With football’s biggest spectacle drawing ever closer, everybody is starting to catch World Cup fever. Forget Ronaldo or Messi though, these are the five players are sure to make a real impact in Brazil:
Belgium are enjoying what seems to be a golden generation of footballing talent, with world-class players and potential superstars littering Marc Wilmots’ 23-man-squad. Kevin Mirallas is one of these potential superstars, and at 26 he is entering his footballing peak.
Mirallas has been playing in the Premier League with Everton for 2 years now, and while he can blow hot and cold, on his day he is sensational.
Compared to some of his attacking compatriots like Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, Mirallas is somewhat of an unknown quantity.
But Belgium’s opposition would be foolish to underestimate him as he can hurt teams in a variety of ways, with his pace, vision and finishing giving him the ability to score or create goals.
Colombia are one of the dark horses going into this tournament, due to some of the attacking players they have at their disposal and the varying attacking formations that Jose Pekerman has applied.
Juan Cuadrado will be a key component of Colombia’s attacking play, and a good performance in the World Cup might lead Barcelona and Manchester United to follow up their interest in the Fiorentina talisman.
Cuadrado has been a revelation in Italy this season, with 15 goals and 9 assists for Fiorentina in all competitions as his pace and trickery troubled defenders both in Serie A and the Europa League.
The 26-year-old winger can play anywhere across the midfield or as a wing-back, and his versatility gives another dimension to his game.
Juan Cuadrado can trouble any defender when on song and with Colombia not seen as genuine contenders to lift the trophy, the Serie A star can play without pressure and announce himself on the world stage.
Angel Di Maria
Angel Di Maria has had a stellar season for Real Madrid, contributing 22 assists and 11 goals in all competitions as Los Blancos won both the Champions League and Copa Del Rey.
The 26-year-old Argentine plays in the shadow of his Madrid teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, but this has in a way helped his form, as defenders are usually so preoccupied with the aforementioned duo that they forget about Di Maria, who can influence matches with his incisive passing and quick feet.
In the Argentinian national set-up, Di Maria is again overshadowed, by Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero. Could the Madrid star replicate his club form for his country and capitalise on the lack of attention he is given by the opposition, guiding Argentina to glory on enemy soil in the process?
“He is one of the best defenders to have challenged me that way in all my career and I believe he will turn a wonderful world player in the near future.” – Didier Drogba
High praise indeed, and to receive it from one of the best centre-forwards of the 21st century only emphasises the frightening potential Raphael Varane possesses.
The 21-year-old centre-back has suffered with injuries this season, starting only 15 games compared to 28 in the previous campaign.
But with his injury problems behind him Varane can focus on shining for France, with his distribution, tackling and reading of the game sure to impress.
From being winners and finalists in 1998 and 2006 to failing to win a single group game in 2002 and 2010, the French have a very ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ recent World Cup record, but with fresh impetus from the likes of Varane, Deschamps’ men may surprise a few.
Shinji Kagawa has had another very frustrating season at Manchester United.
Starved of gametime and played out of position when selected, Kagawa is barely a bit-part player at Old Trafford these days, and his reputation has suffered as a consequence.
There is almost a sense that Kagawa needs a good World Cup in order to rejuvenate his career, and if in the mood, the Japanese star is more than capable of sending a few footballing shockwaves.
Technically gifted with supreme vision and dribbling, Kagawa can torment opposition backlines for fun and along with Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okasaki, Japan have every chance of progressing from the group stages.
If there are any lingering doubts over the talent Kagawa possesses, his former manager, Jurgen Klopp, really sums up his talents here:
“Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and he now plays 20 minutes at Manchester United – on the left wing! My heart breaks. Really, I have tears in my eyes.” – Jurgen Klopp (Manager of Borussia Dortmund)
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