Ranking the Top Current Star of Each World Cup Country

Richard MorganContributor IJune 10, 2014

Ranking the Top Current Star of Each World Cup Country

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    Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    Ahead of the start of Brazil 2014, we have ranked the top current star of each World Cup nation that is taking part in this summer’s tournament.

    Now, in deciding exactly who each competitor’s star performer is and how they should be ranked, we took into account their contribution towards qualification, overall achievements for their country, including how highly they are regarded back home and how well they performed for their respective club sides last season.

    And based on that above set of criteria and using stats provided by respective website TransferMarkt.co.uk, these are how each particular nation’s main men have ranked…

32. Jefferson Montero (Ecuador)

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    The 24-year-old is considered to be his nation’s star man heading into this summer’s World Cup after seven years of stellar service with Ecuador.

    However, the left-winger will really have to improve on his displays for both club and country last season if the South Americans are to make it through Group E.

31. Victor Moses (Nigeria)

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    The wide man was his country’s best player at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, while he also netted some key goals on their road to Rio. The Super Eagles’ hopes at the tournament now very much rest on the 23-year-old’s shoulders.

    However, after a lacklustre campaign spent out on loan with Liverpool that saw the winger score just one Premier League goal, it may now be asking a lot of Moses to star for Nigeria at this summer’s World Cup too.

30. Yuri Zhirkov (Russia)

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    Having featured at both Euro 2008 and Euro 2012, and really caught the eye in Russia’s shock run all the way to the semi-finals of the former, the versatile left-sided defender cum midfielder now heads into this year’s World Cup as his country’s top star.

    However, an underwhelming campaign with Dynamo Moscow last season combined with few noteworthy contributions for his nation on the road to Brazil 2014, sees the 30-year-old ranked way down at No. 30 here.

29. Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)

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    Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld will be praying that his star man’s disappointing campaign with Bayern Munich last time out, when the 22-year-old barely featured for the Bundesliga champions due to a series of hamstring problems, does not adversely affect his tournament in Brazil.

    However, the pint-sized winger, who played for his country at the last World Cup, has already demonstrated enough quality in his four-year international career for the Swiss to be confident that Shaqiri will see them safely through Group E.

28. Sofiane Feghouli (Algeria)

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    Algeria’s daunting task of making it through Group H ahead of more fancied Belgium, Russia and South Korea will be helped hugely if their star man can replicate his eye-catching form for Valencia last season at this summer’s tournament.

    Feghouli, 24, managed to record seven goals and 10 assists in 45 matches in all competitions for Los Che in the previous campaign, although the winger would be ranked higher in this list if his achievements for his country matched those of his club.

27. Son Heung-min (South Korea)

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    Uninspiring campaigns in front of goal for both his country and new club side Bayer Leverkusen last season mean that South Korea’s Player of the Year for 2013 will have to demonstrate just why he is so highly rated back home if his side are to make it through to the knockout phase at this summer’s competition.

26. Oribe Peralta (Mexico)

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    The 30-year-old striker heads into the competition as Mexico’s star performer after an excellent campaign in front of goal for his club side Santos Laguna, while Peralta is also the current North and Central America and the Caribbean Player of the Year having top scored for his country in qualifying for Brazil 2014.

25. Kevin Prince-Boateng (Ghana)

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    Following his impressive performances for the Black Stars in the previous World Cup, much is now expected of the Schalke 04 midfielder if his country are to somehow escape their Group of Death at Brazil 2014.

    And the 27-year-old, whose goal against Egypt in November secured Ghana’s place at this summer’s tournament, arrives in South America after a highly encouraging debut campaign in Germany that saw Prince-Boateng contribute nine goals and four assists in 37 matches in all competitions for his new side.

24. Keisuke Honda (Japan)

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    You feel that if Japan are to make it out of a tough-looking Group C, then they are going to have to rely on some magic from their influential star Keisuke Honda.

