Today marks the day of the 2014 World Cup kick-off taking place at the Sao Paolo Arena (Arena de Sao Paolo). With the world watching the two teams taking the field today will be host nation, Brazil and Croatia. Although there are footballing giants such as the host nation Brazil, defending champs Spain, France, Germany, Argentina, England and Italy; this year football stars from lesser successful football nations could make the difference to the tournament. These stars hailing from Uruguay, Mexico, Cameroon, the Netherlands, Belgium and more, could see their countries advancement through the group stages to make an impact at this years’ tournament. This is shaping up to be the most exciting World Cup yet. Let us introduce you to some of these footballing stars to make a difference in this years’ cup:
Croatia – Ivan Rakitic
Ivan Rakitic is Croatia’s blond star who will be crucial in the opening match against Brazil. He is the captain of Sevilla whom he led to glory in last month’s UEFA Europa League final. With Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic and Rakitic’s partner at centre Luka Modric, focus will be off the Swiss-born player who can occupy any position on the field, proving to be Croatia’s true danger man!
Mexico – Javier Hernandez
‘Chicarito’ will be Mexico secret weapon in this years’ Cup. He’s had a great season and with 35 goals in just 59 international appearances striker Hernandez will be a pain in front of goal. His skillful strikes are matched only by his lightning pace and he was even voted the fastest player at the 2010 South African World Cup.
Cameroon – Vincent Aboubakar
Why do we feel that Aboubakar carries more weight than Cameroon star captain and point man Samuel Eto’o? The answer’s simple, his younger and unpredictable. Eto’os striking partner upfront will prove hugely influential as evident from his performance this season with the Ligue 1, and not forgetting that dream strike in the international friendly with Portugal.
Netherlands – Arjen Robben
Robben has had another amazing season with club Bayern Munich and with teammates Rafael van der Vaart out due to injury and Wesley Sneijder turning 30 next week – a lot of responsible falls squarely on the capable wingers shoulders to see his team to victory once more. Last World Cup saw a successful final with an on point Dutch team and with players like Robin van Persie at the strike and Robben no doubt providing the speed and opening for the assists – the Netherlands look to have another successful tournament ahead of them.
Chile – Alexis Sanchez
The Barcelona forward is essential to the Chilean line-up as proved by Chile’s 3-2 win over Egypt where he was an intricate part of creating all three of his teams’ goals in that friendly. Arturo Vidal might not be available due to a knee operation leaving Chile’s fate solely on the optimal performance of the 25 year old. With stats of 21 goals and 17 assists in 54 matches for Barcelona FC, you can be sure that his will be offering up a legendary performance this year.
Australia – Mile Jedinak
The midfielder replaces Lucas Neill as his countries’ captain this year, and after captaining Crystal Palace to an 11th place finish in the Premier League we can expect big moves from the Australians.
Colombia – James Rodriguez
At just 22 years old attacking midfielder Rodriguez will have to step up this World Cup, since prolific front man Radamel Falcao is confirmed to have withdrawn from the competition. The AS Monaco star will have some pretty big boots to fill to aid in his teams’ success.
Greece – Giorgos Karagounis
An aged 37 year old Karagounis will bring all the wealth of experience to his team this competition. The 133 capped Fulham midfielder made his international debut in 1999 and was part of the team that won the Euro 2004. He might not have the speed of his younger teammates but the ex-Inter Milan and Benfica player is definitely an integral part of the Greek squad.
Ivory Coast – Gervinho
After a disastrous run with Arsenal, we can say his woes are truly behind him based on his performance with Roma last season. Didier Drogba would be the key player for the Ivory Coast, but with uncertainty around the 36 year olds’ status and his replacement, Wilfred Bony’s tournament inexperience suddenly Gervinho becomes his teams’ most vital player.
Japan – Shinji Kagawa
In a very tricky Group C line up, Japan seem to be favorites for topping the group as long as point men Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa are on their A-game. Many will argue that AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda is Japans’ danger man, but after Manchester Uniteds’ Kagawa has proved his worth in the Premier League and with 17 goals in 55 appearances for Japan it is evident that Kagawa is the true danger man for the Samurai Blues.
