3 Players to Watch on Day 2 of the 2014 World Cup
With the 2014 World Cup finally underway, group games will come thick and fast over the next two weeks, and Bleacher Report will be on hand to cover every single one of them.
Ahead of each game day, we’ll be taking a close look at three players who could take centre stage and grab all of the headlines.
Day 2 begins with Group A foes Mexico and Cameroon squaring off in Natal at the Estadio das Dunas.
Elsewhere, Group B springs into life with holders Spain going head-to-head with Holland at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador. Finally, Chile take on Australia in Cuiaba at the Arena Pantanal.
So, as the action heats up, and ahead of some mouthwatering fixtures, here are our three players to look out for on Friday.
Stephane Mbia (Cameroon)
Fans of Queens Park Rangers may be surprised to see the name Stephane Mbia on this list, but the 28-year-old has enjoyed something of a renaissance over the past season.
On loan at Sevilla, the central midfielder emerged with a Europa League winners’ medal, having played a huge part in their run to the final. He was subsequently named in the competition’s 18-man Team of the Year.
His goals in both legs of their semi-final with La Liga rivals Valencia proved crucial. His second goal, late in stoppage time, saved Sevilla's tournament.
Mbia’s style has moved on from his conventional reputation as a holding player. The former Marseille man has added an attacking edge to his game and put his West London nightmare behind him, making him an important figure for Cameroon’s opener with Mexico.
Diego Costa (Spain)
Diego Costa’s appearance as one to watch may be a tad obvious following his exploits for Atletico Madrid last term, but there is a greater reason for his inclusion.
The powerful centre forward is by no means a typical Spanish player, and one of the more fascinating aspects of the competition is how the holders utilise the big No. 19.
His all-action style flies in the face of coach Vicente del Bosque’s football philosophy, and how he integrates into his team’s system will be an engrossing sideshow.
The man who snubbed Brazil to play for La Furia Roja will be an integral figure, with the Spaniards bidding to become the first to country to retain the World Cup since the hosts did in 1962.
And their opener against Holland—a re-run of the 2010 final—will give the 25-year-old the opportunity to further enhance his ever-flourishing reputation.
Alexis Sanchez (Chile)
In a team that will present a challenge to any nation they face, Barcelona star Alexis Sanchez is essential to Chile's success and will be keen to get on the scoresheet against Australia.
A high-pressing, high-energy outfit, Chile will look to exploit their forward’s talents, whose invention and ability to stretch the opposition should be too much for the Socceroos.
With 21 goals in the scarlet and blue of Barca last season, the 25-year-old is primed for a great World Cup performance.
And in a group that also includes Holland and Spain, the Aussies may prove the ideal opposition for the former Udinese man to launch his tournament in style.