World Cup 2018: Tournament's 5 Most Unexpected Stars
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
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.