The World cup is the most eagerly awaited tournament for any footballer, and the one you want to win the most. Since it only comes around once every four years, not all players will be lucky enough to participate. In every World Cup, there are always a few players who stand out and gets themselves recognised across the planet, often earning a big move in the process. This summer, there are as always many interesting teams and, indeed, players. The players profiled here might not be unknown, but they all possess the quality to shine bright in Brazil.
Kevin De Bruyne
International caps: 22
International goals: 5
Kevin De Bruyne is certainly not an unknown player. After coming through the ranks at boyhood club Genk, who he joined at the age of eight, he signed for Chelsea. He was instantly loaned out to Werder Bremen for the 2012/13 season, where he contributed heavily with 10 goals and 11 assists. At the start of the 2013/14 season he returned to Chelsea, where he was involved in the first few games under the returning José Mourinho. However, Mourinho didn’t trust the young Belgian and he only played nine games for the club (three in the league) before being sold to VFL Wolfsburg in January for a fee of £18 million. There, he has replicated his Werder form, scoring three and assisting six in 16 league games. De Bruyne has also a decent goalscoring record on international level with five goals in his 22 caps. This summer, Belgium is finally part of a World Cup again after a twelve year absence. De Bruyne has everything you need in his position; an eye for goal, a superb range of passing, an impressive work rate and a football intelligence beyond his years. Belgium coach Marc Wilmots tactial setup (4-3-3) suits the 22-year old perfectly as well, with Axel Witsel protecting the back four, and one of Marouane Fellaini or Mousa Dembélé provides an extra physical presence and some powerful running, De Bruyne is the creative mind providing the final third passes to set up the likes of Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku. He will not be sold this summer by a Wolfsburg team on the way up, but is still a player we will enjoy watching in Brazil.
Son of Ajax legend Danny Blind, Daley has risen through the academy of the Amsterdam club to now cement his place as the best player at the club. Not only the club, he was voted Eredivisie player of the year for 2013/14 and now looks set to be an integral part of Louis Van Gaal’s Dutch World Cup team. The reason being that, apart from being an excellent player, Blind is very versatile. After coming through at Ajax as a left-back, he has now moved in to the centre of midfield where he has enjoyed the best season of his career as the holding midfielder in Ajax’ midfield three. With Van Gaal likely to field a 5-3-2 formation in the first group game against Spain on Friday, Blind will probably start as the left wing-back. If, however, Van Gaal changes his formation for the other games, Blind might fill in his preferred midfield position because he makes for a good replacement for the injured Kevin Strootman. Like you would expect from an Ajax graduate, Blind has excellent technical qualities. His passing is very good, he controls the ball in tight spaces and he has got enough composure and confidence to play himself out of difficult situations. When marching forward down the left hand side he can also feed the likes of Robin van Persie with good crosses. In terms of his defensive attributes, his intelligence is the main thing. His positioning is very good, he reads the game well, and closes spaces effectively. The 24-year-old signed a new contract with Ajax last year but his performances haven’t gone unnoticed in Europe and a good World Cup might signal the start of a bidding war between some of Europe’s finest. Or he might stay at his boyhood club, making him a club legend. Just like his dad.
International caps: 7
International goals: 3
The young Swiss defender is on the verge of a move to a big European club. A good showing at the World Cup could see his stock climb to a mouth watering level for his current club, FC Basel. At 22, Schar exhibits a calm and steadiness that is normally not developed until a few more years experience is acquired. Astonishingly, Schar managed to score 3 goals in his first 6 senior appearances for Switzerland, a tally that any striker would be proud of. Schar is a very good defender who reads the game very well. His acute anticipation, precise tackling and impressive passing range make him a valuable member of Switzerland’s defence. Before the World Cup, we estimate that his value hovers around 12 million Euros. If he has an outstanding tournament, don’t be surprised to see that figure rise to as much as 18 million. Arsene Wenger is said to be an admirer, and you wouldn’t bet against the Arsenal manager, or any other big-club colleague, to make a move for the talented 22-year-old this summer.
International caps: 22
International goals: 5
It’s very easy too forget that this crafty playmaker is only 22. Like Schar, he possesses a maturity beyond his years and has the seasons to show for it. A grossly productive three seasons at FC Porto brought a big money move along with fellow Porto midfielder, Joao Moutinho, to French club AS Monaco. Capable of playing on (or off) either wing as well as in the No 10 position behind the striker, James epitomises the modern attacking player. He beats players with tremendous ease, it seems like he just glides past them. He has a stunning eye for the killer pass, too. His awareness is as good as any in Europe and that showed in his first season in France as he racked up a very impressive 12 assists and 9 goals playing behind countryman Radamel Falcao. His set pieces and general delivery were a number 9’s dream. When the season was said and done, Rodriguez had been involved in 33% of all of Monaco’s Ligue 1 goals. With Falcao missing the tournament this summer, James is the star of a very exciting Colombia team that should make it out of the group. In order to do that, the Monaco man has to deliver. He has said that he has ambitions to play in England but with Monaco having paid 45 million Euros for his services last summer, it may be difficult to table an offer that Monaco would see appropriate to prise him away from the club.