Remember football? That thing we used to watch several times a week and spending hours talking about? Well we’re missing it a lot. So we’ve been spending a lot of time looking back and reminiscing the good times.

And good times didn’t get much better than the 2018 World Cup. Thinking back to that summer reminded us of our “Names To Watch Out For” articles that we did prior to the tournament and made us wonder how they all got on in Russia and beyond.

Turns out we didn’t too bad and a some of those players have been doing bits for club and country although, a few are yet to realise their potential. Anyway, lets have a look through the list, because why not?

Daniel Arzani

Iranian born Aussie, Daniel Arzani was the youngest player at the tournament in Russia but failed to make much of an impression. The Socceroos were knocked out in the group stage, in which Arzani appeared in all three games, albeit from the bench. Despite showing glimpses of his trademark flair, it was clear his style of play didn’t quite fit with Australia’s workmanlike tactics.

One thing we did predict correctly about Arzani was that he would move from Melbourne City to sister club Manchester City. A really exciting move for the then teenager, with a potentially hugely beneficial 2-year loan deal to Celtic announced shortly after.

However, his progress was halted in it’s tracks in October 2018 when he suffered an ACL injury on his debut for his new team. He didn’t appear again for Celtic until January 2020 as a late substitute in his only appearance of the season. Arzani will return to City this summer having completed less than 30 minutes of football over 2 seasons for Celtic. Let’s hope he can shake his injury and get back on track soon.

Arzani

Leander Dendoncker

The big Belgian was limited to just 90 minutes action during the World Cup, slotting into the defence to help his team keep a clean sheet in Belgium’s group stage win against England.

At the time we decided that Dendoncker was comfortably the best name at the World Cup. He is now one of our favourite names in the Premier League, alongside Wolves teammate Willy Boly. He stayed for an extra year at Anderlecht before making his widely predicted move to the England. He’s been an ever-present at Molineux this season much thanks to his ability to play in both the defensive and midfield three.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh

Another player who moved to England after the World Cup. It was a tournament in which, similar to Arzani, he struggled to impress in a sub-par team. This was off the back of a highly prolific season in the Dutch Eredivisie.

Jahanbakhsh was expected to make a move to the Bundesliga following the World Cup but he ended up on the south coast of England. The Iranian has never really established himself with Brighton following his £17 million move in the summer of 2018. Over two seasons he has only scored twice, with many of his 27 appearances coming either off the bench or out of position. With just 8 of those appearances coming this season, the winger/striker may be looking to pastures new this summer.

Hirving Lozano

One of the most famous names in our list was Hirving “Chucky” Lozano. He showed exactly why he was so highly rated out in Russia with the Mexican national team, scoring an excellent winning goal against the Germans in the group stage.

It was therefore a bit of a surprise that Chucky stayed with PSV Eindhoven for another season after the tournament. The winger finished with an incredible 40 goals over two seasons for the Dutch side. His widely expected big move eventually came in the summer of 2019 with a £34 million transfer to Serie A giants Napoli.

He has struggled somewhat for game time in Naples, playing just 16 times this season, mostly off the bench. With the likes of Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon now both comfortably the wrong side of thirty, Lozano will be hoping that he’ll be playing a much more important role next year, as they look to wind down or potentially move on.

lozano

Achraf Hakimi

Hakimi played in all three group games at the World Cup, perhaps surprisingly at left-back. Prior to the tournament he had been mainly deployed on his more natural right side. This however, has turned out to be a bit of a masterstroke…

Shortly after the tournament the full-back made a two year loan move from Real Madrid to Borussia Dortmund, where he has become one of the most exciting left backs in Europe. He racked up a highly impressive 10 assists before the season was stopped, developing a devastating partnership with England’s Jadon Sancho in the process.

With Hakimi’s loan spell up this summer, it will be interesting to see what his future holds. The player himself has admitted the situation is still up in the air. He is expected to return to Real Madrid’s first team however, it is rumoured that Chelsea see him as the ideal replacement for the aging Cesar Azpilicueta.

Aleksandr Golovin

Our Russian hosts were one of the surprise packages of the World Cup, making it to the Quarter Finals and knocking out Spain along the way. This was in no small part down to Golovin’s classy midfield performances. He set the tournament alight in the first game with a goal and two assists against Saudi Arabia.

Following the tournament Golovin was snapped up for £27 million by AS Monaco. The Russian playmaker has been a key player over the last two seasons in the principality, despite the team’s struggles in the league.

Keita Balde

Now a teammate of Golovin at Monaco, Balde surprisingly made just one appearance in Russia for Senegal, who were very unlucky to go out at the group stage. He was much more prominent for his national team a year later, when he was involved seven times en-route to the final of the African Cup of Nations.

Balde is back at Monaco this season after his spell in France was interjected by a season long loan in Italy with Inter. Despite not quite setting the world alight yet, it has to be said that a CV which includes the likes of Barcelona, Lazio, Monaco, Inter and the national teams of both Senegal and Catalonia (unofficial) is not to be sniffed at.

keita-balde

Lee Seung-Woo

Probably the only player in our list who’s career has gone significantly downhill since the tournament. Lee had a rollercoaster ride of a youth career. He left his native South Korea to join FC Barcelona at the age of just 13 and quickly became one of the leading lights of the club’s famed La Masia academy. His progress was sharply halted though when he was hit with a three year ban from competitive football. It was found that his transfer from South Korea breached FIFA’s transfer regulations due to his young age.

His Barcelona career never really recovered and he joined Italian side Hellas Verona in the summer of 2017. He made just two fleeting substitute appearances during the World Cup in Russia, failing to make any impact. One more unimpressive season in Verona followed before he left Italy for Belgian side Sint-Truiden. He made just three appearances for them this season with the side sat 12th in the table at the close of play. It certainly seems that the pressure of being dubbed “the Korean Messi” was a little too heavy however, at just 22 years old, there’s still time for the young forward.

Manuel Akanji

Akanji was a rock at the back for the Swiss on their run to the knockout stages. He was at the centre of a defence which kept Brazil’s Neymar and co. quiet during a stalemate in their opening game. But Akanji shone as much for his quality on the ball as he did for his defensive prowess.

Since that tournament, the 6ft 1” centre back has been in and out of a much chopped and changed Borussia Dortmund defence. Despite this, he has still managed 52 Bundesliga appearances and is firmly part of Lucien Favre’s future plans at the club.

Rodrigo Bentancur

Let’s end on a high. Rodrigo Bentancur’s career has gone from strength to strength since the 2018 World Cup, in which he starred. He started every game on Uruguay’s route to the quarter finals, where they were beaten by eventual champions, France.

The tournament saw him help knock out a Portugal side containing a man who was, at the time, a new teammate in Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s safe to say Bentancur’s influence on Juventus’ recent successes has flown a little more under the radar than Ronaldo’s but he has been a vital cog in their midfield engine room, making 96 appearances in all competitions since joining 3 years ago.

The midfield maestro is comfortably the most decorated player on this list, so far winning 4 domestic trophies in Italy and 2 back in Argentina. Still aged just 22, there’s sure to be plenty more to come for the Uruguayan.

bentancur

We hope you’ve enjoyed our brief trip back to that incredible summer where England restored some pride in the Three Lions and the lager flowed freely (mostly up into the air). Euro 2021 can’t come quick enough!

If you did enjoy it, keep your eyes peeled for a lookback at Euro 2016, appearing on our social media channels some time soon!

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