There were so many wonderful performances this World Cup, and plenty from players who are already established as the world’s best. But there were also several breakout performances at this tournament, from young players, or those who were just looking for a chance ... and seized it. Here are five players who earned massive contracts at this World Cup and broke out in a big way.
1. Denis Cheryshev
Cheryshev was one of the big breakout stars of this World Cup after an unfortunate injury to Alan Dzagoev only minutes into the first match of the tournament forced Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov to bring in Cheryshev off the bench. That decision led to an absolutely shining performance from Cheryshev throughout the tournament, scoring four goals and helping drive Russia all the way to the quarter-finals before the hosts were knocked out.
2. Kylian Mbappe
An odd choice, sure. Mbappe, pre-tournament, was already valued as one of the most expensive players in the world. But it says something about his World Cup performance that he’s only increased his value over the last few weeks. That’s how brilliant Mbappe has been, leading France’s attack at just 19 years old to a place in a World Cup final.
3. Christian Cueva
Christian Cueva may best be remembered at the 2018 World Cup for his stunning penalty miss against Denmark, but that one low moment should not undercut what was an incredible performance for the 26-year-old Peruvian. Cueva currently plays for Sao Paolo in Brazil, but with that creativity and passing ability, it’s all but certain that bigger European clubs will come calling soon.
4. Harry Maguire
The Leicester City defender was not thought of as a strong feature of the England squad when it was announced for the World Cup, but the end result showed how much quality the young player has. He was a consistently strong defensive presence for the Three Lions all the way through the tournament to their eventual semi-final exit, and his headed goal against Sweden showed how effective he can be on set pieces as well.
5. Hirving Lozano
Hirving “Chucky” Lozano not only had the best nickname at the 2018 World Cup, he also had one of the true breakout performances, as the 22-year-old Mexico star led his country to thrilling wins over Germany and South Korea before eventually falling to Brazil in the Round of 16.