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A hipster’s guide to the most interesting XI at the 2018 World Cup

From a 44-year-old Egyptian goalkeeper to a Serbian midfielder with a free-kick taking brother, here's your alternative guide to the 2018 World Cup

Want to pretend your an expert on football in Panama, including their inverted 3-4-3 formation complete with a false 6?

Want to pretend you know everything there is to know about Morocco’s third-choice keeper?

Well you’ve come to the right place.


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They’ll probably line up with an inverted 4-3-3 formation and a false six

KKP2
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They’ll probably line up with an inverted 4-3-3 formation and a false six

Below is an XI of players who should, with a bit of luck when it comes to form and injury, be heading to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

But it’s not just any XI. No, dear friends, it’s an XI of players that you need to brush up on to ensure you blast your mates out of the water when it comes to World Cup knowledge.

Tunisia’s reserve centre-back? Completed it mate.

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Goalkeeper: Essam El-Hadary (Egypt)

By the time next summer comes around El-Hadary will be 45 and, if selected by Egypt, will become the World Cup’s oldest player, taking over from Colombia’s Faryd Mondragon.

That in itself would be something.

Add into the mix he’s also been smashing home penalties in Saudi Arabia this season and El-Hadary has everything it takes to become a true cult hero in Russia.

Right-back: Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)

Hakimi has wasted little time in filling the gap left by Dani Carvajal down the right side of Real Madrid’s defence.

Born in Madrid but capped by Moroccco, the 19-year-old became the first player from the North African country to score for Los Blancos.

Fate would have it that he’ll have to play against the country of his birth and team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo when Morocco take on Spain and Portugal in Group B.

‘If you score against Portugal I’ll never speak to you again’

Getty - Contributor
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‘If you score against Portugal I’ll never speak to you again’

Centre-back: Andreas Christensen (Denmark)

Christensen plays at the back with such ease and composure that it’s a wonder he’s not advertising Rescue Remedy yet.

The defender is making a mockery of Chelsea’s supposed aversion to playing youngsters, having seen off David Luiz to become a regular starter.

Don’t be surprised if he gets the slippers and cigar out to play against Australia and Peru in Denmark’s opening two games.

A rare show of emotion from the Iceman

CLODAGH KILCOYNE
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A rare show of emotion from the Iceman

Centre-back: Jose Gimenez (Uruguay)

Out of form, out of contract and a nailed on certainty to have the tournament of his life out in Russia.

The 22-year-old Atletico Madrid defender, with 39 international caps to his name already, needs to rediscover the form that saw him hyped as one of the best youngsters in world football.

But someone is going to get the bargain of the summer if they convince the graduate from Diego Simeone’s school of hard knocks to sign on a free transfer.

Man, ball and team-mate… the Simeone way

News Group Newspapers Ltd
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Man, ball and team-mate… the Simeone way

Left-back: Jordan Lukaku (Belgium)

If there’s an area of weakness in Beglium’s squad that Gareth Southgate and England will be looking to exploit it’s the full-backs.

Luckily Jordan Lukaku, who could line up on the left of Belgium’s defence, can rely on big brother Romelu for some scouting advice.

Jordan still faces a fight to get into the squad, let alone the first XI, but if he does then the Lukakus will join the long list of brothers who’ve competed together at a World Cup.

Has he got a better first touch than his brother?

AFP
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Has he got a better first touch than his brother?

Right midfielder: Jefferson Farfan (Peru)

No one will have collected more air miles than Farfan by the time Peru kick off their World Cup campaign.

He recently travelled 28,000 miles in two weeks to play for Peru and then Lokomotiv Moscow as club and country commitments stacked up.

The 33-year-old will be even more important to his country now that Peru’s captain Paolo Guerrero is sitting out a year-long cocaine ban.

When you find out your flight’s been delayed for five hours

Getty - Contributor
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When you find out your flight’s been delayed for five hours

Central-midfield: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)

Lazio midfielder Milinkovic-Savic’s hipster rating is off the scale.

Goes by his first name? Tick. Linked with a club record move to Man United? Tick Tick. Born in Spain but plays for Serbia? Tick tick tick. Has a free-kick taking goalkeeper for a brother? You get the idea.

Sergej is a good showing in Russia away from having his own Fan TV channel on YouTube.

Luckily for the wallets of Lazio fans he wears his first name on the back of his shirt

AFP or licensors
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Luckily for the wallets of Lazio fans he wears his first name on the back of his shirt

Central-midfield: Mahmoud Dahoud (Germany)

One man who’ll be rejoicing at the news of Peter Bosz’s sacking at Borussia Dortmund will be Dahoud.

The 21-year-old hasn’t had a sniff under Bosz but has all the talent to break into Germany’s squad if he gets a regular run of games at Dortmund.

Dahoud was born in Syria but moved to Germany as a youngster, the significance of which won’t be lost on a wider footballing audience if he stars in Russia.

A supremely talented midfielder to watch

REUTERS
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A supremely talented midfielder to watch

Left midfield: Goncalo Guedes (Portugal)

There aren’t many shadows taller, wider or darker than Cristiano Ronaldo’s.

But operating in the shady confines of CR7’s presence will be Goncalo Guedes, a man currently invoking images of David Villa thanks to a prolific loan spell at Valencia.

He’s electric to watch, but much depends on whether Ronaldo passes to him or not.

Caption this

Getty - Contributor
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Caption this

Striker: Sardar Azmoun (Iran)

As a youngster Azmoun had to make the choice between volleyball and football.

The Iranian volleyball world’s loss is most definitely football’s gain, as highlighted by 22 international goals in 30 games.

He’s still got some way to go to catch up to legendary Iranian striker Ali Daei’s total of 109 goals in 149 games though.

More kits should have animals on them

Reuters
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More kits should have animals on them

Striker: Blas Perez (Panama)

What’s a hipster team without an ageing journeyman lumbering around up front?

Perez, who’s turning out for his 19th club at the age of 36, will lead the line for Panama in Russia.

Be warned, England.

He still looks pretty lively to us

Getty Images - Getty
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He still looks pretty lively to us

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