World Cup 2018: Five best number sevens going to Russia

With 10 days to go until the World Cup finally gets underway, we look at five number seven’s that can entertain the watching world this summer.


Throughout the history of the World Cup, there have been many famous numbers sevens that have graced the game with their skill and have carved a place for themselves into the history of the tournament.

You can read RealSport’s best number eights feature HERE.

Alexander Shevchenko, Garrincha and Luis Figo to name a few.

These were players that possessed the natural ability to dribble at full-speed, trick you with a dazzling array of skills, and run rings around you, all at once.

Though of a different generation and not in the same mould of those in World Cups gone by, the number sevens -or, more simply, wide players- on show this summer in Russia have proved that they are just as entertaining to watch, and are just as capable of putting on a good show. 

Here are the five best going to Russia.

  1. 1 Angel DI Maria [Argentina]


    REUTERS/Juan Medina

    While he may not be an out-and-out number seven, Di Maria has proved that he can play well in that position.

    During his brief stint at Manchester United, he was given the number seven shirt by Louis van Gaal and showed glimpses of his attacking prowess down the right wing.

    KEY STAT: Di Maria has the fourth-most goals (19) of all members of the Argentine World Cup squad.

    He is known for his dribbling skills and the ability to cut inside and shoot with his favoured left-foot.

    In Argentina’s recent friendly against Haiti, in which they won 4-0, he was a handful for the Haitian defence and adopted that number seven role well through good spatial awareness and exploitation of space.

  2. 2 Philippe Coutinho [Brazil]


     REUTERS/Andrew Boyers

    The Barcelona playmaker has shone in a role where he has been given more freedom to dazzle with his skill, both for his domestic and national side.

    In the 2-0 win over Croatia, Coutinho silenced critics by reminding them how technically gifted he really is. He wove his way around and through the Croatian defenders in the build-up to Brazil’s opening goal and provided a wonderful assist for Neymar.

    KEY STAT: Coutinho was Liverpool's top goalscorer in the 2016/17 Premier League (13).

    His manager Tite commented on his skills in the build-up to last summer’s qualifiers stating that he kept "telling himself that Coutinho was awesome" because of his suitability on the flank.

    This natural ability to play down the channel, provide for others and score his own goals, could help them put the woes of their 2014 campaign in the past and progress forward this summer.

  3. 3 Julian Draxler [Germany]


    REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

    The German youngster has been gifted a place in the squad after his teammate Leroy Sane was dropped from the team, following his part in Germany’s shock 2-1 defeat to Austria.

    Manager Joachim Low stated that Sane had yet "to arrive in international games," in contrast to Draxler, whose versatility and continuous work ethic has made him a regular feature in both his domestic and national side.

    Yet, this is not the only thing that sets him apart from Sane. Unlike Sane, he possesses the ability to play well in a variety of different positions, even if they’re not his favoured area to play in, such as central midfield and deeper. 

    KEY STAT: Draxler captained Germany at the 2017 Confederations Cup and was named the tournament's best player.

    He has shown that he can feed the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani in this deeper role for Paris Saint-Germain. 

    This shows he is not only physically capable, he is also an intelligent player who can think through his decisions before execution, where, in contrast, Sane may be a little more rash and reckless in his decision-making.

    Yes, Sane is the fastest player, but Draxler possesses both pace and intelligence in what can prove to be an unruly midfield, clear in Germany’s defeat to Austria.

    He will be a vital figure for the Germans if they are to make their way to another World Cup final.

  4. 4 Raheem Sterling [England]


    REUTERS/Carl Recine

    The 23-year-old winger has had a record season with Manchester City this year, scoring 18 goals in 33 appearances, with 15 assists to his name. His performances under Guardiola have not gone unnoticed.

    Gareth Southgate included him in England's recent 2-1 win over Nigeria, where he displayed his pace and attacking flair at full tilt.

    KEY STAT: Sterling was the only Englishman to reach double figures for both goals (18) and assists (11) in the 2017/18 Premier League.

    Yet, he also showed the composure to deliver crosses into dangerous positions by exploiting the wide channels with his speed, leaving the Nigerian defenders behind him in a heap.

    His pace and passing ability will be crucial to England's hope's this summer and they will need him to be at peak efficiency if they are to unlock defences and give themselves a fighting chance against the international giants. 

  5. 5 Kylian Mbappe [France]


     REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

    Whoever is to defend against him will have a nightmare of a time trying.

    The 19-year-old French superstar can attack either side of an isolated defender at speed and will take the ball down to to the touchline where he will have the spatial awareness to deliver a cut-back to an inbound teammate. 

    KEY STAT: Mbappe scored five times en route to winning the U19 Euros in 2016.

    His understanding of movement and space is beyond his tender age, and during his brief professional career, he has already shown that he can act on this knowledge and use it to take defenders out of the equation, ultimately scoring or creating chances at every occasion.

    His pace and skill will be needed in France's frontline if they are to avoid the disappointment of campaigns at previous tournaments and finally make a name for themselves on the international stage. 

  1. POLL: Who is the best winger going to the World Cup?

    1. Raheem Sterling
    2. Julian Draxler
    3. Angel Di Maria
    4. Kylian Mbappe
    5. Philippe Coutinho
    13 votes
    Share Your Result

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Maryam Naz

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I cover the Premier League predominantly, as well as pieces here and there on international players.

Elsewhere, I am a 19-year-old English undergraduate, a freelancer for the Independent, and a full-time feminist.

Outside of the world of journalism, I am a trainee PE teacher, specializing in rock-climbing.

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