World Cup 2018: Quirky Facts about the players in the competition

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia Fever in Nepal
The fever has already begun
Harigovind Thoyakkat

With only seven days left for the world's biggest show to begin, the average sports enthusiast is being overloaded with all kinds of facts, trivia, numbers and so on, those which pertain to the FIFA World Cup 2018 to be held in Russia from June 14th. We have all made our assessment of various teams, the groups, the players, even the managers and the kits, because - let's face it - there is no end to the number and kind of topics that can be discussed with reference to the Football World Cup.

Now here's another kind of list - not your usual kind - but a quirky list of some individual records that the Fifa World Cup 2018 has already made, even if it has not yet begun.

#1 The youngest player

Training session of Australian National Team in Antalya
Daniel Arzani

We all know the answer to this one, don't we? The French Starlet Kylian Mbappe has taken the world by storm with his performances for his country as well as his clubs, initially Monaco and now PSG. He has been holding center stage and garnering a lot of attention since late 2016 when he was just 17 years old. That makes him - born 20th December 1998 - aged 19 years and 5 months and a few days.

However, you're all in for a surprise, as Mbappe is NOT the youngest player to feature in this World Cup. Daniel Arzani, who features for Manchester City's sister club Melbourne City FC and for the Australian national side, is just 15 days younger than Mbappe, being born on 4th January 1999. As Australia plays in this World Cup, Daniel who is an attacking midfielder will become the youngest player of the World Cup 2018.

Former Northern Ireland and Manchester United attacking player, Norman Whiteside is the youngest player in history to make an appearance in a FIFA World Cup. During the 1982 World Cup, in Spain, Whiteside made his debut at the age of 17 years, 1 month, and 10 days in a game between Yugoslavia and Northern Ireland.

#2 The oldest player

Leading own country to World Cup after 28 years

Former Cameroon and Monaco striker, Roger Milla is the player you'll all remember when you try to recollect memories of the oldest players to play in FIFA World Cups. Who can forget that goal against Russia when he also became the oldest goalscorer in World Cup history, a record still unbroken?

However, this was way back in 1994. Former Colombian goalkeeper, Faryd Mondragon - aged 43 years and 3 days - became the oldest player ever to make a FIFA World Cup appearance in 2014, where he broke Milla's record by almost 10 months.

But it looks like the record will be broken yet again this time. Essam El-Hadary, the goalkeeper for Egypt and Saudi club Al-Taawoun, is currently aged 45 years and 5 months and is Egypt's No. 1 goalkeeping choice, which means he will feature as the World Cup's all-time oldest goalkeeper. He's also Egypt's captain.

#3 The smallest player

Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern Muenchen - DFL Supercup 2014
Don't let his size deceive you

This was a no-brainer for the well-versed football fans out there. Xerdan Shaqiri has been one of the World Cups' all-time smaller players, and as Switzerland qualified for this year's World Cup, Shaqiri is definitely featuring this time too. Edgar Sally of Cameroon and Lorenzo Insigne of Italy, both at 1.63m in height, were the shortest players in 2014's World Cup. However, with both Cameroon and Italy not playing this time, the "award" has come to Shaqiri.

At 5 ft and 4 inches or 1.62m, Shaqiri was 1.6 inches taller in 2014. Which means he was 1.66m tall at that time, during which also he had played for the Swiss, scoring a hat-trick as well.

But don't let his height deceive you as Shaqiri is a prolific attacker for his team. Despite his current club Stoke City being relegated from the Premier League, he had a decent season as he managed to score eight goals and assist seven more in the league. The former Bayern Munich player hasn't exactly lived up to the initial expectations but remains as Switzerland's ray of hope in the World Cup.

Shaqiri scored three goals last time and is just four away from breaking the record for the most goals in the tournament by a Swiss player. His team needs him to be on the top of his game to be able to progress to the later rounds.

Shaqiri is followed by Javier Aquino (5 ft 4.5 in) and N'Golo Kante (5ft 5in) at a close second and third position, respectively.

#4 The lightest player

Mexico v Scotland - International Friendly
Javier Aquino

Mexican winger Javier Aquino, Japanese attacker Takashi Inui and Moroccan winger Mbark Boussoufa combined share the records of being the lightest of World Cup 2018's players, by weighing a mere 130lbs (59 kg).

Eibar v Las Palmas - La Liga
Takashi Inui

Aquino plays for Liga MX club Tigres, while Boussoufa plies his trade at Al Jazira, an Emirati club. Inui has recently signed for Real Betis in January and will be seen in action at La Liga again, after the World Cup.

#5 The tallest player

Hamburger SV v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga
Vestergaard in action for Monchengladbach

Danish footballer Jannik Vestergaard who plays professionally for German club Borussia Monchengladbach as a center-back is back in the World Cup for Denmark, and at 6ft and 6in, he is the tallest player in this year's World Cup.

Last time, the record had gone to Britain's second choice goalkeeper Fraser Forster, who was an inch taller than Vestergaard's Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland and Nick Pope are the current goalkeeping choices for Gareth Southgate's Harry Kane-led-British side, Forster will not be playing this time. Vestergaard's "high honors" is also shared by Lovre Kalinic, Croatia's second choice goalkeeper, behind Danijel Subasic.

#6 The heaviest player

Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City - Premier League
"You think you can get me off the ball?"

Jannik Vestergaard tops yet again, with his tall frame not really letting us know how heavy he is. At 216lbs (97 kg), attackers will have a tough time going around Vestergaard, who is also 1.98m tall.

British defender Harry Maguire shares the record with Vestergaard. At 1.93m, Macguire who currently plays for Leicester City is also quite a tall player and one of England's first-choice centre-backs, making him a tough player to beat.

In a strange factoid, British forward Harry Kane also weighs a close 96 kgs and is one of the heaviest players going into the World Cup. Post an injury that kept him out of the game for more than three months, Harry Kane has returned not only with strong legs but also a heavier body, it seems. Kane must be keen not to let his weight-gain affect England's long-ball games this summer at Russia.

As the ball rolls at Moscow in less than seven days, a long wait of nearly four years comes to an end. Let us all look forward a whole lot of player battles, tense competitions, more facts and trivia, statistics and number-crunching. Here's to yet another World Cup season!

Edited by Zeeshan Ali


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