6 Unknown Players Who Will Shine at the World Cup
The 2014 FIFA World Cup certainly won't be short of big-name players, with all of the best in the world (minus Zlatan Ibrahimovic) lining up at the tournament.
But we know that. Everyone associated with football knows that.
What we don't know is which players are going to be the breakout performers. Bleacher Report's Dan Colasimone wrote a superb piece earlier in the week about 20 potential breakout stars to watch; here's another six to add to the list, many of which you might not have heard of yet.
Here are six of the more unknown players in world football who will shine in Brazil.
Felipe Gutierrez, Chile
A powerhouse in the middle of the field for FC Twente, Felipe Gutierrez showed in Chile's recent friendly against England that he's going to be a very important player for the South Americans next year.
He thrives in the defensive side of the game—dominating opponents with tough tackles—but also has great vision in his defense. The 23-year-old averages a number of key interceptions per game at vital moments for both club and country, and against some of the best attacking midfielders in world football, Gutierrez is certainly capable of proving himself a worthy opponent.
When asked to push forward, the box-to-box midfielder positions himself well on the field in a position that allows him to orchestrate the attack and create key passes, but also allows him to track back in defense and snuff out attacks before they develop.
Ishak Belfodil, Algeria
Capable of playing as a wide forward or even as a strike if needed, Ishak Belfodil will be a pertinent part of Algeria's attack. The Inter Milan possesses great pace and loves to take a man on, which, if left on his own in a counterattacking situation, may actually lead to good results for the Africans.
Belfodil proved himself in the junior ranks of the French national team before making his first-team debut with Algeria earlier in the season (now up to two caps).
Yet to truly leave his mark with Inter, the 21-year-old showed what he can do when he scored eight goals and five assists for Parma in Serie A last season.
He scored in big games against AS Roma and Lazio, and especially against bigger opponents, could be a great counterattacking threat. Especially if he's left in one-out situations against isolated defenders where he can utilize his dribbling skills and swift cuts to devastating effect.
Kenneth Omeruo, Nigeria
Many will have already heard of Kenneth Omeruo before, the Chelsea under-21 defender, but what many might not know is that he's primed to be a star in Brazil.
Omeruo packs aerial presence and physicality into his defensive work but also possesses a deceptive amount of speed for a central defender. He is not the soundest of players with the ball at his feet, but he is a player to watch out for on set pieces (at both ends of the field) and could be one of the difference-makers for Nigeria as they look to leave their mark in Brazil.
In a team likely to do a lot of defending, Omeruo should shine.
John Brooks, United States
At the time of writing, John Brooks is the only American international routinely playing central defense in an elite league. Currently plying his trade for Hertha Berlin, the 20-year-old has seemingly burst on to the scene for the U.S. men's national soccer team and has a definite chance of making it to Brazil.
If that happens, watch for Brooks—who is used to coming up against superior attackers in the Bundesliga—make a mark like he has done throughout the year so far.
A former German youth international, Brooks scored a goal in Hertha Berlin's opening-round thrashing of Eintracht Frankfurt and has proved to be a very handy player at the back. The capital club have surprised many with their strong start to the season (with the fifth-best defense in the league), and much of that has coincided with the strong performances of Brooks to start the year.
Definitely a player to watch for in Jurgen Klinsmann's team.
Karim Rekik, Netherlands
For the most part, PSV Eindhoven defender Karim Rekik completely shut down AC Milan attacker Mario Balotelli when they met in the Champions League playoff. And having received his first call-up for the national team earlier in the year, look for him to do a similar job on other world-class attackers in Brazil.
The Manchester City loanee has proved to be a very classy defender—composed and technically very sound—and should thrive if given a chance by Louis van Gaal.
Rekik still has some work to do over the back-half of the season to try to work his way into contention for a starting spot, but perhaps with an injury or two (or even a second-string team by van Gaal for the "lesser" group-stage games), the 18-year-old is certainly capable of shining indeed.
Haris Seferovic, Switzerland
Haris Seferovic might not be getting the starting appearances (or goals) that he wants for Real Sociedad right now, but he'll still be a top player to watch in Brazil.
After all, there's a reason why Switzerland finished top of their group.
Undefeated as well, the Swiss clearly have a very good team—many of which have graduated from their 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup team—and Seferovic is simply another addition to that. He has good pace and strength out wide and is also capable of scoring a golazo or two.
Definitely one to watch out for.
Hit me up on Twitter for more sports goodness: Follow @dantalintyre.