Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich slideshow

How England can get the job done against physical Panama Group standings and permutations Jim White: Fantastic fans and where to find them at World Cup 2018 There is a reason Germany have reached at least the semi-final stage of 21 of the past 27 World Cups and European Championships and there is a reason why they last exited this tournament at the first hurdle 80 years ago. They simply never know when they are beaten, and on a truly extraordinary night at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, the world champions came from behind against Sweden to claim the most dramatic of last gasp victories and turn Group F on its head. A point here would have left Germany’s fate out of their hands. A draw between Mexico and Sweden in their final game would have seen Germany eliminated but a stunning stoppage time free-kick from Toni Kroos altered the dynamic and crushed Swedish hearts. They really did not deserve this and Janne Andersson and his staff certainly did not deserve to be taunted by the German bench as they were at the final whistle, a scene that sparked some argy bargy on the touchline. Wild celebrations were sparked by Kroos' winning goal Credit: REUTERS Sweden will certainly be nursing an acute sense of injustice after they were denied a stonewall penalty in the first half when Jerome Boateng - later sent off for two bookable offences - brought down Ola Toivonen. But Kroos’s free-kick was worthy of winning any game. For 45 minutes, Germany had been desperate but they rallied after the interval, with Marcos Reus cancelling out Toivonen’s fine finish, before Kroos stepped up. His short free-kick was knocked back by Reus and the Bayern Munich midfielder curled his shot into the top corner. Sweden’s players dropped to the floor while Germany celebrated violently. First things first, it was a riveting game. Breathless, controversial, jaw-droppingly dramatic. The first 45 minutes alone would be worthy of a study on how to perfectly execute a counter-attacking game plan against opponents who seek to monopolise possession. Defensive strategists the world over will have marvelled at the way Sweden soaked up German pressure and then pounced on their mistakes with rapid raids on the transition. They were as controlled and compact as those spaces left by Germany were pronounced, a clash of cultures and a vivid illustration of how there is more than one way to skin a cat. Joachim Low had reacted to that anaemic 1-0 defeat to Mexico in the opening game by making four changes. The most notable casualty was Mesut Ozil, dropped for the first time at a World Cup or European Championship since making his senior debut nine years ago, despite a pre-match vote of confidence from Low. Sami Khedira, Marvin Plattenhardt and the injured Mats Hummels also made way and, yet, until Marco Reus pulled a goal back shortly after the restart, the changes made no discernible difference. Germany 1 - 1 Sweden (Marco Reus, 48 min) If anything, Germany were even more chaotic than they had been against Mexico and the fact they were still very much in this game at the start of the second period was down to a combination of Swedish profligacy, Manuel Neuer and some questionable officiating. Don’t mention the VAR. When Viktor Claesson sent Ola Toivonen scampering clear in the 12th minute, it set the tone for Swedish speed and success on the transition, and Germany’s struggles to cope with it. The goal was just opening up for Toivonen as he shaped to shoot inside the penalty area when Jerome Boateng bundled the Sweden striker over through a combination of push and trip. The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is employed precisely for these sort of moments but, to the outrage of everyone on the Sweden bench, not to mention Toivonen, play merely carried on. It was to Sweden’s enormous credit then that they simply dug deeper and grew in strength, organisation and conviction. Sweden had made just six passes to Germany’s 122 in the first 10 minutes and 19 to the world champions’ 169 15 minutes in but the only statistic that will have concerned them was the one that signalled they were a goal in front. Germany vs Sweden And what a goal it was, one that showcased all the virtues of Janne Andersson’s side. From the tireless Marcus Berg intercepting a stray pass from Toni Kroos to the probing Claesson stroking a clever cross into Toivonen to the Toulouse forward cushioning the ball on his chest and holding off the desperate lunge of Antonio Rudiger to delicately lift the ball over the advancing Neuer, it was a masterclass in how to strike hard and fast. Toivonen's finish was superb for Sweden's opening goal Credit: GETTY IMAGES The problem for Sweden is that they had enough chances after that to kill the game, but with opportunities for first Claesson and then Berg to extend the lead going begging, the door remained ajar for a German side who simply could not be as poor after the interval as they had been before it. Still, the timing of Germany’s equaliser was a real kick in the teeth for Sweden. They had defended doggedly, riding their luck in the second minute when Julian Draxler blasted a shot straight at a Swedish body after Timo Werner had capitalised on a mistake by Andreas Granqvist and Robin Olsen also made a good save from Ilkay Gundogan’s deflected shot. Germany vs Sweden shots on goal But the Swedes had been pretty flawless. Reus’s goal, then, would provide a serious test of their mettle. A low cross from the left by Werner brushed the foot of Mario Gomez, on at half time for Draxler, and rolled into the path of Reus, who stabbed the ball home ahead of a despairing Ludwig Augustinsson. How Sweden must have been rueing those missed chances at that point. Berg could not have done much better with his powerful angled header from Seb Larsson’s free-kick, stealing ahead of Kroos, but Neuer dived full stretch to his right to tip the ball round a post. More frustrating was Claesson’s squandered opportunity. Germany had been undone once again on the transition. Emil Forsberg found himself in acres of space down the left channel and bent a wonderful cross with the outside of his right boot past Boateng and Rudiger and into Claesson, who made the mistake of trying to cut inside Jonas Hector rather than shoot first time. Toni Kroos celebrates his goal Credit: AP Germany had lost Sebastian Rudy after just half an hour when he took an accidental boot to the face from Toivonen that resulted in blood splattering from his nose. This, though, was a fesity game, played right on the edge, with tackles flying around and no inch given. Mikael Lustig and Werner squared up a heavy challenge by the Sweden right back and next it was Albin Ekdal and Thomas Muller’s turn to start pushing and shoving each other. A red card seemed likely at some stage and so it materialised in the 82nd minute when Boateng was dismissed for a second yellow card after scything through Berg following an earlier handball. Germany were firmly in the ascendency and their numerical disadvantage would not change that. It had been a siege at times, with Low effectively playing 2-2-6 as they pushed for a winner. Average touch positions (0 min) Joshua Kimmich put a perfect cross on a plate for Reus on the hour but the Borussia Dortmund forward could not make contact as he tried a back heel and the chance went. Later Kroos plonked a fine cross on the head of Gomez but Olsen’s save was outstanding. Then at the death Julian Brandt, a substitute, crashed a shot against a post. It was thrilling. Germany live to fight another day but their fate is out of their hands. Then at the death Julian Brandt, a substitute, crashed a shot against a post. Germany must have thought their chance had gone there and then. Kroos, though, had other ideas. What a game. What a night. 9:21PM Some reading ahead of tomorrow How England can get the job done against physical Panama We'll see you then for our live coverage of all the big games, including England's attempts to beat Panama. 9:10PM ITV pundits now laying into Boateng Patrice Evra "I don't wanna go harsh on him but he had a really bad game. When he was sent off, Germany played better." Roy Keane (seriously, what has happened to him?) "They spoke about him having 65 pairs of shoes so he can't be right upstairs" Everyone laughs. Personally, I can see where the Boateng criticism comes from but he's a key component of Low's attempts to play positional football high up the pitch. He's meant to be a play-maker in this side and if the things he'd attempted actually worked, would have looked like a total star. Instead he was full of mistakes... but you will make mistakes if you're experimenting. The obvious retort to that is he's a defender and needs to stay safe. Gary Neville says: "It's like they're trying to do a little bit of what Pep Guardiola does and what Germany do. At Man City a full-back comes into midfield to prevent the counter-attack but their's are wide. It's like they're stuck between two tactics." I like that Boateng and Germany are trying something a little different. If it works it'll keep opposition teams pinned back but at the moment they are just simply too offensive and are leaving massive gaps. That brings us back to the old chess dilemma though. The thinking is that if you bring an attacking mentality to the game you will dominate as you restrict the counter-attack options of your opponent. I could go into this for hours, so let's stop. It's safe to say that Boateng was ropey/[deleted word] tonight. And he deserved that red card! 9:04PM Kroos' goal 9:03PM Henrik Larsson is not happy "Stand on your feet. That's the first thing you learn!" says Henrik about Durmaz's fatal foul. 9:02PM This game has broken Roy Keane "Brilliant. I really enjoyed the game. My condolences. We've criticised them, we've slagged Germany off, they were awful but they stuck at it, brilliant drama - I loved it." 9:01PM Celebrations for that goal Credit: AFP There was a bit of a ruckus on the touchline once Kroos' goal went in with Sweden's manager particularly upset about something. 8:59PM What a finish That was utterly brilliant. Sweden defended heroically but just couldn't hang on and to be fair to them, that stunning Kroos goal from a free-kick was the kind you just can't do anything about. Sheer class. Germany vs Sweden shots on goal 8:55PM FULL TIME Wow. I cannot imagine how gutted Sweden fans feel (I can, I'm Scottish) but that is a simply breathtaking way to win. Never write off the Germans! 8:54PM GOL GOL GOL GOL GOL GOOOOOOAAAAAALLLL Germany 2 Sweden 1 Germany 2 - 1 Sweden (Toni Kroos, 90 + 5 min) That's unbelievable! Kroos touches the free-kick, Reus stops it and Kroos bends a brilliant, powerful, bending shot into the top corner! That is absolutely unbelievable. Goal: Germany ( 90 + 5 min ) 8:53PM GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! Germany 2 Sweden 1 sakjhbsadakjhdsa dsadsaWHGWATAJHAHA WHGAAT A GOAL!!!!! INCREDIBLE FROM GERMANY! 8:52PM 90 mins+5 - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Last chance for Germany. They go from goalkeeper to Sweden's half. Werner takes on his man... and wins a free-kick! This will be the last passage of play of the game. Kroos and Reus are over the ball. These set pieces haven't worked so far... 8:50PM 90 mins+3 - Germany 1 Sweden 1 GERMANY HIT THE POST! WHAT A STRIKE! Brandt absolutely launches an effort from 20 yards and it pings back off the post and lands at the feet of Werner. But he can only turn it over the bar! He was offside anyway. Sweden can break! They have men over here - Germany are in trouble! The linesman's flag has saved them. Two minutes left of this one for Germany to find a winner. Or Sweden! 8:49PM 90 mins+2 - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Olsen punches away when he could catch. Germany have everyone inside the Sweden half, the deepest player is Rudiger and he's 20 yards from the halfway line! Rudiger goes to ground way too easily (for my liking) and wins a cheap free-kick at half way as Sweden keep the ball for a bit. Germany win a corner. It's exciiiiiiting!!! 