Every four years, hundreds of players have the chance to craft their own World Cup legacy. Though whilst some of football’s biggest names have left lasting memories in the competition, it is often the unlikely heroes who leave the biggest mark. Here is our list of five players, set to make a name for themselves in Russia 2018.

Igor Akinfeev

If history has taught us anything, Russia’s performance in major international competition is more than likely to end disappointingly. Having qualified for eight previous major tournaments since their Soviet Union days, (three World Cups, five Euros) this year’s host nation has failed to get past the group stage on all but one occasion. With a lack of goal scoring prowess, the hosts are going to have to rely on a steely defense to have any chance of getting through Group A, all lead by the vastly experienced Igor Akinfeev between the sticks. With over a century of caps spanning 14 years, it is likely to be Akinfeev’s last chance to lead Russia out of the group stage, and if they do make it out, expect him to be at the centre of attention.

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Rodrigo Bentancur

This silky midfielder burst onto the scene in 2017 playing 20 games in the Serie A for eventual champions Juventus. The Uruguayan looks a star in the making, with a skill set that sees him as an option at both ends of the pitch. Both strong in the tackle, and an eye for a pass, he possesses an astonishingly well rounded set of skills for a 20 year-old. With Uruguay drawn into group A alongside Saudi Arabia, Egypt and hosts Russia, we should be seeing more of this future star as the tournament heads into the knockout rounds.

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Marcus Rashford

The young Three Lions’ forward has been hyped ever since he burst onto the scene at the age of 18. Known for his electrifying pace and knack for finding himself in dangerous positions, Rashford finds himself with a point to prove. The 20 years-old arrives in Russia and off the back of an undeniably disappointing campaign personally for Manchester United. With some suggesting he needs more game time for him to prove his worth, expect him to be champing at the bit when given his chance. All in all, this won’t be Rashford’s last chance to prove he is worth the hype, but this is arguably his first chance to prove he can match it with the big boys.

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Julian Brandt

Many fans of the English Premier League were perplexed to see Leroy Sane absent from Germany’s 23-man Squad for Russia, and it was Julian Brandt who has been handed a spot in his place. Little known outside of German circles, this Bayern Leverkusen flyer is a classy winger that typifies what it means to play under German boss Joachim Low. He can pass, he can score, he can dribble, and perhaps more importantly, he can shape his game to help those around him. He might be hard pressed to get game time with the experienced Marco Reus and Thomas Muller likely ahead of him, though with Germany likely to head deep into the competition, he should get enough time to showcase his talent to some of the biggest clubs in Europe.

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Gonçalo Guedes

This 21-year-old Paris Saint Germain winger already looks to have his star aligned for him. Off the back of a terrific season on loan at Valencia where he registered 5 goals and 9 assists, he heads to the world cup with a Portuguese team that are looking to back up their Euro 2016 success. Both talented with the ball at his feet and a threat in the air, Guedes has a strong future ahead of him. The World Cup will present him with the perfect opportunity to stake for his future, be it at his club, or to one of Europe’s elite who are set to be clambering after his signature.

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