6 Players to Watch on Day 7 of the 2014 World Cup
The second round of World Cup group games gets into full swing this week.
The Netherlands will hope to find a repeat of the form that saw them humiliate Spain when they play Australia in Porto Alegre in Wednesday's early game.
Spain face Chile in Rio knowing that defeat, combined with a win for the Netherlands, will end their defence of the trophy they won in South Africa in 2010.
The late game sees two teams who lost their opening matchups, Cameroon and Croatia, play each other in Manaus.
Who will be the players to watch on Day 7 of the World Cup? Here are six key men to look out for on Wednesday.
Alex Song, Cameroon
After losing against Mexico in their opening game, Cameroon will have to beat Croatia, especially with Brazil to come in their third game in Group A.
And their success will depend on how well they stop Croatia's two creators, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
That job will fall to Alex Song.
Sat in front of Cameroon's defenders, the Barcelona midfielder will have to shut off the gaps for Modric and Rakitic to slip balls into the space in front of the goalkeeper.
The 26-year-old can also get his team moving forward if he can find enough time on the ball to show his range of passing.
Cameroon coach Volker Finke told reporters his team will line up against Croatia looking to win the game, adding:
We’re very disappointed with the result (against Mexico). I think we deserved a draw. There’s still all to play for, though, and we’re going to head into the Croatia match with the intention of winning.
But they might have to do it without Samuel Eto'o, who is struggling with injury.
Ivan Rakitic, Croatia
Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric didn't deserve to be on the losing side against Brazil, who were aided by the award of a debatable penalty.
But Croatia will need to beat Cameroon if they hope to get out of Group A. And it will be up to their creative midfielders to find a way past a Cameroon side who lacked ambition against Mexico.
Those are Modric and Rakitic, the latter of whom The Independent rated as one of the world's most underrated players before the tournament kicked-off.
The consistently excellent Rakitic has a fair claim to be one of world football’s most underrated players. The Sevilla captain created more chances than any other player in La Liga last season. No mean feat in a league boasting Messi, Ozil and Isco. This season, Squawka’s Player Performance Index ranks Rakitic among the top five players in the Spanish top flight, along with Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi and Iniesta, and ahead of the likes of Fabregas and compatriot Luka Modric. In many ways, Rakitic is a typical Croatian midfielder. Technically sound, versatile, and creative in possession.
Rakitic hasn't even had a chance to pull on a Barcelona shirt yet. Still, he's about to find out what kind of attention comes with a high-profile move.
The midfielder has been picked to replace Cesc Fabregas at the Camp Nou. But the 26-year-old's first job is to help Croatia bounce back from a controversial defeat to Brazil in the opening game.
Daley Blind, Netherlands
Daley Blind has already earned his place in World Cup history.
Every time Robin van Persie's flying header is shown—and it will be shown a lot—the clip will also feature Blind's wonderful pass to set him up.
Blind accepts that his performance in the opening game has brought with it some extra attention. But, per Rob Dawson of the Manchester Evening News, he's only concentrating on Australia.
All the attention is a very big thing now, but I try not to think about it too much and will keep my feet on the ground.
The link with Manchester United is easily made because Robin is playing there and Van Gaal takes over next season.
Louis van Gaal's Holland team have plenty of flair with Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder.
But Blind still stood out in a display against Spain that was as much about hard work and industry as free-flowing attacking football.
Tim Cahill, Australia
With Tim Cahill isolated up front during the opening exchanges of Australia's first game with Chile, it looked like the Socceroos might get a thumping.
But when they finally started putting the ball in the box, preferably directed at Cahill and at head height, they looked like they might snatch a point.
His performance against Chile was enough to worry Holland's Nigel de Jong, via The Guardian:
He's a terrific player that always gives his heart and his all on the pitch, for his country or his club. We have to be careful because the timing to the ball with his headers is one of the best. He is one of the best timers I have seen from all the players around the world. So we have to take care of that very well. We have to take this game very serious.
Australia's slim hopes of getting out of Group B rest on Cahill's ability to put the ball in the net.
It will be a tough task against Holland and then Spain, but Cahill, now 34, has made a career out of making good defenders look daft.
Alexis Sanchez, Chile
The pace of Chile's attacking players is enough to scare teams far better than Australia, which Spain undoubtedly are.
FIFA.com hailed Sanchez as Chile's star against Australia in their first game. Holders Spain could be out of the World Cup if he's being talked about in similarly glowing terms after his next game:
Early strikes from Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia put the South Americans well in control and, though Tim Cahill's header got the Socceroos back into the game, Jean Beausejour sealed victory in injury-time.
Led by local support, it took just 12 minutes for Chile to break the deadlock, with a somewhat scrambled move being polished off by a familiar source. Good feet from Charles Aranguz drew Maty Ryan out of his goal, and when Eduardo Vargas's header fell at the feet of Sanchez, the Barcelona man made no mistake.
Alexis Sanchez's qualities—his direct, incisive football—will be no surprise to the Spanish defenders who see them every week, either playing with or against the Barcelona man.
And the 25-year-old will have been licking his lips when he saw the tape of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique crumble when faced with Arjen Robben's blistering speed.
Iker Casillas, Spain
Iker Casillas is an experienced goalkeeper. And he'll know he had a shocker against the Netherlands in Spain's opening game.
Robin van Persie's header was spectacular, but Casillas was caught in no-man's land. And the less said about his touch to let Van Persie score his second, the better.
It has led to suggestions Casillas might find himself dropped for Spain's second game against Chile.
The decision rests with Vicente del Bosque, who could call on Pepe Reina if he wants to make a change.
After the defeat against the Dutch, Del Bosque, in quotes carried by the BBC, didn't rule out making changes.
I feel sick, ill at ease, but with the courage a defeat must not sink us.
It is not a happy moment, but first of all I want to congratulate the Dutch team, who were superior to us.
We have been overwhelmed. We are a team of good professionals and good lads. Everyone hurts. There will be time to talk.
Victor Valdes' knee injury ruled him out of the squad, and David de Gea, although in Brazil, was forced out of training on Sunday with a muscle problem.
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