8:47PM 90 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Muller is wide right, tries to hit a low cross into the box and ends up punting it out for a throw-in. Awful. Brandt is fouled wide left - this is a dangerous position for a set piece, or it would be if Germany were able to win aerial battles against a strong, tall Sweden side. Sweden sub Berg for Thelin. 8:45PM 88 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Hector off, Brandt on. That means Germany have Kimmich - who has been a right winger all game - and Rudiger left defending. Kroos has been acting as a third centre-back all night so he'll be involved. Sweden are defending so well here, there's just no space for Germany to exploit. The ball is out on the left, crossed in and GOMEZ IS THERE! WHAT A SAVE BY OLSEN! A point blank save by the Sweden goalkeeper denies Germany! 8:44PM 86 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 And now there's confirmation that the referee was waiting for the victim of Boateng's foul (which wasn't overly or at all malicious by the way) to get to his feet before showing Boateng the second yellow. Buying some time to think seems like a sensible approach. It's still all Germany even with 10 men. 8:42PM 84 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 SWEDEN GO CLOSE! This game is amazing. The ball is put into the area but Germany manage to survive - somehow - and Sweden have a corner. It goes out for a goal kick. VAR can't intervene for yellow card decisions but assistant referees can... and it seems like one of those may well have told the referee that Boateng should have been booked for that offence. Replays seem to show that's the right call anyway! 8:40PM RED CARD OOOOHHHH OR HAS HE? The referee changes his mind - VAR? - and Boateng has been sent off for a second yellow! 8:39PM 82 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Germany's forwards are just standing occupying these positions as the ball is moved around the pitch. Werner then finds space inside the box and meets a cross from wide right... but he's missed it. That is a HUGE chance. Oooooohhhh Boateng has gone flying into a tackle from behind and that should be a yellow! The referee says no. 8:37PM 80 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Germany vs Sweden shots on goal What do Germany have left? They have 10 minutes to conjure something and Sweden must be knackered defending this all game long. 8:36PM 78 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Sweden take their time over a goal kick, hump it long and Berg fouls Kimmich near his own box. John Guidetti comes on for Toivonen. 8:33PM 76 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Durmaz has an instant impact, winning a corner with his first involvement. The corner is swung in, some players go down in the box and a shot from distance is well saved by Neuer. 8:31PM 74 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Sweden are finding it difficult to play their way out from the back but Germany are so keen to win the ball back that they keep conceding fouls and handing Sweden much needed time. Claesson is subbed for Durmaz. 8:30PM 72 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Credit: REUTERS How long until this man makes an appearance? Germany might not need him! Werner is in on the left, he gets to the line and fires across goal but nobody can turn it in! Sweden survive... Toivonen handballs 35 yards out. Kroos stands over the free-kick. It goes wide, Kimmich has to pass back and Gundogan crosses. Reus has a hopeful shot blocked, Germany start from the back after a throw-in. 8:28PM 71 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Bad mistake by Kroos. He passes across the pitch and it's easily intercepted but Sweden can't take advantage and Kimmich catches up quickly. The ball is soon in Neuer's gloves and he sends Germany on their way. They took too long to put passes together and Sweden can get back into a defensive shape. Forsberg does brilliantly to hold the ball up and win a free-kick. Boateng is booked for the fouk. 8:26PM 69 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Here come Germ any again. Werner wide left, Kroos takes it on and puts the ball to the edge of the box. It comes back, he chips across the box and Kimmich crosses... and it's cleared. It's all Germany. Boateng chips into the area and GOMEZ IS THERE! HE'S MISSED FROM SIX YARDS! That's a dreadful miss! The linesman says he's offside but he isn't - and had he scored that should have stood. 8:24PM 67 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Olsen punches a cross from right away, Germany try to keep up the pressure but eventually Sweden finally get the ball and try to just keep it for a while. Possession: Germany vs Sweden 8:23PM 65 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 The ball drops for Kroos on the edge of the area, he sets up the shot and hits it... but a sliding tackle comes flying in and gives Germany a corner. Kroos takes, it's headed away and Sweden boot the ball up the pitch. Neuer is 40 yards off his line again to start the passing move. 8:21PM 63 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 An ITV stat tells me that these are the players to have made the most key passes tonight: Muller 11 Kimmich 9 Boateng 7 Neuer is 40 yards off his line to recyle play and start another Germany attack. And Kroos has it on the edge of the area, fakes to shoot but his actual shot is then blocked. 8:19PM 61 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Look at the difference in the passing! Sweden all long, Germany tippy-tappy across the middle. That's starting to change a little bit now. Germany vs Sweden And Reus has just gone close to turning a low cross from Kimmich into the goal! Reus goes for a back heel flick - like Kanu - but kicks thin air and tumbles to the floor. That should have been a goal. 8:17PM 59 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Gomez sprints down the left as Germany have a little chance to counter-attack but Sweden get back and shut down the danger. Boateng tries to follow up and brings the ball towards the box - like Beckenbauer - but his forward pass is poor and easily intercepted. Sweden go long but Rudiger reads the play well and wins the header. 8:14PM 57 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Gundogan goes on a run but does too much and Sweden can break now. Boateng sweeps up the danger and Germany are at half way within a couple of seconds. It's a much higher tempo, forward thinking and Werner is causing problems on the left wing. He beats his man and finds Hector in the penalty area! He controls... shoots and the goalkeeper saves. Low does some windmill gestures on the sidelines, trying to get his players all fired up. 8:12PM 55 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Germany are finding space in behind to run into now. That's what direct passing will do for you. 8:11PM 53 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Muller is really wound up and has a little battle with Ekdal off the ball, while Werner is obstructed and wins a free-kick wide left. Germany pass patiently but there's bit more zip and purpose to it. Sweden win a goal kick. Olsen takes his time. 8:08PM 51 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Germany have a free-kick wide right of the Sweden box. Rudiger and Boateng are getting feisty with Toivonen, Kroos crosses in and MULLER MEETS IT! But his header is wide and slams off the microphone beside the goal. Miss: Germany 1 - 1 Sweden (Thomas Müller, 51 min) Germany are at it now. 8:07PM 49 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Oh my word it's nearly 2-1! Kroos takes a shot from 20 yards and it takes a massive deflection. The goalkeeper is beaten but the ball flies wide of the far post! Germany are all over Sweden here, they look shaky, on the ropes. 8:05PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL! GERMANY ARE BACK IN BUSINESS! Germany 1 - 1 Sweden (Marco Reus, 48 min) Well whatever he said at half time has worked! Werner is out on the left hand side, beats his man and crosses into the box. Everyone misses the ball except Reus who puts a knee on the ball to turn it into the goal. Game on! 8:05PM 47 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 You can already see what Sweden's plan is in this half. Defend deep and take advantage of Germany having so few players - and none with any pace - making risky passes at half way. 8:02PM KICK OFF 2 We're back. Mario Gomez is warmed up and ready to come on, giving Germany an actual focal point for the 20million crosses they're going to ping into the area this half. Remember, if Germany lose, they are OUT of the World Cup. Gomez replaces Draxler. This might bring an end to probing and lead to more direct passing. 7:59PM Stay up to date with all things World Cup If you haven't signed up for our Whatsapp updates yet, I recommend you do. It's great having things sent to your phone: World Cup whatsapp promo 7:58PM Solid joke Pougatch has won joke of the night as a motorbike can be heard in the background of the ITV studio. "I'm not sure what that motorbike is but I wonder if it's Joachim Low making a swift getaway". This result would serve Low right for wearing a t-shirt tbf. 7:56PM What's going wrong? Germany are pushing high up the pitch so it looks like this: The goal came as Kroos gave a pass away to Toivonen and you can see the space that's going to be left if Germany do turnover possession. Straight away they have to chase back and are vulnerable because they are in transition. Sweden attack down one wing quickly and the left midfielder sprints to join in down the left. They don't over commit but because it's a quick counter they don't need to. Gary Neville is laying into Germany's defence: "The centre-backs have been a joke. Boateng thinks he's Beckenbauer! He's played under Pep and thinks he's Beckehnbauer. He's got delusions of grandeur, he really does, wandering about." 7:51PM Half-time stats Possession: Germany vs Sweden It's been all Germany but Sweden's attacks are much more potent. Germany are playing like it's a Legends friendly game and they're going to sub on Jurgen Klinsmann and Lothar Matthaus at half time... Average touch positions (half time) Boateng is Germany's main playmaker again. 7:48PM HALF TIME Magnificent from Sweden. They've defended deep, stayed disciplined and waited to take their chance to counter-attack. When they've been able to they've looked really dangerous and Germany are teetering on the edge of an incredibly early World Cup exit. Joachim Low needs to change things and get his team revved up. What a job he has on his hands now. 7:46PM 45 mins+2 - Germany 0 Sweden 1 That's smart from Boateng. He's in the right halfspace near the box, cuts onto his left and tries an early shot to the near post. The goalkeeper panics and races over to stop it but the shot is just wide. Out: Germany 0 - 1 Sweden (Jérôme Boateng, 45 min) 7:45PM 45 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 Germany are all over the place. They keep letting Sweden in on the counter-attack and Claesson is ridiculously close to cutting inside onto his left foot and getting a shot away from 10 yards. It's a mess here for Germany! 7:42PM 43 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 Forget Neymar's rainbow flick yesterday or any of the flip-flaps we've seen! That little bit of skill by Augustinsson on the left is amazing and it's beaten three Germany players at once. He pretends to drag the ball inside then stops it, rolls, then drag-scoops it between two players. So good. 7:40PM 41 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 Big chance for Germany and they've wasted it! Gundogan takes a shot, Olsen saves and Muller is beaten to the rebound.. then goes crying to the referee about some sort of foul. He is incorrect. 7:39PM 39 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a photograph that is! Perfectly captures the fear in Neuer's eyes and the arc of the ball. Credit: GETTY IMAGES 7:37PM 37 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 Sweden are enjoying more of the ball now and are doing so higher up the pitch. What is wrong with this Germany team? This isn't working at the moment. 7:35PM 35 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 What a noise when that goal went in. The Sweden fans are bouncing in the stands, Germany are rocked. 