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The GameTime crew talk about what Luka Doncic could bring to the table for the up and coming season.
Instant Analysis: Doncic to the Hawks
The GameTime crew talk about what Luka Doncic could bring to the table for the up and coming season.
The GameTime crew talk about what Luka Doncic could bring to the table for the up and coming season.
Instant Analysis: Doncic to the Hawks
The GameTime crew talk about what Luka Doncic could bring to the table for the up and coming season.
The GameTime crew talk about what Luka Doncic could bring to the table for the up and coming season.
Instant Analysis: Doncic to the Hawks
The GameTime crew talk about what Luka Doncic could bring to the table for the up and coming season.
Yahoo Sports' 'NBA Draft Live' crew discusses the latest pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Why the Cavs should be concerned about Collin Sexton
Yahoo Sports' 'NBA Draft Live' crew discusses the latest pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Yahoo Sports' 'NBA Draft Live' crew discusses the latest pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Why the Cavs should be concerned about Collin Sexton
Yahoo Sports' 'NBA Draft Live' crew discusses the latest pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Yahoo Sports' 'NBA Draft Live' crew discusses the latest pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Why the Cavs should be concerned about Collin Sexton
Yahoo Sports' 'NBA Draft Live' crew discusses the latest pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Yahoo Sports' 'NBA Draft Live' crew discusses the latest pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Why the Cavs should be concerned about Collin Sexton
Yahoo Sports' 'NBA Draft Live' crew discusses the latest pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades
It's one place to keep track of everything going on at the NBA Draft.
The Dallas Mavericks select Trae Young with the fifth pick who will be headed to The Atlanta Hawks for Luka Doncic and a future first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
The Mavericks Select Trae Young With The Fifth Pick
The Dallas Mavericks select Trae Young with the fifth pick who will be headed to The Atlanta Hawks for Luka Doncic and a future first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
With the 4th overall pick, the Memphis Grizzlies select Jaren Jackson Jr.
Grizzlies Select Jaren Jackson Jr.
With the 4th overall pick, the Memphis Grizzlies select Jaren Jackson Jr.
With the 4th overall pick, the Memphis Grizzlies select Jaren Jackson Jr.
Grizzlies Select Jaren Jackson Jr.
With the 4th overall pick, the Memphis Grizzlies select Jaren Jackson Jr.
With the 4th overall pick, the Memphis Grizzlies select Jaren Jackson Jr.
Grizzlies Select Jaren Jackson Jr.
With the 4th overall pick, the Memphis Grizzlies select Jaren Jackson Jr.
With the 4th overall pick, the Memphis Grizzlies select Jaren Jackson Jr.
Grizzlies Select Jaren Jackson Jr.
With the 4th overall pick, the Memphis Grizzlies select Jaren Jackson Jr.
Ahead of their make or break World Cup showdown versus Iceland, the football icon spent some time with the Super Eagles
Nigeria legend Nwankwo Kanu pays a visit to Super Eagles hotel
Ahead of their make or break World Cup showdown versus Iceland, the football icon spent some time with the Super Eagles
The Orlando Magic select Mo Bamba from the University of Texas with the No. 6 selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Mo Bamba Selected At No. 6 By The Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic select Mo Bamba from the University of Texas with the No. 6 selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.
The Orlando Magic select Mo Bamba from the University of Texas with the No. 6 selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Mo Bamba Selected At No. 6 By The Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic select Mo Bamba from the University of Texas with the No. 6 selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.
The Orlando Magic select Mo Bamba from the University of Texas with the No. 6 selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Mo Bamba Selected At No. 6 By The Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic select Mo Bamba from the University of Texas with the No. 6 selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.
The Orlando Magic select Mo Bamba from the University of Texas with the No. 6 selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Mo Bamba Selected At No. 6 By The Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic select Mo Bamba from the University of Texas with the No. 6 selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.
The GameTime crew talk about what Luka Doncic could bring to the table for the up and coming season.
Instant Analysis: Doncic to the Hawks
The GameTime crew talk about what Luka Doncic could bring to the table for the up and coming season.
