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Predicting a 2014 World Cup Heroes XI

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentDecember 8, 2016

Predicting a 2014 World Cup Heroes XI

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Heroes are made at the World Cup.

    Paul Gascoigne, Salvatore Schillaci, Roger Milla, Papa Bouba Diop and Ahn Jung-hwan are just a few.

    The players lucky enough to travel to Brazil this summer have the opportunity to follow in their foot-steps.

    All it takes is one goal or one save. Maybe just a well-timed tackle or an unbelievable pass.

    Here are 11 players who could become heroes for their countries at this summer's 2014 World Cup.

    Feel free to use the comments section below to agree, disagree or add your own.

Joe Hart (England)

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    It'll come down to penalties. It always does with England.

    When it does, inevitably, come down to a shoot-out, Joe Hart will have the chance to make himself a hero.

    England went out of the World Cup on penalties in 1990, 1998 and 2006. Surely, surely, their luck will have to change eventually.

    Hart will have played a big part if it does.

Pablo Zabaleta (Argentina)

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    Players like Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero will steal the headlines if Argentina perform well in Brazil.

    They are the central figures. The key men. But they can't do it all on their own. 

    Pablo Zabaleta has everything a footballer needs to be a fans' favourite. He works hard, he can play a bit and, most importantly, he tackles like a steamroller.

    They are the qualities of a potential World Cup hero.

Marcelo (Brazil)

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    Brazil have a soft spot for their attacking full-backs. There is a certain thrill in watching a blur of yellow and blue race up and down the wing.

    Marcelo will compete at his home World Cup having helped Real Madrid win the Champions League. He scored Real's third in their 4-1 win over Atletico.

    Being part of the team that won Real Madrid's record 10th European Cup guaranteed his place in the club's history. But that's nothing compared to the adulation he can expect if he helps Brazil win the World Cup on home soil.

Joel Matip (Cameroon)

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    Cameroon have never been short of a World Cup hero.

    Francois Oman-Biyik, Roger Milla, Rigobert Song, the list goes on. Only 22 years old, Joel Matip is a rising star, but the World Cup could propel him to superstardom. 

    Matip, who can play in midfield or at centre-half, was part of the Cameroon squad that finished bottom of their group in 2010.

    In with Brazil, Croatia and Mexico this time, they've got their work cut out if they want to progress into the knock-out rounds.

Mario Yepes (Colombia)

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    Age is no barrier at a World Cup. If you're good enough, you're young enough.

    At 38 years old, Mario Yepes is still a youngster compared to Roger Milla and Dino Zoff.

    Colombia are still sweating on the fitness of Monaco forward Radamel Falcao. But they'll still fancy their chances of getting through a group with Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan.

    Yepes already has 95 caps, and a run to the latter stages will see him reach 100.

Paul Pogba (France)

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    Still only 21 years old, Paul Pogba is quickly becoming France's star.

    After the embarrassment of finishing bottom of their group in 2010, and almost missing out on a place in Brazil, France have the opportunity to do well this summer.

    In a group with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras, they'll expect to qualify for the knock-out rounds.

    They'll need Pogba to recreate his form for Juventus if they are to go much further than that.

Ross Barkley (England)

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    Paul Gascoigne went to the World Cup in Italy in 1990 and came back a hero. Even if his tournament did end in tears.

    After the odd first-team appearance for Everton and a series of loan spells, Ross Barkley will arrive in Brazil after just one season as an established Premier League player.

    He'll have to force himself into Roy Hodgson's team first. It's not guaranteed. But if he can, he has the talent to make an impact similar to Gascoigne's at Italia '90.

Koke (Spain)

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    Koke could barely have dreamed of a better season. The 22-year-old was part of the Atletico Madrid team that shocked Spain to win La Liga.

    They came within minutes of winning the Champions League, too.

    Koke has plenty of competition for a place in Spain's midfield from Andres Iniesta, Xavi, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and Santi Cazorla.

    But he could still have a fairytale end to an unbelievable season by helping Spain win a fourth consecutive major tournament.

Jordy Clasie (Netherlands)

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    Jordy Clasie isn't the first technically-gifted midfielder to represent the Netherlands at a World Cup. And he won't be the last if Feyenoord's academy keeps churning out players with the touch and passing range of the 22-year-old.

    His pass for Robin van Persie's goal against Ecuador in a friendly earlier this month earned him rave reviews from the Manchester United striker.

    They'll be a few more joining in if Clasie can do the same in Brazil this summer.

Mario Balotelli (Italy)

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    You either love him or you hate him. But there's no denying that he's capable of winning games on his own if he's in the mood.

    He fancied it in the semi-final of the European Championship in 2012 as Italy blew Germany away. Despite having a mixed season with Milan, the 23-year-old is still a key part of Cesare Prandelli's side.

    Italy have been handed a tough group with England, Uruguay and Costa Rica. But Balotelli is still one of the favourites to win the golden boot.

Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)

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    Belgium are expected to perform well in Brazil.

    If they do, they'll rely on Romelu Lukaku to score the goals. He got off to a good start, scoring a hat-trick in a warm-up game against Luxembourg. 

    Like Mario Balotelli, he is one of the favourites to win this summer's golden boot.

    After two seasons farmed out to West Bromwich Albion and Everton, the 21-year-old might even do enough to earn a run of games at Chelsea. Maybe.

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