As the opening game of the World cup approaches pundits are beginning to speculate about which players will shine during the tournament. Will it be an established star or will someone like the young Michael Owen emerge? We have chosen five players we think will make the headlines for the right reasons.
Everyone knows he is special a player but opinion is divided over whether Messi will provide the tournament with those touches of magic that make him stand out in his and previous generations of footballers. They point to a season where Barcelona did not achieve to the level of recent years. Added to this are two lack lustre performances in 2006 and 2010. Especially in South Africa (2010) where he failed to register a single goal, and couldn’t rouse his team during the eventual heavy defeat by Germany.
However the optimists see a player that has shaken off a early season injury and who has taken part in a very successful qualifying tournament who has the desire to win in South America. Coach Alejandro Sabella is trying to craft a team that will provide the crucial support that will allow Messi to shine. Key to this is the midfield ball provider Fernando Gago. Coach Sabello feels Messi has matured and exhibits an inner peace. Perhaps the relatively straight forward games against Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria will give him the platform he needs to show his unquestionable class.
The situation with Ronaldo is almost the reverse that of Messi. He has had a fantastic season with Real Madrid scoring 16 Champions league goals and over the course of the season scored a goal every 72 minutes. The fear is that he has had such a hard season that he will struggle to maintain his form for another month.
Secondly people say that Portugal are a one man team and are in a tough group. However if you look at their record they have performed very well over the last 10 years. They were Euro finalists in 2004, world cup semi finalists in 2006.They reached the quarter finals of the 2008 Euros and the last 16 in South Africa followed by the semi finals in the Euros 2012.
Portugal Coach Paulo Bento believes he is in good shape and believes his speed and athleticism will be there for all to see.
All the pundits say that Neymar has been given a massive responsibility to ensure that Brazil do better on home turf than they have done in the previous two tournaments. Some say that he has had a mediocre season for Barcelona scoring only 15 goals and has been carrying a season long injury. Team mate Dani Alves disagrees saying that he adjusted really well to playing in Europe and fitting into a team like Barcelona takes time. He paid tribute to his maturity. Neymar joined the national team in 2010 and has scored 30 goals in 47 appearances. The curtain is set to go up for Neymar it remains to be seen if he will be afflicted by stage fright.
Pogba the 21year old Juventus midfielder is tipped to be one of the finds of the tournament. “Polpo Paul,” (Paul the Octopus) because of his long legs played in France before catching the attention of Manchester United where played between 2009 and 2012. However Sir Alex Ferguson preferred to Play Michael Carrick so Juventus stepped in to take him to Serie A where he has blossomed scoring 14 goals in 86 appearances. His is a strong player with good ball control and can shoot accurately from a distance.
He is no stranger to international football having won the under 20 World Cup in Turkey 2013 being named Player of the Tournament. He first played for the senior side in 2013 in a qualifier against Gergia and scored his first goal against Belarus in September of that year. France play Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras in the group stage giving Polpo Paul the chance to advertise his skills.
The Schalke 04 attacking midfielder has most recently made the headlines when involved in a motorsport accident with F1 driver Nico Rosberg, but he and teammate Benedikt Hoewedes were uninjured.
Draxler has pace and good ball control. He hits the ball accurately and can play across the midfield. Although 6′ 2″ he is criticised for his heading ability. He helped Schalke secure a Champions league place in the 2011-12 season and was their youngest player to 100 games for the club. He made his U21 debut for Germany in 2012 and made the senior side in 2013 since making 11 appearances and scoring one goal in a friendly against the USA.