    Worryingly, though, for the Blue Samurai, the 27-year-old has hardly been ripping up trees of late for either AC Milan, who the attacking midfielder joined on a free transfer in January, or Alberto Zaccheroni’s men.

23. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    With 13 goals to his name in 62 internationals, including three crucial strikes to help his country make it to Brazil 2014, the Fulham forward is his side’s undoubted star man heading into this summer’s competition.

    However, the 28-year-old was surprisingly deemed to be surplus to requirements by the relegated Cottagers in last season’s January transfer window, only for Ruiz to then register five goals and three assists in 14 Eredivisie contests while on a six-month loan spell with PSV Eindhoven.

22. Javad Nekounam (Iran)

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    Iran’s hugely experienced captain, 33, is held in high esteem back in his homeland after scoring 37 goals for his country in 137 appearances during the course of the last 14 years, while Nekounam also featured at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

    And the midfielder proved his importance to Carlos Queiroz’s side by topping the scoring for them during qualifying for Brazil 2014.

21. Jerry Bengtson (Honduras)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The frontman endured a lean time of it in front of goal for the New England Revolution last season, when the 27-year-old netted on only one occasion in the entire Major League Soccer campaign.

    But those domestic troubles are in stark contrast to Bengtson’s impressive goal-scoring record for his country, for who the player has managed to score 18 times in just 42 internationals, including nine on the road to Brazil 2014.

20. Kostas Mitroglou (Greece)

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    Despite the striker failing to find the back of the net since joining Fulham in the January transfer market, Mitroglou was in blistering form in front of goal before Christmas when scoring 23 times in as many games for both his previous club and country.

    The 26-year-old netted 17 times in 17 Greek Super League and UEFA Champions League contests for Olympiacos, as well as scoring five key goals for Greece to seal their place at Brazil 2014, three of which came in their two-legged play-off win over Romania in November.

    And that is why this particular top star will be so crucial to his nation’s chances of making it through a tough-looking Group C at this summer’s World Cup.

19. Mile Jedinak (Australia)

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    The Crystal Palace skipper, who will be competing at his second World Cup this summer, was deemed to be so influential by Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou that the midfielder was also recently made captain of his country at Brazil 2014.

    However, even Australia’s Player of the Year will have his work cut out trying to qualify his side from a Group B also containing the likes of world champions Spain, Netherlands and Chile.

18. Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)

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    There will be few more experienced players on show at this summer’s competition than the Indomitable Lions’ skipper, who will be taking part in his fourth World Cup.

    However, Eto’o's brace to help beat Togo last March and send his country to the top of their qualifying section on the road to Rio were his first goals for Cameroon in 16 months, while the striker could only manage 12 strikes in 30 Premier and UEFA Champions League contests for Chelsea last season.

    And so coach Volker Finke must be hoping that his 33-year-old star man has saved a little petrol in the tank for one last hurrah at Brazil 2014.

17. Clint Dempsey (USA)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    In the absence of veteran Landon Donovan, the Seattle Sounders FC forward now takes on the mantle as his country’s top star at this summer’s tournament, with Brazil 2014 Dempsey’s third appearance at the World Cup.

    The 31-year-old, who is also now the USA’s second-highest all-time goalscorer, found the back of net at both Germany 2006 and the previous competition in South Africa four years ago.

    And the skipper will be hoping to continue his fine form in front of goal to end the MLS season to help his nation qualify from Group G.

16. Edin Dzeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The deadly striker heads into this summer’s World Cup as his country’s top star after a brilliant qualifying campaign in which Dzeko’s 10 goals helped propel Bosnia to the finals of their first-ever major international tournament.

    And after also managing 16 goals and eight assists to help Manchester City win the Premier League last season, the 28-year-old will be integral to the tiny Balkan nation’s chances at Brazil 2014.

