The two international stars everyone loves, or hates, have been booted from the World Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal side and Lionel Messi’s Argentina squad lost in the round of 16 on Saturday after barely clawing their way into the knockout round to begin with.
It took Messi’s first and only goal of the tournament to get Argentina through Group D and Ronaldo’s hat trick against Spain to earn a draw, a point that was crucial to helping Portugal move on from Group B.
But even though both teams have been undone, fear not. There are plenty of international stars left in the field. Here are nine you should know so you can stay on top of things no matter what match you’re watching.
Kylian Mbappe, forward, France
Mbappe, 19, has been a star prospect for a long time, but he announced himself Saturday against Argentina with a glittering two-goal performance. His speed is genuinely uncommon, and his ball control while moving at such a pace makes him nearly impossible to defend. And when he has the time and space to put some extra oomph into a shot, it’s probably going to find the back of the net.
Harry Kane, striker, England
Every World Cup cycle, England always seems to have “the guy.” It was David Beckham, then Wayne Rooney. Now it’s Kane, a pure scorer who also wears the captain’s armband. He scored both of England’s goals in a 2-1 win against Tunisia, then followed it up with a hat trick against Panama.
Romelu Lukaku, striker, Belgium
If you’re not a soccer fan, imagine Lukaku as a LeBron James-type figure. He’s bigger, faster and stronger than almost everyone else on the pitch. He can score from pretty much anywhere. Pairing him with Eden Hazard, Belgium might have the most lethal set of attackers in the tournament.
Edinson Cavani, striker, Uruguay
Cavani is another one of those players who announced himself with a huge Saturday. He scored both of La Celeste’s goals against Portugal to knock Ronaldo out of the field. Uruguay loves to put the ball on Cavani’s foot, not only because he’s a dangerous scorer, but because he is an elite passer who has strong chemistry with fellow striker Luis Suarez. In short, when he has the ball, anything can happen.
But Cavani’s status for Uruguay’s quarterfinal match against France is uncertain. He came off with an injury soon after scoring this goal against Portugal.
Luka Modric, midfielder, Croatia
Modric’s world-class play on the ball is what made Croatia so dominant in group play and helped his club team, Real Madrid, to consecutive UEFA Champions League titles. Here’s another basketball comparison if you don’t know much about Modric: Chris Paul. Croatia uses him as a point man to help get things organized and then funnel the ball forward. Without Modric at his best, Croatia struggles to control the tempo. But at his utmost, teammate Ivan Rakitic said it’s like Modric is from a “different planet.”
Chucky Lozano, forward, Mexico
El Tri has found its next young star in Lozano, 22, a do-it-all forward who fits right in as part of the lineup’s mix of youth and veterans. He’s just as strong of a passer as he is a scorer. With his Dutch club last season, he completed 2.7 crosses per 90 minutes, second best in the league. He also had 17 goals in club play and 56 percent of his shots were on goal, second best among the league’s top 10 scorers.
Christian Eriksen, midfielder, Denmark
Eriksen is a goal-scoring machine just waiting for the right moment. In the group stage, he scored one goal and had one assist. But in World Cup qualifiers, he had 11 goals in 12 games with three assists. If he gets hot, look out. Denmark will need every bit of his scoring touch to fend off Croatia on Sunday.
Denis Cheryshev, forward, Russia
Cheryshev is key to any Russian plan to get past Spain on Sunday. Spain’s tactics are possession-oriented. It loves to dominate control of the ball and patiently wait for seams to open. But that’s harder to do when playing from behind, and Cheryshev represents Russia’s best chance of getting on the board early. He’s a physical attacker and a dynamic finisher around the net. For proof, look no further than his three goals in three games in the group stage.
Granit Xhaka, midfielder, Switzerland
The big name for Switzerland is Xherdan Shaqiri, but don’t forget about Xhaka, the feisty midfielder whose scoring elevates the Swiss from a European also-ran to a world heavyweight. Switzerland will use Xhaka to funnel the ball forward to attackers, but then it expects him to get in on the play and look for his own shots. This laser beam from just outside the 18-yard box against Serbia was key to helping Switzerland advance to the round of 16.
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