Attack is the best form of defense to certain teams. And in some cases, you need more than just one forward to get the job done. With all 32 qualified teams for the FIFA 2018 World Cup announcing their squads, there’s attacking talents aplenty in the competition. However, some teams will dwell on not one but two prolific scoring duos to produce the goods upfront. Here are the top seven attacking duos to watch at the World Cup…
1. Romelu Lukaku & Dries Mertens (Belgium)
Romelu Lukaku has established himself as one of the best strikers in the Premier League, while Dries Mertens has been making waves in the Serie A ever since he first donned the sky blue of Napoli. Both are coming off the back of a successful season for their respective clubs and will forge a fearsome attacking pair for Belgium at the World Cup.
Together, Lukaku and Mertens have struck 51 times for Belgium, and are certain to amass more in Russia.
2. Diego Costa & Iago Aspas (Spain)
Maverick striker Diego Costa’s Spain career started off with a whimper, as he failed to score in the first seven games for La Roja. He was virtually non-existent in Spain’s disastrous title defense in Brazil four years ago and was later dropped from the Euro 2016 squad altogether. However, things have slowly started to break on the international stage for the Atletico Madrid star.
Costa is back in the reckoning and will lead the line once again in Russia. He scored five goals in the qualifying – joint-highest in the team – and also bagged one in the 6-1 drubbing of Argentina in March friendly.
The presence of more glamorous strikers in the Spanish roster always kept Iago Aspas waiting on the wings. But to go by the old cliche, better late than never, and the Celta Vigo striker is finally getting a chance with the national setup to feature in a World Cup at 30.
The most prolific Spaniard in Europe’s top five leagues last season with 24 goals, Aspas has also struck four times in nine international caps so far. He scored on his debut in November 2016 in a friendly against England, and last got on the scoresheet against Argentina in the monumental friendly victory.
3. Harry Kane & Jamie Vardy (England)
England have had some big names partnering upfront in the past. The current generation has Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, who collectively bagged 54 goals in the Premier League last season. Both have become an integral part of the national setup in the recent years and would lead the line for Three Lions for many more years to come.
Kane, in particular, is remembered for scoring within 80 seconds of his debut against Lithuania in the Euro 2016 qualifiers and has gone on to net another 12 times in the next 23 caps. He recently scored against Nigeria in a warm-up game, suggesting he’s ready to open his World Cup account too.
Vardy relatively took some time before getting off the mark, as his first 4 international caps drew a blank. But once he did get going, there’s been no stopping him. He scored 7 times in the next 17 games and also has some big scalps to his name such as Germany, Spain, Netherlands and Italy. Together, they can be a formidable attacking duo at the World Cup.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo & Andre Silva (Portugal)
Andre Silva was the next promising young player to emerge from Portugal after Renato Sanches. But while the latter has faded into mediocrity since, Silva’s stock has gone through the roof.
In 22 caps so far, he’s struck 12 times, nine of which came in the qualifying as he was the most prolific Portuguese after Cristiano Ronaldo. He even participated in the Confederations Cup last year, bagging a goal too. His eye-catching exploits earned him a big money move to AC Milan last season. And while he was used sparingly by the Serie A side, he’d be leading the line for the Selecao in the tournament proper. As for Ronaldo, well, he’s Ronaldo!
The Portuguese skipper enjoyed his best run in front of goal after the turn of the year and would be looking replicate the same in the World Cup, as this would be his last chance to stamp his mark on the biggest platform.
5. Antoine Griezmann & Olivier Giroud (France)
Antoine Griezmann’s ascent in the national setup is unprecedented. He played a secondary role at the FIFA 2014 World Cup, but by the end of Euro 2016, he became France’s talisman. With six goals in the tournament, he played an instrumental role in helping France reach the finals. And even though he couldn’t drag them over the line against Portugal, he is their biggest hope in Russia.
Griezmann had another stellar campaign with Atletico Madrid, scoring 29 times in 49 games, including twice in the Europa League final. For Les Blues, he’s struck 20 times in 53 appearances, and don’t bet against him to pilfer a couple more in the upcoming showpiece.
Olivier Giroud may not be a stellar name these days, but he remains an important member of France side. From the current squad, he is behind only Hugo Lloris in terms of appearances but leads the scoring charts with 31 goals. He brings a lot of experience in this young and promising group of players, while he can still be a huge threat in the final third, provided he gets adequate game time.
6. Lionel Messi & Sergio Aguero (Argentina)
Now what’s new that’s to be said about Lionel Messi! The Barcelona astro too, recently capped an incredible season with the Spanish champions, also claiming an unprecedented 5th European Golden Boot.
The 30-year old was adjudged as the best player of the tournament, lifting the Golden Ball, but will aim to go one better this time around. He’d be 31 by the end of his Russian sojourn, and so this might be his last shot at the prize he so desperately craves. Aguero makes the cut here on account of more caps and goals. The Manchester City striker also had a far better domestic campaign on an individual level.
7. Neymar & Gabriel Jesus (Brazil)
When you lead the line for a team like Brazil at only 22, you know you’re special. And Gabriel Jesus is not just special, he’s amazing too! The Manchester City striker had a stellar 2017/18 campaign, scoring 19 times and assisting another three, in only 27 starts in all competitions.
His stats with Brazil are incredible too – nine goals in only 16 appearances and as a matter of fact, seven of those came in this qualifier alone, joint-highest in the team. He was also a key member of the side that struck gold in the 2016 Olympics. He’ll be aided in the scoring task by Neymar, who’s timely return from injury has buoyed the Seleccao.
The PSG star has always delivered in the canary colours, and may soon overhaul Pele’s long-standing record of 77 goals for Brazil. He had to endure the pain of watching his side implode on home soil in the final stretch of the campaign four years ago, but with his imperious scoring prowess in Russia, can ensure Brazil right the wrongs and also claim an unprecedented sixth World Cup title.