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World Cup 2018: Every country's star man to watch in Russia

RUSSIA: Igor Akinfeev

Age: 32
Caps: 104
Position: Goalkeeper
Akinfeev is the national captain and has kept more clean sheets for Russia than any other keeper in their history, as well as featuring more than 500 times for CSKA Moscow.

SAUDI ARABIA: Fahad Al-Muwallad

Age: 23
Caps: 42
Position: Forward
One of Asia’s leading talents, Al-Muwallad spent the past six months on loan at Levante in La Liga, but only made two substitute appearances.

EGYPT: Mo Salah

Age: 25
Caps: 57
Position: Forward
The last time we saw Salah proved to be agonising viewing as he exited the Champions League final with an injury – can he bounce back in the grandest manner and inspire his country with the eyes of the world on him?

URUGUAY: Luis Suarez

Age: 31
Caps: 97
Position: Forward
Suarez will make his 100th appearance in Russia and he’ll be hoping for less controversy this time around, after a quarter-final red card at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and a biting incident at the 2014 finals in Brazil.

PORTUGAL: Cristiano Ronaldo

Age: 33
Caps: 150
Position: Forward
After his glory at Euro 2016, and four European Cups in five years under his belt, is it next stop rule the world for the incredible Real Madrid superstar?

SPAIN: Isco

Age: 26
Caps: 27
Position: Midfielder
It’s surprising to see that a player of Isco’s qualities has so few caps at his age, but it is time for him to come to the fore in the national side with the likes of Cesc Fabregas left out.

MOROCCO: Hakim Ziyech

Age: 25
Caps: 15
Position: Midfielder
Dutch-born Ziyech only swapped allegiances in 2015 but he’s found the net eight times from just 15 games already, since making his Morocco debut in 2015.

IRAN: Sardar Azmoun

Age: 23
Caps: 32
Position: Forward
The Rubin Kazan youngster is almost averaging a goal a game for his country and was outstanding during qualifying – more big things are expected from him in Russia.

FRANCE: Antoine Griezmann

Age: 27
Caps: 53
Position: Forward
The Atletico Madrid star won the Golden Boot at Euro 2016, with six goals and two assists, but will want to right the wrongs of France losing the final to Portugal on home soil.

AUSTRALIA: Tim Cahill

Age: 38
Caps: 105
Position: Forward
Last seen at Millwall, Cahill redefines the word talisman for Australia, and at the age of 38 he will become part of a select group of players to feature at four World Cup finals.

PERU: Christian Cueva

Age: 26
Caps: 44
Position: Forward
Scotland felt the force of the Sao Paulo playmaker in their recent friendly and the Sao Paulo star could well shine in Russia.

DENMARK: Christian Eriksen

Age: 26
Caps: 77
Position: Midfielder
The excellent Eriksen was a huge factor in Denmark making the finals – he scored eight goals in qualification, and then netted a hat-trick in Denmark’s decisive 5-1 play-off win in Ireland.

ARGENTINA: Lionel Messi

Age: 30
Caps: 124
Position: Forward

The mesmeric Argentine great inspired his country to the World Cup final four years ago in Brazil – can he and they go one step further in what could well be Messi’s tournament swansong?

ICELAND: Gylfi Sigurdsson

Age: 28
Caps: 57
Position: Midfielder
Iceland’s success in recent times has been one of the most romantic stories in the history of international football – Everton’s Sigurdsson has been central to it all, and he will doubtless be again in Russia.

CROATIA: Luca Modric

Age: 32
Caps: 105
Position: Midfielder

The stylish Modric has a mountain of experience at tournament level – this is his sixth major finals, going back to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

NIGERIA: Victor Moses

Age: 27
Caps: 33
Position: Winger

Chelsea’s pacy wide man is coming into the World Cup on the back of an indifferent season but is certainly a matchwinner on his day.

BRAZIL: Neymar

Age: 26
Caps: 84
Position: Forward
We’re not quite talking Ronaldo 2002 levels, but Neymar may well be thinking redemption here – he was injured during Brazil’s quarter-final with Colombia four years ago, and missed the embarrassing 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany.

