One To Watch – Thomas Meunier (Belgium)

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Overview of player

Thomas Meunier is a 26 year old right back that plays for Paris Saint Germain in France’s Ligue 1 division. Meunier was brought in to PSG from Belgium side Club Brugge on the 3rd of July 2016 for a fee reported to be 7 million euros. Prior to his move, Thomas had admitted doubts on whether he would lack playing time at PSG. This proved evident during his first season. His first competitive appearance for PSG came on the 6th of August, where he came on to replace David Luiz in the 76th minute of the 2016 French Super Cup. He then unfortunately played a role as an unused substitute for the next few matches until his league debut for the club in a 3-1 loss to Monaco. Since his debut, Meunier found himself competing with Serge Aurier for a starting position, but often found himself on the substitutes bench. Even after Serge Aurier’s departure to Tottenham in August 2017, he still competed for the right-back position with the newly recruited Dani Alves.

Even though Meunier has not yet solidified a starting role at right-back for Paris Saint Germain, he has proven that he has what it takes during his substitute appearances. In 46 games for the club, he has managed to find the back of the net 5 times and has assisted some of the best forwards in football in their scoring endeavours as well. His performances were impressive enough to earn him a call up to Roberto Martinez’ Belgium side for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

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One to watch: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Iran)

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Overview of Player:

This 24-year old AZ man is the star player, however you look at it. Boasting an insane 8.20 average rating on Whoscored, being Iran’s most valuable player by far according to Transfermarkt, and being linked to numerous Premier League clubs, Iran will rely on him heavily. At his tender age, Jahanbakhsh already has 38 caps; that’s three more caps than 28-year old Kyle Walker, who feels like he’s been around forever.

With most nations, we would avoid picking the star player, by virtue of it being too obvious and click-bait. However, despite Jahanbakhsh’s exploits, including finishing as the Eredivisie top-scorer last season, he isn’t especially well-known. Unless his name alone prevents him from reaching that feat, the World Cup is a great opportunity for him to bank a move to a bigger club and have his talents recognised globally.

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One to watch – Andrej Kramarić (Croatia)

kramaric.pngOverview of Player:

English fans probably remember him mostly from his uneventful Leicester days. Signed in the Nigel Pearson era from Rijeka in January 2015, he was perhaps unfortunate that Leicester’s form improved so drastically after he arrived, denying him a regular spot in the team. The next season, when Leciester managed to win the Premier League title under Claudio Ranieri, Kramarić hardly managed to get a look-in, playing a grand total of 22 Premier League minutes. He was then shipped out to Hoffenheim on loan in January 2016.

As Kramarić himself put it, “The other lads took their chances and I had to take the hard road. Again.” He also responded less well to former Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri’s “introverted”, defence-first approach than that of other managers. After Leicester managed to make a profit on the talented forward when the Hannover deal became permanent, he began to show his potential. In 2016-17 he won the player of the year award from Hoffenheim fans; at the end of the most recent season, he made Kicker magazine’s Bundesliga team of the season. On 27th April, it was reported that he had scored 10 goals in his last twelve games, which was only one less than Leicester managed as a whole over that period. This relentless run of form helped propel Hoffenheim into Champions League qualification.

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One to Watch – Shinji Kagawa (Japan)

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Player Information

Name: Shinji Kagawa
Position: Midfield
Age: 29
Club: Borussia Dortmund
World Cup Influence: 5/10

Nation Overview 

Japan finished top of their group with 28 points, picking up a draw and 7 wins. They had a fairly easy group facing Syria, Singapore, Afghanistan and Cambodia. For me it would have been a failure if Japan didn’t finish top of their qualifying group. Smashing Afghanistan twice and beating Syria 5-0 proved for me how strong this Japanese team was in comparison to the other teams.

 

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One to Watch – Yerry Mina (Columbia)

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Overview of Player

Yerry Mina is an out-and-out Centre back who has been playing for FC Barcelona this season. He was signed from Palmeiras in 2018 following 26 appearances in which he scored 6. As a centre-back… you see strikers with worse returns than that.

Yerry Mina represented the Colombian Olympic team for football in 2016 and scored a goal in his four appearances. However it wasn’t meant to be and they went out to a Neymar inspired Brazil in a 2-0 defeat. He has since represented the Senior Colombia team for a total of 12 times where has scored 3. Again, a better return than some forwards…

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One to Watch – Naïm Sliti (Tunisia)

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Image: http://www.tunisie-foot.com/home/2017/05/05/transferts-naim-sliti-officiellement-un-lillois/

Overview of Player

Naïm Sliti is a skilled and pacey winger that lines up for Dijon in France’s Ligue 1, where he made 31 appearances, scoring 7 goals and getting 6 assists. He has 16 caps for Tunisia and 3 goals. The 25 year-old, 5’8″ and 165 lb winger wears the #10 for Dijon and deservedly so. He has previously played for both Paris FC and Sedan in France’s Ligue 2. He is currently contracted to Lille in Ligue 1 but played for Dijon on loan. After a good season, he will be looking to cement a first team place in the Lille squad with a good World Cup performance.

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One To Watch – Jordan Pickford (England)

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Jordan Pickford celebrating the win over Newcastle

Overview of Player

Name:Jordan Pickford

Position : Goalkeeper

Age: 24

World cup influence: 7/10

Overview of Nation

After a dismal Euro 2016 campaign, England needed to regroup and start performing to qualify for the World Cup, and England need to improve over the last two World Cup performances, just scraping through the group stages to then be embarrassed by a young German side in 2010. The World Cup after that they were knocked out of the group stages rather meekly by Uruguay.

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