The World Cup is a matter of form. Cup competitions are all about who brings their A-game on the day, no chance to be redeemed for off-days, and a hot streak can make all the difference.
With that in mind, who will be carrying their end-of-season mojo into this summer’s action in Russia?
The German was his nation’s main chance creator in qualifying and was in a rich vein of form towards the end of the season. From April onwards, he set up 1.02 Expected Goals per 90, the highest amount of any player for that period in Europe’s Big Five leagues.
He also posted a pretty handy 0.34 xG90 with his own shots. If that wasn’t enough, he was out-performing this hugely, contributing 2.25 goals and assists per 90.
Müller is a threat at any time, but if he carries this record into Russia, the world better watch out.
One of Morocco’s hottest prospects, Madrid-born Hakimi tore up La Liga in his two games for Real towards the end of the season.
The 19-year-old right-back scored one of Real Madrid’s six goals against Celta Vigo in May, as well as playing in a 2-1 victory over Leganés on April 28.
He managed ten successful take-ons and got seven touches in the opposition box over the two games, while making three tackles and two interceptions.
Morocco will need to play well to get out of a group that Spain and Portugal are favourites to dominate, and Hakimi could help them do this.
Leicester City got their business done early signing the 24-year-old Portuguese right-back, Leicester City perhaps anticipating a strong performance at the World Cup.
In the run of games from the start of April to the end of the season, Pereira made 5.85 tackles per 90, the second highest amount in Europe’s top leagues (behind only 33-year-old Johann Ramaré at Valenciennes).
He also got an assist in Porto’s match against Vitoria de Setubal in late April, part of his 1.89 key passes per 90 during this time period.
Müller’s Bayern Munich team-mate was also in top-form towards the back-end of last season.
The Pole was getting chances worth 1.23 xG90 from the start of April, the highest rate in Europe’s Five leagues – form which has, reportedly, made him a Chelsea transfer target.
Taking into account shot placement though, Lewandowski’s numbers shoot up to 1.9 9xG90 when using a ‘post-shot’ Expected Goals model.
Imagine! Chance quality worth two whole goals per game! Defenders, you have been warned.
Poland are doubly lucky, because they have two of the most in-form forwards in Europe at their disposal.
From the start of April to the end of the season, Milik was getting chances worth 0.82xG90 for Napoli, rising to 1.21 taking shot placement into account.
The Poles are part of arguably the easiest group of the tournament, alongside Senegal, Colombia, and Japan. If Lewandowski and Milik keep this up, Poland could be swanning into the round of 16 in no time.
If Iceland need a set-piece specialist during the World Cup, this is the man they should turn to.
From 1 April onwards, the Burnley midfielder provided over two set-piece key passes per 90, the third highest rate in the Big Five for that time period.
He wasn’t averse to creating in open play either, providing 0.68 key passes per 90. Iceland are in a tight group with Argentina, Croatia, and Nigeria, and a good delivery from Guðmundsson’s boot could make all the difference.