SWITZERLAND: Xherdan Shaqiri

Age: 26
Caps: 68
Position: Midfielder

Shaqiri’s wand of a left foot might not have kept Stoke up but he normally fires at international level, and with Liverpool, Everton and Southampton all linked with a move, he’ll want to put himself in the shop window.

COSTA RICA: Bryan Ruiz

Age: 32
Caps: 81
Position: Midfielder

The former Fulham star is a real lynchpin for his country and showed he belonged on the biggest stage at the 2014 World Cup, where he famously scored the winner to sink Italy.

SERBIA: Nemanja Matic

Age: 29
Caps: 39
Position: Midfielder

His club manager Jose Mourinho may be hoping Serbia exit the tournament early, but Manchester United man Matic will be desperate to help his country to runners-up spot behind Brazil in their group.

GERMANY: Toni Kroos

Age: 28
Caps: 82
Position: Midfielder
The Real Madrid star is already vastly experienced at international level, and was part of the Germany team that triumphed in 2014, which included a man of the match performance in the 7-1 semi-final thrashing of hosts Brazil.

MEXICO: Javier Hernandez

Age: 30
Caps: 101
Position: Striker

Some of his previous club managers may question his worth, but a goal every other game for his country demonstrates his undoubted importance.

SWEDEN: Emil Forsberg

Age: 26
Caps: 33
Position: Winger

The RB Leipzig man has plenty of admirers in Europe and a promising tournament could set off an auction, whilst Sweden need him to fire if they’re to get out of a tough group.

SOUTH KOREA: Son Heung-Min

Age: 25
Caps: 64
Position: Forward

With 39 goals across the past two Premier League seasons, Tottenham’s Son has established himself as one of the most underrated players in the top-flight – and he’s South Korea’s star man.

BELGIUM: Eden Hazard

Age: 27
Caps: 85
Position: Midfielder
The Chelsea star is one of the true greats of world football, and when at his best, is simply a joy to watch – England beware in their final group game.

PANAMA: Gabriel Torres

Age: 29
Caps: 68
Position: Forward
The one to watch for Gareth Southgate’s men in Russia perhaps – the experienced Torres has plenty of international experience, having played for his country for 13 years

TUNISIA: Wahbi Khazri

Age: 27
Caps: 35
Position: Midfielder

Khazri may not have lit it up Sunderland, but his record for Tunisia is impressive and if they are to surprise everyone and get out their group, he’ll need to play well – England must be wary in their tournament opener.

ENGLAND: Harry Kane

Age: 24
Caps: 24
Position: Forward
Kane doesn’t have vast international experience, and this is his first World Cup, but the Tottenham man seems to have all the attributes to shine on the biggest stage.

POLAND: Robert Lewandowski

Age: 29
Caps: 93
Position: Forward

Talk about your perfect shop window – the Bayern Munich striker wants out, and a good World Cup will only increase his appeal to potential buyers.

SENEGAL: Sadio Mane

Age: 26
Caps: 50
Position: Forward

After four impressive seasons in the Premier League, Mane has found himself linked with Real Madrid in recent weeks and is sure to be Senegal’s biggest threat.

COLOMBIA: James Rodriguez

Age: 26
Caps: 62
Position: Winger

Rodriguez was one of the standout performers of the 2014 World Cup, and will again be the main man as Colombia aim to repeat their heroics of reaching the quarter-finals four years ago.

JAPAN: Shinji Kagawa

Age: 29
Caps: 89
Position: Midfielder

Japan have shown faith in their old guard and Borussia Dortmund’s playmaker was the first name on their squad list – a proper talisman for his country.

The eyes of the world will be on Russia throughout the World Cup – as well as its star names.

From Rodriguez to Ronaldo, and Suarez to Salah (hopefully), the world’s biggest names will all be desperate to showcase their talents on the biggest stage.

Some are international tournament veterans, while others are appearing at the world’s biggest football tournament for the first time.

Here are the 32 stars – one for each nation – to look out for in Russia. Click through the slideshow (or scroll down on mobile) to see all 32 players.

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