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10 players to watch out for at the World Cup in Brazil

Last updated on: June 11, 2014 17:36 IST

10 players to watch out for at the World Cup in Brazil

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Rediff Sports Desk

These stars won the hearts of fans and pundits with their form at the club level and during the World Cup qualifiers.

Rediff.com gives you a quick glance of the players who could light up the tournament in Brazil.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The 'trickster' from Portugal is unarguably in his prime. The reigning Ballon d’Or winner hasn't had a better season for both, club and country.

The sight of Ronaldo sprinting forward on another devastating Real counter-attack or smashing in a free-kick has become synonymous with the man from Madeira.

Often compared to Portugal great, the late Eusebio, Ronaldo has work to do this World Cup.

He became Portugal's top goal-scorer when two goals in a 5-1 friendly defeat of Cameroon in March took his tally to 49 in 110 games.

However, after an erratic Portuguese qualifying campaign he singlehandedly secured their berth at the finals in Brazil when he netted all four goals over the two legs of their 4-2 aggregate win over Sweden in in the play-off late in 2013.

Ronaldo is currently nursing two injuries and is a doubtful starter for Portugal’s opening game against big guys Germany.

We’ll have to wait and see how his leadership can make Portugal’s campaign a fruitful one.

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Image: Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo
Photographs: Martin Rose/Getty Images

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Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi’s legend is widely scripted and accepted. The man has been at the centre of Spanish club Barcelona’s success for over the last decade or so. But, somehow, he hasn’t been able to replicate that form on the international stage.

The four-time World Player of the Year has the speed to slip past defenders and get a goal out of nowhere. So you can never write him off.

Last season he was laid low by injury and his form was also suspect in the latter half of the season.

Having scored ten goals in qualifying stage of the World Cup for the 'Albiceleste', hopes are high that the 27-year-old will bring his magic to the fore this time and put his name among the greatest.

After a spectacular haul of trophies with Barcelona, Messi has a chance to lead Argentina to glory on the World Cup stage and build his reputation as one of the all-time greats.

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Image: Argentina's Lionel Messi
Photographs: Martin Acosta/Reuters

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Neymar da Silva Santos

Neymar was the sole architect of Brazil’s Confederation’s Cup victory last year and duly named man of the tournament for his inspired form in front of goal.

With former greats in Pele, Garrincha, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho having decorated the tournament with top performances in the past, the 22-year-old Barcelona striker has quite literally big boots to fill.

Since the last year, he's in ominous form for the national side, scoring 11 goals in 15 matches.

He has more of a free role with the national side and his predatory instincts in front of goal will be vital if Brazil are to go all the way this time.

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Image: Neymar of Brazil
Photographs: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

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Luis Suarez

The Uruguayan forward has his own legend in the competition. His modern-day version of the ‘hand of god’ goal against Ghana in the quarters of the 2010 World Cup helped him garner a lot of attention.

But, more importantly, it was his ability to partner Diego Forlan and create goals that brought focus to the ‘cannibal’.

This season Suarez was top notch for club and country.

He finished the season with a share of the European Golden Boot and was named Footballer of the Year by the Professional Footballers' Association and the Football Writers' Association.

His World Cup qualifying goals, 11 in 16 matches, helped book Uruguay's spot at the finals.

His abundant quality has never been in doubt. He has a unique ability to engineer and get the better of defenders in one-on-one situations, a deadly finish and a knack for pulling off the spectacular.

Despite injury fears going into this World Cup, it will be only foolish to count out Suarez’s impact on the game on any given day.

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Image: Luis Suarez of Uruguay
Photographs: Winnie Pessentheiner/Getty Images

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Andrea Pirlo

Veteran Andrea Pirlo has been Italy’s driving force over the years. Consistency is his hallmark and he showed that with his performance while helping Juventus rally to another Serie A title last season.

He has instrumental in Italy’s World Cup-winning campaign in 2006, and even at last year’s Confederations Cup he got some well-deserved love from the Brazilian crowds.

He played his 100th international in the match against Mexico at the Confederations Cup last year.

Pirlo, like ageless wine, only gets better with time.

His elegant, unhurried and thoughtful style can put a smile on the face of the purists and his favoured role as a deep-lying playmaker makes him something of a rarity in modern football.

He retains the ability to spray 40-metre passes over and his free-kicks have guided Juve to many a win last season and as he gets set to marshal the Italian mid-field it will not be wrong to say that Italy’s fortunes depend on Pirlo’s form.

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Image: Andrea Pirlo of Italy
Photographs: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

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David Luiz

Luiz is easily recognised by his shaggy hair. But it’s the Brazilian’s defensive abilities at Chelsea that caught the eye of pundits and fans.

The 27-year-old defender will have to work in tandem with Thiago Silva if they have to thwart the opposition.

Luiz was sold last week from Chelsea to Paris St Germain for a fee estimated to be between 40 and 50 million pounds ($67.37 and $84.30 million) - a world record for a defender.

Why the price-tag one may ask?

Luiz’s ability to adapt to different positions is one factor. He was previously used as a defensive mid-fielder and filled that space with perfection under Rafael Benitez’s spell at Chelsea last season and, more recently, under Jose Mourinho’s instructions.

Playing further forward minimizes the danger of conceding a goal from Luiz's occasional rushes of blood to the head, as well as offering more opportunities to utilise his formidable shooting power.

Let’s see what he offers Brazil and home fans at the World Cup.

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Image: David Luiz of Brazil
Photographs: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

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Andres Iniesta

Andres Iniesta was the man for Spain at the 2010 World Cup. He scored the winning goal that crowned Spain World champions.

Much like Italy’s Pirlo, Iniesta continues to pull the strings for the national side. No doubt he has teammates of the quality of Xavi and Xabi Alonso who drive the Spanish aramada from  the middle of the pitch, but his ability to single-handed change the course of a match cannot be discounted.

His crisp passing and perfect runs down the length of the pitch has been the 28-year-old’s mark over the years for both, Barcelona and Spain.

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Image: Andres Iniesta of Spain
Photographs: David Ramos/Getty Images

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Yaya Toure

If Yaya Toure carries his English Premier League form into the World Cup then Ivory Coast will be one nation to look out for in the tournament.

In the absence of the injured Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero, Toure led Manchester City to the Premier League title last season, having pumped in 26 goals thus becoming City’s highest scorer.

He is currently on of the best holding midfielders in the world and his ability to play the roving role will give Ivory Coast hopes of progressing deep into the 2014 World Cup.

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Image: Yaya Toure of Ivory Coast
Photographs: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

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Arjen Robben

The Dutchman was Bayern Munich's main man this season.

His runs down the flank and then sudden burst into action brought shivers down many an opponent. 

But having had a long Bundesliga season could take a toll on his fitness. Let's not forget that injury had laid him low at the last World Cup; he even missed out on the final due to a hamstring injury. 

He will be a crucial cog in the wheel for the Dutch; his form will be of prime importance  for the team to advance in the competition.

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Image: Arjen Robben of The Netherlands during a training session
Photographs: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

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Alexis Sanchez 

The Chilean was off and on for Barcelona last season, but can be a handful on any given day. 

While he competes for a place in the Barca attack with the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Pedro, Alexis is the undisputed leader of the Chile forward line and has 22 goals in 65 appearances for 'La Roja'.

He produced moments of brilliance, like a superb lob against Real Madrid in October's La Liga 'Clasico', but lacked consistency.

Even though he hasn't fulfilled expectations at the Nou Camp, his exploits in Spain and Europe make him a player to watch out for.


Image: Alexis Sanchez of Chile
Photographs: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

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