7:32PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! SWEDEN HAVE TAKEN THE LEAD! Germany 0 - 1 Sweden (Ola Toivonen, 32 min) What a brilliant finish this is. Sweden have the ball on the right and a fantastic pass into the box is controlled superbly by Toivonen, who shields the ball and then lobs Neuer with a perfect finish. What a goal. And what a shock this could be! 7:32PM 32 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Rudy is furious that he's not being allowed back on. But that injury looked nasty and is technically a head injury. It's unclear whether the doctor has said he can't continue or if the change has been brought about because they don't have a replacement shirt for him... Gundogan is on in his place. 7:30PM 31 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Rudy is still standing shirtless on the sidelines. Low appears to be losing his patience. He needs a new top because the other one is covered in blood but he's also having a member of staff putting ice on the back of his neck. Germany might make a substitution here. 7:29PM 29 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Sweden are passing around Germany's half! [puts on party hat] They're taking advantage of Germany being down to 10 men at the moment and Hector has to head at the back post to get a cross behind. Corner. The big defenders are forward for it. Werner heads away, Sweden keep the ball. 7:27PM 27 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 That looks like a burst lip and a whack to the nose, which is still bleeding. Rudy goes to change his shirt but he'll need his nose seen to before he can come on. Germany are slowly passing around their own half while he's seen to. Sweden aren't even considering pressing higher to try and win the ball off him. 7:25PM 25 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Berg goes tumbling as Boateng closes in Credit: AFP Rudy is bleeding a lot out of his face and Sweden are concerned about him. Toivonen's caught him in the nose with his heel. Ow. He's down receiving treatment but that will have rattled him. 7:23PM 23 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Germany really need to score here before this turns into a very frustrating night. Sweden could defend like this all night. 7:21PM 21 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 It's just Germany attacking, Sweden defending. No goals, no shots. 7:19PM 19 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Possession: Germany vs Sweden It's kinda one sided... but Sweden look so dangerous on the counter-attack! Possession means nothing if you can't do anything with it. 7:17PM 17 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Lee Dixon raises an interesting point. "If there's nobody there, he gets a shot away" and because Boateng puts his foot in, he doesn't. Still, a team of referees have decided that's not a foul having reviewed it so I'm inclined to side with their opinion. Germany are back in the Sweden final third now, switching play, looking for an opening... but there are too many players heavily marked. 7:14PM 15 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Boateng's attempted tackle sends Berg over... but they're both running at pace and it doesn't look like a penalty to me. And the referee team have concluded that it isn't a foul. Controversy! 7:13PM 13 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Boateng never hides away from the ball and always seems to be in a decent position to help his side keep the passes going. But he's given it away! SWEDEN ARE AWAY! It's Mexico all over again... here goes the striker, Berg's behind the defence, Boateng can't get close and he's one on one with the goalkeeper! He goes down! Is that a penalty? Play continues but VAR will review it. Attempt Saved: Germany 0 - 0 Sweden (Marcus Berg, 12 min) Germany have really gotten away with that! 7:11PM 11 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Germany have made 122 passes so far. Sweden six. Germany vs Sweden 7:09PM 10 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Big chance Germany! Kimmich is the creator again, having the ball wide right and playing a through-pass ahead of Reus' run. It's perfectly weighted, Reus is in behind but his cutback is knocked behind for a corner. Germany pass patiently around the Sweden half looking for an opening. 7:08PM 8 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 But now we see the counter-attack! Germany have made the same mistake early on, two players racing to try and intercept but losing out and suddenly Sweden area away. Forsberg has two chasing defenders, goes past one but is then crowded out on the edge of the Germany box. Germany attack again, Draxler is down the left and he pokes a pass across the box which is just wide of the far post. 7:06PM 6 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 It looks like Rudiger is playing as sweeper, Boateng and Hector taking up positions either side of him when Germany have possession. Germany are already all over Sweden. This could be a long night. 7:03PM 4 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Germany are passing the ball around the final third nicely, Kimmich pulling out wide right... and he hits a cross in that comes off a defender and then lands with Werner! He's inside the six yard box, crosses low and DRAXLER MUST SCORE! Blocked! How has he missed?! Sweden have really gone into defensive mode here. Is it not too early to do that? 7:02PM 2 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Germany get the ball straight away and calmly play out from the back. Sure enough, Sweden immediately drop back into their deep 4-4-2 shape. 7:00PM KICK OFF National anthems are done, the players are ready. Here we go! Sweden start the match. 6:55PM Bad news for Sweden fans Alles Klar, Germany will win, count on it..... the hoff has spoken ✌�� pic.twitter.com/LdvT9cgIn1— David Hasselhoff (@DavidHasselhoff) June 23, 2018 6:53PM Neuer will be involved tonight But probably not in his actual goalmouth, as I (hopefully) explain in the above video! 6:49PM The lineups This is what the game will look like on paper (and on your screen) but in attack it'll be very different. Gary Neville has just said it's boring to play against Sweden because they slow the game down with such a defensive approach to it. This what the game will actually look like. The key differences are that Sweden won't leave two players high either side of the striker to allow counter-attacks and - crucially - Rudy won't go missing from that holding position like Khedira did. 6:43PM Some of you might not get this Daniel Johnston during the ad break then Joy Division as part of the football coverage. Shame to see ITV pandering to Partick Thistle fans like this.— Oldfirmfacts (@Oldfirmfacts1) June 23, 2018 6:35PM ITV pundits on chances of a Sweden win Patrice Evra If he change two players at the back he's really not happy with his defence. When you change two... normally you never change your backline. Henrik Larsson I don't think they're nervous because they're Germany. There's a lot of hope from my point of view, if we can manage to get a draw that would be fantastic. If we win, it would be a miracle. Germany's going to have the ball a lot. It's important for us to play when we get possession and maybe we can do something from a set piece. 6:26PM Lovely photos There are heaps of great pictures that have been taken during this World Cup and we have compiled a bunch of them into this very pleasant gallery: Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 6:16PM Mexico beat South Korea.... Which means Germany will be out of the World Cup if they lose this. No pressure, lads. 6:06PM What went wrong for Germany last time Credit: FIFA Too many players charged up the pitch in their defeat to Mexico, three Mexican forwards stayed high to wait for counter-attacks and Germany were duly punished. The key changes are Ozil, who provided absolutely no midfield cover in defence and didn't offer enough in attack, and Khedira, who was supposed to play as a six and shield the defence, link play and act as a pivot in midfield. Rudy will absolutely fix the latter problem, Reus will be a more dynamic, hustle-and-bustle replacement for Ozil. Kimmich and Hector will still fly up the wings but as long as Rudy holds his position and doesn't get too separated from Kroos they'll have some cover. Sweden won't be able to counter-attack in quite the same way Mexico did and this will be a different game. The big challenge will be creating chances in the final third against a really well drilled Swedish defence while ensuring they don't over commit like we saw against Mexico. 6:01PM Sweden team Sweden starting XI (4-4-2) Olsen; Lustig, Lindelof, Granqvist, Augustinsson; Larsson, Ekdal, Claesson, Forsberg; Toivonen, Berg 5:54PM Who's going to win? That's a signal of intent from Joachim Low and it'll be really interesting to see how the team reacts. It's also notable that Mats Hummels - who was so critical of his teammates after the game - has been benched for Rudiger (although Low did say this was due to illness/injury). Sweden are a strong team but lack an individual star. I can see their game plan being to contain and frustrate and attack quickly down the wings - Kimmich and Hector will leave space in behind to take advantage of. World Cup 2018 Simulator Single Game 5:46PM Germany team news - Ozil and Khedira are dropped! Unsere Startelf �������� 1 Neuer (C) 3 Hector 7 Draxler 8 Kroos 9 Werner 11 Reus 13 Müller 16 Rüdiger 17 Boateng 18 Kimmich 19 Rudy #ZSMMN#DieMannschaft#WM2018pic.twitter.com/7IPJUyTR9v— Die Mannschaft (@DFB_Team) June 23, 2018 Well well well. The rumours were true! Marco Reus and Jonas Hector are in and Sebastian Rudy replaces Khedira. Low hasn't held back here. 5:40PM Where's the game today? World Cup 2018 stadium: Fisht Stadium The delightfully named Fisht stadium, which as we all know, is in Sochi. This is the venue in which Germany must win to avoid one of the all time biggest World Cup upsets. 5:31PM Big team news... Exclusive: @MesutOzil1088 and @SamiKhedira are not in the starting line-up @SPORTBILD@BILD_Sport— Christian Falk (@cfbayern) June 23, 2018 I'm not sure how valid this is but the source is fairly solid and Mesut Ozil was awful in the last game. Khedira was caught out of position way too often as well. 5:30PM Hello! Welcome to our liveblog for the last game of day 10 of the 2018 World Cup! It's Germany vs Sweden and remarkably it's really difficult to call who's going to win it. Sweden have three points thanks to their narrow win over South Korea (and with the help of VAR) while Germany were torn apart by Mexico, playing a suicidal high line and sending full-backs miles up the pitch only to suffer for it. Joachim Low's team have been out of sorts for quite a time now and there have been rallying calls from the players to address it. "We're under real pressure now," said Toni Kroos. "We have to get six points from the next games. "We didn't play well enough. Overall, we had our chances, but we weren't able to score. "We lost the ball up front far too easily and Mexico had always two or three people up front, who we failed to block efficiently." World Cup 2018 tactics: Why Germany's goalkeeper is key to how they attack Mats Hummels wasn't quite so nice about it: “Mexico deserved the win – our cover was often not good and we were left many times with Jérôme [Boateng] and myself at the back,” he said. “If seven of eight players are attacking then it’s clear our attacking power is greater. But that’s something that I have often talked about internally. It doesn’t always bear fruit. “A wake-up call is too late. We now must win two games, otherwise that is that with the World Cup. I don’t really understand why we played like we played because, really, we already had our wake-up call.” Credit: FIFA Supporters of both teams are having a lovely old time in the Russia sun (though those clouds look ominous) and team news will be with us really soon. When that happens we can try and figure out how both teams plan to approach this but you can bet Sweden will be a 4-4-2, low block and focus play down the wings, while Germany will be keen to AVENGE their opening game defeat. It could be a cracker, it could also be a frustrating 90 minutes for the Germans. Only time will tell! And that time is... soon.