Watch the breakdown of the Marvin Bagley III, selected with the No. 2 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Instant Analysis: Marvin Bagley III
Watch the breakdown of the Marvin Bagley III, selected with the No. 2 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Watch the breakdown of the Marvin Bagley III, selected with the No. 2 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Instant Analysis: Marvin Bagley III
Watch the breakdown of the Marvin Bagley III, selected with the No. 2 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Nolan Arenado rips a line-drive double off the right-field wall, scoring two runs to extend the Rockies' lead to 5-1 in the 2nd inning
Arenado's hard two-run double
Nolan Arenado rips a line-drive double off the right-field wall, scoring two runs to extend the Rockies' lead to 5-1 in the 2nd inning
Nolan Arenado rips a line-drive double off the right-field wall, scoring two runs to extend the Rockies' lead to 5-1 in the 2nd inning
Arenado's hard two-run double
Nolan Arenado rips a line-drive double off the right-field wall, scoring two runs to extend the Rockies' lead to 5-1 in the 2nd inning
Watch the breakdown of the Marvin Bagley III, selected with the No. 2 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Instant Analysis: Marvin Bagley III
Watch the breakdown of the Marvin Bagley III, selected with the No. 2 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Watch the breakdown of the Marvin Bagley III, selected with the No. 2 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Instant Analysis: Marvin Bagley III
Watch the breakdown of the Marvin Bagley III, selected with the No. 2 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Nolan Arenado rips a line-drive double off the right-field wall, scoring two runs to extend the Rockies' lead to 5-1 in the 2nd inning
Arenado's hard two-run double
Nolan Arenado rips a line-drive double off the right-field wall, scoring two runs to extend the Rockies' lead to 5-1 in the 2nd inning
Brandon Nimmo plates Amed Rosario with an RBI single to center field, cutting into the Mets' deficit in the 3rd inning
Nimmo's RBI single to center
Brandon Nimmo plates Amed Rosario with an RBI single to center field, cutting into the Mets' deficit in the 3rd inning
Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzoho arrives for a press conference on the eve of the group D match between Nigeria and Iceland at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Volgograd Arena, in Volgograd, Russia, Thursday, June 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Brazil and Neymar try to bounce back from World Cup draw
Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzoho arrives for a press conference on the eve of the group D match between Nigeria and Iceland at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Volgograd Arena, in Volgograd, Russia, Thursday, June 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov flashes the Serbian three-finger salute as he celebrates his team's victory over Costa Rica after the group E match between Costa Rica and Serbia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Samara Arena in Samara, Russia, Sunday, June 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Brazil and Neymar try to bounce back from World Cup draw
Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov flashes the Serbian three-finger salute as he celebrates his team's victory over Costa Rica after the group E match between Costa Rica and Serbia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Samara Arena in Samara, Russia, Sunday, June 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Brazil's Neymar, centre, exercises with his teammates during Brazil's official training on the eve of the group E match between Brazil and Costa Rica at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the St. Petersburg stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, June 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
Brazil and Neymar try to bounce back from World Cup draw
Brazil's Neymar, centre, exercises with his teammates during Brazil's official training on the eve of the group E match between Brazil and Costa Rica at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the St. Petersburg stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, June 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
Iceland's Hordur Magnusson talks to fans after the group D match between Argentina and Iceland at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Victor Caivano)
Brazil and Neymar try to bounce back from World Cup draw
Iceland's Hordur Magnusson talks to fans after the group D match between Argentina and Iceland at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Victor Caivano)
An Egyptian woman wearing the national flag cries as she leaves the display of the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia on a giant screen at Al Jazera youth club, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup's knockout stage. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Many Egyptian Christians feel left out of World Cup
