The 2017/18 season was a rather successful one for Liverpool. Not only did the Reds finish fourth in the league, but they also made it to the Champions League final. One of the greatest achievements to inspire hope for next season is the fact that they toppled the Premier League-dominating Manchester City twice in the Champions League and at Anfield in the league. But, first, there’s the small matter of the 2018 World Cup in Russia to enjoy.
As a top-class team, Liverpool have many star players going to the World Cup but the three who stood out during the domestic season are the three who are set to impress the most in the international tournament. Saido Mane and Roberto Firmino could be star players for their teams, while Mohamed Salah could return as his nation’s saviour.
By the looks of things, Brazil are going to have one of the best, if not the best, squads in the World Cup. They boast a strong defence, solid goalkeeping, a midfield that can be packed with hard workers and playmakers, and a very enviable attack. Headlining the attack will be ex-Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Willian, Taison, Neymar, and Roberto Firmino.
It is not yet clear how Brazil are going to set up for their first game. Against Croatia in the June 3rd friendly at Anfield, they played 4-1-4-1 with Jesus leading the line and Willian and Coutinho on the wings. The three central midfielders are very defensively-inclined – Paulinho, Fernandinho, and Casemiro – which isn’t how Brazil are expected to set up. So, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Coutinho take a central role with Neymar and Jesus either side of Firmino – who came on to score in that friendly. Then again, despite his form this season, Firmino has been limited to cameo roles for his country.
Firmino’s style of play draws defenders and creates holes in the defence, giving his wingers more opportunities to get in the box and score – as he did this season with Salah and Mane. On top of this, he’s quite the clinical scorer himself. Even in a limited capacity, he could still have a big impact.
Before this tournament, the only time that Senegal had made it to the World Cup was in 2002, when they made it to the quarter-finals. The team boasted names like Papa Bouba Diop, Aliou Cisse, Henri Camara, and El Hadji Diouf, but there’s a greater feeling of hope around the 2018 batch.
With the commanding presence of Kalidou Koulibaly at centre-back, Idrisa Gueye dominating the midfield, and Sadio Mane ready to pounce up top, Senegal look to have the makings of a bogey team this year. In a tight-knit group of Poland, Colombia, and Japan, Senegal could very well muscle their way out. In the World Cup Betting, Senegal are 4/1 to escape with Colombia and 6/1 to escape with Poland.
Sadio Mane looks to be their main attacking threat and, as he showed against Real Madrid in the Champions League final, it’s very difficult to keep the pacey winger quiet.
The Champions League final ended early for Mohamed Salah as he sustained a shoulder injury. Luckily for football fans, the flamboyant winger has been making good progress in his rehabilitation and has been called up by Egypt.
The thinking is that Salah won’t be out for more than three weeks, as of June 3rd, which would put him in line to play in Egypt’s final group stage game, against Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, the crucial game is their second, against Russia. A win against Russia could see them usurp the favoured team to go through, as they’re expected to defeat Saudi Arabia. Having Salah on the field five days earlier, on June 19th, could propel Egypt to a glorious campaign.
As was the case during the domestic season, the Liverpool players set to shine on the international stage are Roberto Firmino, Saido Mane, and quite possibly Mohamed Salah as well.