Toni Kroos scores stunning last-gasp winner to keep Germany's World Cup hopes alive after Jerome Boateng sees red
How England can get the job done against physical Panama Group standings and permutations Jim White: Fantastic fans and where to find them at World Cup 2018 There is a reason Germany have reached at least the semi-final stage of 21 of the past 27 World Cups and European Championships and there is a reason why they last exited this tournament at the first hurdle 80 years ago. They simply never know when they are beaten, and on a truly extraordinary night at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, the world champions came from behind against Sweden to claim the most dramatic of last gasp victories and turn Group F on its head. A point here would have left Germany’s fate out of their hands. A draw between Mexico and Sweden in their final game would have seen Germany eliminated but a stunning stoppage time free-kick from Toni Kroos altered the dynamic and crushed Swedish hearts. They really did not deserve this and Janne Andersson and his staff certainly did not deserve to be taunted by the German bench as they were at the final whistle, a scene that sparked some argy bargy on the touchline. Wild celebrations were sparked by Kroos' winning goal Credit: REUTERS Sweden will certainly be nursing an acute sense of injustice after they were denied a stonewall penalty in the first half when Jerome Boateng - later sent off for two bookable offences - brought down Ola Toivonen. But Kroos’s free-kick was worthy of winning any game. For 45 minutes, Germany had been desperate but they rallied after the interval, with Marcos Reus cancelling out Toivonen’s fine finish, before Kroos stepped up. His short free-kick was knocked back by Reus and the Bayern Munich midfielder curled his shot into the top corner. Sweden’s players dropped to the floor while Germany celebrated violently. First things first, it was a riveting game. Breathless, controversial, jaw-droppingly dramatic. The first 45 minutes alone would be worthy of a study on how to perfectly execute a counter-attacking game plan against opponents who seek to monopolise possession. Defensive strategists the world over will have marvelled at the way Sweden soaked up German pressure and then pounced on their mistakes with rapid raids on the transition. They were as controlled and compact as those spaces left by Germany were pronounced, a clash of cultures and a vivid illustration of how there is more than one way to skin a cat. Joachim Low had reacted to that anaemic 1-0 defeat to Mexico in the opening game by making four changes. The most notable casualty was Mesut Ozil, dropped for the first time at a World Cup or European Championship since making his senior debut nine years ago, despite a pre-match vote of confidence from Low. Sami Khedira, Marvin Plattenhardt and the injured Mats Hummels also made way and, yet, until Marco Reus pulled a goal back shortly after the restart, the changes made no discernible difference. Germany 1 - 1 Sweden (Marco Reus, 48 min) If anything, Germany were even more chaotic than they had been against Mexico and the fact they were still very much in this game at the start of the second period was down to a combination of Swedish profligacy, Manuel Neuer and some questionable officiating. Don’t mention the VAR. When Viktor Claesson sent Ola Toivonen scampering clear in the 12th minute, it set the tone for Swedish speed and success on the transition, and Germany’s struggles to cope with it. The goal was just opening up for Toivonen as he shaped to shoot inside the penalty area when Jerome Boateng bundled the Sweden striker over through a combination of push and trip. The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is employed precisely for these sort of moments but, to the outrage of everyone on the Sweden bench, not to mention Toivonen, play merely carried on. It was to Sweden’s enormous credit then that they simply dug deeper and grew in strength, organisation and conviction. Sweden had made just six passes to Germany’s 122 in the first 10 minutes and 19 to the world champions’ 169 15 minutes in but the only statistic that will have concerned them was the one that signalled they were a goal in front. Germany vs Sweden And what a goal it was, one that showcased all the virtues of Janne Andersson’s side. From the tireless Marcus Berg intercepting a stray pass from Toni Kroos to the probing Claesson stroking a clever cross into Toivonen to the Toulouse forward cushioning the ball on his chest and holding off the desperate lunge of Antonio Rudiger to delicately lift the ball over the advancing Neuer, it was a masterclass in how to strike hard and fast. Toivonen's finish was superb for Sweden's opening goal Credit: GETTY IMAGES The problem for Sweden is that they had enough chances after that to kill the game, but with opportunities for first Claesson and then Berg to extend the lead going begging, the door remained ajar for a German side who simply could not be as poor after the interval as they had been before it. Still, the timing of Germany’s equaliser was a real kick in the teeth for Sweden. They had defended doggedly, riding their luck in the second minute when Julian Draxler blasted a shot straight at a Swedish body after Timo Werner had capitalised on a mistake by Andreas Granqvist and Robin Olsen also made a good save from Ilkay Gundogan’s deflected shot. Germany vs Sweden shots on goal But the Swedes had been pretty flawless. Reus’s goal, then, would provide a serious test of their mettle. A low cross from the left by Werner brushed the foot of Mario Gomez, on at half time for Draxler, and rolled into the path of Reus, who stabbed the ball home ahead of a despairing Ludwig Augustinsson. How Sweden must have been rueing those missed chances at that point. Berg could not have done much better with his powerful angled header from Seb Larsson’s free-kick, stealing ahead of Kroos, but Neuer dived full stretch to his right to tip the ball round a post. More frustrating was Claesson’s squandered opportunity. Germany had been undone once again on the transition. Emil Forsberg found himself in acres of space down the left channel and bent a wonderful cross with the outside of his right boot past Boateng and Rudiger and into Claesson, who made the mistake of trying to cut inside Jonas Hector rather than shoot first time. Toni Kroos celebrates his goal Credit: AP Germany had lost Sebastian Rudy after just half an hour when he took an accidental boot to the face from Toivonen that resulted in blood splattering from his nose. This, though, was a fesity game, played right on the edge, with tackles flying around and no inch given. Mikael Lustig and Werner squared up a heavy challenge by the Sweden right back and next it was Albin Ekdal and Thomas Muller’s turn to start pushing and shoving each other. A red card seemed likely at some stage and so it materialised in the 82nd minute when Boateng was dismissed for a second yellow card after scything through Berg following an earlier handball. Germany were firmly in the ascendency and their numerical disadvantage would not change that. It had been a siege at times, with Low effectively playing 2-2-6 as they pushed for a winner. Average touch positions (0 min) Joshua Kimmich put a perfect cross on a plate for Reus on the hour but the Borussia Dortmund forward could not make contact as he tried a back heel and the chance went. Later Kroos plonked a fine cross on the head of Gomez but Olsen’s save was outstanding. Then at the death Julian Brandt, a substitute, crashed a shot against a post. It was thrilling. Germany live to fight another day but their fate is out of their hands. Then at the death Julian Brandt, a substitute, crashed a shot against a post. Germany must have thought their chance had gone there and then. Kroos, though, had other ideas. What a game. What a night. 9:21PM Some reading ahead of tomorrow How England can get the job done against physical Panama We'll see you then for our live coverage of all the big games, including England's attempts to beat Panama. 9:10PM ITV pundits now laying into Boateng Patrice Evra "I don't wanna go harsh on him but he had a really bad game. When he was sent off, Germany played better." Roy Keane (seriously, what has happened to him?) "They spoke about him having 65 pairs of shoes so he can't be right upstairs" Everyone laughs. Personally, I can see where the Boateng criticism comes from but he's a key component of Low's attempts to play positional football high up the pitch. He's meant to be a play-maker in this side and if the things he'd attempted actually worked, would have looked like a total star. Instead he was full of mistakes... but you will make mistakes if you're experimenting. The obvious retort to that is he's a defender and needs to stay safe. Gary Neville says: "It's like they're trying to do a little bit of what Pep Guardiola does and what Germany do. At Man City a full-back comes into midfield to prevent the counter-attack but their's are wide. It's like they're stuck between two tactics." I like that Boateng and Germany are trying something a little different. If it works it'll keep opposition teams pinned back but at the moment they are just simply too offensive and are leaving massive gaps. That brings us back to the old chess dilemma though. The thinking is that if you bring an attacking mentality to the game you will dominate as you restrict the counter-attack options of your opponent. I could go into this for hours, so let's stop. It's safe to say that Boateng was ropey/[deleted word] tonight. And he deserved that red card! 9:04PM Kroos' goal 9:03PM Henrik Larsson is not happy "Stand on your feet. That's the first thing you learn!" says Henrik about Durmaz's fatal foul. 9:02PM This game has broken Roy Keane "Brilliant. I really enjoyed the game. My condolences. We've criticised them, we've slagged Germany off, they were awful but they stuck at it, brilliant drama - I loved it." 9:01PM Celebrations for that goal Credit: AFP There was a bit of a ruckus on the touchline once Kroos' goal went in with Sweden's manager particularly upset about something. 8:59PM What a finish That was utterly brilliant. Sweden defended heroically but just couldn't hang on and to be fair to them, that stunning Kroos goal from a free-kick was the kind you just can't do anything about. Sheer class. Germany vs Sweden shots on goal 8:55PM FULL TIME Wow. I cannot imagine how gutted Sweden fans feel (I can, I'm Scottish) but that is a simply breathtaking way to win. Never write off the Germans! 8:54PM GOL GOL GOL GOL GOL GOOOOOOAAAAAALLLL Germany 2 Sweden 1 Germany 2 - 1 Sweden (Toni Kroos, 90 + 5 min) That's unbelievable! Kroos touches the free-kick, Reus stops it and Kroos bends a brilliant, powerful, bending shot into the top corner! That is absolutely unbelievable. Goal: Germany ( 90 + 5 min ) 8:53PM GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! Germany 2 Sweden 1 sakjhbsadakjhdsa dsadsaWHGWATAJHAHA WHGAAT A GOAL!!!!! INCREDIBLE FROM GERMANY! 8:52PM 90 mins+5 - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Last chance for Germany. They go from goalkeeper to Sweden's half. Werner takes on his man... and wins a free-kick! This will be the last passage of play of the game. Kroos and Reus are over the ball. These set pieces haven't worked so far... 8:50PM 90 mins+3 - Germany 1 Sweden 1 GERMANY HIT THE POST! WHAT A STRIKE! Brandt absolutely launches an effort from 20 yards and it pings back off the post and lands at the feet of Werner. But he can only turn it over the bar! He was offside anyway. Sweden can break! They have men over here - Germany are in trouble! The linesman's flag has saved them. Two minutes left of this one for Germany to find a winner. Or Sweden! 8:49PM 90 mins+2 - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Olsen punches away when he could catch. Germany have everyone inside the Sweden half, the deepest player is Rudiger and he's 20 yards from the halfway line! Rudiger goes to ground way too easily (for my liking) and wins a cheap free-kick at half way as Sweden keep the ball for a bit. Germany win a corner. It's exciiiiiiting!!! 