An Egyptian woman wearing the national flag cries as she leaves the display of the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia on a giant screen at Al Jazera youth club, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup's knockout stage. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Egyptian fans shout as they watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia on a screen at Al Jazera youth club, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018.(AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Many Egyptian Christians feel left out of World Cup
Egyptian fans shout as they watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia on a screen at Al Jazera youth club, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018.(AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Egypt's Mohamed Salah prays on the ground after scoring a penalty during the group A match between Russia and Egypt at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the St. Petersburg stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Many Egyptian Christians feel left out of World Cup
Egypt's Mohamed Salah prays on the ground after scoring a penalty during the group A match between Russia and Egypt at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the St. Petersburg stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Egyptian fans gather to watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia at a cafe in the hometown of Liverpool star striker Mohammed Salah, in the Nile delta village of Nagrig, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Islam Safwat)
Many Egyptian Christians feel left out of World Cup
Egyptian fans gather to watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia at a cafe in the hometown of Liverpool star striker Mohammed Salah, in the Nile delta village of Nagrig, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Islam Safwat)
Egyptian fans watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia at a cafe in the hometown of Liverpool star striker Mohammed Salah, in the Nile delta village of Nagrig, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Islam Safwat)
Many Egyptian Christians feel left out of World Cup
Egyptian fans watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia at a cafe in the hometown of Liverpool star striker Mohammed Salah, in the Nile delta village of Nagrig, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Islam Safwat)
Egyptian fans watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia at a cafe in the hometown of Liverpool star striker Mohammed Salah, in the Nile delta village of Nagrig, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Islam Safwat)
Many Egyptian Christians feel left out of World Cup
Egyptian fans watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia at a cafe in the hometown of Liverpool star striker Mohammed Salah, in the Nile delta village of Nagrig, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Islam Safwat)
Egyptian fans watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia at a cafe in the hometown of Liverpool star striker Mohammed Salah, in the Nile delta village of Nagrig, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Islam Safwat)
Many Egyptian Christians feel left out of World Cup
Egyptian fans watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia at a cafe in the hometown of Liverpool star striker Mohammed Salah, in the Nile delta village of Nagrig, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Islam Safwat)
Egyptian fans watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia on a giant screen at Al Jazera Youth Club, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Many Egyptian Christians feel left out of World Cup
Egyptian fans watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia on a giant screen at Al Jazera Youth Club, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
An Egyptian fan wearing national flag cries as she watches the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia on a giant screen at Al Jazera youth club, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Many Egyptian Christians feel left out of World Cup
An Egyptian fan wearing national flag cries as she watches the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia on a giant screen at Al Jazera youth club, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
What is it? It's the Group E fixture between Serbia and Switzerland. When is it? Friday, June 22. What time is kick-off? It's at 7pm BST. What TV channel is it on? BBC One will have live coverage. Alternatively, you can follow the action with our live blog. Where is the game being played? It will be played at the Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad. World Cup 2018 stadium: Kaliningrad Stadium What is the team news? Switzerland midfielder Valon Behrami had a great game against Brazil but came off with a thigh strain after 70 minutes. However, manager Vladimir Petković is confident he'll be back in the starting XI against Serbia. Serbia boss Mladen Krstajic, meanwhile, has no major concerns following the win over Costa Rica. Serbia likely XI: Stojkovic; Ivanovic, Milenkovic, Tosic, Kolarov; Matic, Milivojevic, Milinkovic-Savic, Tadic, Kostic; Mitrovic. Switzerland likely XI: Sommer; Lichtsteiner, Schaer, Akanji, Rodriguez; Behrami, Xhaka; Shaqiri, Dzemaili, Zuber; Seferovic. What's