Top 5 Players from Around the World This Week
With the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil now within touching distance, and the various competing nations using what little time there is left to fine-tune their preparations for the tournament, this past week has seen a plethora of friendly internationals taking place around the globe.
And these are the top five players who managed to catch the eye from those warm-up fixtures...
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
All the pre-match talk in the build-up to Belgium’s friendly with neighbours Luxembourg in Genk on Monday had, not surprisingly, focused on the impending debut of Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj.
However, while the youngster did indeed make his Red Devils bow as a second-half substitute, it was the performance of Romelu Lukaku that ended up stealing the headlines from his compatriot, after the Chelsea striker scored a hat-trick in Belgium’s comfortable 5-1 win.
The 21-year-old’s opener, created by United midfielder Marouane Fellaini, came after just three minutes, before the powerful forward restored his country’s lead midway through the first half after taking advantage of a mix-up in the visitors’ defence.
And Lukaku made it eight goals in only 28 international appearances in the second period after beating two opponents before firing an unerring shot low into the corner of the Luxembourg net.
Mathieu Valbuena (France)
Marseille playmaker Mathieu Valbuena was the undoubted star of the show on Tuesday, as France easily saw off the challenge of a lacklustre Norway side 4-0 in their final warm-up fixture on home soil before the start of the World Cup.
The little attacker was on hand to create three of the home team’s four goals at the Stade de France to send Didier Deschamps’ outfit off to Brazil in good heart, although they also know that they will face far sterner challenges come the start of the actual competition itself.
Either way, though, Valbuena himself could not have done much more to catch his manager’s eye after firstly crossing inch perfectly for Paul Pogba to head home Les Blues’ opener on 15 minutes, before Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud doubled his side’s advantage early in the second half by volleying home brilliantly following another accurate centre from the Marseille magician.
And that exact same combination was on hand again midway through the second period to complete the rout, as the Gunners marksman planted a neat header into the far corner of the net after yet another pinpoint delivery from man-of-the-match Valbuena.
3 - Mathieu Valbuena is the 2nd player to record a hat-trick of assists for France under Didier Deschamps after Ribéry v Australia. Caviar.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) May 27, 2014
Edin Dzeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Bosnia and Herzegovina are now exactly a fortnight away from making their World Cup bow against Argentina in Rio de Janeiro, and the Balkan nation and their many passionate fans will be heartened by the fact key frontman Edin Dzeko is clearly in good form going into the finals, judging by the 28-year-old’s display against Ivory Coast on Friday night.
The ever-deadly Manchester City striker netted a goal either side of half-time to help his team overcome the Elephants 2-1 in front of 30,000 supporters in St. Louis, with Dzeko’s opener on 17 minutes a simple tap-in before his clinical finish from Miralem Pjanic's pass early in the second period made it 2-0 to the home side.
And that now means that Dzeko, who scored 10 of his country’s 30 goals during qualifying for Brazil 2014, has a hugely impressive record of 35 strikes in just 61 internationals for Bosnia.
35 goals in 61 internationals for Edin Dzeko. Any forward going to the World Cup with a better goals to game ratio?— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) May 31, 2014
Alexis Sanchez (Chile)
Alexis Sanchez turned in a stunning display, as Chile came from 2-0 down to beat Egypt 3-2 on Saturday, with the FC Barcelona forward creating all three of the home team’s goals.
Finding themselves trailing 0-2 just past the quarter-hour mark, the South Americans' brilliant winger firstly raced clear down the right flank before expertly centring for Marcelo Diaz to cut the visitors’ deficit in half midway through the first period.
And then, with half an hour of the contest remaining, Alexis was on hand yet again to help bring Chile level following more good approach play down the right, with Eduardo Vargas on hand this time to finish off his skipper’s fine approach play.
However, the Barca wide man was not finished there as, with just 12 minutes to go, his clever through-ball found Vargas again in the right place at the right time to complete Chile’s remarkable comeback, and it was all down to their inspirational captain.
Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon)
Many people, including his own club manager last season seemingly, have questioned whether striker Samuel Eto'o can still cut it at the very highest levels now that the Cameroon international has turned 33.
However, the Chelsea forward showed once again on Sunday night that he has lost none of his famed predatory instincts by giving his country the lead on the hour-mark in their World Cup warm-up contest in Germany after stealing a march on defender Mats Hummels to stab the ball past goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller.
Samuel Eto'o scores for Cameroon and does that 'Grandpa' celebration. Clearly still annoyed with José!… https://t.co/flys8Dlvq5— Football Showboats (@ShowboatVines) June 1, 2014
And what’s more, Eto’o also demonstrated that he has maintained his sense of humour throughout the recent controversy regarding his age by re-enacting his old-man goal celebration from last season at Stamford Bridge by the corner flag, after netting the 55th goal of his illustrious 17-year international career.