8:47PM 90 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Muller is wide right, tries to hit a low cross into the box and ends up punting it out for a throw-in. Awful. Brandt is fouled wide left - this is a dangerous position for a set piece, or it would be if Germany were able to win aerial battles against a strong, tall Sweden side. Sweden sub Berg for Thelin. 8:45PM 88 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Hector off, Brandt on. That means Germany have Kimmich - who has been a right winger all game - and Rudiger left defending. Kroos has been acting as a third centre-back all night so he'll be involved. Sweden are defending so well here, there's just no space for Germany to exploit. The ball is out on the left, crossed in and GOMEZ IS THERE! WHAT A SAVE BY OLSEN! A point blank save by the Sweden goalkeeper denies Germany! 8:44PM 86 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 And now there's confirmation that the referee was waiting for the victim of Boateng's foul (which wasn't overly or at all malicious by the way) to get to his feet before showing Boateng the second yellow. Buying some time to think seems like a sensible approach. It's still all Germany even with 10 men. 8:42PM 84 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 SWEDEN GO CLOSE! This game is amazing. The ball is put into the area but Germany manage to survive - somehow - and Sweden have a corner. It goes out for a goal kick. VAR can't intervene for yellow card decisions but assistant referees can... and it seems like one of those may well have told the referee that Boateng should have been booked for that offence. Replays seem to show that's the right call anyway! 8:40PM RED CARD OOOOHHHH OR HAS HE? The referee changes his mind - VAR? - and Boateng has been sent off for a second yellow! 8:39PM 82 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Germany's forwards are just standing occupying these positions as the ball is moved around the pitch. Werner then finds space inside the box and meets a cross from wide right... but he's missed it. That is a HUGE chance. Oooooohhhh Boateng has gone flying into a tackle from behind and that should be a yellow! The referee says no. 8:37PM 80 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Germany vs Sweden shots on goal What do Germany have left? They have 10 minutes to conjure something and Sweden must be knackered defending this all game long. 8:36PM 78 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Sweden take their time over a goal kick, hump it long and Berg fouls Kimmich near his own box. John Guidetti comes on for Toivonen. 8:33PM 76 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Durmaz has an instant impact, winning a corner with his first involvement. The corner is swung in, some players go down in the box and a shot from distance is well saved by Neuer. 8:31PM 74 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Sweden are finding it difficult to play their way out from the back but Germany are so keen to win the ball back that they keep conceding fouls and handing Sweden much needed time. Claesson is subbed for Durmaz. 8:30PM 72 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Credit: REUTERS How long until this man makes an appearance? Germany might not need him! Werner is in on the left, he gets to the line and fires across goal but nobody can turn it in! Sweden survive... Toivonen handballs 35 yards out. Kroos stands over the free-kick. It goes wide, Kimmich has to pass back and Gundogan crosses. Reus has a hopeful shot blocked, Germany start from the back after a throw-in. 8:28PM 71 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Bad mistake by Kroos. He passes across the pitch and it's easily intercepted but Sweden can't take advantage and Kimmich catches up quickly. The ball is soon in Neuer's gloves and he sends Germany on their way. They took too long to put passes together and Sweden can get back into a defensive shape. Forsberg does brilliantly to hold the ball up and win a free-kick. Boateng is booked for the fouk. 8:26PM 69 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Here come Germ any again. Werner wide left, Kroos takes it on and puts the ball to the edge of the box. It comes back, he chips across the box and Kimmich crosses... and it's cleared. It's all Germany. Boateng chips into the area and GOMEZ IS THERE! HE'S MISSED FROM SIX YARDS! That's a dreadful miss! The linesman says he's offside but he isn't - and had he scored that should have stood. 8:24PM 67 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Olsen punches a cross from right away, Germany try to keep up the pressure but eventually Sweden finally get the ball and try to just keep it for a while. Possession: Germany vs Sweden 8:23PM 65 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 The ball drops for Kroos on the edge of the area, he sets up the shot and hits it... but a sliding tackle comes flying in and gives Germany a corner. Kroos takes, it's headed away and Sweden boot the ball up the pitch. Neuer is 40 yards off his line again to start the passing move. 8:21PM 63 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 An ITV stat tells me that these are the players to have made the most key passes tonight: Muller 11 Kimmich 9 Boateng 7 Neuer is 40 yards off his line to recyle play and start another Germany attack. And Kroos has it on the edge of the area, fakes to shoot but his actual shot is then blocked. 8:19PM 61 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Look at the difference in the passing! Sweden all long, Germany tippy-tappy across the middle. That's starting to change a little bit now. Germany vs Sweden And Reus has just gone close to turning a low cross from Kimmich into the goal! Reus goes for a back heel flick - like Kanu - but kicks thin air and tumbles to the floor. That should have been a goal. 8:17PM 59 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Gomez sprints down the left as Germany have a little chance to counter-attack but Sweden get back and shut down the danger. Boateng tries to follow up and brings the ball towards the box - like Beckenbauer - but his forward pass is poor and easily intercepted. Sweden go long but Rudiger reads the play well and wins the header. 8:14PM 57 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Gundogan goes on a run but does too much and Sweden can break now. Boateng sweeps up the danger and Germany are at half way within a couple of seconds. It's a much higher tempo, forward thinking and Werner is causing problems on the left wing. He beats his man and finds Hector in the penalty area! He controls... shoots and the goalkeeper saves. Low does some windmill gestures on the sidelines, trying to get his players all fired up. 8:12PM 55 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Credit: GETTY IMAGES Germany are finding space in behind to run into now. That's what direct passing will do for you. 8:11PM 53 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Muller is really wound up and has a little battle with Ekdal off the ball, while Werner is obstructed and wins a free-kick wide left. Germany pass patiently but there's bit more zip and purpose to it. Sweden win a goal kick. Olsen takes his time. 8:08PM 51 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Germany have a free-kick wide right of the Sweden box. Rudiger and Boateng are getting feisty with Toivonen, Kroos crosses in and MULLER MEETS IT! But his header is wide and slams off the microphone beside the goal. Miss: Germany 1 - 1 Sweden (Thomas Müller, 51 min) Germany are at it now. 8:07PM 49 mins - Germany 1 Sweden 1 Oh my word it's nearly 2-1! Kroos takes a shot from 20 yards and it takes a massive deflection. The goalkeeper is beaten but the ball flies wide of the far post! Germany are all over Sweden here, they look shaky, on the ropes. 8:05PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL! GERMANY ARE BACK IN BUSINESS! Germany 1 - 1 Sweden (Marco Reus, 48 min) Well whatever he said at half time has worked! Werner is out on the left hand side, beats his man and crosses into the box. Everyone misses the ball except Reus who puts a knee on the ball to turn it into the goal. Game on! 8:05PM 47 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 You can already see what Sweden's plan is in this half. Defend deep and take advantage of Germany having so few players - and none with any pace - making risky passes at half way. 8:02PM KICK OFF 2 We're back. Mario Gomez is warmed up and ready to come on, giving Germany an actual focal point for the 20million crosses they're going to ping into the area this half. Remember, if Germany lose, they are OUT of the World Cup. Gomez replaces Draxler. This might bring an end to probing and lead to more direct passing. 7:59PM Stay up to date with all things World Cup If you haven't signed up for our Whatsapp updates yet, I recommend you do. It's great having things sent to your phone: World Cup whatsapp promo 7:58PM Solid joke Pougatch has won joke of the night as a motorbike can be heard in the background of the ITV studio. "I'm not sure what that motorbike is but I wonder if it's Joachim Low making a swift getaway". This result would serve Low right for wearing a t-shirt tbf. 7:56PM What's going wrong? Germany are pushing high up the pitch so it looks like this: The goal came as Kroos gave a pass away to Toivonen and you can see the space that's going to be left if Germany do turnover possession. Straight away they have to chase back and are vulnerable because they are in transition. Sweden attack down one wing quickly and the left midfielder sprints to join in down the left. They don't over commit but because it's a quick counter they don't need to. Gary Neville is laying into Germany's defence: "The centre-backs have been a joke. Boateng thinks he's Beckenbauer! He's played under Pep and thinks he's Beckehnbauer. He's got delusions of grandeur, he really does, wandering about." 7:51PM Half-time stats Possession: Germany vs Sweden It's been all Germany but Sweden's attacks are much more potent. Germany are playing like it's a Legends friendly game and they're going to sub on Jurgen Klinsmann and Lothar Matthaus at half time... Average touch positions (half time) Boateng is Germany's main playmaker again. 7:48PM HALF TIME Magnificent from Sweden. They've defended deep, stayed disciplined and waited to take their chance to counter-attack. When they've been able to they've looked really dangerous and Germany are teetering on the edge of an incredibly early World Cup exit. Joachim Low needs to change things and get his team revved up. What a job he has on his hands now. 7:46PM 45 mins+2 - Germany 0 Sweden 1 That's smart from Boateng. He's in the right halfspace near the box, cuts onto his left and tries an early shot to the near post. The goalkeeper panics and races over to stop it but the shot is just wide. Out: Germany 0 - 1 Sweden (Jérôme Boateng, 45 min) 7:45PM 45 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 Germany are all over the place. They keep letting Sweden in on the counter-attack and Claesson is ridiculously close to cutting inside onto his left foot and getting a shot away from 10 yards. It's a mess here for Germany! 7:42PM 43 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 Forget Neymar's rainbow flick yesterday or any of the flip-flaps we've seen! That little bit of skill by Augustinsson on the left is amazing and it's beaten three Germany players at once. He pretends to drag the ball inside then stops it, rolls, then drag-scoops it between two players. So good. 7:40PM 41 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 Big chance for Germany and they've wasted it! Gundogan takes a shot, Olsen saves and Muller is beaten to the rebound.. then goes crying to the referee about some sort of foul. He is incorrect. 7:39PM 39 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a photograph that is! Perfectly captures the fear in Neuer's eyes and the arc of the ball. Credit: GETTY IMAGES 7:37PM 37 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 Sweden are enjoying more of the ball now and are doing so higher up the pitch. What is wrong with this Germany team? This isn't working at the moment. 7:35PM 35 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 1 What a noise when that goal went in. The Sweden fans are bouncing in the stands, Germany are rocked. 