The Lyon forward has been the top marksman in the tournament with five goals and one assist in three matches. Gouiri is one of the three players to score in all three games in the group stages including a brace in France's 7-1 drubbing of New Caledonia. The no. 9 has dovetailed with midfielder Yacine Adli to devastating effect, running on to the latter's through balls to finish with aplomb. The French side has scored 14 goals so far — most in the group stages — and will rely on Gouiri's goals to go all the way in the tournament.
The Iran no. 8 was the midfield general in his side's table-topping display in Group C, which included heavyweights Germany and Costa Rica. Sharifi's vision and range of passing from the middle of the park has allowed his team-mates Younes Delfi and Allahyar Sayyad to thrive and showcase their finishing skills. He provided a pin-point set piece delivery for Younes Delfi to nod home Iran's second goal in its 4-0 rout of Germany. With skipper Mohammad Ghobeishavi suspended for the match against Mexico, Sharifi will have to double up the duties in midfield.
After much furore over his involvement in the World Cup, Sancho dazzled in the group stages with his nimble footwork and dribbling skills at the Salt Lake stadium. The new Borussia Dortmund purchase led the way for England with three goals and two assists to his name. Sancho was often seen taking on two or three defenders at a time, which allowed space for his team-mates to trouble the opposition. Doubts still remain over the availability of the former Manchester City youth graduate for the knock-out stages.
In the absence of star forward Vincius Jr., Paulinho has stepped up to be Carlos Amadeu's driving force in attack. His net-bursting finish against Spain helped Brazil complete a superb comeback. So far, the Vasco da Gama forward has scored twice and set up one in the three matches played. The duo of Paulinho and Lincoln has combined to deadly effect in the group stages while scoring five goals among them.
The African champion Mali showed why it is among the teams to beat in the competition when it overcame an opening day 3-2 defeat to make it to the Round-of-16 stages. The Mali forward was a constant threat to the opposition back-line, running in behind with his blistering pace to stretch the defence; Mali had the most shots on goal in the group stages (85). N'Diaye has scored three goals and could have added more to his name if it wasn't for his wayward finishing. Chances will come aplenty when Mali takes on Iraq in its next game where the latter's defence was found wanting in the group stage fixture against England.
Juan Penaloza has provided with the most telling moments in the tournament so far. His brace against host India handed Colombia its first win in the World Cup. Then, in the final group stage fixture, the No. 11 scored a spectacular free-kick to put the South American side in front, against USA. This was followed by a piece of brilliance in the dying minutes of the game, when Penaloza dribbled his way past the defence to set up the third goal which took Colombia ahead of USA on goal difference to qualify in second position.
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