World Cup 2014: The players to watch

By Andy Young of IES | REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
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20 to watch in Brazil

The World Cup is football’s biggest stage and as such is the platform for the sport’s biggest stars. Here’s a look at those players who could light up Brazil over June and July. See Gallery

The World Cup is football's biggest stage and as such is the platform for the sport's biggest stars. Here's a look at those players who could light up Brazil over June and July.

Click or swipe to see 20 players to watch in Brazil

Reuters
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Lionel Messi (Argentina)

The Barcelona star is only 26 but is already considered one of football's all-time greats. The four-time World Player of the Year will be hoping to add a World Cup victory to his list of achievements.

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
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Eden Hazard (Belgium)

After a good season for Chelsea in the English Premier League, Hazard was named Young Player of the Year by the country's Professional Footballers' Association. The 23-year-old already has more than 40 caps for his country and will be a key player for Belgium in Brazil.

AP Photo/Amel Emric
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Edin Džeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Manchester City striker Džeko has scored more than 30 goals for his country and is the key attacker for a very good Bosnia and Herzegovina team.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
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Neymar (Brazil)

This incredibly talented forward will be wearing Brazil’s number 10 shirt and will be a main focus for fans; expect to see some Neymar magic.

AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo
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Alexis Sánchez (Chile)

If Chile are to qualify from Group B ahead of Spain or the Netherlands, then Sánchez, who has more than 20 international goals, will need to be on form.

AP Photo/Felipe Dana
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Christian Noboa (Ecuador)

Noboa played a crucial part in Ecuador's qualification campaign and is a key midfielder for both club and country.

REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
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Raheem Sterling (England)

Fast and unpredictable, the Liverpool midfielder will surprise defenders and may score as well as provide assists.

REUTERS/Charles Platiau
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Karim Benzema (France)

Benzema was not picked for the last World Cup, so the Real Madrid striker will be looking to make up for that disappointment with goals in Brazil.

AP Photo/Michael Sohn
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Thomas Müller (Germany)

This talented attacking midfielder has been in great form for Bayern Munich and scored five goals in six matches at the last World Cup.

REX Features
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Mario Balotelli (Italy)

Controversial but brilliant, Italian striker Balotelli scores important goals for his country, including two against Germany in the Euro2012 semi-final.

REUTERS/Luc Gnago
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Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)

A key player in Manchester City's Premier League success this season, Toure is a strong midfielder who regularly scores goals for his club and his country.

JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images
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Shinji Okazaki (Japan)

At the start of the 2013/14 season Shinji Kagawa would have been Japan's man to watch, but he had a disappointing season at Manchester United. So instead watch out for Okazaki who should add to his already impressive tally of 38 international goals.

Anthony Au-Yeung/LatinContent/Getty Images
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Oribe Peralta (Mexico)

Mexico's team contains Giovanni dos Santos and Javier Hernandez but it's Peralta who could be a real star. He was the hero of Mexico's 2012 Olympic goal medal success with two goals in the final against Brazil.

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Robin van Persie (Netherlands)

Van Persie has scored more than 40 goals for the Netherlands and will be eager to impress his new Manchester United boss, Louis van Gaal, who currently manages the Dutch side.

REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
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Emmanuel Emenike (Nigeria)

Nigerian striker Emenike is known for being quick and physically strong. He was a key part of Nigeria's African Cup of Nations success last year.

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Fifa Ballon d'Or winner in 2013, Ronaldo is Portugal’s all-time top goal-scorer. Will his team-mates be good enough to help him lead Portugal to success?

REUTERS/Petr Josek
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Aleksandr Kerzhakov (Russia)

The most prolific striker in Russian football, Kerzhakov is a crucial part of his national team and will be hopeful of progressing from a group that contains Belgium, Algeria and South Korea.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
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Lee Keun-ho (South Korea)

Hoping to stop Kerzhakov and Russia qualifying will be Lee and his South Korean team-mates. This could be a tough tournament for South Korea and prolific striker Lee will need to shine if they are to progress from the group stage.

AP Photo/Paul White
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Diego Costa (Spain)

The Atletico Madrid forward played in two friendlies for Brazil, the country where he was born, before deciding to play for his adopted country Spain. If he recovers fully from injury his goals could help the reigning World Champions retain the trophy.

REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil
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Luis Suarez (Uruguay)

Voted Player of the Year in the English Premier League this season, Suarez is Uruguay's highly talented, inspirational and sometimes controversial striker.