the latest news? A topsy-turvy Group E could be thrown into further disorder when Serbia and Switzerland clash in a contest that could put one team on the brink of advancing to the knockout round. A group that was supposed to see mighty Brazil at the top instead has Serbia, the lowest ranked in the pack, looking down at everyone after a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in their opener while the South Americans and Switzerland battled to a 1-1 draw. At number six in the Fifa world rankings it is hard to call the industrious Swiss a surprise package but the stalemate with the five-time world champions still registered as a shock which shook up the group and indeed the World Cup. The stakes, however, get higher in Game Two with Serbia able to put something of a stranglehold on a knockout spot with a second consecutive victory while the Swiss can add to their dark horse status by following up with another positive result. World Cup 2018 Simulator Single Game Delivering a suitable encore, however, has at times eluded Switzerland who eight years ago in South Africa beat eventual champions Spain in their World Cup opener but failed to advance out of the group stage. The Swiss are not seen as contenders for the trophy but the Alpine nation are unbeaten in their last six matches, including draws with two of the heavy favourites - Brazil and Spain. "I hope that people will take notice of us and take us seriously, sometimes there's a lack of recognition and that's a pity because we played very well," said Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic. The Swiss, as usual, are well organised and physical but will not intimidate the Serbs, who showed against Costa Rica that they too embrace the tough going. That could mean plenty of cards being flashed by the referee in a rough and tumble affair at Kaliningrad Stadium. While the Serbs have an attacking reputation both teams each scored just once in the opening matches, both from set pieces. World Cup whatsapp promo Switzerland's Steven Zuber rose high to head home from a corner to earn the draw against Brazil, while Aleksandar Kolarov curled home a superb free kick for Serbia's winner. "With respect to Switzerland we have analysed all three opponents," said Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic, after his first competitive game in charge. "We know everything about Switzerland now we are going to watch for some details (from) when they played Brazil to make sure we have not missed any details." What are the odds? Guide to the best World Cup free bets and offers >> Serbia 17/10 Switzerland 2/1 Draw 21/10 What's our prediction? Switzerland will be buzzing after their gutsy 1-1 draw with Brazil while Serbia got their campaign off to a winning start. We think Serbia might just have the edge here, though. Prediction: Serbia 2-1 Switzerland WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
World Cup 2018, Serbia vs Switzerland: What time is kick-off today, what TV channel is it on and what is our prediction?
What is it? It's the Group E fixture between Serbia and Switzerland. When is it? Friday, June 22. What time is kick-off? It's at 7pm BST. What TV channel is it on? BBC One will have live coverage. Alternatively, you can follow the action with our live blog. Where is the game being played? It will be played at the Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad. World Cup 2018 stadium: Kaliningrad Stadium What is the team news? Switzerland midfielder Valon Behrami had a great game against Brazil but came off with a thigh strain after 70 minutes. However, manager Vladimir Petković is confident he'll be back in the starting XI against Serbia. Serbia boss Mladen Krstajic, meanwhile, has no major concerns following the win over Costa Rica. Serbia likely XI: Stojkovic; Ivanovic, Milenkovic, Tosic, Kolarov; Matic, Milivojevic, Milinkovic-Savic, Tadic, Kostic; Mitrovic. Switzerland likely XI: Sommer; Lichtsteiner, Schaer, Akanji, Rodriguez; Behrami, Xhaka; Shaqiri, Dzemaili, Zuber; Seferovic. What's the latest news? A topsy-turvy Group E could be thrown into further disorder when Serbia and Switzerland clash in a contest that could put one team on the brink of advancing to the knockout round. A group that was supposed to see mighty Brazil at the top instead has Serbia, the lowest ranked in the pack, looking down at everyone after a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in their opener while the South Americans and Switzerland battled to a 1-1 draw. At number six in the Fifa world rankings it is hard to call the industrious Swiss a surprise package but the stalemate with the five-time world champions still registered as a shock which shook up the group and indeed the World Cup. The stakes, however, get higher in Game Two with Serbia able to put something of a stranglehold on a knockout spot with a second consecutive victory while the Swiss can add to their dark horse status by following up with another positive result. World Cup 2018 Simulator Single Game Delivering a suitable encore, however, has at times eluded Switzerland who eight years ago in South Africa beat eventual champions Spain in their World Cup opener but failed to advance out of the group stage. The Swiss are not seen as contenders