Final World Cup squad lists released this week
Some of the 736 players listed will be vying for The Best awards
The Best FIFA Football Awards return to London on 24 September
Thirty-two nations are set to touch down in Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ – each country’s 23-man squad was announced this week – and those 736 players will be dreaming of glory on 15 July at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
If you peer a little further over the horizon, The Best FIFA Football Awards™ come into focus. The 2018 edition will return to London for the second year in a row – with football’s glittering galaxy of stars set to flock to London on Monday 24 September. With the latest edition rewarding the achievements of the 2017/18 season, Russia 2018 represents the final chance for world football’s superstars to impress in their efforts to claim the biggest individual prize in the sport.
FIFA.com takes a look at some of the stellar names lining up in Russia who could be vying for top honours, not only in Moscow on 15 July, but also in London on 24 September.
Lionel Messi | Argentina
La Pulga’s most recent World Cup appearance ended in Messi’s own personal Maracanazo. Argentina’s 1-0 defeat by Germany in the Brazil 2014 Final was the first in a series of events that led to La Albiceleste’s fabled No10 retiring from international football just over two years later.
The subsequent Copa America and Copa America Centenario final defeats saw Messi reach an international nadir – but he returned to the fold to almost single-handedly drag his country to Russia. Argentina begin their Russia 2018 campaign against debutants Iceland, before facing Croatia and Nigeria in their remaining Group D fixtures.
Neymar | Brazil
A Seleção’s talisman saw his potential Brazil 2014 dream become a nightmare. His injury in the quarter-final against Colombia proved tournament-ending, and he could only watch as the hosts were humiliated in his absence, in the 7-1 Mineirazo.
That means the world’s most expensive player – who finished third in the running for the 2017 The Best FIFA Men’s Player award – will be as determined as anybody to bring home the World Cup Trophy. Brazil begin their Russia 2018 campaign against Switzerland in Rostov-on-Don, before facing Costa Rica in Saint Petersburg and finishing off their Group E campaign against Serbia at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow.
Mo Salah | Egypt
Liverpool’s ‘Egyptian king’ has had a remarkable season that even he would likely not have foreseen in his wildest dreams. He scored 32 goals in 36 English Premier League games, grabbed ten on the Reds’ route to the UEFA Champions League final, and scored the precious goal against Congo that ensured his country would return to the World Cup after a 28-year absence.
Despite an injury scare in the Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid, the Pharaohs have included Salah in their squad, and he will play a part in Russia. If he continues his remarkable domestic form onto the international scene – with Egypt set to face the hosts, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay in Group A – there is every chance he could stake his claim to be named The Best in London later this year.
Cristiano Ronaldo | Portugal
The reigning The Best FIFA Men’s Player will appear at his fourth World Cup in Russia, and the Portugal captain will look to cap a superlative season by leading his nation to another international title after helping A Seleção das Quinas emerge victorious from UEFA EURO 2016.
Ronaldo’s Portugal begin their Russia 2018 campaign in Sochi against Spain, the country in which ‘CR7’ has gone from global superstar to a true galactico. They continue against Morocco at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow before finishing off their Group B campaign against former Portugal and Real Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz’s IR Iran side in Saransk.
Thomas Muller | Germany
Muller has already won plenty of personal and collective accolades on the global stage: he picked up the adidas Golden Boot at South Africa 2010, before claiming the adidas Silver Boot en route to the grandest prize of all: the World Cup title itself at Brazil 2014.
The impish raumdeuter (an unorthodox winger) has a habit of popping up in the right place at the right time to grab himself a goal. Were he to help Joachim Low’s side to victory in Moscow next month, he could just appear in London in September at just the right time, to claim his title as The Best.