The 2018 FIFA World Cup has arrived.
The first round of group stage fixtures is already over, with every single one of the 32 World Cup nations competing at least once already — and boy, has the tournament created drama.
Russia got the World Cup off to a thrilling start when it wowed crowds with a 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in the curtain-raising game on June 14, before tournament favourites like Argentina and Brazil failed to register a win. Germany, the 2014 World Cup winners, even lost.
But who are the key players after round one?
Business Insider has put together a power ranking of the 23 best soccer players in Russia so far in the tournament, using statistical data from number-crunching soccer site whoscored.com. The website grades players based on how the individual performs relative to his position, and ranks each player out of a maximum score of 10.
Keep scrolling to see who made the list, ranked by score in ascending order.
23. Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Thór Halldórsson — 7.86.
Considering Argentina can boast elite forwards like Lionel Messi and Sergio Agüero, the country was expected to bulldoze through Iceland on June 16.
But Iceland flipped the pre-match script and stunned the South American side by claiming a 1-1 draw, with goalkeeper Hannes Thór Halldórsson earning rave reviews for his role between the sticks.
Halldórsson even saved a penalty from Messi (see picture above) and if that is not worthy of a place on this list, we don’t know what is.
22. Russia defender Yuri Zhirkov — 7.87.
Yuri Zhirkov is the lowest-ranked entrant from the five Russians on this list.
The left back helped get the very best out of key man Aleksandr Golovin thanks to his intuitive link-up play with the midfielder in Russia’s outstanding 5-0 slaughter over Saudi Arabia.
Zhirkov was ambitious with the variety in his passing but did not neglect his defensive duties with two clearances and four tackles from the back.
21. Belgium attacker Dries Mertens — 7.99.
Had he not scored a wondergoal, there is no doubt that Dries Mertens would have failed to make this list.
This is because he hardly did anything else that was worthy of note in Belgium’s victory over Panama on Monday.
However, goals mean a lot. Especially when they arrive, in spectacular fashion, when the team needs them most.
Mertens scored Belgium’s first goal of the game with a brilliant volley in the 47th minute, and it helped the team on its way to a confidence-boosting 3-0 win.
Senegal scored one of the most controversial goals of the World Cup when a player ran back onto a wide-open field after an injuryWhy England and other UK countries all have their own soccer teamsBrazil’s talisman striker was fouled more times than any World Cup player in 20 years in their first match
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