for the trophy but the Alpine nation are unbeaten in their last six matches, including draws with two of the heavy favourites - Brazil and Spain. "I hope that people will take notice of us and take us seriously, sometimes there's a lack of recognition and that's a pity because we played very well," said Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic. The Swiss, as usual, are well organised and physical but will not intimidate the Serbs, who showed against Costa Rica that they too embrace the tough going. That could mean plenty of cards being flashed by the referee in a rough and tumble affair at Kaliningrad Stadium. While the Serbs have an attacking reputation both teams each scored just once in the opening matches, both from set pieces. World Cup whatsapp promo Switzerland's Steven Zuber rose high to head home from a corner to earn the draw against Brazil, while Aleksandar Kolarov curled home a superb free kick for Serbia's winner. "With respect to Switzerland we have analysed all three opponents," said Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic, after his first competitive game in charge. "We know everything about Switzerland now we are going to watch for some details (from) when they played Brazil to make sure we have not missed any details." What are the odds? Guide to the best World Cup free bets and offers >> Serbia 17/10 Switzerland 2/1 Draw 21/10 What's our prediction? Switzerland will be buzzing after their gutsy 1-1 draw with Brazil while Serbia got their campaign off to a winning start. We think Serbia might just have the edge here, though. Prediction: Serbia 2-1 Switzerland WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Mohamed Salah, de la selección de Egipto, se arrodilla tras convertir un penal ante Rusia en un duelo de la Copa del Mundo, el martes 19 de junio de 2018, en San Petersburgo (AP Foto/Gregorio Borgia)
Mohamed Salah, de la selección de Egipto, se arrodilla tras convertir un penal ante Rusia en un duelo de la Copa del Mundo, el martes 19 de junio de 2018, en San Petersburgo (AP Foto/Gregorio Borgia)
Mohamed Salah, de la selección de Egipto, se arrodilla tras convertir un penal ante Rusia en un duelo de la Copa del Mundo, el martes 19 de junio de 2018, en San Petersburgo (AP Foto/Gregorio Borgia)
What is it? It's the Group D tussle between Nigeria, who are looking for their first points of the World Cup, and Iceland, who hope to build on their fantastic draw with Argentina in their opening game. When is it? Friday, June 22. What time is kick-off? 4pm BST. What TV channel is it on? BBC One. Alternatively, you can follow the match live with us on Telegraph Sport. Where is the game being played? Volgograd Arena, Volgograd World Cup 2018 stadium: Volgograd Arena What is the team news? In a potential blow for Iceland, winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson - who is central to the team's quick, counter-attacking style - is a doubt after tearing a muscle in the Argentina game. Playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson, who recovered from injury just in time for the World Cup, played 90 minutes against the South Americans, raising hopes he will remain fit for Nigeria. Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr has hinted that the speedy Ahmed Musa may play from the start to bolster their attack and stretch the play across the field. World Cup 2018 Simulator Single Game Rohr also could move to a three-man defensive line after having opted for four against Croatia's three-man attacking line-up. But Rohr said Jon Obi Mikel, Nigeria's experienced captain, will likely continue to play in an offensive midfield position. What's the latest news on the two teams? While a draw for Iceland would keep their knock-out hopes alive, Nigeria, who are bottom of Group D, are under huge pressure to get all three points with manager Gernot Rohr saying his team must win. Striker Odion Ighalo promised Nigeria would be on the front foot after managing only two chances on target against Croatia. "The Iceland game will be different from the Croatian one," Ighalo said. "We want to attack that game and we want to create chances because only with chances you score goals." World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage So far, only one team from Africa have won at the World Cup - Senegal who beat Poland 2-1 on Tuesday - adding to the pressure on Nigeria. Since making their World Cup debut in 1994, the team has yet to progress beyond the round of 16, including four years ago in Brazil when Nigeria lost 2-0 to France at that stage. "We have to win against Iceland," Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr said. "If we win the next game, all is possible for the qualification." test - do not delete What are the odds? Guide to the best World Cup free bets and offers >> Iceland 17/10 Nigeria 19/10 Draw 11/5 What's our prediction? Iceland showed against Argentina how hard they are to break down and Nigeria will find it difficult to collect the three points they need to boost their chances of trying to reach the knockout stages. Prediction: 1-1 WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
World Cup 2018, Nigeria vs Iceland: What time is kick-off today, what TV channel is it on and what is our prediction?
