The final part of my World Cup preview is my list of 10 players to watch in this tournament. I’ve picked the players on this list for a verity of reasons, but there aren’t really any who no one would have heard of.
Koke – Spain. This guy is the future of the Spanish midfield. Forget the U21 World Cup stars Isco/Thiago/illarramendi. This kid is absolutely the real deal. He can play pretty much anywhere across the midfield, attacking, sitting or on the wings. He has exceptional passing ability, so much so that Xavi has described him as his natural successor. He played a big role in Atletico’s La Liga victory and their run to the Champions league final, but hasn’t really broken through on the international stage yet. I had to include him in the players to watch because I think this could be tournament where Xavi is overtaken and Koke cements himself as one of the best in the world.
Alexis Sanchez – Chile. A fairly big name player in club football as he’s one of Barcelona’s best attacking players, but again not someone whose ever had a huge opportunity to show what they can do on the biggest stage. But he’s the figurehead of this Chile team that has got a good chance to impress at this World Cup. They are in a very tough group, but if they do progress then you can be sure that Alexis Sanchez will play a huge part in that.
James Rodriguez – Colombia. Has rather been in the shadow of his team mate Falcao for both club and country. But Falcao’s injury has allowed Rodriguez to shine for Monaco, he finished last season with the most assists in Ligue 1, and could also do the same for Colombia. I think he’s not hugely well know in Europe outside of France and Portugal, but this World Cup could propel him to huge heights.
Ross Barkley – England. I don’t know how well know Ross Barkley is outside of England, but I assume it’s not too well, so he could be something of the joker in the pack for England. He’s got huge talent and love to run at defenders, something that traditionally English players haven’t had. I just hope Roy Hodgson doesn’t discourage him from taking these risks, which he sort of did when he criticised him for losing the ball a lot in one of the build up friendlies.
Ciro Immobile – Italy. Came as something of a left field choice in the Italy team as he only made his debut in March. But a hugely impressive season for Torino with 22 league goals. Whilst Balotelli is a hugely talented footballer and great fun to watch, Immobile is really starting to push him close, especially with a hatrick against in a friendly against Fluminense. He can be further boosted by the fact the the Italy coach suggested he could have the same impact as Schillaci in 1990.
Xherdan Shaqiri – Switzerland. A player who showed a huge amount of potential for FC Basel a couple of years ago, but has found his opportunities severely limited since he moved to Bayern Munich. This World Cup could provide the opportunity for him to put himself in the shop window. He’s Switzerland’s best attacking talent by a long way, and is the one who could stop them being their normal boring defensive side, to one with some potential to do well.
Paul Pogba – France. A couple of months ago France were seen as a team with absolutely no hope, but now people are starting to see them a decent young team, built around Pogba as the linchpin. A few years ago he demanded that Sir Alex Ferguson either play him more or he’d leave, and when Sir Alex didn’t play him more, he went and walked right into the Juventus first team. His spectacular goals and ability to control games have many people seeing him as one of the potentially most exciting players at this years World Cup.
Lionel Messi – Argentina. Shock the best player in the world is one of the players to watch. But there are actually a couple of very specific reasons I’ve included him here. Firstly he’s never really performed at a world cup, he was very young in 2006, and just didn’t have much of an impact in 2010. But he’s in much more of a settled Argentine squad and may have the chance to show what he can do on the world’s biggest stage. Secondly if he does perform at this World Cup then theres a huge chance that he could be the top scorer at this World Cup.
Edin Dzeko – Bosnia-Herzegovina. I think that Bosnia have found themselves in quite a good position to do well at their first World Cup, and I think if they do that then Man City’s Dzeko will be the key man behind it. It’ll be very interesting to see how they go, because they’re not a team I’ve ever seen play before, and I’ve never seen Dzeko play as the focus of the team, as at City he’s doesn’t particularly stand out amongst all the big names.
Miroslav Klose – Germany. Finally we have Miroslav Klose. He’s playing at his fourth world cup at the age of 36, but he’s the only striker that the Germans have brought so there will be a huge amount resting on him. But far more importantly if he scores he will equal Ronaldo as the record World Cup goalscorer, and 2 goals would see him out there on his own, which would be a monumental achievement.
So there’s my players to watch, I think Messi stands a great chance of winning the golden boot, but my heart is telling me the top player won’t be him, but Brazil’s star, Neymar.