15. Mario Balotelli (Italy)

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    It says a lot about Mario Balotelli’s illuminating displays for the Azzurri since making his international debut four years ago, especially at both Euro 2012 and last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup, that the mercurial forward is now considered to be Cesare Prandelli’s star man heading into Brazil 2014.

    In fact, not only did Balo top score for Italy during qualifying for this summer’s World Cup, but the 23-year-old also heads into the tournament with confidence high after a domestic campaign with AC Milan that saw the player net 18 goals in 41 matches in all competitions for the Rossoneri.

14. Wayne Rooney (England)

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    Nineteen goals and 22 assists in 40 contests in all competitions for Manchester United last season, as well as seven strikes in just six qualifiers to help Roy Hodgson’s men make it to this summer’s World Cup in the first place, is why Wayne Rooney is still thought of as being England’s star man.

    And despite the 28-year-old having never actually scored for his country at either of his previous two appearances at the tournament, former Three Lions captain David Beckham told BBC Sport that Wazza is still a player who “scares” opposition teams.

13. James Rodriguez (Colombia)

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    In the absence of injured striker Radamel Falcao, the AS Monaco youngster has now become his country’s star man at this summer’s World Cup.

    However, if the 23-year-old’s brilliant form for both his new team in the South of France last season and Colombia during qualification for the tournament are anything to go by, then Rodriguez is set to continue shining brightly at Brazil 2014.

    As not only was the attacking midfielder Los Cafeteros’ best player on the road to Rio after contributing a series of key assists and strikes as the South Americans made it to their first World Cup since 1998, but he also created 13 goals in Ligue 1 in the previous campaign.

12. Alexis Sanchez (Chile)

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    With question marks currently still hanging over the fitness of fellow star Arturo Vidal, the in-form FC Barcelona forward has now become even more important to his country’s chances of making it through their Group of Death at this summer’s tournament.

    However, that burden will not weigh too heavily on Alexis after the 25-year-old was Chile’s best player at the previous World Cup in South Africa four years ago, while the winger also netted four times for the South Americans on the road to Brazil 2014.

11. Eden Hazard (Belgium)

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    The Red Devils have a collection of world-class performers at their disposal at this summer’s World Cup, however, it is the twinkle-toed Chelsea playmaker who will be their undoubted star man at the tournament.

    Hazard, 23, heads into Brazil 2014 on the back of an eye-catching campaign with Chelsea that saw the wide man voted the Professional Footballers’ Association Young Player of the Year last season after recording 14 goals and nine assists in his 35 top-flight appearances for the Blues.

    And add on his two strikes for Belgium during qualification on the road to Rio, and here is someone currently at the very top of his game.

10. Karim Benzema (France)

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    In the absence of injured playmaker Franck Ribery, the Real Madrid striker has now taken on the burden of being his country’s star man at this summer’s competition, although after the wonderful campaign Benzema has just enjoyed with Los Blancos, that may be no bad thing as far as Les Bleus are concerned.

    The 26-year-old, who netted a crucial goal in France’s dramatic play-off win over Ukraine last November that sealed their place at Brazil 2014, registered 24 goals and 16 assists in 52 games in all competitions for his club side last season and is now primed to shine at what will be his first-ever World Cup.

9. Luka Modric (Croatia)

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    Croatia’s hopes of making it through Group A unscathed at this summer’s World Cup very much rest on the slender shoulders of their star man from Real Madrid.

    However, with the skilful midfielder having just completed his best-ever season after helping to inspire Los Blancos to UEFA Champions League glory in his new role sitting just in front of the back four, Niko Kovac’s men will go into the tournament feeling confident of making it out alive from Group A.

8. Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)

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    There can be no question as to the identity of the Ivory Coast’s star performer going into this summer’s World Cup, especially after the form that Toure has displayed for both club and country of late.

    Not only did the box-to-box midfielder score four times in just six qualifiers to help his country through to Brazil 2014, but the 31-year-old was also the driving force behind Manchester City’s Premier League title win after recording an astonishing 20 goals and nine assists in just 35 top-flight outings at Eastlands last season.

