Key men for every team at the 2018 World Cup…Part Two

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Following on from our article detailing the key men in the first four groups, it is time to look at the main players from Group E - Group H at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

They include some of the finest strikers in the world, such as Harry Kane and Robert Lewandowski, who will be battling it out for the Golden Boot.

Brazil and Germany are also included here, with both teams among the favourites to lift the trophy in July.

Group E

Brazil - Neymar

Despite missing a decent chunk of Paris St Germain's title winning season through injury, Neymar was still named Ligue 1 Player of the Season.

He scored 28 goals in 30 appearances in all competitions during his first season in France, and also provided a league high 13 assists in 20 games.

The 26-year-old was the poster boy for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil before suffering a back injury, and they were ultimately beaten 7-1 by Germany in his absence.

With Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus supporting him in attack, Brazil could be set for the ultimate redemption story in Russia.

Neymar was crowned Ligue 1 Player of the Season Neymar was crowned Ligue 1 Player of the Season

Switzerland - Xherdan Shaqiri

Shaqiri had a nightmare 2017/18 season with his club Stoke suffering relegation from the Premier League.

The Swiss forward netted eight goals in 36 appearances, and although he was one of their standout performers, he still left a lot to be desired.

He has previously had spells at Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, which shows he has the ability to perform on the biggest stages.

Switzerland will be hoping their star man can rebound from a poor season and fire his side into the knockout stage of the World Cup.

Shaqiri in action against Northern Ireland Shaqiri in action against Northern Ireland

Costa Rica - Keylor Navas

Real Madrid goalkeeper Navas has had his fair share of criticism during his time at the Bernabeu, and has constantly had to deal with rumours of other keepers, such as David de Gea, coming to replace him.

At the 2014 tournament, Navas was a standout performer for Costa Rica as they reached the quarter-final and was nominated for the Golden Glove award which was eventually won by Manuel Neuer.

The 31-year-old has experience of the big stage having won La Liga in 2016/17 and been involved in two Champions League successes.

He will be looking to make that three on May 26 against Liverpool in Kiev and carry the momentum into another big World Cup.

Navas beats Robert Lewandowski to the ball Navas beats Robert Lewandowski to the ball

Serbia - Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

The 23-year-old has had a breakout year for Lazio in Serie A, scoring 12 goals from midfield in a side that netted a league high of 87 this season.

He has only been capped twice by Serbia, but this tournament could come at the right time for Milinkovic-Savic to announce himself to the world.

He has been heavily linked with a big money transfer to Manchester United in the summer, so the potential he has is obvious.

Southampton's Dusan Tadic will also be one to watch, as will striker Aleksandar Mitrovic who has shone in his loan spell with English Championship side Fulham since January.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic celebrates a goal for Lazio Sergej Milinkovic-Savic celebrates a goal for Lazio

Group F

Germany - Toni Kroos

The Real Madrid midfielder could be the key to unlocking the threats of Timo Werner, Leroy Sane and Marco Reus.

Kroos has again had a big influence at club level this year despite playing fewer games than in recent seasons, and has played a massive role in Zinedine Zidane's side reaching the Champions League final.

He isn't the flashiest player, but he will provide vital assists and put in work around the pitch that often goes unnoticed.

Germany will be determined to retain the crown they won in 2014, and if Kroos is at his vintage best, it is a very real possibility they can do just that.

Toni Kroos Toni Kroos

Mexico - Hirving Lozano

The 22-year-old has had a brilliant season with PSV in the Eredivisie, netting 17 goals in 28 league games as they won the league by four points.

He also provided eight assists, which shows he can also play a different role for team and set up chances for the likes of Javier Hernandez and Carlos Vela.

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In his 25 international games, he has scored seven goals, including a brace in Mexico's 3-3 draw with Belgium last year.

If Lozano can carry his club form into the World Cup, they stand a great chance in finishing second to Germany, who in all likelihood will win their three group games.

Hirving Lozano Hirving Lozano

Sweden - Emil Forsberg

Forsberg has shown a good level of form since joining RB Leipzig in 2014, but has been less involved this season due to a variety of injuries.

The 26-year-old has created a good partnership with Timo Werner, and will be looking to stop his team-mate when the pair meet on opposing sides in June.

He was the leading Bundesliga assist maker in 2016/17, and was named in the league's team of the season.

The Swede hasn't been able to capitalise on that form this year, but if he can rediscover it in time for this tournament, Sweden could be fighting for the knockout stages.

Forsberg in action for RB Leipzig Forsberg in action for RB Leipzig

South Korea - Son Heung-Min

Son has impressed this season with Tottenham, scoring 12 times in the Premier League and assisting and also providing six assists.

He also scored four goals in seven Champions League matches, and formed a potent attack alongside Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.

