Now is the perfect time to jump on the World Cup bandwagon, and the best way to do this is to act like you know what you’re talking about.
Here are nine of the most important players in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil so you can shut down the pretentious “I’ve always been a football fan” guy at the end of the bar during the WC matches (usually only an American issue).
Here are nine of the best World Cup players that you should know going into the madness…
9. Manuel Neuer (Goalie) – Germany
Germany is a well-oiled machine and I have them picked to go to the finals (even though they’re not who I want). The anchor of this dominate squad is goalie Manuel Neuer, who plays for the European powerhouse Bayern Munich and blocks shots from all angles without even messing up his hair.
8. Arjen Robben (Right Forward) – Netherlands
Netherlands lost in the finals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, so you know they’re coming back with vengeance. At 30 years old, Arjen Robben is a veteran of the World Cup and other big tournaments so expect him to show up and hurt some feelings.
7. Yaya Toure (midfield) – Ivory Coast
We’ll have to wait and see if a thigh injury will hold Yaya back from the World Cup action, but if I know Yaya Toure (which I don’t), I imagine he will find a way. If he does play, that means big trouble for Colombia, Greece and Japan.
6. Jan Vertonghen (left back) – Belgium
Although his future at English club, Tottenham is up for debate, Jan Vertonghen’s presence in Brazil will not be. He leads a strong Belgium squad that focuses on solid defense and tons of chocolate.
5. Clint Dempsey (forward/midfield) – USA
Not only does Texas-born, Clint Dempsey have the #1 selling MLS soccer jersey in the USA, but he also has the gift of scoring goals and getting sweet tattoos – both necessary in the group of death. Without Landon Donavan in the USA World Cup line-up, Dempsey will have to prove he can shoulder the load of being a leader and goal scorer for the red, white and blue.
4. Wayne Rooney (forward) – England
The face of England soccer over the past decade has rested firmly on the shoulders of Wayne Rooney. Unfortunately, for the global superstar, that face has been one of loss and disappointment for the country who invented the game. Rooney will look to survive another tough group that features Uruguay and Italy (and Costa Rica).
3. Andres Iniesta (midfield) – Spain
This is the man who everyone is chasing because he’s the one with the trophy. Spain won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa thanks to Andres Iniesta’s winning goal, but it will take a whole lot to repeat against Germany, Argentina, Netherlands and Brazil.
Iniesta will lead a disciplined all-star line-up into Brazil to see if he can win it back-to-back for the Spaniards.
2t. Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
If you don’t know him from the pitch, you definitely know Cristiano Ronaldo from World Cup commercials. He’s an international superstar who scores ridiculous goals and beautiful women with the greatest of ease. If Portugal is going to win the Cup, or even survive their group, he will have to be unbelievable. If anyone can do it, it’s Ronaldo.
2t. Lionel Messi – Argentina
Commonly recognized as the best player in the world (with Ronaldo), Lionel Messi needs to have a great showing in Brazil. It’s often said that he plays like a god for Barcelona and like a mere mortal for the Argentine national team, so hopefully this is the year he will quiet the critics. Hopefully, the new coaching and roster mix-up will prove to be fruitful for the star.
1. Neymar Jr. – Brazil
The hometown hero will have the world on his 22-year old shoulders as he attempts to reach “legend” status early in his career. The Barcelona stud is fast and creative and has learned a ton from Messi. Like Brazil as a whole, all eyes will be on Neymar in 2014 to see if he can rise to the occasion or crumble under the pressure of the situation. We will see soon enough.
Who are you rooting for?