7:32PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! SWEDEN HAVE TAKEN THE LEAD! Germany 0 - 1 Sweden (Ola Toivonen, 32 min) What a brilliant finish this is. Sweden have the ball on the right and a fantastic pass into the box is controlled superbly by Toivonen, who shields the ball and then lobs Neuer with a perfect finish. What a goal. And what a shock this could be! 7:32PM 32 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Rudy is furious that he's not being allowed back on. But that injury looked nasty and is technically a head injury. It's unclear whether the doctor has said he can't continue or if the change has been brought about because they don't have a replacement shirt for him... Gundogan is on in his place. 7:30PM 31 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Rudy is still standing shirtless on the sidelines. Low appears to be losing his patience. He needs a new top because the other one is covered in blood but he's also having a member of staff putting ice on the back of his neck. Germany might make a substitution here. 7:29PM 29 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Sweden are passing around Germany's half! [puts on party hat] They're taking advantage of Germany being down to 10 men at the moment and Hector has to head at the back post to get a cross behind. Corner. The big defenders are forward for it. Werner heads away, Sweden keep the ball. 7:27PM 27 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 That looks like a burst lip and a whack to the nose, which is still bleeding. Rudy goes to change his shirt but he'll need his nose seen to before he can come on. Germany are slowly passing around their own half while he's seen to. Sweden aren't even considering pressing higher to try and win the ball off him. 7:25PM 25 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Berg goes tumbling as Boateng closes in Credit: AFP Rudy is bleeding a lot out of his face and Sweden are concerned about him. Toivonen's caught him in the nose with his heel. Ow. He's down receiving treatment but that will have rattled him. 7:23PM 23 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Germany really need to score here before this turns into a very frustrating night. Sweden could defend like this all night. 7:21PM 21 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 It's just Germany attacking, Sweden defending. No goals, no shots. 7:19PM 19 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Possession: Germany vs Sweden It's kinda one sided... but Sweden look so dangerous on the counter-attack! Possession means nothing if you can't do anything with it. 7:17PM 17 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Lee Dixon raises an interesting point. "If there's nobody there, he gets a shot away" and because Boateng puts his foot in, he doesn't. Still, a team of referees have decided that's not a foul having reviewed it so I'm inclined to side with their opinion. Germany are back in the Sweden final third now, switching play, looking for an opening... but there are too many players heavily marked. 7:14PM 15 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Boateng's attempted tackle sends Berg over... but they're both running at pace and it doesn't look like a penalty to me. And the referee team have concluded that it isn't a foul. Controversy! 7:13PM 13 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Boateng never hides away from the ball and always seems to be in a decent position to help his side keep the passes going. But he's given it away! SWEDEN ARE AWAY! It's Mexico all over again... here goes the striker, Berg's behind the defence, Boateng can't get close and he's one on one with the goalkeeper! He goes down! Is that a penalty? Play continues but VAR will review it. Attempt Saved: Germany 0 - 0 Sweden (Marcus Berg, 12 min) Germany have really gotten away with that! 7:11PM 11 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Germany have made 122 passes so far. Sweden six. Germany vs Sweden 7:09PM 10 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Big chance Germany! Kimmich is the creator again, having the ball wide right and playing a through-pass ahead of Reus' run. It's perfectly weighted, Reus is in behind but his cutback is knocked behind for a corner. Germany pass patiently around the Sweden half looking for an opening. 7:08PM 8 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 But now we see the counter-attack! Germany have made the same mistake early on, two players racing to try and intercept but losing out and suddenly Sweden area away. Forsberg has two chasing defenders, goes past one but is then crowded out on the edge of the Germany box. Germany attack again, Draxler is down the left and he pokes a pass across the box which is just wide of the far post. 7:06PM 6 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 It looks like Rudiger is playing as sweeper, Boateng and Hector taking up positions either side of him when Germany have possession. Germany are already all over Sweden. This could be a long night. 7:03PM 4 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Germany are passing the ball around the final third nicely, Kimmich pulling out wide right... and he hits a cross in that comes off a defender and then lands with Werner! He's inside the six yard box, crosses low and DRAXLER MUST SCORE! Blocked! How has he missed?! Sweden have really gone into defensive mode here. Is it not too early to do that? 7:02PM 2 mins - Germany 0 Sweden 0 Germany get the ball straight away and calmly play out from the back. Sure enough, Sweden immediately drop back into their deep 4-4-2 shape. 7:00PM KICK OFF National anthems are done, the players are ready. Here we go! Sweden start the match. 6:55PM Bad news for Sweden fans Alles Klar, Germany will win, count on it..... the hoff has spoken ✌�� pic.twitter.com/LdvT9cgIn1— David Hasselhoff (@DavidHasselhoff) June 23, 2018 6:53PM Neuer will be involved tonight But probably not in his actual goalmouth, as I (hopefully) explain in the above video! 6:49PM The lineups This is what the game will look like on paper (and on your screen) but in attack it'll be very different. Gary Neville has just said it's boring to play against Sweden because they slow the game down with such a defensive approach to it. This what the game will actually look like. The key differences are that Sweden won't leave two players high either side of the striker to allow counter-attacks and - crucially - Rudy won't go missing from that holding position like Khedira did. 6:43PM Some of you might not get this Daniel Johnston during the ad break then Joy Division as part of the football coverage. Shame to see ITV pandering to Partick Thistle fans like this.— Oldfirmfacts (@Oldfirmfacts1) June 23, 2018 6:35PM ITV pundits on chances of a Sweden win Patrice Evra If he change two players at the back he's really not happy with his defence. When you change two... normally you never change your backline. Henrik Larsson I don't think they're nervous because they're Germany. There's a lot of hope from my point of view, if we can manage to get a draw that would be fantastic. If we win, it would be a miracle. Germany's going to have the ball a lot. It's important for us to play when we get possession and maybe we can do something from a set piece. 6:26PM Lovely photos There are heaps of great pictures that have been taken during this World Cup and we have compiled a bunch of them into this very pleasant gallery: Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 6:16PM Mexico beat South Korea.... Which means Germany will be out of the World Cup if they lose this. No pressure, lads. 6:06PM What went wrong for Germany last time Credit: FIFA Too many players charged up the pitch in their defeat to Mexico, three Mexican forwards stayed high to wait for counter-attacks and Germany were duly punished. The key changes are Ozil, who provided absolutely no midfield cover in defence and didn't offer enough in attack, and Khedira, who was supposed to play as a six and shield the defence, link play and act as a pivot in midfield. Rudy will absolutely fix the latter problem, Reus will be a more dynamic, hustle-and-bustle replacement for Ozil. Kimmich and Hector will still fly up the wings but as long as Rudy holds his position and doesn't get too separated from Kroos they'll have some cover. Sweden won't be able to counter-attack in quite the same way Mexico did and this will be a different game. The big challenge will be creating chances in the final third against a really well drilled Swedish defence while ensuring they don't over commit like we saw against Mexico. 6:01PM Sweden team Sweden starting XI (4-4-2) Olsen; Lustig, Lindelof, Granqvist, Augustinsson; Larsson, Ekdal, Claesson, Forsberg; Toivonen, Berg 5:54PM Who's going to win? That's a signal of intent from Joachim Low and it'll be really interesting to see how the team reacts. It's also notable that Mats Hummels - who was so critical of his teammates after the game - has been benched for Rudiger (although Low did say this was due to illness/injury). Sweden are a strong team but lack an individual star. I can see their game plan being to contain and frustrate and attack quickly down the wings - Kimmich and Hector will leave space in behind to take advantage of. World Cup 2018 Simulator Single Game 5:46PM Germany team news - Ozil and Khedira are dropped! Unsere Startelf �������� 1 Neuer (C) 3 Hector 7 Draxler 8 Kroos 9 Werner 11 Reus 13 Müller 16 Rüdiger 17 Boateng 18 Kimmich 19 Rudy #ZSMMN#DieMannschaft#WM2018pic.twitter.com/7IPJUyTR9v— Die Mannschaft (@DFB_Team) June 23, 2018 Well well well. The rumours were true! Marco Reus and Jonas Hector are in and Sebastian Rudy replaces Khedira. Low hasn't held back here. 5:40PM Where's the game today? World Cup 2018 stadium: Fisht Stadium The delightfully named Fisht stadium, which as we all know, is in Sochi. This is the venue in which Germany must win to avoid one of the all time biggest World Cup upsets. 5:31PM Big team news... Exclusive: @MesutOzil1088 and @SamiKhedira are not in the starting line-up @SPORTBILD@BILD_Sport— Christian Falk (@cfbayern) June 23, 2018 I'm not sure how valid this is but the source is fairly solid and Mesut Ozil was awful in the last game. Khedira was caught out of position way too often as well. 5:30PM Hello! Welcome to our liveblog for the last game of day 10 of the 2018 World Cup! It's Germany vs Sweden and remarkably it's really difficult to call who's going to win it. Sweden have three points thanks to their narrow win over South Korea (and with the help of VAR) while Germany were torn apart by Mexico, playing a suicidal high line and sending full-backs miles up the pitch only to suffer for it. Joachim Low's team have been out of sorts for quite a time now and there have been rallying calls from the players to address it. "We're under real pressure now," said Toni Kroos. "We have to get six points from the next games. "We didn't play well enough. Overall, we had our chances, but we weren't able to score. "We lost the ball up front far too easily and Mexico had always two or three people up front, who we failed to block efficiently." World Cup 2018 tactics: Why Germany's goalkeeper is key to how they attack Mats Hummels wasn't quite so nice about it: “Mexico deserved the win – our cover was often not good and we were left many times with Jérôme [Boateng] and myself at the back,” he said. “If seven of eight players are attacking then it’s clear our attacking power is greater. But that’s something that I have often talked about internally. It doesn’t always bear fruit. “A wake-up call is too late. We now must win two games, otherwise that is that with the World Cup. I don’t really understand why we played like we played because, really, we already had our wake-up call.” Credit: FIFA Supporters of both teams are having a lovely old time in the Russia sun (though those clouds look ominous) and team news will be with us really soon. When that happens we can try and figure out how both teams plan to approach this but you can bet Sweden will be a 4-4-2, low block and focus play down the wings, while Germany will be keen to AVENGE their opening game defeat. It could be a cracker, it could also be a frustrating 90 minutes for the Germans. Only time will tell! And that time is... soon.
