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World Cup 2018: 5 greatest aerial threats

Robin Bairner
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6.69K   //    19 Jun 2018, 20:26 IST

The early stages of World Cup 2018 have been defined by tight games decided by fine margins. Often, it has been set pieces that have proved decisive in games, with penalties and crosses into the box yielding a high percentage of the goals scored so far in Russia.

As such, having players powerful in aerial duels could prove to be important as the tournament progresses, particularly in an offensive sense.

Uruguay are particularly well stocked in this season, as this list will show, and it was a telling attribute in their opening game against Egypt, in which Jose Maria Gimenez grabbed a late winning goal following a free kick. It proved to be a moment that set the tone for the tournament far more than Russia’s 5-0 opening-night victory over Saudi Arabia.

Here are the most prolific players in Russia 2018 who featured in Europe’s top-five leagues last season, taking into account headed goals only…

France v Republic of Ireland - International Friendly
France v Republic of Ireland - International Friendly

Moussa Konate, Florian Thauvin, Olivier Giroud, Edinson Cavani (4)

There are four players present at the World Cup this summer who scored four headed goals in league play last season, with all holding a connection to France.

Three of the quartet of attackers play their club football in Ligue 1, with Senegal attacker Moussa Konate a star for an Amiens side who punched above their weight, Edinson Cavani at Paris Saint-Germain and Florian Thauvin at Marseille.

Thauvin’s inclusion in this list may come as a surprise to some as he is not considered a particularly brave player nor one associated with being physical. What the France man does possess, however, is a strong leap and excellent timing, allowing him to score four times with headers.

The other players to have scored four times are all associated with being good in the air. Senegal striker Konate is a strong No.9 in a traditional mode, a little like Giroud, who will offer a different type of threat in a France squad that is largely based around technical excellence.

Meanwhile, Uruguay international star Cavani has made a career out of being a prolific attacker in many different dimensions. He scored 28 in all in France’s top flight last season, including four headed efforts. He reserved these for important matches, scoring in such a style against both Nice and Monaco, though he was clearly more effective on the ground.

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Robin Bairner
UK-based freelance football journalist for the last decade, I've appeared in publications such as the Guardian, the Blizzard, When Saturday Comes, but can most frequently be found on I write about European football, and have worked at both World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016.
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