World Cup 2014 Predictions: Pre-Tournament Player-of-the-Competition Contenders

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World Cup 2014 Predictions:  Pre-Tournament Player-of-the-Competition Contenders
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The biggest event in sport is about to kick off in Brazil as the 2014 World Cup starts on June 12.

Many of the greatest players on the planet will converge in South America to see who can fire their nation to the ultimate accolade of World Champions.

Here we predict which players are most likely to end up as the World Cup's Player of the Tournament:

 

Lionel Messi—Argentina

Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

Lionel Messi has well and truly lost his mojo as a footballer, some strange people will tell you. 

Barcelona have failed this season, but their talisman has still delivered mind-blowing statistics in the context of the average man.

This year, Messi has delivered 36 goals and 11 assists from his 38 La Liga and European matches, once again proving that even when he is not at the top of his form he is still close to untouchable in terms of quality and numbers.

However, Messi has struggled at times for his country over the years, highlighted by his personal record at previous World Cups.

His appearances at the 2006 and 2010 tournaments have only yielded one goal from his eight games, per FIFA.com. He has found it difficult to translate his electric club form to international duty but this is a question of timing rather than ability.

We all know Messi has the ability, and now the timing may be right. On South American soil, Argentina have a wonderful opportunity to claim yet another world championship and Messi will have to be central if they are to achieve this.

The player has had an unspectacular 2014 so far and has also surrendered his coveted Ballon d'Or crown to Cristiano Ronaldo.

But with a relatively simple route through the group stage for Argentina, including Iran and Nigeria, Messi can ease into the competition and play his best football.

 

Luis Suarez—Uruguay

Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

The tears of sadness that ran down Luis Suarez's face as Liverpool fell at the final hurdle in the Premier League could turn to tears of joy, with Uruguay well placed to impress at the World Cup.

The South American nation will have to navigate through the choppy waters provided by the tidal surges of Italy and England, but with Suarez in the form of his life there is every chance they will blow away their opposition.

Any success at the tournament for Uruguay is likely to be delivered by the individual genius of Suarez, and with Real Madrid and Barcelona willing to start a £100 million tug-o-war for the player, per Rob Shepherd of the Mail Online, he is in the perfect shop window to display his talents.

Matilde Campodonico/Associated Press

Suarez's stock has rightfully increased in the past year with the player finally sidestepping the continual controversy that has stalked his career.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers recently delivered the ultimate complement to the player when he said, per Simon Peach of the Press Association via Mail Online:

When I came into Liverpool as manager, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard said to me this was the best player that they had played with. I thought about those two and all the great players they've played with in their career, so I was really interested to see what his play was like close up.

For me, he has challenged me every day of my life, he's done everything that you would need to do at the top level of the game as a player.

The World Cup is a platform for players like Suarez: Those that can enthral the watching public with the kind of magic reserved for the feet of only the very best footballers.

Suarez might not have the profile of a Lionel Messi or a Cristiano Ronaldo, but the summer in Brazil will give him the opportunity to show the planet he may well now be their equal. 

 

Diego Costa—Spain

Paul White/Associated Press

Spain have dominated world football over the past decade, but the European nation will have to perform wonders if they are to retain their World Cup crown.

And it may well be down to a Spanish national, born in Brazil, to fire them toward the World Cup once again.

Diego Costa has been a huge factor in the biggest shock of the season: Atletico Madrid's glorious La Liga title success.

He has been pivotal in Diego Simeone's side's league triumph, scoring a tremendous 27 goals in La Liga and a further eight goals in the Champions League, per WhoScored.com.

 

If Atletico beat their neighbours Real Madrid in Saturday's Champions League final, it will truly have been a dream season of epic proportions for Costa and his team-mates.

Costa only made his debut in March of this year for Spain and spoke about why he chose to represent the country ahead of Brazil. He said before making his first appearance, per UEFA.com:

"It was a difficult decision [choosing to represent Spain over Brazil] but everything I have achieved in my life has been given to me by this country. Wearing this shirt would be an honour for any player and if I play five, ten or even 15 minutes, I will give my all."

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Spain have traditionally only taken a small supply of strikers with them to major tournaments but in Costa they have quite possibly the best striker in the world.

If the player can be fully fit and ready in three weeks' time, he will be well placed to show Brazil what they are missing by failing to convince Costa to represent the country of his birth. 

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