Lionel Messi, Argentina
Widely considered the best player in the world, Messi is a forward who also plays for Barcelona and has won numerous titles and personal achievements on the club level. However, many people are waiting to see him have international success with Argentina before dubbing him one of the greatest players in history.
Though diminutive in stature, Messi is lightning-quick, an incredibly precise shooter, a consistent finisher and truly a marvel to watch given his impeccable touch and control on the ball. This allows him to create opportunities in even the tightest of spaces on the pitch.
Watching him play the game is akin to listening to one of Beethoven's symphonies—technically beautiful, always memorable and powerful at precisely the right moment.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
If there is a player other than Messi worthy of being named the world's best, it is Ronaldo, who plays for Barcelona rival Real Madrid at the club level. Like Messi, he has achieved a laundry list of personal and club achievements but has yet to win a major tournament with Portugal.
Whereas Messi plays centrally and is lauded for his technical brilliance, Ronaldo mostly plays out wide as a winger and is arguably the most impressive athlete in all of world football. He is blazing fast, an excellent leaper in the box, has one of the most powerful and accurate shots from distance and possesses absolutely amazing footwork.
From an athletic standpoint, he's the LeBron James of this World Cup. Portugal isn't nearly as talented as Argentina, so for Portugal to win the World Cup, Ronaldo has to have a truly epic tournament, whereas Messi has more support in his pursuit for a title.
Given how special Ronaldo is, however, it's not beyond the realm of possibility.
Franck Ribery, France
While Ribery will never score nearly the number of goals that Messi or Ronaldo are capable of accumulating, few players can dominate a game like this Bayern Munich and French winger.
Ribery combines excellent pace with a dogged determination on the ball, making it very difficult to force him off the ball from his position on the flank. He can certainly rip a shot on goal, but he is at his best running toward the goal line and looking to create a scoring chance for one of his teammates. From the opening whistle to the close of a match, Ribery will continue to press forward and attack.
France are a temperamental, inconsistent bunch with a penchant for underachieving, but in Ribery they have one of the finest playmakers in the world and a player that could lift them to great heights.
Messi's teammate at Barcelona, Neymar is the great hope for the host country at this year's World Cup. A dazzling combination of athleticism, technical ability and creativity, Neymar is just as likely to score a goal as he is to take your breath away with a bit of clever play or a moment of unbelievable footwork.
He absolutely dominated this year's Confederations Cup, scoring four goals, littering the tournament with brilliant plays and leading Brazil past Spain in dominating fashion, winning 3-0. He is often criticized for a nasty habit of simulating fouls and diving to the ground, but few players offer the flair, excitement or overall talent of Neymar.
Radamel Falcao, Colombia
If you are looking to build the ideal striker, you could pretty much just make Falcao.
One of the truly clinical goalscorers in this year's World Cup, the AS Monaco striker can score in any manner. Need a player to dominate in the air? Falcao can score with his head. Need a player that can take a shot from distance? He has you covered there too.
Colombia come into this tournament as a popular pick to surprise people and win the whole thing, in no small part to the world-class striker they have leading the line.
Andres Iniesta, Spain
On a Spanish roster brimming with technically brilliant players, Iniesta stands out. The Barcelona midfielder rarely makes the wrong decision, and his poise on the ball is second to none. He also has the ability to make passes that most players wouldn't even imagine or slip out of tight spaces with amazing touch and dexterity.
If you're the type of person who enjoys watching the small nuances of, say, Peyton Manning playing quarterback, you'll enjoy the heady experience of appreciating Iniesta do all of the small things with true class. He's a huge reason why Spain are the defending World Cup and two-time European champions.
Wayne Rooney, England
Let's not mince words—Rooney is, and has been for some time, England's great hope. A well-rounded performer who is just as capable of scoring goals as he is setting them up for his teammates, Rooney is a rare mix of engine, creativity and scoring prowess.
If England score a goal, there's a good chance Rooney was either the one to do it or was in the middle of the build-up play. He's currently playing excellent football for Manchester United, and he could bring some of his finest form in years to Brazil.
Luis Suarez, Uruguay
Suarez has become as famous for his unbelievable talent as he has for several questionable transgressions on the pitch, including racial abuse and biting other players. Yes, biting. But boy oh boy, can he play.
A top-notch goalscorer both for Uruguay and his club Liverpool, Suarez is known for his darting runs behind defenders, accurate free kicks and ability to score from pretty much any angle, however difficult. He's an incredibly fun player to watch and is one of the most dangerous performers in the world, and a strong performance at the World Cup would go a long way toward healing a damaged reputation.
Mesut Ozil, Germany
Imagine Steve Nash in his prime, and you'll get a pretty good idea of the impact Ozil is capable of having for Germany.
Simply put, the Arsenal midfielder is one of the finest playmakers in world football today, combining incisive passing, intelligent movement and sound decision-making. He never seems rushed on the ball or indecisive, and he has the ability to break down a defense with a singe, thoughtful pass.
Germany are absolutely loaded with talent and will be a favorite to win this tournament, but the point guard of the team is unquestionably Ozil.
Robin van Persie, Netherlands
One of the most clinical finishers in the world, Manchester United's Robin van Persie leads the line for a very talented Netherlands squad. With a booming left foot, he can score in a number of ways and is especially proficient at volleying the ball out of the air and into the net no matter how difficult the attempt.
After the Dutch failed to advance out of the group stage at the 2012 Euros, all of the pressure turned to the upcoming World Cup. If van Persie is on his game, the Netherlands will be a very, very difficult team to beat.