What is it? It's the Group D tussle between Nigeria, who are looking for their first points of the World Cup, and Iceland, who hope to build on their fantastic draw with Argentina in their opening game. When is it? Friday, June 22. What time is kick-off? 4pm BST. What TV channel is it on? BBC One. Alternatively, you can follow the match live with us on Telegraph Sport. Where is the game being played? Volgograd Arena, Volgograd World Cup 2018 stadium: Volgograd Arena What is the team news? In a potential blow for Iceland, winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson - who is central to the team's quick, counter-attacking style - is a doubt after tearing a muscle in the Argentina game. Playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson, who recovered from injury just in time for the World Cup, played 90 minutes against the South Americans, raising hopes he will remain fit for Nigeria. Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr has hinted that the speedy Ahmed Musa may play from the start to bolster their attack and stretch the play across the field. World Cup 2018 Simulator Single Game Rohr also could move to a three-man defensive line after having opted for four against Croatia's three-man attacking line-up. But Rohr said Jon Obi Mikel, Nigeria's experienced captain, will likely continue to play in an offensive midfield position. What's the latest news on the two teams? While a draw for Iceland would keep their knock-out hopes alive, Nigeria, who are bottom of Group D, are under huge pressure to get all three points with manager Gernot Rohr saying his team must win. Striker Odion Ighalo promised Nigeria would be on the front foot after managing only two chances on target against Croatia. "The Iceland game will be different from the Croatian one," Ighalo said. "We want to attack that game and we want to create chances because only with chances you score goals." World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage So far, only one team from Africa have won at the World Cup - Senegal who beat Poland 2-1 on Tuesday - adding to the pressure on Nigeria. Since making their World Cup debut in 1994, the team has yet to progress beyond the round of 16, including four years ago in Brazil when Nigeria lost 2-0 to France at that stage. "We have to win against Iceland," Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr said. "If we win the next game, all is possible for the qualification." test - do not delete What are the odds? Guide to the best World Cup free bets and offers >> Iceland 17/10 Nigeria 19/10 Draw 11/5 What's our prediction? Iceland showed against Argentina how hard they are to break down and Nigeria will find it difficult to collect the three points they need to boost their chances of trying to reach the knockout stages. Prediction: 1-1 WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Australia's assistant coach will move to Eredivisie side PSV after the World Cup in Russia, returning to the club where he spent two spells.
Van Bommel to take charge of PSV
Australia's assistant coach will move to Eredivisie side PSV after the World Cup in Russia, returning to the club where he spent two spells.
It was an historic night for Deandre Ayton as he was picked first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns - the first time they've ever held the number one spot in the selection process.
Suns select Ayton as first pick of 2018 NBA Draft
It was an historic night for Deandre Ayton as he was picked first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns - the first time they've ever held the number one spot in the selection process.
It was an historic night for Deandre Ayton as he was picked first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns - the first time they've ever held the number one spot in the selection process.
Suns select Ayton as first pick of 2018 NBA Draft
It was an historic night for Deandre Ayton as he was picked first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns - the first time they've ever held the number one spot in the selection process.
It was an historic night for Deandre Ayton as he was picked first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns - the first time they've ever held the number one spot in the selection process.
Suns select Ayton as first pick of 2018 NBA Draft
It was an historic night for Deandre Ayton as he was picked first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns - the first time they've ever held the number one spot in the selection process.
Fans take pictures in front of the stadium prior to the group H match between Colombia and Japan at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Mordavia Arena in Saransk, Russia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Saransk swells from building boom of World Cup proportions
Fans take pictures in front of the stadium prior to the group H match between Colombia and Japan at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Mordavia Arena in Saransk, Russia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A police van drives near brightly colored apartment buildings, near the Mordavia Arena, one of the stadiums where matches of the 2018 soccer World Cup are played, in Saransk, Russia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Saransk swells from building boom of World Cup proportions
A police van drives near brightly colored apartment buildings, near the Mordavia Arena, one of the stadiums where matches of the 2018 soccer World Cup are played, in Saransk, Russia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
New European orders won't be fulfilled until the third quarter of 2019.
Buy A Caterham Today, Wait More Than A Year To Take Delivery
New European orders won't be fulfilled until the third quarter of 2019.
New European orders won't be fulfilled until the third quarter of 2019.
Buy A Caterham Today, Wait More Than A Year To Take Delivery
New European orders won't be fulfilled until the third quarter of 2019.
