3 Players to Watch on Day 3 of the 2014 Brazil World Cup
With Brazil coming out 3-1 winners over Croatia on the first day of the 2014 World Cup and Day 2 fixtures taking place Friday, let's take a look ahead at Day 3 of the group stage.
Groups C and D will take centre stage on Saturday, June 14. In Group C, Colombia will take on Greece and the Ivory Coast will face Japan, while the Group D matches will feature Uruguay against Costa Rica and England up against the challenge of Italy.
Bleacher Report continues our coverage of each game day and fixture, and ahead of Day 3, let's see which three players we should keep an eye on during the four exciting matchups.
James Rodriguez (Colombia)
Up first is a rising star in world football, playing for a national team that is climbing up the world rankings: James Rodriguez is the key to a young and bright future for Colombia, now eighth in the FIFA World Rankings, as of June 5, 2014.
The centre of a €45 million transfer from FC Porto to free-spending Ligue 1 side AS Monaco, which made it the second-most expensive transfer in Portugese football history, Rodriguez has confirmed his status as one of the hottest prospects in world football with his rapidly maturing performances.
Having scored 25 goals in 63 league games in a Porto shirt and nine in 34 for Monaco from an attacking midfield position, Rodriguez has added a goal threat to his already strong playmaking skills.
He'll be eager to put on a good display in what appears to be a relatively smooth fixture against Greece, to show that both he and his country mean business this summer.
Raheem Sterling (England)
After a stellar season for Liverpool in the Premier League, it's really not a big surprise to see Raheem Sterling on this list. He's only matured from being a hot prospect in the Liverpool academy to a likely starter for his country in a matter of months.
Over the course of the season, Brendan Rodgers has instilled relentless pressing and coaxed a defensive game beyond Sterling's years out of the 19-year-old, who has added an end product to his exhilarating blend of speed, technique and creativity.
Now, he's being seen as a potentially key player for England in their World Cup campaign, starting with Italy and their famously well-organized defence.
Playing alongside his club captain Steven Gerrard and colleagues Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge, Sterling will find himself in familiar company on the biggest stage of all.
Saturday can be a game in which Sterling announces his arrival on the world stage.
Yoichiro Kakitani (Japan)
Yoichiro Kakitani is probably the least-known name on this list, and that has to do with the fact that he has yet to venture out of his native Japan, where he has spent his entire career with J. League team Cerezo Osaka.
If that name sounds familiar, it's because Cerezo are the same team that exported such talents as Shinji Kagawa, Takashi Inui and Hiroshi Kiyotake to Europe—and we wouldn't be surprised if Kakitani were the next on the list.
An all-rounded centre-forward with excellent finishing and off-the-ball movement, Kakitani has already been linked with a high-profile move to Europe, with Arsenal reportedly in the hunt alongside Internazionale and Galatasaray as far back as November 2013, per Ben Jefferson of the Express.
He may finally get a chance to put himself firmly in the shop window and earn a deserved move to the big leagues with a strong World Cup campaign, especially if he steals the spotlight from Japan's household names.