When Russia face Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14, the whole world will be watching as the 21st World Cup gets underway.
With most domestic leagues around the world just over the halfway point in the season, players from the 32 qualified nations will be looking to impress towards the end of this season in order to earn themselves a chance to play at a World Cup.
Throughout every tournament, it is not unusual for some players to grab the opportunity to impress on the world stage with both hands.
In 2014, James Rodriguez was instrumental as Colombia took the tournament by storm, while in 2010, a 20-year-old Thomas Müller starred for Germany, with both players picking up the Golden Boot in those respective tournaments.
It will be intriguing to see what dark horses set the world alight come June, with many players looking to make an impact in Russia.
For now though, we focus on five players who will be key to their country performing well this summer.
5. Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
Probably the most obvious choice on the list, Salah’s unexpected meteoric rise for Liverpool this season has made the Egyptian one of the most exciting players in the Premier League.
The 25-year-old scored twice for the Pharaohs as they beat Congo 2-1, sealing World Cup qualification for the first time since 1990.
Top scorer of the CAF World Cup qualifying stage, Salah will be expected to lead from the front in Group A, as Egypt face the hosts, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay.
4. Timo Werner (Germany)
Red Bull Leipzig’s Werner will look to carry his Confederations Cup form into Russia, after finishing the World Cup dress rehearsal tournament as top scorer.
The 21-year-old striker is being touted as the prolific No. 9 that Die Mannschaft have been missing since Miroslav Klose’s retirement after the 2014 World Cup.
Werner has big shoes to fill no doubt, but his form in the past two seasons for Leipzig has shown what he’s capable of, being involved in 13 goals in 16 Bundesliga games this season.
Joachim Low will hope Werner gets involved in goals in Russia too, as they face Mexico, Sweden and South Korea in Group F.
3. Heung-Min Son (South Korea)
The only player on this list to have previously played at a World Cup, Tottenham Hotspur’s Son is the standout name on the South Korean team sheet.
The 25-year-old, who scored against Algeria at the 2014 World Cup, has revelled in a talented Spurs team since joining from Bayer Leverkusen in 2015.
South Korea will face reigning champions Germany, Mexico and Sweden in a difficult Group F, so the joint-hosts of the 2002 World Cup will need Son to be on sparkling form in Russia.
2. Sadio Mane – Senegal
Like his aforementioned Liverpool teammate Salah, Mane will be a crucial component of his respective African team.
The Lions of Teranga will be making their second World Cup appearance after a surprising run to the quarter-finals in 2002, being one of three African teams in history to do so.
Mane has shown glimpses of form for Liverpool so far this season, despite his Premier League campaign being slightly blighted by a suspension and hamstring injury.
The recent departure of Philippe Coutinho should allow him to feature more towards the business end of the season, as he looks forward to a mouth-watering Group H featuring Poland, Colombia and Japan.
1. Aaron Mooy (Australia)
Mooy was the leader of the pack as Huddersfield Town were promoted to the Premier League for the first time in their history.
After recently signing from Manchester City on a permanent deal, Mooy has played his part in every single game of Huddersfield’s great start to the season, which has landed the Terriers in 13th – the highest of all three promoted teams.
While it is expected that 38-year-old Socceroo legend Tim Cahill will be making his last World Cup hurrah in Russia, 27-year-old Mooy will be making his first.
With Cahill on his last legs, Mooy will also need to contribute massively as Australia head into a tricky Group C featuring France, Denmark and Peru.