2018 – ???
So who could join these greats of the past at Russia 2018? Here are some candidates from among the semi-finalists:
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
Playing in a deeper role than usual, the Manchester City maestro was somewhat subdued during the opening round. But with Dries Mertens absent against Brazil, De Bruyne moved further forward and revelled in the role of orchestrator, scoring a crucial goal and getting himself involved in all of Belgium’s attacks and counter-attacks. Is this the start of a storming run to the finish line?
Raphael Varane (France)
There had been question marks over the form of the Real Madrid centre-back leading into the knockout phase, but a fine glancing header to give Les Bleus the lead against Uruguay, and several crucial clearances towards the end of that quarter-final encounter, may indicate that France’s star defender is approaching his best form.
Harry Maguire (England)
Can the Leicester City defender become England’s Fabio Grosso? Another player who has risen to the top of the professional game the hard way, Maguire has been one of the most impressive figures in the Three Lions’ run to the last four. In the quarter-final clash against Sweden, he made a tangible contribution, with a powerful header to put England into the lead.
Andrej Kramaric (Croatia)
Vatreni fans had been hoping for more from the Hoffenheim forward, who has been in and out of the starting XI since Croatia’s opening game against Nigeria. Will the quick-reaction header that handed the Balkan side their equaliser against Russia in the quarter-finals convince coach Zlatko Dalic to keep Kramaric in his starting line-up, in the hopes of more such goals?