New European orders won't be fulfilled until the third quarter of 2019.
Buy A Caterham Today, Wait More Than A Year To Take Delivery
New European orders won't be fulfilled until the third quarter of 2019.
New European orders won't be fulfilled until the third quarter of 2019.
Buy A Caterham Today, Wait More Than A Year To Take Delivery
New European orders won't be fulfilled until the third quarter of 2019.
El jugador mexicano está siendo una de las grandes sensaciones del Mundial de Rusia 2018.
El padre de Hirving Lozano admite contactos con el Barcelona
El jugador mexicano está siendo una de las grandes sensaciones del Mundial de Rusia 2018.
Croatia's Luka Modric scores their second goal. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
World Cup - Group D - Argentina vs Croatia
Croatia's Luka Modric scores their second goal. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
Croatia's Ante Rebic scores their first goal. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
World Cup - Group D - Argentina vs Croatia
Croatia's Ante Rebic scores their first goal. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Croatia's Ivan Rakitic scores their third goal. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
World Cup - Group D - Argentina vs Croatia
Croatia's Ivan Rakitic scores their third goal. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Croatia's Ivan Rakitic scores their third goal. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
World Cup - Group D - Argentina vs Croatia
Croatia's Ivan Rakitic scores their third goal. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Lionel Messi carried Argentina on his back in qualifying but has been unable to inspire his country at the World Cup (AFP Photo/Dimitar DILKOFF)
Lionel Messi carried Argentina on his back in qualifying but has been unable to inspire his country at the World Cup
Lionel Messi carried Argentina on his back in qualifying but has been unable to inspire his country at the World Cup (AFP Photo/Dimitar DILKOFF)
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli was unable to inspire his team to victory against Croatia (AFP Photo/Johannes EISELE)
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli was unable to inspire his team to victory against Croatia
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli was unable to inspire his team to victory against Croatia (AFP Photo/Johannes EISELE)
Steve Hansen said it is "pointless" to complain about refereeing decisions, with France feeling hard done by in New Zealand.
Hansen urges France not to 'squeal' over decisions
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Eddie Jones remains the right man to lead England into the Rugby World Cup, says Lewis Moody.
Intelligent Jones will turn England's fortunes around - Moody
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Poland's Thiago Cionek, left, and Senegal's Alfred Ndiaye, right, go for a header during the group H match between Poland and Senegal at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Senegal, Japan: underdogs aiming for a round of 16 spot
Poland's Thiago Cionek, left, and Senegal's Alfred Ndiaye, right, go for a header during the group H match between Poland and Senegal at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Senegal's Mbaye Niang, right, dances in celebration with his teammates scoring his side's second goalduring the group H match between Poland and Senegal at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
Senegal, Japan: underdogs aiming for a round of 16 spot
Senegal's Mbaye Niang, right, dances in celebration with his teammates scoring his side's second goalduring the group H match between Poland and Senegal at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
Japan's Princess Takamado, right, and Japan's Keisuke Honda, left, shake hands prior to a training session of Japan national team at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Kazan, Russia, Thursday, June 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Senegal, Japan: underdogs aiming for a round of 16 spot
Japan's Princess Takamado, right, and Japan's Keisuke Honda, left, shake hands prior to a training session of Japan national team at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Kazan, Russia, Thursday, June 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Japan's Princess Takamado gestures as she photographs during a training session of Japan national team at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Kazan, Russia, Thursday, June 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Senegal, Japan: underdogs aiming for a round of 16 spot
Japan's Princess Takamado gestures as she photographs during a training session of Japan national team at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Kazan, Russia, Thursday, June 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Players warm up during a training session of Japan national team at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Kazan, Russia, Friday, June 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Senegal, Japan: underdogs aiming for a round of 16 spot
Players warm up during a training session of Japan national team at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Kazan, Russia, Friday, June 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Senegal's fans, their bodies and faces painted in the colors of the national flag, support their team during the group H match between Poland and Senegal at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Senegal, Japan: underdogs aiming for a round of 16 spot
