World Cup fever is in full effect and if you haven't been watching the incredible matches live from Russia, you've been missing out. Since June, teams from all over the world are representing their countries on the field including Peru, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama. These exceptional athletes have been preparing physically for the last four years to participate and we can't help but notice just how well they've done.
And even though nearly every Latin national team has been eliminated except Uruguay, Brazil, and Colombia, we should continue to celebrate and support our players. To help get you started, here are fifteen of the hottest soccer players from the 2018 World Cup.
1. Memo Ochoa
Mexico was eliminated by Brazil on Monday, but Memo Ochoa played his heart out for the red, white, and green. The goalie, known for his wild curly hair, defended his team against Germany, Korea, Sweden, and Brazil with pride. The Guadalajara-born superstar will be remembered for his nine saves against Germany and eight against Brazil.
Although he's 32-years-old, this doesn't have to be his final trip to the World Cup. Egypt's captain Essam El-Hadary became the oldest player to compete this year at 45-years-old this year.
2. Neymar Jr
Although Neymar Jr has been in the shadow of soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, he's proving he's worthy of the limelight. The 26-year-old forward has played in all four games in support of Brazil, earning the title of Budweiser's Man of the Match for his two game-winning goals against Mexico on July 2.
Neymar Jr is considered one of the top three players in the world alongside Portugal's Ronaldo and Argentina's Lionel Messi. Neymar, the last of the trio still competing in Russia, stands to climb even higher now that both Ronaldo and Messi have been eliminated from the competition.
3. Isco Alarcon
Twenty-six-year-old Isco Alarcon and his teammates from the Spanish national team were eliminated by Russia, but they're still winners in our hearts. Alarcon, who was born Francisco Roman Alarcon Suarez, earned the title of Budweiser Man of the Match for his score against Morroco on June 25th during his stint at the 2018 World Cup.
The Real Madrid midfielder told his nearly 15 million Instagram followers that the elimination "the saddest day of his career." He continued, "But this is football and it doesn't stop, life doesn't stop. We just have to get up, like we always have--- full of pride while defending our country."
4. Andre Carrillo
It was 36 years since Peru competed in the World Cup, and although they were eliminated by France during their second match, they returned home winners. Forward Andre Carrillo scored one of two winning goals, the first for Peru since battling Poland in 1972, against Australia which earned him the Budweiser Man of the Match trophy.
“We’ve put an end to that bad run. Now it’s up to us to make sure we return to the World Cup every four years,” he told FIFA.com after the match.
Fans look forward to seeing Los Incas return even stronger for Qatar in 2022.
5. James Rodriguez
Colombia is still very much in the competition and many are saying the South American team could take it all the way. Number 10, James Rodriguez, has also earned the Budweiser accolade for Man of the Match while battling Poland on June 24.
Sadly, Rodriguez suffered a calf injury during Colombia's match against Senegal but don't count him out just yet. Team manager Jose Pekerman confirmed earlier today that he may return to face England.
"We had good news after his medical tests," Pekerman told the media on Tuesday. "After his MRI (scan) we knew that he doesn't have a serious injury. We still have one-and-a-half days to see how he feels, and as always we hope that he will be able to play in the following games."
6. Carlos Henrique Casemiro
Casemiro's journey at the 2018 World Cup continues, after the South American team beat Mexico's El Tri 2-10 on Monday. Although the 26-year-old has played well in all four matches, he has yet to score during the competition. There's no doubt he will have a chance when Brazil take on Belgium on July 6.
Casemiro had three of the most important women in his life cheering him on, his mother Magda, his wife Anna Mariana, and their daughter Sara.
7. Harold Cummings
It wasn't an easy road to Russia for Panamanian soccer star Harold Cummings. The 26-year-old worked hard to get back into winning shape after suffering a leg injury while playing for the San Jose Earthquake in 2017. Speaking to Press Association Sport ahead of Panama's match against England, Cummings promised they were there to win even though they knew they were up against some of the best players in the world.