Guide to the best World Cup free bets and offers What is it? The second round of matches is underway as Germany take on Sweden in Group F. The much-fancied Germans were stunned in their opening game, going down 1-0 to Mexico, so a win against the Swedes is vital if they are to qualify from the group stages. Sweden got their campaign up and running with a 1-0 win over South Korea. And a win for Janne Andersson's side could see reigning world champions Germany exit the World Cup after the first round for the first time in 80 years. When is it? It's today, so Saturday, June 23. What time is kick-off? 7pm UK time. What TV channel is it on? ITV 1. Alternatively, you can follow the match live with us on Telegraph Sport. Where is the game being played? Fisht Stadium, Sochi. World Cup 2018 stadium: Fisht Stadium What is the team news? There's been significant debate about the role of Marco Reus and whether he should be starting for Germany. Reus came on in the 60th minute against Mexico and Germany's attack was notably better once he got involved. But Reus has suffered significant injuries the past few seasons, none bigger than a knee injury that caused him to miss more than half of last season with Dortmund. "I really have no say in this. All I can do is make is as hard as possible for them to do without me," Reus said. "I try and give my all in training, offer myself and do hope of course I'll be picked in order to help Germany get out of the group." World Cup 2018 Simulator Single Game The squads in full: Germany Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Kevin Trapp (Paris St Germain). Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Matthias Ginter (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Marvin Plattenhardt (Hertha Berlin), Antonio Ruediger (Chelsea), Niklas Suele (Bayern Munich). Midfielders: Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen), Julian Draxler (Paris St Germain), Leon Goretzka (Schalke 04), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Sami Khedira (Juventus), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Sebastian Rudy (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal). Forwards: Mario Gomez (VfB Stuttgart), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich), Timo Werner (RB Leipzig). ----- Sweden Robin Olsen, Karl-Johan Johnsson, Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Mikael Lustig, Victor Lindelof, Andreas Granqvist, Martin Olsson, Ludwig Augustinsson, Filip Helander, Emil Krafth, Pontus Jansson, Sebastian Larsson, Albin Ekdal, Emil Forsberg, Gustav Svensson, Oscar Hiljemark, Viktor Claesson, Marcus Rohden, Jimmy Durmaz, Marcus Berg, John Guidetti, Ola Toivonen, Isaac Kiese Thelin. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more What's the latest news? Sweden's World Cup clash with Germany in Sochi on Saturday will carry extra sporting spice for their defender Martin Olsson because his sister is married to top German basketball player Dirk Nowitzki. As soon as the draw was made the full-back's phone started buzzing with messages from his brother-in-law, who plays for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA on the other side of the Atlantic. "He's a big football fan, so there's a lot of football talk in the family," Olsson said. "We have a family chat on WhatsApp so there's been a good bit of banter. He probably wants Germany to win but it hasn't got serious yet, before the game starts it probably will." Sweden outlasted Holland to advance in World Cup qualifying. When the Swedes got to the European play-off round and a chance to reach Russia, they methodically eliminated past champion Italy over two games. At this point, why not knock out another high-profile team - and the pre-tournament favourites at that? If that were to happen, it would be the second consecutive World Cup where the defending champion have been knocked out of contention before the knockout stage. test - do not delete "We need to dare to do even more," Sweden coach Janne Andersson said after beating South Korea 1-0 in its opener. Beating Germany would certainly throw even more chaos into an already unpredictable World Cup. Sweden will find a wounded Germany line-up trying to rebound from a 1-0 loss to Mexico in the opener where they were thoroughly outplayed. It was the first time since 1982 that a German team lost its opening match at the World Cup. And immediately questions followed about the state of the squad. What stood out in the loss to Mexico was Germany's susceptibility to the counter attack and the number of scoring opportunities allowed. "Against Sweden it will be a different set-up. Sweden has different strengths and weaknesses compared to Mexico," Thomas Mueller said. "I don't expect them to be as fantastically gifted when it comes to transitions as the Mexicans, but having said that they have some players that can hurt us on the offensive." test - do not delete What are the odds? Germany to win - 4/9 Draw - 7/2 Sweden to win - 8/1 What's our prediction? Germany and Sweden haven't met since qualifying for the 2014 World Cup when they were in the same group. The teams played out a 4-4 draw in Berlin, before Germany earned a 5-3 win in Sweden on Oct 15, 2013. Another goalfest would be just what this tournament needs. Prediction: Germany 3 Sweden 2 WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
World Cup 2018, Germany vs Sweden: What time is kick-off today, what TV channel is it on and what is our prediction?
Guide to the best World Cup free bets and offers What is it? The second round of matches is underway as Germany take on Sweden in Group F. The much-fancied Germans were stunned in their opening game, going down 1-0 to Mexico, so a win against the Swedes is vital if they are to qualify from the group stages. Sweden got their campaign up and running with a 1-0 win over South Korea. And a win for Janne Andersson's side could see reigning world champions Germany exit the World Cup after the first round for the first time in 80 years. When is it? It's today, so Saturday, June 23. What time is kick-off? 7pm UK time. What TV channel is it on? ITV 1. Alternatively, you can follow the match live with us on Telegraph Sport. Where is the game being played? Fisht Stadium, Sochi. World Cup 2018 stadium: Fisht Stadium What is the team news? There's been significant debate about the role of Marco Reus and whether he should be starting for Germany. Reus came on in the 60th minute against Mexico and Germany's attack was notably better once he got involved. But Reus has suffered significant injuries the past few seasons, none bigger than a knee injury that caused him to miss more than half of last season with Dortmund. "I really have no say in this. All I can do is make is as hard as possible for them to do without me," Reus said. "I try and give my all in training, offer myself and do hope of course I'll be picked in order to help Germany get out of the group." World Cup 2018 Simulator Single Game The squads in full: Germany Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Kevin Trapp (Paris St Germain). Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Matthias Ginter (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Marvin Plattenhardt (Hertha Berlin), Antonio Ruediger (Chelsea), Niklas Suele (Bayern Munich). Midfielders: Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen), Julian Draxler (Paris St Germain), Leon Goretzka (Schalke 04), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Sami Khedira (Juventus), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Sebastian Rudy (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal). Forwards: Mario Gomez (VfB Stuttgart), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich), Timo Werner (RB Leipzig). ----- Sweden Robin Olsen, Karl-Johan Johnsson, Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Mikael Lustig, Victor Lindelof, Andreas Granqvist, Martin Olsson, Ludwig Augustinsson, Filip Helander, Emil Krafth, Pontus Jansson, Sebastian Larsson, Albin Ekdal, Emil Forsberg, Gustav Svensson, Oscar Hiljemark, Viktor Claesson, Marcus Rohden, Jimmy Durmaz, Marcus Berg, John Guidetti, Ola Toivonen, Isaac Kiese Thelin. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more What's the latest news? Sweden's World Cup clash with Germany in Sochi on Saturday will carry extra sporting spice for their defender Martin Olsson because his sister is married to top German basketball player Dirk Nowitzki. As soon as the draw was made the full-back's phone started buzzing with messages from his brother-in-law, who plays for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA on the other side of the Atlantic. "He's a big football fan, so there's a lot of football talk in the family," Olsson said. "We have a family chat on WhatsApp so there's been a good bit of banter. He probably wants Germany to win but it hasn't got serious yet, before the game starts it probably will." Sweden outlasted Holland to advance in World Cup qualifying. When the Swedes got to the European play-off round and a chance to reach Russia, they methodically eliminated past champion Italy over two games. At this point, why not knock out another high-profile team - and the pre-tournament favourites at that? If that were to happen, it would be the second consecutive World Cup where the defending champion have been knocked out of contention before the knockout stage. test - do not delete "We need to dare to do even more," Sweden coach Janne Andersson said after beating South Korea 1-0 in its opener. Beating Germany would certainly throw even more chaos into an already unpredictable World Cup. Sweden will find a wounded Germany line-up trying to rebound from a 1-0 loss to Mexico in the opener where they were thoroughly outplayed. It was the first time since 1982 that a German team lost its opening match at the World Cup. And immediately questions followed about the state of the squad. What stood out in the loss to Mexico was Germany's susceptibility to the counter attack and the number of scoring opportunities allowed. "Against Sweden it will be a different set-up. Sweden has different strengths and weaknesses compared to Mexico," Thomas Mueller said. "I don't expect them to be as fantastically gifted when it comes to transitions as the Mexicans, but having said that they have some players that can hurt us on the offensive." test - do not delete What are the odds? Germany to win - 4/9 Draw - 7/2 Sweden to win - 8/1 What's our prediction? Germany and Sweden haven't met since qualifying for the 2014 World Cup when they were in the same group. The teams played out a 4-4 draw in Berlin, before Germany earned a 5-3 win in Sweden on Oct 15, 2013. Another goalfest would be just what this tournament needs. Prediction: Germany 3 Sweden 2 WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
