Choosing only five from an ocean of talent is not easy. Still, we have tried our level best to offer you with a collection which will excite you. Please bear in mind that we wanted to introduce you to some of the hidden gems. So we have not chosen anyone playing in the top – or mostly watched – European leagues. So players plying their trade in England, Spain, Germany or Italy have been kept out. Again, we wanted to give you a good account of players whom you would get to see a decent amount of time. Hence we have ensured all our picks are featuring in their country’s first XI, or at least have chances to be on the pitch for a significant amount of time. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy. Follow football, follow us.
All the teams in Brazil have played at least one game by now. This has been one of the most exciting World Cups for ages. Let us try to hand pick some of the raw talents which are or will be making their names in this tournament. Debojyoti Chakraborty dons the Scout’s hat in Goalden Times.
Name: Alan Dzagoev
Age: 23 (DoB – 17th June, 1990)
Club: CSKA Moscow
Jersey No: 10
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Alan Dzgoev, true to his jersey number, is a perfect number 10. He is agile, always looking for the ball and has an eye for goal apart from creating opportunities for others. However he is not a one-trick pony and is versatile enough to feature anywhere in the midfield, including the wide areas.
Dzgoev, of Georgian origin, started his senior career in Russia with a bang as he bagged the Best Young Player award at his first season in 2008. He was soon inducted in the Russian national team at a tender age of 18 – youngest ever as an outfield player – by then coach Guus Hiddink. His moment of international recognition came in 2012 as he topped the goal scoring charts in UEFA EURO 2012. He has nothing to prove but this World Cup can see him emerge as a new player altogether.
For the first time, Dzgoev will have to shoulder the responsibilities of Russia. He will be the focal point of attack, and being the artistic playmaker he is, he should be able to amaze the fans with his brilliance. Dzagoev’s technical skills, his comfort in possession and ability to pick out a decisive pass makes him a potent weapon for Russia. But he has been slightly off the mark in last couple of years. This World Cup is going to be a make or break opportunity for him at the biggest stage. This will be a golden opportunity for this young boy – yes, he is still only 23 – to take his game to the next level.
Watch out for this gem of a talent. His total gameplay – vision, fitness and maturity – should be a handful in weeks to come.
Name: William Carvalho
Age: 22 (DoB – 7th April, 1992)
Club: Sporting Lisbon (Sporting Club de Portugal)
Jersey No: 6
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Portugal’s Angola-born William Carvalho, even at his young age, has a strong frame. He is a product of the Lisbon based club’s youth academy and has regularly featured for the national side in different age levels.
At over 6 feet, Carvalho is a strong boy and uses every bit of his physicality in his holding midfielder role. But that is not all – he is sharp with the ball at his feet. His positioning is remarkable and covers up for his slightly sluggish pace. Carvalho generally plays as the midfield anchorman in a three-man midfield where his role is to shield his back four. But he is also adept playing as the defensive cover in double pivot system where he looks to snatch the ball away from opposition as well as lays the foundation for his more advanced partner to venture forward.
Portgual has mourned for a true aggressive defensive midfielder for years. Carvalho, though with a handful of caps with him, is just the right player to solve that puzzle and this is the reason he might just feature regularly for the Seleção. Carvalho still needs to work on set pieces and could use his physic to a great advantage during aerial battles. But he already has suitors from some of the top clubs – most notably Manchester United and Chelsea – and a good showing at the World Cup will not do his stocks any harm.
Name: Bruno Martins Indi
Age: 22 (DoB – 8th February, 1992)
Jersey No: 4
Position: Centre Back
Again, we have a footballer born in a different country and playing for a different one. Bruno Martins Indi though knew little about it as he moved from Portugal to Netherlands when he was three months old. He came through the ranks in Feynoord and opted to play for the Oranje.
Coming off a depressing childhood, Martins Indi is surely on the right track. A tall, lanky lad, he is now a solid member of the Feynoord back four. And though he regards himself as a stopper, Martins Indi is versatile enough to play either as a left full-back or as the left sided centre back in a three-man defence. Sometimes this multi-faceted nature of his game seems to confuse managers as he has been switched around across different roles in Feynoord.
Martins Indi started becoming a regular feature for the national team during the World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign and has done nothing wrong since then. He has a strong aerial presence and uses it to good advantage at either end of attack. He has a good burst of pace, looks composed with the ball at his feet and a very good passer of ball – all ingredients for a ball playing centre back who can play out from the back. Martins Indi seldom dives into a tackle. Actually he rarely needs to as he read the game very well and more often than not, intercepts key passes. These are the qualities that have prompted people calling him the next Jap Stam.
To be honest, Martins Indi has not yet been tested against world-class strikers in the Dutch League. This World Cup would be a big opportunity for him to test himself against the best in the business and see where he stands. And this over-my-dead-body mentality bloke seem to be nicely poised at that.
Name: Serge Aurier
Age: 21 (DoB – 24th December, 1992)
Country: Côte d’Ivoire
Jersey No: 17
Position: Right Back
Serge Aurier is a technically sound full-back who plays for the French club Toulouse. He was once pondering the option to play for France and rejected the Lions in 2010. But things have changed for good as he made his debut for the African nation a year back.
He has been a regular starter for his club side and is regarded by many as the best right-back in France. Aurier seems to possess all the qualities required to succeed at even higher levels. He is pacy, a superb athlete, has the engine to run up and down the right flank throughout the match and can deliver killer crosses in crunch situations. He is more of a modern day right-back with an eye for attack. Last season he racked up six goals – all from open play – for Toulouse and this aspect of his game would fetch him few millions more in his impending summer transfer deal.
Still he is very much a work in progress. Aurier is a born leader and a fighter to the end. But even after six years of top-level professional football, he is a bit temperamental and a regularly gets cautioned for that. He needs to curb his enthusiasm and understand the match situation a whole lot better. Besides, he might be caught on the defensive side with his all attack mentality. But with age on his side, this World Cup would be a great learning experience for him.
Name: James Rodriguez
Age: 22 (DoB – 12th July, 1991)
Jersey No: 10
Position: Left Winger
James Rodriguez has been hailed as one of the most exciting talents going around. He has shone for Portuguese club Porto where he won the LPFP Award for Breakthrough Player in 2011-12 at the age of 20. He has continued to impress and so much so, French side Monaco did not hesitate to lash out a mammoth €45 million for his transfer in 2013.
Rodriguez can play anywhere in the middle of the park. His versatility to constantly switch positions from either left to right as well as through the centre makes him a very difficult player to mark. He is an all-round player – very sharp, speedy, and strong.
His tremendous speed, playing style and trickery make him a successor to national legend and icon Carlos Valderrama. Like him, Rodríguez too is often deployed in a playmaker role. A natural shooter and prolific with his accurate passing, his stats have been phenomenal so far – both in terms of scoring goals as well as providing assists. In spite of having a deadly left foot, Rodriguez controls the ball just as well with his right foot – quite uncommon, especially among players of his age group.
Rodriguez gave a man of the match performance in his national team debut in late 2011 against Bolivia. Since then, it has been impossible to think about the Colombian side without him. He made a telling contribution in the World Cup 2014 qualifying match against Chile. Trailing 1-3, Rodriguez scored twice from the spot and earned a place for Colombia in the finals after 16 long years.
At 22, Rodriguez ticks all boxes for an emerging star. One thing he could work on is his aerial ability. He can definitely use his 6 foot height to his advantage. Also he can improve on his physique so as to stand up against big, sturdy defenders. But no doubt, he will raise a few eyebrows this summer in Brazil.