1. Kane Train and Vardy Party

England's Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy

The HurriKane and King Fox have revived hope for England’s national team. With two upstart strikers, the Three Lions are in better shape than they have been in a long time. Vardy and Kane each scored a goal in their recent comeback victory over the defending World Cup champions. The usual English optimism for a successful major tournament seems to have some real juice behind it this time. Of course, there is still plenty of time to screw it up.

2. James Rodriguez

Colombia were in real danger of falling behind in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. James was there to lead his team against Ecuador, scoring a critical goal and notching the game-winning assist in extra time. With his play, they snagged a 3-2 victory and 3 critical points over the previously unbeaten Ecuador. Now Colombia sit in 5th place, with only goal differential keeping them from an automatic qualification spot.

3. Ning Jiang

With China’s World Cup hopes hanging in the balance, Jiang was there to ensure they moved on to the next round of qualification. His hat trick over the Maldives secured their position in the final runner-up spot moving onto the third round. With China becoming a more powerful power broker in the game, a World Cup qualification would do a lot to legitimize their efforts.

4. Hassan Al-Haidos

While much has been made about Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup, their national team has actually been rising to a respectable level. Despite falling in their final group match to China, Al-Haidos led the way as the Qatari’s finished tops in their group to advance to the next stage in the qualification process. So far, they have notched their biggest win in history when they defeated Bhutan by a 15-0 scoreline, with Al-Haidos scoring a brace.

5. Andres Guardado

The Mexican winger has been the most consistent player throughout qualifying for the CONCACAF giants. The Mexicans hold a perfect qualifying record, already clinching their spot in the Hex. Guadardo scored the first goal in the qualifying campaign, and buried a penalty for the opening goal in the clinching 2-0 victory over Canada. At 29 years old, this might be his last go-around, so he is making the most of it.

6. Cyle Larin

The Canadians only have 4 points from 4 matches, but are in a decent position to qualify for the Hex. Larin has their only goal, a first half winner versus Honduras in their opening match. The team has struggled, but Larin has been a bright spot, with both matches against Mexico done and out of the way. The Canadians will need Larin to step up in their critical showdown against Honduras in September.

7. Luis Suarez

The first match back for Suarez with the Uruguay national team since his ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup was a solid result. Suarez was clearly rusty, but got stronger as the match progressed, helping the team climb out from a 2-0 hole for a 2-2 final result. Suarez scored the equalizer, helping put Uruguay at the top of the table.

8. Levi Garcia

Unexpectedly, Trinidad and Tobago sit top of the table in Group C CONCACAF qualifying. Garcia was the man who came up big when his team needed him, scoring the winner in the 82nd minute of their away tie against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. A hard fought 3-2 victory was not expected against the minnows, and they clobbered them 6-0 a few days later at home. But the 3 points from the away tie have them in prime position to advance to the Hex.

9. Brad Guzan

Sure, there wasn’t much to do in his shift of qualifying at home, but he did preserve a clean sheet. The goalkeeper battle for the US is going to be long, but Guzan put in a good audition to be “the guy” in goal. His club form is back too, regaining his starting spot at Aston Villa, despite heading for relegation. The Polar Bear will be needed if the US is going to make it to Russia.

10. Cap-tied Hype Train

In the United States, we love to hype up prospects to the point where anything less than Messi or Ronaldo numbers would be a failure. We should tap the brakes, but still be excited about Christian Pulisic getting cap-tied. The 17-year-old has a bright future, IF HE CONTINUES TO DEVELOP. His cameo against Guatemala ensures he will be wearing the red, white, and blue of the USA (as opposed to the red, white, and blue of Croatia) for a very long time.


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