Zidane ‘98. Hurst ’66. Muller ’70. Maradona ’86. Pele ’58-’70.
While the World Cup is all about the strengths of the teams, it is hard to place the legendary status on players who rise above everyone else. Some solidify their status, even if they don’t get to raise the cup. It is all about impact, team leadership, mind-boggling passes and powerful goals.
We picked 11 players who we’re not taking our eyes off for even a second this year. Why eleven? Because this is football after all.
Others to Know
Clint Dempsey – USA
Xavi – Spain
Keisuke Honda – Japan (pictured)
Vincent Kompany – Belgium
Iker Casillas – Spain
David Silva – Spain
Gokhan Inler – Switzerland
Robin Van Persie – Netherlands
Thiago Silva – Brazil
Andrea Pirlo – Italy
Mesut Ozil – Germany
Xherdan Shaqiri – Switerzerland
Luka Modric – Croatia
Steven Gerrard – England
Oscar – Brazil
Arturo Vidal – Chile
Alexis Sanchez – Chile
Eden Hazard – Belgium
Brian Reddoch is a CraveOnline reporter and rabid fan of all teams Seattle. You can follow him on Twitter @ReddReddoch or “like” CraveOnline Sports on
Photo Credit: Getty
World Cup players to watch
Mario Balotelli – Italy
mini-mohawked Balotelli is a frustrating player to follow. He has so much talent and skill, yet keeps getting dragged down with disciplinary problems. All you need to know about him is while playing for Inter Milan, he wore an A.C. Milan jersey. That’s like wearing Buckeye gear while you attend Michigan. On the field, Super Mario has been cleaning up his act lately and been on fire. He is pure cool to watch… which makes him the only Italian player I would ever say that about. Balotelli plays with a mixture of strength and agility.
Michael Bradley – USA
With a new diamond formation in place, the Americans are playing to their strengths of a strong midfield. And no American midfielder is (arguably) better than Bradley (all due respects to the captain Clint Dempsey). Bradley brings leadership into the middle of the field and a
Xavi-like passing ability that will be required to breakdown defenses. American hopes lie with how good Bradley can be a playmaker against the best of the best (including Germany). USA probably (gasp) won’t win the Cup, but Americans in the knockouts can make Bradley a legend back home.
Didier Drogba – Ivory Coast
At age 36, Brazil ’14 will be
Drogba’s third and final World Cup. It has been a great run of getting Ivory Coast to the world stage, yet it always ends bitter-sweet for the African nation. The former Chelsea superstar has a lot to prove but has the talent to show off some tricks from those old cleats.
Joel Campbell – Costa Rica
Not all major World Cup splashes are made by world class players. Campbell plays for
Olympiakos in the outer Greek leagues. Costa Rica will play spoil sport for Italy, England, and Uruguay in group play. Somebody will give up a goal (or at least tie) to Costa Rica and it will probably be Campbell that sends the third-place team home. Brazila ’14 will be Campbell’s coming out party.
Lionel Messi – Argentina
One of the greatest players of all-time,
Messi has accumulated four Player of the Year awards with Barcelona. With the national team, Messi used to be like LeBron James in Cleveland; he was a superstar with no support. Nowadays, Messi has transformed himself into a team-player who can now make his (much improved) teammates. Expect him to run havoc, attract attention and pass off pretty, pretty passes.
Victor Moses – Nigeria
There is fast. Then there is lighting fast. Moses is a blazer winger that has the ability to get past questionable defenders of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran and the older
Argentinians. He is more than fast, he has the ability to finish attacks strong. In other words, he is a fun guy to watch and will be pushing hard to get Nigeria into the knockout stage.
Neymar – Brazil
The youngster may or may not join a string of other one-named Brazilian superstars like Pele,
Kaka, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Marta. Either way, the focus of a nation, the media and almost the entire world will be on Neymar’s feet. He is kind of a free-roamer on the pitch, so expect to see him everywhere all the time.
Arjen Robben – Netherlands
A sure-fire left-footed Dutchman who always seems to be flying into action at the right time. Like
Zoolander, he has trouble going right (footed). His ability to be everywhere will help open space for teammates like Robbie Van Persie, but we all hope for Robben specialty long-range lefty goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
With a skill set that is only matched by his wicked good looks, Ronaldo is FIFA’s current Player of the Year. While he hasn’t lead the national team to many matches, he fronts Real Madrid who recently won the Euro Champions League championship. The forward is currently the highest paid player in the world. He’s not to be confused with former Brazilian superstar Ronaldo. He is known for attacking with either foot and finishing strong. The Portuguese have a reputation for being floppy divers and Cristiano is no different.
Wayne Rooney – England
The most famous player on the most watched team in the world. Rooney has a lot of pressure on his shoulders due to decades of English disappointment. He and the rest of the Three Lions squad have a lot of redemption to muster after leaving the tournament in the Round of 16. Though Rooney is known more of an all-around player, he can score as he proved during qualifying (led his group). And, who can’t love a face like that?
Luis Suarez – Uruguay
If you like sport villains then you’ll love Suarez. Back in 2010 quarterfinals, he (in)famously blocked a sure Ghanaian goal with his hand during extra-time. Then there is the suspensions for racially abusing another player.
Annnnd, there is the obscene hand gesture towards fans. On the positive side he was the first non-European to win the Player of the Year award in the English Premier League. Keep a close eye on him and don’t take it off when he has the ball. His legs are like the ‘pea under cup’ game – he’ll treat the defenders like a maze, nutmeg passes through defenders’ legs, and make knee-buckling passes.