5 players to watch at this year’s World Cup

Every World Cup has its memorable moments and of course memorable players. For example 1958 was Pele’s emergence, 1986 was all about Diego Maradona, and 1998 was very much Zidane’s tournament whilst 2002 became Ronaldo’s comeback. Having said that, whose tournament will 2014 be? Our feature editor Dominic Hanley (you can follow him on Twitter @dominiho7) looks at five players who could take Brazil by storm.

Neymar  Neymar

It all seems kind of obvious this one but this tournament is really set up for Neymar to cement his name in footballing folklore. With the Brazilians marginal favourites for the tournament, much is resting on the shoulders of the young Brazilian forward – even more so as he will don the famous number 10 shirt, worn by Brazilian legends such as Pele, Rivelino, Zico and more recently Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka’. There is much unrest within the Brazilian public over the holding of the World Cup in their country but victory will do much to calm that feeling right down. If there is one thing the Brazilian’s like to see is the Selecao lifting the FIFA World Cup trophy. In their recent 1-0 victory over Serbia, the Selecao stuggled to breakdown the Serbian defensive unit and were even getting booed when first choice striker Fred slotted home on the 58th minute.  A tough result for Serbia given they outplayed their Brazilian hosts for much of the first half.

Lionel Messi Messi Argentina

So far he has flattered to deceive on the World stage, but could this be his year?

He has won everything the club game can offer having won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, the Supercopa de España, the UEFA Champions League, the Uefa Super Cup and the FIFA World Club Cup..  Now he needs to do the same at International level and emulate the great Argentinians of previous tournaments. He has never quite been the same player for Argentina that he has for Barcelona. This could well be down to a number of reasons perhaps attributed to the fact the shape they play is different, Messi tends to play out wider than he does for Barca, its one of those issues that at some point phases almost all professionals, just ask Gerrard and Lampard. Like Neymar he is forced to live up to a former Argentinian number 10, Diego Maradona. Given that this World Cup will take place in South America, now is the time for Messi to step up and show the world that he can perform on the biggest of international stages.

Ross Barkley Barkley

He could be key to England’s success this summer, though he is unlikely to start, he could be England’s ultimate game changer. He is seen as having a bright future for England and much like when Wayne Rooney broke through many expect him to do well.  Comparisons have even been made with past English greats such as  Paul Gascoigne and even with Dutch hero Ronald Koeman, however club manager Roberto Martinez has been quick to air on the side of caution and not place too much pressure on the young Englishman’s shoulders.  It will be very interesting to see how he fits into Hodgson’s plans and how he will be deployed in a talented midfield unit. Looking at the pre World Cup fixtures, Barkley has only started 1 game, bagging 82 minutes in the friendly against Ecuador at the Sun Life Stadium, Miami. Looking very impressive in a traditional number 10 role, Barkly showed some great touches and glimpses of his ability, however there were occasions where he gave away possession far too cheaply, a trait all Englishmen are guilty of.  It’s more than likely we will see Barkley emerging from the bench when England are looking for a game changer, the question is, can Barkley deliver?

Julian Draxler Draxler - Germany

Following the recent injury that Marco Reus suffered in Germany’s 6-1 mauling of Armenia, could Arsenal target and Schalke wonderkid Julian Draxler be set to star in Brazil for Germany?

An unfortunate injury for Marco Reus could pave the way for Julian Draxler to be Germany’s stand out man this summer. Still only 20 years old, with an impressive haul of 100+ Bundesliga appearances to his name, Draxler is certainly going to be a star in the future.  So much so that Arsenal have recently been linked with a £25M move for the midfielder, a move that seems all the more likely in recent weeks.  Much like the effect that Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller had on Germany’s 2008 campaign in South Africa,  this World Cup could prove to be the coming of age for the Gelsenkirchen based youngster. If he has a good World Cup then expect the transfer rumours to swirl once again.

Ivan Rakitic Rakitic

Finally starting to realise the potential he offered as a youngster (and still only 26 years old), Sevillia captain and Croatian midfielder Rakitic has been in scintillating  form for his La Liga outfit culminating in his best scoring season as he bagged 15 goals in all competitions, including 3 on their way to winning the Europa League. Following on from his best season at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, Rakitic  has already been linked with a move to Louis van Gaal’s revolution at Manchester United as well as Luis Enrique’s new look Barcelona side. Named in the recent 2013/14 UEFA Europa League Squad of the Season, Rakitic looks set for a great future and if he’s able to  replicate his club form on the world stage,  then the likelihood of a  move away from Sevilla is increasingly likely, with a host of Europe’s top clubs casting an eye on the all round midfielder.

I’m sure as happens with most major tournaments, there will be one stand out player that nobody had predicted before hand so could we see another Pele or Zidane and there is no better stage than the World Cup to make your presence count.. So, there are my predictions for 5 players to watch this summer in Brazil.  So sit back, relax and enjoy the summer of football that’s before us.

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