"We are going there to play hard," Cummings said. "We are going there to compete. We will do our job against any team we face. England [has] players that are competing at a really high level, and I think that is an advantage they have over us.
It is going to be man versus man and we are not going to look at the names on the back of the England jerseys."
8. Radamel Falcao
Radamel Falcao is one of Colombian's strongest players, but can he beat England's John Stones? The players will once again go head-to-head on the field on Tuesday and no matter who wins, there's no doubt it will be one of the hottest matches fans will see during this World Cup.
The Colombian captain, who already scored once while competing in Russia, is in it to win it after missing out in 2014's World Cup due to a knee injury. But he's ready to lead Los Cafeteros to victory, posting an encouraging message to his Instagram account on Thursday.
"Faith can move mountains," he wrote.
9. Yoshimar Yotun
Yoshimar Yotun departed from Moscow alongside his teammates, "Proud to be Peruvian." The 28-year-old midfielder also thanked fans all over the world via Instagram for their heartfelt support. Although Los Incas came in as underdogs, the team played extremely well against powerful teams like France and Denmark.
Yotun seems to be elated with the experience and happy to be back home with his family, including his mom who he cuddled up to on Instagram Story on Monday. Another person happy to spend quality time with the soccer star is his young daughter Yael, who also made an appearance in his video.
He and his wife Alessandra welcomed a son they named Valentino, in June.
10. Martin Caceres
Uruguay has already won against Egypt, Saudia Arabia, Russia, and Portugal. Could they go all the way during the 2018 World Cup? They're surely going to try their hardest, as all eyes are on defender Martin Caceres, who could end up a free agent again.
No matter what's in his future, his Instagram serves as proof that he and his teammates are enjoying their time on the field together. On an earlier post showing his team embracing, he says, "It's a thing of beauty to be Uruguayan."
11. Cristian Pavon
Argentina's midfielder Cristian Pavon make look young, but he's been playing professionally since he was 16-years-old. Now at the age of twenty-two, Pavon is proving that his teammate Leo Messi was right, he has become an important member of the national team. He played all four matches at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and there's no doubt he will return to the oversized stadiums for many more years to come.
All things are not bad for Pavon, even after Argentina was eliminated on Friday by France. Arsenal has been trying to steal him away from his long-term contract with Boca Juniors since January. All of this could spell a lot more money for this young soccer star!
12. Rodney Wallace
Costa Rica's Rodney Wallace is happiest when he has his daughter in his arms! Wallace shares many photos of him and his little princess, who just celebrated her fourth birthday in May, via Instagram.
When he's not playing in the World Cup, Wallace is a left winger for the Major League soccer team, New York City FC.
13. Gerard Pique
After Spain's big loss against Russia, Twitter agreed that Gerard Pique can't really lose. The reason? He gets to go home to longtime partner Shakira! The couple, who share sons Milan and Sasha, were apart during the World Cup due to the Colombian superstar's hectic touring schedule. But there's no doubt that Pique knows his woman is cheering him on no matter what.
Sadly for us, this will be the last time we witness the center back playing soccer. He shocked the world by announcing his retirement from the game in Moscow on Sunday.
14. Paolo Guerrero
Peruvian captain Paolo Guerrero made sure The Incas left the World Cup as true winners. He scored the winning goal against Australia following Carrillo, sadly they had already been eliminated. What made the team's win even sweeter was that Guerrero won it in the name of his teammate and friend Jefferson Farfan, who suffered a head injury while practicing against Denmark.
“It was a delicate situation during those moments," the forward told the media about Farfan. "It was complicated. Thank God that he is fine. We are all relieved.”
15. Leo Messi
Love him or hate him, no one can deny that Leo Messi is one of the best soccer players in the world. Even though he's been heavily criticized during his time at the Russian World Cup, the Argentine forward kept pushing for a win. There are rumors that he could retire from playing internationally but it would be a shame to see him go without a major championship win for Argentina.
Although things are complicated in his professional life, he has a happy family life alongside his adoring wife Antonella and their three sons Thiago, Mateo, and Ciro by his side. Little Ciro just joined the family in March.