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World Cup 2018: Tournament's 5 Most Unexpected Stars

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13.89K   //    11 Jul 2018, 20:35 IST


The 2018 World Cup will undoubtedly go down as one of the very best editions of football’s greatest competition in history. There’s been goals, star-making performances, huge shocks, and a whole host of memorable moments.

Away from the headlines and the glitz, though, there are several players who have surprised many in just how important they’ve become for their respective nations as the tournament has progressed.

With that in mind, here are five unheralded stars of the World Cup who have quietly gone about their business while others have stolen the headlines.

#1 Igor Akinfeev

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia'Spain v Russia'
FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia'Spain v Russia'

Before the World Cup, Igor Akinfeev may have been best known by some as that goalkeeper with that awful Champions League record; the CSKA Moscow stopper failing to keep a Champions League clean sheet for over a decade at one point. Now though, he is viewed as one of the heroes of Russia’s surprisingly impressive showing at the World Cup.

Despite many expecting Russia to not even get out of the group stages, the host nation surpassed the hopes of even the most optimistic of fans, beating Saudi Arabia and Egypt, before shocking the football world by dumping out 2010 World Cup winners Spain on penalties.

In that Spain match, Akinfeev was the hero of the hour, saving spotkicks from Koke and Iago Aspas. While those saves – particularly the stunning stop from Aspas’ penalty – grabbed all of the headlines, Akinfeev had put in performance after performance throughout the tournament before Russia were unlucky to go out on penalties against Croatia at the quarter-final stage.

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A longtime football and wrestling fan who's managed to somehow make a career out of writing and talking about such things, Andrew likes to think of himself as an entertaining, informative, and occasionally humourous writer and radio personality - although you may completely disagree with that. When not writing or talking about the beautiful game and the squared circle, this Welshman can usually be found watching the not-so-mighty Wrexham AFC, scanning sports channels for any sort of football whatsoever, or re-watching classic Bret Hart matches of yesteryear. Elsewhere, Andrew is known as the Online Editor/Lead Writer of Starburst Magazine, a contributor for outlets such as TheRichest, WhatCulture, and, a radio presenter for CalonFM, and a panel host for Wales Comic Con. Feel free to get in touch with any queries, comments, or criticism on the usual social media channels. Just try to be nice :)
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