South Korea will be highly reliant on Son to produce the majority of goals, and it will be interesting to see how he deals with that added responsibility at a major tournament.

Of the nine World Cups the country has qualified for, they have only made it out of the group stage on one occasion, and with another tough draw, that dismal run could continue.

Son Heung-Min Son Heung-Min

Group G

Belgium - Kevin De Bruyne

This was one of the harder teams to pick a key man from considering they have quality all over the pitch.

I opted for De Bruyne considering he is coming off a fantastic season with Manchester City which seen him score eight goals and provide 16 assists as City cruised to the Premier League title.

In any other campaign, that would have been enough to win the Player of the Year award, but with Mo Salah breaking the record for goals scored in a season, it went to the Liverpool man.

With Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku around him, amongst many others, Belgium will fancy themselves to make a deep run in Russia.

De Bruyne in action during Euro 2016 De Bruyne in action during Euro 2016

Panama - Roman Torres

The defender has made over 100 appearances for Panama, making his debut back in 2005.

The 32-year-old has only scored 10 goals in his international career, but his winning goal with three minutes left on the clock against Costa Rica in October, combined with the USA losing to Trinidad & Tobago, sealed qualification for the World Cup.

This is the first World Cup that Panama have ever qualified for, so it will be a massive occasion for the whole country to embrace.

Torres' experience will be big for those around him, acting as a calming influence against the quality of Belgium and England.

Torres plays for Seattle Sounders Torres plays for Seattle Sounders

Tunisia - Wahbi Khazri

The attacker has spent this season on loan with French side Rennes, scoring nine goals in 11 Ligue 1 appearances.

His time with Sunderland has been underwhelming, scoring just three goals in 42 appearances, but he is still a very important player for Tunisia.

The 27-year-old has scored 12 goals in 36 international games, with his latest coming in a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in March.

Along with Naim Sliti, Khazri will have to replace the goals of Youssef Msakni, who misses the competition through injury.

Wahbi Khazri Wahbi Khazri

England - Harry Kane

Kane has established himself as one of the best strikers in world football with his performances in the last few years.

He scored 30 goals in 37 Premier League games this season for Tottenham, bringing his club tally to 140 in 213 games in all competitions.

The 24-year-old learned the hard way having had loan spells with multiple clubs at a lower level before taking his chance at his boyhood club.

Kane could potentially be captain for England, and he certainly leads by example, scoring 12 goals in 23 games for his country.

Kane is one of the best strikers in the world Kane is one of the best strikers in the world

Group H

Poland - Robert Lewandowski

Just like Harry Kane, Robert Lewandowski is one of the premier strikers in the world of football.

He was the joint-highest scorer in World Cup qualification, netting 16 goals in 10 games as Poland topped a group involving Denmark and Montenegro.

The 29-year-old has scored 150 goals in 194 games for Bayern Munich, including 29 in the Bundesliga this season as Bayern secured another domestic title.

Lewandowski is a proven goalscorer, and has the potential to single-handedly fire Poland into the knockout stage.

Lewandowski scored 16 goals during World Cup qualification Lewandowski scored 16 goals during World Cup qualification

Senegal - Sadio Mane

Mane has flourished for Liverpool this season in a front three alongside Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino.

He has scored 19 goals in 43 matches in all competitions, including nine in the Champions League with the potential to add further in the final on May 26.

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The 26-year-old represented Senegal at the 2012 Olympics and two African Cup of Nations, so has experience of competing at the highest international level.

The forward has matured as a player this season and will link up with the likes of M'Baye Niang, Moussa Sow and Diafra Sakho.

Sadio Mane Sadio Mane

Colombia - James Rodriguez

Rodriguez made a two-year loan switch to Bayern Munich from Real Madrid prior to this season, making 23 Bundesliga appearances and scoring seven goals.

We all know how much he loves the World Cup having finished top scorer at the 2014 tournament in Brazil, including the award for goal of the tournament.

For an attacking midfielder, he has a decent strike-rate having scored 21 goals in 59 appearances, including six in qualifying for this competition.

Radamel Falcao remains a big player for Colombia, as do the likes of Davinson Sanchez and Juan Cuadrado.

James Rodriguez James Rodriguez

Japan - Shinji Kagawa

Kagawa has made 89 appearances for Japan in his career, and has scored 29 goals in the process.

He is one of the most creative players in the Japanese squad, and could again be the most important player if they are to get past the group stage.

The 29-year-old has suffered a multitude of injuries this season which has limited his game time to only 18 Bundesliga performances.

Japan have been past the group stage on two occasions, and have a decent chance in making that three in what is a very tight and competitive group.

Shinji Kagawa Shinji Kagawa

Words: Johnny Morton

Images: PA

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