Senegal's fans, their bodies and faces painted in the colors of the national flag, support their team during the group H match between Poland and Senegal at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Japan's Princess Takamado, center, speaks with Japan's Makoto Hasebe, right, and Japan's Shinji Kagawa, left, prior to a training session of Japan national team at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Kazan, Russia, Thursday, June 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Senegal, Japan: underdogs aiming for a round of 16 spot
Japan's Princess Takamado, center, speaks with Japan's Makoto Hasebe, right, and Japan's Shinji Kagawa, left, prior to a training session of Japan national team at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Kazan, Russia, Thursday, June 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
June 7, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller (6) helps clear the puck as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) defends the goal against Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) and left wing Andre Burakovsky (65) in game five of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Washington Capitals at Vegas Golden Knights
June 7, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller (6) helps clear the puck as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) defends the goal against Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) and left wing Andre Burakovsky (65) in game five of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
June 7, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller (6) helps clear the puck as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) defends the goal against Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) and left wing Andre Burakovsky (65) in game five of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Washington Capitals at Vegas Golden Knights
June 7, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller (6) helps clear the puck as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) defends the goal against Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) and left wing Andre Burakovsky (65) in game five of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
En la imagen de archivo, el entrenador del Atlético de Madrid Diego Simeone antes del partido de la Liga contra el Eibar en el Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, España, el 20 de mayo de 2018. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Simeone dice que Argentina parecía perdida y cuestiona a Messi en un audio filtrado
En la imagen de archivo, el entrenador del Atlético de Madrid Diego Simeone antes del partido de la Liga contra el Eibar en el Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, España, el 20 de mayo de 2018. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Jun 19, 2018; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) speaks with Miami Marlins starting pitcher Dan Straily (58) between plays during the second inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
MLB: Miami Marlins at San Francisco Giants
Jun 19, 2018; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) speaks with Miami Marlins starting pitcher Dan Straily (58) between plays during the second inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2018; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) speaks with Miami Marlins starting pitcher Dan Straily (58) between plays during the second inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
MLB: Miami Marlins at San Francisco Giants
Jun 19, 2018; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) speaks with Miami Marlins starting pitcher Dan Straily (58) between plays during the second inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Indian Super League (ISL) reigning champions Chennaiyin FC have announced the signing of the Mizoram trio.
Indian Super League: Chennaiyin FC sign Isaac, Zotea and Dinliana
Indian Super League (ISL) reigning champions Chennaiyin FC have announced the signing of the Mizoram trio.
En la imagen de archivo, el jugador argentino Ramiro Funes Mori en un encuentro de la liga inglesa con el Everton. Reuters / Jason Cairnduff
El Villarreal ficha al argentino Funes Mori del Everton
En la imagen de archivo, el jugador argentino Ramiro Funes Mori en un encuentro de la liga inglesa con el Everton. Reuters / Jason Cairnduff
Germany's midfielder Mesut Ozil is one of several 2014 World Cup winners under intense pressure to keep their place for Saturday's crucial match against Sweden on Saturday in Group F which the Germans must win to be sure of staying in the tournament. (AFP Photo/Patrik STOLLARZ)
Germany's midfielder Mesut Ozil is one of several 2014 World Cup winners under intense pressure to keep their place for Saturday's crucial match against Sweden on Saturday in Group F which the Germans must win to be sure of staying in the tournament
Germany's midfielder Mesut Ozil is one of several 2014 World Cup winners under intense pressure to keep their place for Saturday's crucial match against Sweden on Saturday in Group F which the Germans must win to be sure of staying in the tournament. (AFP Photo/Patrik STOLLARZ)
Centre-back Jerome Boateng is one of Germany's stars under pressure to get a win against Sweden on Saturday in Sochi at the World Cup to ensure the holders stay in the tournament. (AFP Photo/Patrik STOLLARZ)
Centre-back Jerome Boateng is one of Germany's stars under pressure to get a win against Sweden on Saturday in Sochi at the World Cup to ensure the holders stay in the tournament
Centre-back Jerome Boateng is one of Germany's stars under pressure to get a win against Sweden on Saturday in Sochi at the World Cup to ensure the holders stay in the tournament. (AFP Photo/Patrik STOLLARZ)
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. 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Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. 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To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentator's pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to