How many players heading to Brazil 2014 are genuine world stars?
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, of course.
Whilst the likes of Neymar, Luis Suarez, Robin van Persie, Andres Iniesta, Andrea Pirlo and Radamel Falcao (if he makes it) have established reputations.
As excitement builds towards the showpiece football event we were wondering which players look like they could make an impact in Brazil and turn themselves from household names into bona fide world stars.
Below are our top 10 choices for the most likely players to become world stars at the 2014 World Cup.
Almost to a man, these 10 have been playing supremely well of late and appear to be hitting form at just the right time, not just for a squad place for their respective countries but also to show the watching world that they are world class talents.
They are in alphabetical order. Feel free to disagree in the comments!
Nabil Bentaleb (Algeria). Broken into Tim Sherwood’s Tottenham side and has kept the likes of Etienne Capoue out the first team. A tall rangy player with impressive passing, Bentaleb has shown little fear at White Hart Lane so far and you can see him continuing this purple patch into the summer.
Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Colombia). Has come to prominence again thanks to two goals in his past two games and has an absolute hammer of a strike. Colombia are many people’s dark horses, with or without Falcao, and their wingers – also watch out for James Rodriguez – will be a key reason behind any success.
Antoine Griezmann (France). Despite scraping through, Les Bleus have an army of young talent which could help them make an impact, including Paul Pogba, Kurt Zouma and Real Sociedad winger Griezmann. A tally of 14 goals in 22 matches so far this season tells its own story and his personal battle just to make Didier Deschamps’ squad could help him hit the ground running.
Eden Hazard (Belgium). Jose Mourinho has tipped Hazard to become as good as Messi and Ronaldo, so who are we to argue. The Belgian trickster looks well placed to make an even bigger name for himself as he will be surrounded by a squad packed with talent that should afford him a free role to cause havoc.
Son Heung-Min (South Korea). After a summer move from Hamburg, there is no doubting the fact Son Heung-Min has been a major success at Bayer Leverkusen. Quick and direct, the 21-year-old has bagged 8 goals in 18 appearances this season.
Tommy Oar (Australia). The Socceroos have the hardest task of perhaps any team at the World Cup, facing Spain, Holland and Chile but this could be a wonderful opportunity for Tommy Oar. Long touted as a hot prospect, the 22-year-old winger has been showing off his pace and technical ability at Utrecht in recent months.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (England). The Ox appears to be a ready made replacement for injured club and international team mate Theo Walcott. Oxlade-Chamberlain may not possess the raw pace of his Arsenal colleague but he is more versatile and has popped up with some crucial goals recently having missed the first half of the season through injury.
Jese Rodriguez (Spain). Real Madrid’s super sub now has five goals in his past six games and is so confident you would not put it past him to continue starring for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Is yet to win a full Spanish cap, so is far from certain to be picked by Vicente Del Bosque, but his raw talent and attitude could well see him sneak in to the La Furia Roja squad.
Kevin Strootman (Holland). Strootman was playing Under-21 football last summer but should add drive and dynamism to the Dutch midfield just as he has done at Roma. At one time Strootman was constantly linked with Manchester United and David Moyes could use his presence in the middle of the park.
Arturo Vidal (Chile). In late January, Vidal said the following: “I am the best player in the world in my position. That’s simply the way it is for me. There are a lot of players out there in my position who try and play just like me and want to copy my style of play. But it’s quite clear for me that I’m the best in my role. Nobody puts in as much defensive work as I do and then scores a lot of goals on top of it as well.”
No better place to prove it than the World Cup!
Some notable mentions: Marco Verratti, Izet Hajrović, Roger Espinoza, Memphis Depay, Paul Pogba, Edin Dzeko, Diego Costa and no doubt loads more!