Uruguay – Edinson Cavani
Another major player with a knee operation, Luis Suarez will also have doubts surrounding his ability to perform at this years’ cup. That just means there will be more spotlight for the Paris Saint-Germain front man and Suarez’ strike partner, Edinson Cavani, and an opportunity to show the world why the Ligue 1 champs acquired him for a whopping €64.5 million.
Costa Rica – Keylor Navas
Navas has been so influential between the posts and was one of the standout ‘keepers in La Liga last season. The Livante No.1 will have to be on his most weary, as his nation are in one of the trickiest groupings, dubbed ‘The Group of Death’ as they are to contend with Uruguay, Italy and England.
Switzerland – Valon Behrami
Behrami brings a ton of experience to the Swiss team through his 10-year international career. He has appeared in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cup and at the Euro 2012. He will definitely be crucial to his teams’ morale and experience factors.
Ecuador – Antonio Valencia
28 year old Valencia might have had great frustrations at Manchester United, but he brings his team experience and playing on the wing in Germany eight years ago and taking his country to the knockout phases will be Ecuador’s hopes again this season.
Honduras – Emilio Izaguirre
Central to Honduras defense is Izaguirre. His experience and talent as shown in the last World Cup as well as his performance with Celtic have proven him an invaluable asset to his nations’ team, especially since he is as good defending at center-back as attacking and creating play to support possession attacks.
Bosnia-Herzegovina – Miralem Pjanic
AS Roma midfielder will be an invaluable asset in his countries first ever World Cup finals campaign. Much of the spotlight will be on his Manchester City team mate and striking star Edin Dzeko, but it is Pjanic’s reputation at the center of the field that will prove crucial to his teams control and possession and providing scoring opportunity up front. With six goals and six assets in 35 league matches his abilities speak for themself.
Iran – Reza Ghoochannjhad
With 9 goals in 13 appearances, Charlton Athletic striker will definitely be the key player for his Iranian team.
Nigeria – John Obi Mikel
Super Eagles suffered a setback at last years’ World Cup with 27 year old Obi Mikel withdrawing from the team due to injury. The Chelsea midfielder himself was heartbroken that he could not represent his team; so he will be at his best performance to help his team past the Group stages of this years’ tournament.
Portugal – Joao Moutinho
After just being on the bench for the last World Cup, Moutinho will have a lot to prove starting in this years’ squad. While all eyes will be on Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, it is the AS Monaco midfielders’ technical skill and playmaking technics that will be the crucial element to creating and assisting Ronaldo with those key passes forward.
Ghana – Andrew Ayew
At only 24 years old, Marseille wide man has already performed at three previous Africa Cup of Nations tournaments as well as the 2010 World Cup. With amazing showings in these tournaments as well as a superb UEFA Champions League appearance now puts Ayew ahead of the likes of Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Asamoah Gyan and Kevin-Prince Boateng as the most important player on the Black Stars’ squad.
United States – Clint Dempsey
The US captain has gained great experience playing for teams like Fulham and Tottenham Hotspurs – not to mention his previous World Cup outings. In fact Dempsey is looking to become the first American to score in three World Cups after seeing the back of the net at Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010. So with 37 goals in 104 internationals, it’s easy to see why ‘Deuce’ Dempsy will be influential.
Belgium – Eden Hazard
The ultra-talented Hazard had a lot to prove after being the Young Player of the Year and signing with Chelsea. He has successfully done so in spades, proving to be a tricky player to mark. With tiring defenses in Brazils’ heat, Hazard will definitely be the Red Devils’ danger man.
These are just a few of the talents from teams that are not considered the major threats in the football world, but seeing as though football is a world sport, we will finally see just how serious these countries’ are about the beautiful game. Join PlayUKInternet.com to score big and get into some of your own action and excitement playing online lottery. With over 13 lottery games in four continents, your guaranteed entry into the worlds’ highest paying jackpots is guaranteed to get the adrenaline pumping at the next draw. With jackpots all reaching beyond the megamillion mark, you could see yourself jetting off to Rio to watch the World Cup final right in the front row. So don’t hesitate, register and play now!