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The 5 most exciting players of the World Cup so far

 • by Mark Thompson
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The World Cup has rattled along at a surprisingly fast and enjoyable pace.

At the time of writing, we are yet to see a scoreless draw, while we have been treated to a few thrilling spectacles, with Spain and Portugal’s 3-3 and Mexico’s 1-0 victory over holders Germany standing out.

So, who have been the most exciting players of the World Cup so far? Here are five that have caught our eye during the opening week.

Hirving Lozano

Lozano was one of Football Whispers’ ones to watch before the tournament started and he showed why in Mexico’s opener against Germany.

His pace and skill on the ball made El Tri’s counter-attacks deadly and he finished one off with a goal.

But he wasn’t just about the dribbling (although he did complete four take-ons), he put together a very well-rounded game as well.

He took two shots and set up three, meaning that he was involved in 38 per cent of his side’s attempts at goal.

And with two tackles, three interceptions, and a 91 per cent pass accuracy, the Everton transfer target was a safe presence on both sides of the ball.

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England’s front four

This is a bit of a cheat, but it’s impossible to separate them – England’s front four were on fire during the first half against Tunisia.

The interplay and enterprising runs were thrilling, and the half-time Expected Goals tells you all you need to know.

Dele Alli was involved in three shots; Jesse Lingard four; Raheem Sterling two, including setting up one big chance, and completed five take-ons; and Harry Kane scored two goals from his three shots.

Oghenekaro Etebo

The 22-year-old Nigerian is the World Cup leader in successful take-ons after completing an amazing nine against Croatia (second place is Lionel Messi, on eight).

Etebo was unlucky to see an Ivan Perisić header bounce off him and into his own net in the first half, but he spent the rest of the game trying to make the game tough for the Croats.

As well as his speedster dribbling tendencies, he set up two shots and helped his defence out as well, making seven ball recoveries.

Etebo is used to tournament football – he scored four goals in three games for Nigeria during the 2016 Olympics. He’s on the books at Stoke City, so maybe his sparkling form will be a source of comfort for Stoke fans after their relegation last season.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo’s hat-trick against Spain was arguably the best part of the first round of matches. Coming off the back of Russia beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 the previous day, this was World Cup 2018 with the ‘goals’ tap firmly turned on to full power.

They were perfectly spaced as well – one, a penalty, after four minutes, one just before half-time, and one just before full-time.

He did relatively little apart from scoring the goals. Besides them, he took just one shot, set up just one chance, and failed one attempted take-on. But those three goals were excitement enough and obviously shaped the final result. And then, to top it off, he scored within the first five minutes against Morocco to – eventually – knock them out of the tournament.

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Grzegorz Krychowiak

Excitement doesn’t always come from attacking players.

With a goal of his own and a major part in one of the most bizarre goals of the tournament, Krychowiak was certainly involved in the action. In his defence, he wasn’t to know that M’Baye Niang had been allowed on the pitch, but there aren’t many excuses for a looping, 60-yard back-pass in the first place.

The Pole also made three tackles and completed the fourth most passes into the attacking third during the game against Senegal with 11, so he was part of proceedings at both sides of the ball all game.

A celebration of Krychowiak is a celebration of what makes the World Cup great; largely harmless yet bizarre sequences that will delight generations to come.

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