7. Sergio Ramos (Spain)

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    As befits the youngest-ever European to have won 100 caps for his country, Ramos is now La Roja’s top star as they gear up to defend the trophy they won in South Africa four years ago, when the versatile defender was part of a back four that kept five clean sheets while playing every match of the tournament.

    And if the 28-year-old performs anywhere near as well as he did in helping Real Madrid to win a 10th European Cup last season, then Spain could very well become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the World Cup this summer.

6. Philipp Lahm (Germany)

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    The 30-year-old German skipper is preparing to take part in the finals of his sixth successive international tournament for his country at this summer’s World Cup, and with 106 caps already to his name during that time, Lahm is Die Mannschaft’s top star.

    And after yet another rock-solid campaign with Bayern Munich, albeit playing in an unfamiliar role in front of the Bundesliga champion’s back four, Lahm will be quietly confident of captaining his side to what would be their first trophy in 18 years.

5. Neymar (Brazil)

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    After winning the Golden Ball at last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup on home soil, the whole of Brazil is now expecting a repeat showing from Neymar at this summer’s World Cup.

    However, after an impressive start to his career with new side FC Barcelona last season, the 22-year-old’s form for the Catalans then fell by the wayside after Christmas, although the quick-footed forward still ended the campaign with 15 goals and 15 assists to his name in his 41 matches in all competitions at Camp Nou.

4. Robin van Persie (Netherlands)

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    Not only does the Manchester United forward head into this summer’s competition as the Oranje captain, but their leading goalscorer too, having netted an impressive 43 times in just 84 internationals since making his debut for his country in 2005.

    And despite an injury-interrupted campaign with the Red Devils last season, Van Persie was still the top European scorer in qualifying for the World Cup with 11 strikes for Netherlands, meaning that this star performer will be absolutely pivotal to his nation’s chances of making it out of a tough-looking Group B at Brazil 2014.

3. Lionel Messi (Argentina)

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    The four-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner has been in sparkling goal-scoring form for Argentina ever since Alejandro Sabella became head coach three years ago, with Messi playing a key role in helping his county through to this summer’s tournament after scoring 10 times in just 14 qualifiers, the second-highest total in South America.

    And while the playmaker may, by his own high standards, have endured a relatively subdued campaign for Barcelona last season, the 26-year-old still managed to record 41 goals and 15 assists in only 46 matches in all competitions for his club.

    All of which explains just why the star man remains his nation’s best hope of winning a third World Cup in Brazil.

2. Luis Suarez (Uruguay)

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    No wonder the whole of Uruguay are currently praying that their star man and all-time leading goalscorer is fit enough to feature at this summer’s World Cup after the sensational form that Suarez has shown for both club and country recently.

    Not only was the forward Player of the Tournament as La Celeste won a record-breaking 15th Copa America three years ago, but the 27-year-old also then topped the South American scoring charts with 11 strikes during qualifying for Brazil 2014.

    And given the attacker scored 31 goals in just 33 Premier League contests as well for Liverpool last season, form in front of goal that saw the player win the double Footballer of the Year award in England, then you can understand why El Pistolero is ranked No. 2 in this list.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

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    The Ballon d’Or winner heads into this summer’s World Cup as his country’s undoubted star man after yet another sensational campaign both domestically and for Portugal.

    For one thing, Ronaldo netted eight times to help Paulo Bento and Co. through to Brazil 2014, including all four of his team’s goals in their crucial two-legged play-off win against Sweden last November.

    However, the playmaker also managed to record a truly mind-boggling 51 goals and 19 assists in only 47 matches in all competitions for Real Madrid last season, including a record-breaking 17 strikes in just 11 UEFA Champions League ties as Los Blancos finally won La Decima.

    And that is why Portugal’s all-time leading goalscorer is the highest-ranked of all the 32 participating nations’ star players at the tournament.