6 Players to Watch on Day 8 of the 2014 World Cup

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentJune 19, 2014

6 Players to Watch on Day 8 of the 2014 World Cup

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    The focus will be on England on Thursday as they try to bounce back from the defeat to Italy in their opening game of the World Cup.

    Roy Hodgson's team play Uruguay in Sao Paulo, with Wayne Rooney once again the centre of attention. There have been suggestions that the Manchester United striker will be dropped, although it now looks likely that he'll keep his place and be given a more central role.

    Meanwhile, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has recovered from a knee injury and is expected to line up alongside Edinson Cavani to battle the Three Lions.

    In the other two games on Thursday, Colombia play Ivory Coast in Brasilia and Japan play Greece in Natal, both in Group C.

    Here's a rundown of six players who could play a big part on Day 8 of the World Cup.

Juan Cuadrado, Colombia

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    Even without Radamel Falcao, Colombia made an impressive start to their World Cup campaign. Their 3-0 win over Greece means another three points against Ivory Coast in Brasilia will all but seal their passage into the last 16.

    In Falcao's absence, Jose Pekerman sprang a surprise in the way he set up against the Greeks, making Monaco's James Rodriguez a more central figure.

    Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado's performance on the right was so impressive that Pekerman told FIFA.com that the 26-year-old was good enough to play for Barcelona:

    He's a player with great physical conditioning who achieved great things with his club, just as he has done with his country, and he is ready to go to a great club, regardless of how well he does at the World Cup.

    It's satisfying to have him with Colombia and for sure he will go on to grace the most important pitches in football, and more if he goes to a great club like Barca.

    He has another chance to show the high praise is not misplaced against Ivory Coast.

Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast

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    Didier Drogba didn't start Ivory Coast's first game against Japan, but as a second-half substitute, he helped change the game. He was only on the pitch for a matter of minutes before Wilfried Bony and Gervinho put Ivory Coast in front.

    Ivory Coast play Colombia in Brasilia knowing that the winner will almost certainly qualify for the knockout rounds.

    Despite the high stakes and Drogba's impact off the bench against Japan, however, Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi has, according to Sky Sports, hinted that the 36-year-old might once again be named among the substitutes as he regains match fitness.

    [Y]ou have to understand the last time he played 90 minutes was a few months ago in Turkey. He's just recovered from injury.

    He made a lot of sacrifices to be here at the World Cup.

    It's looking a little bit like a final of the group. I'm pretty sure the winner will be qualified for the next phase.

    If Ivory Coast are in search of a winning goal in the second half against Colombia, expect Drogba's substitution to again leave an impression on the match.

Kostas Mitroglou, Greece

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    Kostas Mitroglou's last season started with 17 goals in 17 games for Olympiacos. It ended with the 26-year-old Greek striker playing a bit part for Fulham as they slipped out of the Premier League.

    He had to settle for a supporting role against Colombia in Greece's first game at the World Cup, too. With that ending in a 3-0 defeat, coach Fernando Santos needs goals if Greece are to beat Japan and make a fight of getting out of Group C. 

    And Santos, in quotes carried by The Independent, says the Fulham striker is ready to play a key role in Brazil.

    Being a player who has an important role in the team due to his characteristics we understand that Kostas should be here. Everything is OK.

    I think he has been improving a lot physically so that is not a problem. He may be lacking rhythm a bit but after each day he is better and Mitroglou will be close to his top performances here.

    With only 26 minutes on, Mitroglou didn't have much of an opportunity to show a top performance against Colombia. However, Japan's centre-halves looked vulnerable against Ivory Coast's strikers in the first game, something Mitroglou and Georgios Samaras are capable of taking advantage of.

Shinji Kagawa, Japan

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    Shinji Kagawa endured a frustrating season at Manchester United. That spilled over into Japan's first game of the World Cup—a 2-1 defeat to Ivory Coast.

    The midfielder was substituted late on. After the match, he accepted, in quotes carried by the Manchester Evening News, that nerves and pressure had got the better of him.

    I lost a battle with myself.

    There was pressure and nerves and at the start I made mistakes and I’m taking a good look at myself. I couldn’t get into a good rhythm and was beaten psychologically.

    Our opponents were better than we expected and there was not much space.

    We went into the match thinking we would be able to do well going forward, but both myself and the team were stiff and couldn’t move well.

    If Japan manage a win against Greece in Natal, they'll believe they can qualify from Group C. But the weight of expectation will again fall heavily on Japan's best players, Keisuke Honda and Kagawa.

Luis Suarez, Uruguay

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    Luis Suarez missed Uruguay's defeat to Costa Rica, but the Liverpool striker has declared himself fully fit for the game against England.

    Uruguay will need him to find his feet quickly if they are to stay in the tournament. However, Suarez has only had the benefit of a handful of training sessions after undergoing knee surgery at the end of the season.

    Liverpool team-mate Raheem Sterling has conceded, in quotes carried by the Daily Mail, that he'd rather not see Suarez make the game in Sao Paulo.

    I'd rather not see him on the pitch. We know he can score some spectacular goals.

    But, we can't just think about Luis Suarez, they have other players. He is a great player and most of our defenders have played against him before.

    The 19-year-old is better placed than most to know that Suarez's pace and ability to create something out of nothing will worry England centre-backs Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka.

Wayne Rooney, England

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    The Manchester United striker has taken some heavy criticism since his performance against Italy in England's opening defeat. As a result, all eyes will be on Roy Hodgson's team sheet for the game with Uruguay to see if the 28-year-old has kept his place.

    There will also be a keen interest in whether Rooney will again start on the left or play in a more central role.

    There have been suggestions that Rooney, still searching for his first goal at the World Cup finals, might be moved inside against Uruguay, with Raheem Sterling playing wide.

    Clarence Seedorf is one who believes Rooney's place is under threat, as he said in his Daily Mail column.

    Saturday was the first time in a long time that I have seen an England team play attractive football. I really enjoyed their performance, despite the result. They played with real flair, particularly Raheem Sterling.

    But if England are to make a real mark on this tournament, either Wayne Rooney or Daniel Sturridge needs to start Thursday’s match against Uruguay on the bench.

    Yes, it is a tough decision for Roy Hodgson to leave one of them out, but they both play the same position. There would also then be the advantage of bringing one of them off the bench to change the game.

    It's not a bad idea, but considering Rooney and Sturridge connected for England's goal against Italy, such a change seems unlikely heading into the match with Uruguay. Will Rooney be able to make enough of an impression centrally to silence doubters and force a win for the Three Lions?