The quartet have lit up the World Cup finals in Russia in different ways as they have guided their sides to the semi-finals
The World Cup has provided thrills and spills for the best part of a month, with the final in Moscow fast approaching.
Of the 32 sides that originally took their spot in Russia, only four remain; France or England will win a second title, or one of Belgium and Croatia will take home a maiden World Cup success.
The semi-finalists will all have their eyes firmly fixed on the biggest prize in football, having seen the pre-tournament favourites Brazil, Germany and Spain all fall by the wayside.
But as we head into the final four matches of the competition, the award for the best individual player is also close to being granted.
Lionel Messi took it four years ago, Diego Forlan having been the recipient in 2010 and Zinedine Zidane in 2006; only Oliver Kahn of the last five winners has actually got his hands on the World Cup.
Now there are four names in the frame to follow in their illustrious footsteps: France whizkid Kylian Mbappe, Croatia playmaker Luka Modric, brilliant Belgian Eden Hazard and England’s goalscorer supreme Harry Kane.
But which one is the man most likely? Mirror Football runs down the list of contenders….
Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Eden Hazard has shown at Chelsea that when focused and handed a place in a working team structure there is little capable of stopping him.
Thus far in Russia, captaining Belgium’s best-ever side, he has excelled. Roberto Martinez has built a team designed to get the best out of his No.10, and Hazard has seized the moment.
Certainly he needed others to do the business in the comeback win over Japan, the Red Devils having been on the verge of a shock collapse. But having destroyed Panama and Tunisia with his speed, quick-thinking and ball manipulation, he produced a performance against Brazil, a very, very good Brazil, that acted almost like a declaration that he is ready to take over.
He dropped the shoulder and tormented Fagner, burned Miranda for pure pace and terrorised Fernandinho whenever moving centrally. Crucially, in the closing moments as Tite’s men threw everything at Belgium, it was he who came deep to receive the ball before dragging his side up the pitch with 20-30 yard runs, winning freekick after freekick. The Selecao couldn’t get close to him all night.
On the back of that display, he now needs to produce similar against France to take Belgium’s own golden generation to a first World Cup final.
Harry Kane (England)
The England captain came into the World Cup finals with question marks over his ability to make a difference at a major tournament; previously he had struggled at the Under-21 Euros and the abiding memory of his Euro 2016 efforts were of his corner-taking.
In four matches Kane has scored more World Cup goals than every Englishman bar Gary Lineker. But England’s main man has emphatically answered his critics, not just with six goals in four games – putting him on course for the golden boot – but with his all-round performances.
The Tottenham forward has led the line magnificently for the Three Lions, offering much more than purely predatory prowess in the penalty box; Kane has led by example, fighting for every inch up front against opposing defenders while also showcasing his intelligence by dropping deep to link play and create overloads in midfield.
He was the epitome of calm against Colombia as he showcased his mental strength during the wait to take his penalty as South American opponents argued with officials and stalled his taking of the spot kick. He has also shown the kind of street smarts which England sides of years past have all too often lacked.
If the Three Lions are to bring football home, then Kane likely still has his biggest say at these finals left. Depending on the size, he could well complete the most unique of trebles: Golden Ball, Golden Boot and World Cup.
Kylian Mbappe (France)
The young French phenom provided one of the standout individual displays of the finals with his virtuoso destruction of Argentina in the last 16.
His display against the Albiceleste was one which showed his brilliance in two ways: firstly, the ability to cause sheer untold terror in an opposing defence and secondly, the wherewithal to kill off a game with ice-cold finishing.
Antoine Griezmann had expected to be Les Bleus’ leading light pre-tournament, but he and the rest of Didier Deschamps’ star-studded squad have been left in the shade by the teenager whose light illuminates with increasing brightness.
Having started the tournament slowly against Australia and Peru – albeit netting the winner in the latter – he also tormented Uruguay with not only his speed, but the fleet-footedness he displays when dribbling and the intelligence of his movement in off the right flank.
At 19, simply the biggest prospect on the world stage, but one that has little intention of waiting for tomorrow.
Luka Modric (Croatia)
Croatia emerged as dark horses to reach the competition’s latter stages after sashaying through their three group matches with a perfect record, with Real Madrid star Modric at the heart of their efforts.
The captain scored twice during the group stage, the second an outstanding shimmy and curling strike in the decimation of Argentina, a game in which he dominated.
Zlatko Dalic started with Modric in an advanced central role for the Vatreni at the start of the competition, but as demands have changed Modric has moved to a deeper position to suit.
He missed a penalty in extra-time against Denmark, having created the chance himself with an inch perfect through pass – that illuminated a stodgy encounter – before showing the cojones to step up in the shootout. He did likewise in the win over Russia.
Ivan Rakitic has similarly impressed alongside him, but Modric has been the Croatians’ main man, their heartbeat.