World Cup 2014: Players Who Will Step Up to Replace Injured Stars in Brazil

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World Cup 2014: Players Who Will Step Up to Replace Injured Stars in Brazil
Claude Paris/Associated Press

The 2014 World Cup is set to kick off in less than a week, ending a four-year wait for fans eager to cheer on their favourite players on the world's biggest stage.

Unfortunately, several high-profile players won't be present in Brazil. While some like Gareth Bale and Zlatan Ibrahimovic failed to guide their teams through qualification, a multitude of superstars have been injured in the final months of the 2013-14 season.

Injuries can make or break a team's chances of success in a major tournament, and luckily, there are several nations who have done a good job of coming up with a contingency plan.

Here are three players who will step up for their country in the absence of a veteran injured star.

 

Antoine Griezmann

Christophe Ena/Associated Press

As shared by Bleacher Report, France will be travelling to Brazil without their Ballon d'Or contender, Franck Ribery:

Ribery had already missed Les Bleus' last two friendly encounters against Norway and Paraguay, and in his absence, Real Sociedad's Antoine Griezmann shone.

As a substitute, he opened the scoring against Paraguay with a genius ball lifted in the far corner (FIFA fans would say he abused the touch button):

Against Norway, the youngster looked lively and threatening during the 65 minutes he was given, and the French starting XI from that match put together the best performance we have seen from Les Bleus in a long time.

Griezmann has all the tools people look for in a modern winger, with blistering pace, good technique and great vision. What sets him apart from most wingers is his incredible nose for the goal—he scored 16 in La Liga in 2013-14, per WhoScored.com.

BBC Sport's Andy West is a fan:

Replacing a player as pivotal as Ribery is never easy, but one look at the results from the French team in recent weeks will tell you Didier Deschamps has done a nice job working around his loss.

Griezmann is a hot commodity on the transfer market and would see his value skyrocket with a strong performance in Brazil. He has every reason to give it his all when the tournament commences, and expect him to do just that.

 

Jackson Martinez

Getty Images/Getty Images

Radamel Falcao is arguably the best pure forward in the world when he's healthy, but if there's one thing Colombia aren't lacking, it's quality forwards. Case in point—Udinese's Luis Muriel didn't even make Jose Pekerman's selection.

Jackson Martinez was one of the hottest strikers around Europe in 2012-13 but cooled down significantly last season, as Porto struggled throughout much of their campaign. He still finished the season with 23 goals, per WhoScored, but his name was somewhat forgotten along the way.

Carlos Bacca has been Colombia's most in-form striker this season, but Pekerman seems to prefer Martinez's more natural scoring ability and raw power. Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl is also backing the Porto man:

Martinez is another player who could use a strong tournament as leverage for a transfer move, and with the likes of Juan Cuadrado feeding him the ball, he should have a chance to stand out in Brazil.

 

Marco Verratti

Claudio Villa/Getty Images

The Paris Saint-Germain youngster has been begging Cesare Prandelli for a real chance to be a part of Italy's starting XI for two years now, but the former Fiorentina coach has always been afraid of playing Marco Verratti and veteran Andrea Pirlo in the same time.

Prandelli's reluctance to trust younger players and his affinity for Riccardo Montolivo all added to the situation, and while fans kept begging for the talented 21-year-old to get his chance, Prandelli refused to budge.

And then Montolivo went down against Ireland.

Verratti had been given the start in that friendly and ran with it, ending the match as one of the Azzurri's top performers. He was calm and composed on the ball, but it was his defensive work that really made him stand out.

In contrast, Thiago Motta failed to reproduce the excellent form he showed for PSG this season, and substitute Alberto Aquilani didn't look particularly convincing either. Against Luxembourg, it was more of the same.

Verratti has done everything possible to show Prandelli he deserves to start when Italy open their tournament against England, and despite his young age, he has the quality to be one of the World Cup's breakout performers.

Italy's best player during their preparations so far, Verratti has earned the right to play in Brazil, and if his final two performances are any indication, Montolivo's time as a regular starter for Italy may be over when all is said and done.

 

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