World Cup 2014: Starlets to shine in samba stadia next year
With the domestic football season over, attention has turned to the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. The talk of the build-up is and will continue to be about the players who are poised to set the tournament alight.
Most of the big hitters in international football look certain to be strutting their stuff in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Sao Paulo next summer. The hosts are already going and will be among the favourites, despite their middling performance against England on Sunday.
The teams that look almost certain to have booked their flights to Brazil include Argentina, Germany and the Netherlands. England, France, Spain and a hugely-promising Belgium side look handily placed to make it as well, as are a potent Colombia in the South American qualifiers.
One of the best things about the World Cup for players is that it can act as a shop window for them to show what they can do on football’s grandest stage. Many stars, past and present, have got big moves to big clubs on the back of great World Cup campaigns.
At the same time, veterans looking to bow out for their countries with a flourish get that chance. Surprise packages can also show that the minnows can prove their worth every bit as much as the major players in each tournament.
As the countdown to Brazil 2014 continues, there is plentiful speculation about which players are likely to have a starring role. Many stars going for megabucks to the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Bayern Munich are expected to do well.
Those staying put with their current clubs for the coming season might want to wait until the World Cup to see whether they can get a dream move to a super club after getting glory for their country.
With a year to go until the big kick-off, we have picked ten starlets who look like setting the world alight at the 2014 World Cup:
Neymar – Brazil
After sealing a dream move to Barcelona for close to £50m from Santos, the 21-year-old is expected to deliver for the Spanish champions as well as his country. Should he fulfil his huge potential, expect Neymar to win the Golden Boot as well as spearhead a win for his country.
James Rodriguez – Colombia
Another big mover in the transfer market, the swift winger’s move from Porto to megabucks Monaco caught a few eyes, not least because other offers were on the table. Along with team-mate Falcao, expect him to provide a threat for the potential dark horses next year.
Julian Draxler – Germany
Currently plying his trade at Schalke, it’s likely that he might make a move this summer. While that’s not happened yet, he’s another one to add to the impressive group of attacking midfielders that Joachim Low has to choose from.
Stephan El Shaarawy – Italy
In the same mould as his outrageous Milan team-mate Mario Balotelli, El Shaarawy can be unpredictable, but he is hugely talented. The striker’s impressive season saw him fire the goals to help his team qualify for the Champions League, while he freshens up an otherwise ageing frontline.
Isco – Spain
Spain has plenty of young talent to choose from, but the Malaga playmaker has staked his claim for a regular starting role for his country. As well as providing a great attacking threat, his range of passing will prove to be a handful for any side.
Erik Lamela – Argentina
Another side blessed with a huge array of world-class attacking players, the Roma forward’s performances at club level have earned him international recognition. Although a starting role is not guaranteed, he should figure more, especially as a foil to Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain et al.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – England
England might not be guaranteed to qualify for Brazil, but if they do, expect the Arsenal winger to be deployed more. In a team that otherwise lacks creativity, you might expect him to link up effectively with Wayne Rooney and give England a chance of at least going home with their pride intact.
Eden Hazard – Belgium
Belgium also has so many young stars to choose from, but the Chelsea midfielder stands out, especially because of his proficiency in providing key assists. Having the likes of Christian Benteke, club colleague Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini to play alongside will help.
Kyriakos Papadopoulos – Greece
In a squad that otherwise lacks the talent necessary to challenge, the Schalke centre-back stands out. His presence at the back will at the very least make Greece hard to beat, a quality that has helped them to compete against better teams.
Son Heung-Min – South Korea
He’s excelled for Hamburg this past season and might move to pastures new very soon. In the meantime, he’s expected to be at the heart of all South Korea do, should they make it to the World Cup, providing a threat as the side’s second striker.