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The 7 best players to watch at the 2018 World Cup

If you’re new to the game, these are the players you need to know.

Welcome, new soccer fans of the world, eager to get to educate yourself on the names you need to know over the next month of the 2018 World Cup. These seven players are the best of the world’s best — if the World Cup is an ensemble movie, these guys are at the top of the billing.

Lionel Messi — Argentina

Messi isn’t just a brilliant player for Barcelona and Argentina, he’s possibly the best to ever play the game, period. But Argentina’s inability to win a major international tournament has some fans questioning if he needs a win this World Cup to cement his legacy.

Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal

Portugal’s dazzling star would probably be famous for his abs alone, even if he weren’t right there as one of the best to play the game … ever. Portugal won a Euro tournament and is looking to come together extremely well around their star, too.

Neymar Brazil

Brazil’s attacking genius is probably the most famous person in his country, added pressure that perhaps hindered Brazil in their last World Cup, held in Rio, in which they were eliminated in embarrassing fashion when they lost to Germany, 7-1, in the semifinal. Neymar is back, and wants a trophy.

Harry Kane England

Kane is a world-level talent and one of the best pure strikers to ever suit up for England. It’s unclear if the rest of the team is talented enough to make a serious run at a final, but the Tottenham Hotspur man will be important for them if they do.

Mohamed Salah Egypt

The man who may finally crack the top-two world domination of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Salah just put together one of the finest club seasons ever, leading Liverpool to a Champions League final appearance. He did suffer a shoulder injury in that final, however, and it remains to be seen if he’ll be at full strength.

Isco Spain

Spain’s golden generation of players is aging, so right on time was the arrival of Isco, a super talented and creative attacking midfielder who plays club for Real Madrid. For years, Spain wondered if anyone could ever replace the beautiful midfield they built. Isco is ready.

Antoine Griezmann France

France is loaded with talent, but it’s their diminutive striker Antoine Griezmann — who plays much bigger than he stands on the field — who may be the key to leading them deep into the tournament. Surrounded by young, fast, attacking talent, it will be Griezmann who leads the attack.