Fyodor Smolov

While many attribute dynamic midfielder and rising star Aleksandr Golovin as Russia’s main danger man (and he will no doubt be key to ensuring his side are at the top of their game), the CSKA Moscow youngster has not contributed as much to his national side as striker Fyodor Smolov.

Fyodor Smolov

Smolov is key to his side’s efforts as he is integral in adjusting to periods where his side are forced to switch their tactical setup. Whether he is linking through the middle with the likes of Golovin and Alan Dzagoev or applying pressure along the flanks, Smolov will be essential to Russia’s chances of making it past the group stage.

Smolov has scored 5/12 of Russia’s goals in their last 10 fixtures, a stat which is unsurprising when looking at his prolific recent seasons in his domestic league. Smolov finished with the Golden Boot for FC Krasnodar in the 15/16 and 17/18 seasons, and finished runner up in this season’s campaign behind Dutchman Quincy Promes.

Mohamed Salah

Youths sit at a cafe in downtown Cairo with Mo Salah looking on

Egypt’s qualification for the World Cup was brought down to the final minutes in a nail-biting affair against the Congolese national side at the Borg-el Arab Stadium in Egypt. Mohamed Salah, Egypt’s talisman, had scored four goals across six matches so far (including the opener against the Congolese) and stepped up to score the winning penalty in the 94th minute. Pure ecstasy ensues.

Mohamed Salah is indisputably the man an entire nation is pinning their hopes on. Rightfully so. Egypt’s structure on the pitch is built on reclaiming possession through a high pressure system and then moving the ball to Salah to weave his magic, of which he has done so often with Liverpool in the Premier League.

Building on his record breaking season with Liverpool was only prevented by an unfortunate injury earnt in the Champions League Final. Although news of his injury lasting only three weeks gives relief to football fans across the planet and no doubt Salah himself, as the man’s sheer talent is one that deserves adoration on the highest platform.

Mohammad Al-Sahlawi

Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Al-Sahlawi does not have the profile of a Suarez or Salah, but the striker is well known in his native country, having plied his trade in the Saudi Pro League his entire career. In addition, Al-Sahlawi recently found himself in and around the Manchester United squad as a part of a deal brokered between the club and the Saudi FA aimed to increase Al-Sahlawi’s intensity and quality prior to the World Cup.

Mohammad Al-Sahlawi

Al-Sahlawi’s role is not limited to leading the line, he has to be patient in a squad that opts to absorb pressure and play to their explosive wingers. Much of Saudi Arabia’s goal threat relies on Al-Sahlawi’s ability in the box, but the Al-Nassr man presents a much deeper threat due to his penchant for precise running to create scoring opportunities.

Despite being lower in the pecking order at times under previous manager Bert van Marwijk (current Socceroos boss) Al-Sahlawi was the joint top goal scorer in World Cup qualification with sixteen goals, alongside Poland’s Robert Lewandowski. No doubt the striker will be essential to coach Juan Antonio Pizzi’s plans to truly rattle the sides in their group in order to attempt a push beyond in to the knockout stages.

Luis Suarez & Edinson Cavani

Uruguay’s most formidable threat on the field stems from none other than Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani and the maligned yet exceptional Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona.

Luis Suarez

Uruguay’s 4-4-2 formation has been put in place by manager Oscar Tabarez to allow both superstar strikers to fit in, yet beyond Suarez or his striking partner Cavani, Cristian Rodriguez is the only player to have scored more than ten goals for his country, meaning both forwards will be vital to their side performing well beyond the group stages. Just by taking a look at Uruguay’s goal scorers during qualifying it is clear how integral both strikers are to the squad, with centre back and Captain Diego Godin the third most prolific behind the two front men with three goals.

Both men are blessed with adept finishing and an uncanny knack of producing quality moments with the ball. They are supported by a formidable spine behind them, with ever-present Fernando Muslera in goal, Juventus’ budding star Rodrigo Bentacur battling in midfield and the partnership of Atletico Madrid stars Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez in defence, it is truly up to Suarez and Cavani to guide Uruguay towards success.

Paris Saint-Germain's Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani celebrates after winning the French L1 title