.

Photo: Getty Images

Update:

Joshua Kimmich (Germany)

Kimmich has stood out during Bayern’s strong start to the season under Carlo Ancelotti and featured for Germany at Euro 2016. There he played on the right and it’s yet to be seen whether Joachim Löw will bring him back to his natural position through the middle. Kroos and Khedira are currently well established in the centre of the park but he could be deployed alongside them for tricky fixtures against the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland.

Photo: Getty Images

Update:

Emre Mor (Turkey)

Just 19, Mor impressed at Euro 2016 despite playing mostly from the bench. Now at Dortmund, he shone against Real Madrid in the Champions League and now looks like a key piece to Turkey’s attempt to reach the World Cup. Fatih Terim’s side face Ukraine and Iceland and will look to Mor to provide a creative spark to their play.

Photo: BBC

Update:

Thorgan Hazard (Belgium)

Thorgen has begun to emerge from his brother Eden’s shadow at Borussia Mönchengladbach and has turned the head of Belgium coach Roberto Martínez. A fixture in Gladbach’s forward line, he has his work cut out to find a place in the starting XI for the national team given the country’s embarrassment of riches up front. Don’t rule him out appearing in this round of qualifiers though, first against Bosnia but especially against Gibraltar.

Photo: AP

Update:

Pione Sisto (Denmark)

Sisto made his debut for Denmark back in 2015 but has now been recalled to the squad after a bright start to his career at Celta Vigo and impressive performances against Espanyol and Barcelona. He could be in line to start against both Poland and Montenegro; his speed and determination could be invaluable breaking down tough defences.

Photo: AFP

Update:

Gelson Martins (Portugal)

The Sporting wide man impressed in his side’s agonizing defeat at the Santiago Bernabéu last month and has been rewarded with his first call-up to the senior squad for what should be straightforward matches against Andorra and the Faroe Islands. Rumoured to be attracting attention from some of Europe’s biggest sides for his agility and one-on-one ability, he is likely to make his debut as Portugal look to bounce back from an opening round defeat.

Photo: AFP

Update:

Michail Antonio (England)

Gareth Southgate has taken temporary charge of England following Sam Allardyce’s unceremonious dismissal last month and has included a number of surprise names in the squad to face Malta and Slovenia. Michail Antonio, who has scored five goals in seven games despite West Ham’s poor start to the season, is a quick player who is excellent in the air. He could well make his international debut this weekend.

Photo: REUTERS

Update:

Labinot Kabashi (Kosovo)

Kabashi, who is currently part of the youth team set-up at Barcelona, has been called up to the Kosovo senior side at the age of just 16. UEFA’s decision to allow Kosovo to play full international fixtures has opened the door for many players born abroad but with Kosovan roots to play international football. Many are eligible for other nations and so it’s likely that Kosovo will look to hand debuts to players at very young ages to prevent ‘losing them.’

Photo: FC Barcelona

Update:

10 / 10