What makes for exciting soccer?
It's not always skill. No one can doubt Spain's quality, but their play seldom quickens the pulse.
In the ultimate team sport, it is often down to individuals to provide that special spark. The reason why Barcelona's tiki taka thrills while Spain's can pall is simple—Lionel Messi.
Here's a look at 10 of the most exciting players in world football.
Mario Balotelli, Italy vs Germany
Raheem Sterling, Hearts vs Liverpool
In these days of multi-million pound transfer dealings, there is a special thrill that accompanies a player emerging from a club's academy and fulfilling expectations.
Liverpool's Raheem Sterling has been the subject of breathless anticipation since the club brought him to their academy from QPR as a 15-year-old.
Now 17 and given a chance in the first team under Brendan Rodgers, the winger's performances against Hearts and Manchester City proved he has the potential to become an Anfield legend.
Oribe Peralta, Mexico vs Brazil
When Mexico upset Brazil in the 2012 Olympic final to take gold, one of their greatest weapons was a dogged organization that completely threw the samba kings off their game.
The other was Oribe Peralta.
The Santos Laguna striker scored both Mexico's goals in the final and was instrumental throughout their unlikely campaign for gold.
The Olympic final may have belonged to Peralta, but Brazil star Neymar showed throughout the tournament why Pelé has dubbed him better than Messi (well, apart from the fact O Rei has a penchant for making dubious grandiose remarks).
The 20-year-old has yet to find the consistency to lay such claims, but without a doubt his technique and creativity can be absolutely scintillating.
It takes a special talent to make such an impact on a new club that it overshadows a massive transfer like signing Robin Van Persie from arch-enemies Arsenal.
Shinji Kagawa has started his Manchester United career in sensational form, continuing where he left off with Borussia Dortmund.
One of the great, inspiring football stories of the past few years was Zambia's 2012 African Nations Cup victory.
Emmanuel Mayuka's Golden Boot-winning performances were instrumental to that success.
Southampton signed the 21-year-old striker near the end of the August transfer window to bolster their Premier League hopes—and hopefully raise the spirits of Saints fans with ample opportunity to perform his trademark backflip goal celebration.
One of the breakout performances at Euro 2012 belonged to Jordi Alba, the flying Spanish left-back who subsequently signed with Barcelona.
A product of the blaugranas' legendary La Masia academy, Alba is one of the world's most exciting full-backs.
The Swiss aren't generally renowned for their excitement factor. Their goalless showdown with Ukraine in 2006 must go down in the history books as one of the most stultifyingly dull football matches ever to blight a World Cup.
But they have somehow managed to produce one of the most scintillating young talents in world football—Xherdan Shaqiri.
The 20-year-old attacking midfielder caught the eye with this astonishing scissor kick, among other feats, while at FC Basel. He moved to the Bundesliga in 2012 to help Bayern Munich try to recapture former glories.
Eden Hazard, Chelsea vs Newcastle
When £32 million-man Eden Hazard crashed comically to the turf while trying to execute a back-heel in a preseason friendly, Chelsea fans must have winced collectively.
But from the minute the real season started, Hazard went from joke to giant.
His haul of one goal and six assists in Chelsea's first three Premier League matches has marked the 21-year-old Belgian out as potentially the signing of the season.
Radamel Falcao, Atlético Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao
What is it about Atlético Madrid strikers?
The Primera Liga club just seems to have an eye for striking talent and a way with coaxing the best from extraordinary players.
First Fernando Torres, then Diego Forlan and Sergio Agüero. Now It's the exquisitely gifted Radamel Falcao.