With the world’s most popular sporting event ready to take center stage again, the billions of people around the globe who will tune in will likely be most fixated on the players below who are competing in the World Cup.
Some are older and familiar names who might be in their last World Cup, while others will be names to get used to for future World Cups.
Here are 10 international players of note to watch in Qatar.
10. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
Ready to compete in his fifth World Cup, the 37-year-old Ronaldo is definitely not in his prime anymore. However, he still has a little gas left in the tank, and might every well empty out that tank with everything he has left in pursuit of Portugal’s first World Cup.
The World Cup will be a welcome diversion for Ronaldo, who has recently blasted the owners and head coach of his club team, Manchester United.
9. Vinicius Junior, Brazil
If you don’t know anything about the 22-year-old Junior, you likely will by the end of what will be his first World Cup. The 22-year-old rising star plays for current Champions League winner Real Madrid, where he had 22 goals and 20 assists last year.
8. Luka Modric, Croatia
Another member of Real Madrid just like Junior, Modric is playing way younger than his age of 37. He was the biggest reason Croatia advanced to the final in 2018, and his performance will go a long way in determining what Croatia will do in Qatar.
7. Robert Lewandowski, Poland
Lewandowski might be getting past his prime at age 34, but he is still arguably the world’s best striker. After setting a Bundesliga record for most goals in a season for Bayern Munich in 2021, Lewandowski moved on to Spain to play for FC Barcelona, where has scored 13 goals in 14 La Liga matches.
6. Harry Kane, England
There might not be a player a team can least afford to lose. The face and captain of England’s national team, the goal-producing Kane will be the focal point of the attack for an England team that enters Qatar struggling with injuries. At age 29, Kane is in his prime.
5. Karim Benzema, France
One reason why the defending World Cup champions have a chance of becoming the first team since Brazil in 1962 to repeat is the presence of the 34-year-old Benzema, one of the best strikers ever. He seems to be getting better with age, having been named UEFA Player of the Year last year.
4. Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium
Will this finally be the year Belgium brings home a World Cup title? The Belgians certainly have a weapon few do in the 31-year-old De Bruyne, a star for English Premier League champion Manchester City and one of the world’s best midfielders. He is a complete all-around player with great touch and technique.
3. Neymar, Brazil
It’s hard to believe Neymar is only 30 years old given he’s been one of the world’s best players since making his professional debut at age 17. Despite being older, he still is one of the world’s most dynamic players. Neymar is second to Pele in career goals for the Brazilian National Team.
2. Kylian Mbappe, France
Mbappe was a key part of France’s championship squad four years ago in Russia at age 19. Still young at 23, he should take the mantle from the likes of Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar as the world’s premier player in the next decade. A lightning-quick and supremely-skilled forward, Mbappe was the first teenager to score twice in a World Cup game when he did so in the 2018 final against Croatia.
1. Lionel Messi, Argentina
All eyes will be on the 35-year-old Messi in Qatar not only because the legend is still in top form, but because this might be his last shot at winning a World Cup. Many consider Messi the best player of all-time for his ability to create not only for himself, but for teammates. There haven’t been any signs of him slowing down in Europe playing for Paris Saint-Germain this fall, and he should be the man once again for an Argentina team that can win it all.