For a man peering into the eye of a storm, Joachim Low cut a remarkably serene figure. He was unflappable as he fielded an array of pressing questions with that familiar stony-faced glint but did not pass up an opportunity to lighten the mood when the opportunity arose. A little later, the Germany coach did not appear to have a care in the world as he indulged in a few tricks and flicks in the centre circle on the Fisht Stadium pitch while his players warmed up ahead of their final training session before tomorrow night’s potentially pivotal game against Sweden. If only his team had exuded such calm and conviction in their opening match against Mexico last Sunday, a result more shocking for the manner of defeat than the actual loss itself, their position at this World Cup would not be so fragile. If Germany lose to Sweden here and Mexico avoid defeat in the earlier game against South Korea, the world champions will become the fourth holders in the past five tournaments to be eliminated at the group stage. In eight tournaments as either assistant coach or head coach of the Germans, Low has never exited before the semi-final stage, but the prospect of joining France (2002), Italy (2010) and Spain (2014) on that list of cursed champions looms large. “Of course, as the title holder and as the Confederations Cup winner, the situation we face now is a different one,” Low said. “We’re in a position where everyone is highly motivated and determined to win against us, so it’s very difficult to maintain that motivation and hunger. That’s why in almost 100 years there are not many who have been able to retain the World Cup. World Cup 2018 Simulator Single Game “Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014 were not able to dominate and repeat the feat. It’s clearly not easy to achieve it. We have to show a reaction [to the Mexico defeat]. We have to deliver. If we win, we’re back in the race and we’ll see how the tournament progresses after that. But talking about that now makes no sense at all. We cannot look beyond this game.” The fallout from the Mexico debacle has been brutal. Striker Mario Gomez likened the reaction back home to “an avalanche” and even Low admitted there was “a lot to digest” in the 48 hours that followed, although the fiercest criticism probably came from within the camp itself. A crisis meeting was held on Tuesday when frank words were exchanged between the players, Low and his staff and, publicly, there has been no attempt to mask their failings. Low is not prone to knee-jerk reactions but the poverty of his team’s display against Mexico, when they overcommitted in attack and left gaping holes for their opponents to exploit on the transition, clearly shocked him and he could make four or five changes against Sweden. One has been enforced. Mats Hummels damaged a vertebrae in his neck in training and is expected to be replaced by his Bayern Munich team-mate, Niklas Sule. Jonas Hector could come in for Marvin Plattenhardt at left-back, Marco Reus is likely to replace Julian Draxler on the left flank and Ilkay Gundogan may deputise for Sami Khedira. Timo Werner could retain Low’s trust up front, despite Gomez knocking on the door. Mesut Ozil was the target for the most sustained criticism but the Arsenal playmaker received a show of confidence from Low, who, for all his dismay at what he witnessed in Moscow, reminded Germany’s critics that the players were too experienced to allow one poor result to rock their confidence. “We’re all subject to criticism in terms of performance but this deep trust in players who have been playing three or four years at a top level will not be shaken by a single match,” he said. “They’ve won titles, so why should that change on the basis of one match? It’s not just Mesut Ozil, all the players received their fair share of criticism. But as far as Mesut Ozil is concerned, everyone knows I hold him in high esteem. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage “We need people who go deep, vertical, who invest in running the full distance and cutting into opposing lines. We can’t do that by simply pinging the ball into the box. High balls, aerial play, Sweden will thank us for that so we need something different.” Sweden, who beat South Korea 1-0 in their opening match thanks to captain Andreas Granqvist’s penalty, had their own problems on the eve of this match. Defenders Pontus Jansson and Filip Helander and midfielder Marcus Rohden did not travel with the rest of the squad to Sochi this morning after being struck down by a stomach bug overnight. Janne Andersson was keen to avoid the risk of any other players falling ill, but given that the affected trio were not expected to start against Germany anyway, the problem was not as troubling for the Sweden coach as it might otherwise have been. The Swedes, who beat Italy in a play-off to reach the finals in Russia, have struck a bullish tone but Andersson dismissed any notion of overconfidence and urged his team to play the game of their lives. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article “I think hubris is probably what we’re least afflicted by,” Janssen said. “This is what you spend your entire life and career working towards. It’s quite amazing, Germany were the big favourites ahead of tournament but we have the prospect of beating them to [potentially] knock them out and qualify for second stage. I don’t think many people could have imagined that.” Sweden are a defensive, compact, physically imposing side who like to break and try to punish opponents on the counter-attack. Germany had a dreadful time dealing with Mexico’s speed on the transition but Low is confident there will be no repeat. “We’ve talked about that a lot – how can we avoid fast breaks on the counter attack,” he said. “We had numerous matches in qualifying against teams with a very defensive style. I am convinced the players will show a reaction.” They will have to.
Crisis? What crisis? Germany coach Joachim Low keeps calm ahead of crunch tie with Sweden
For a man peering into the eye of a storm, Joachim Low cut a remarkably serene figure. He was unflappable as he fielded an array of pressing questions with that familiar stony-faced glint but did not pass up an opportunity to lighten the mood when the opportunity arose. A little later, the Germany coach did not appear to have a care in the world as he indulged in a few tricks and flicks in the centre circle on the Fisht Stadium pitch while his players warmed up ahead of their final training session before tomorrow night’s potentially pivotal game against Sweden. If only his team had exuded such calm and conviction in their opening match against Mexico last Sunday, a result more shocking for the manner of defeat than the actual loss itself, their position at this World Cup would not be so fragile. If Germany lose to Sweden here and Mexico avoid defeat in the earlier game against South Korea, the world champions will become the fourth holders in the past five tournaments to be eliminated at the group stage. In eight tournaments as either assistant coach or head coach of the Germans, Low has never exited before the semi-final stage, but the prospect of joining France (2002), Italy (2010) and Spain (2014) on that list of cursed champions looms large. “Of course, as the title holder and as the Confederations Cup winner, the situation we face now is a different one,” Low said. “We’re in a position where everyone is highly motivated and determined to win against us, so it’s very difficult to maintain that motivation and hunger. That’s why in almost 100 years there are not many who have been able to retain the World Cup. World Cup 2018 Simulator Single Game “Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014 were not able to dominate and repeat the feat. It’s clearly not easy to achieve it. We have to show a reaction [to the Mexico defeat]. We have to deliver. If we win, we’re back in the race and we’ll see how the tournament progresses after that. But talking about that now makes no sense at all. We cannot look beyond this game.” The fallout from the Mexico debacle has been brutal. Striker Mario Gomez likened the reaction back home to “an avalanche” and even Low admitted there was “a lot to digest” in the 48 hours that followed, although the fiercest criticism probably came from within the camp itself. A crisis meeting was held on Tuesday when frank words were exchanged between the players, Low and his staff and, publicly, there has been no attempt to mask their failings. Low is not prone to knee-jerk reactions but the poverty of his team’s display against Mexico, when they overcommitted in attack and left gaping holes for their opponents to exploit on the transition, clearly shocked him and he could make four or five changes against Sweden. One has been enforced. Mats Hummels damaged a vertebrae in his neck in training and is expected to be replaced by his Bayern Munich team-mate, Niklas Sule. Jonas Hector could come in for Marvin Plattenhardt at left-back, Marco Reus is likely to replace Julian Draxler on the left flank and Ilkay Gundogan may deputise for Sami Khedira. Timo Werner could retain Low’s trust up front, despite Gomez knocking on the door. Mesut Ozil was the target for the most sustained criticism but the Arsenal playmaker received a show of confidence from Low, who, for all his dismay at what he witnessed in Moscow, reminded Germany’s critics that the players were too experienced to allow one poor result to rock their confidence. “We’re all subject to criticism in terms of performance but this deep trust in players who have been playing three or four years at a top level will not be shaken by a single match,” he said. “They’ve won titles, so why should that change on the basis of one match? It’s not just Mesut Ozil, all the players received their fair share of criticism. But as far as Mesut Ozil is concerned, everyone knows I hold him in high esteem. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage “We need people who go deep, vertical, who invest in running the full distance and cutting into opposing lines. We can’t do that by simply pinging the ball into the box. High balls, aerial play, Sweden will thank us for that so we need something different.” Sweden, who beat South Korea 1-0 in their opening match thanks to captain Andreas Granqvist’s penalty, had their own problems on the eve of this match. Defenders Pontus Jansson and Filip Helander and midfielder Marcus Rohden did not travel with the rest of the squad to Sochi this morning after being struck down by a stomach bug overnight. Janne Andersson was keen to avoid the risk of any other players falling ill, but given that the affected trio were not expected to start against Germany anyway, the problem was not as troubling for the Sweden coach as it might otherwise have been. The Swedes, who beat Italy in a play-off to reach the finals in Russia, have struck a bullish tone but Andersson dismissed any notion of overconfidence and urged his team to play the game of their lives. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article “I think hubris is probably what we’re least afflicted by,” Janssen said. “This is what you spend your entire life and career working towards. It’s quite amazing, Germany were the big favourites ahead of tournament but we have the prospect of beating them to [potentially] knock them out and qualify for second stage. I don’t think many people could have imagined that.” Sweden are a defensive, compact, physically imposing side who like to break and try to punish opponents on the counter-attack. Germany had a dreadful time dealing with Mexico’s speed on the transition but Low is confident there will be no repeat. “We’ve talked about that a lot – how can we avoid fast breaks on the counter attack,” he said. “We had numerous matches in qualifying against teams with a very defensive style. I am convinced the players will show a reaction.” They will have to.
The Bayern Munich centre-back is suffering from a neck injury he picked up in training and will not feature in their second World Cup match
Hummels keeping hopes up despite Low ruling him out of Germany clash with Sweden
The Bayern Munich centre-back is suffering from a neck injury he picked up in training and will not feature in their second World Cup match
The Bayern Munich centre-back is suffering from a neck injury he picked up in training and will not feature in their second World Cup match
Hummels keeping hopes up despite Low ruling him out of Germany clash with Sweden
The Bayern Munich centre-back is suffering from a neck injury he picked up in training and will not feature in their second World Cup match
FILE - In this Jan, 27, 2018 file photo Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann arrives for the German Soccer Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Munich and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file)
Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann to join Leipzig next year
FILE - In this Jan, 27, 2018 file photo Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann arrives for the German Soccer Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Munich and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file)
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. 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Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. 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Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tuni