World Cup 2014: Who Will Help Brazil Capture the Cup? the Top 25 Brazilians

Michael ThomasCorrespondent IIIMay 11, 2011

World Cup 2014: Who Will Help Brazil Capture the Cup? the Top 25 Brazilians

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    SINGAPORE - MARCH 03:  Football legend Pele speaks to the media at a press conference on March 3, 2011 at Jalan Besar Stadium, in Singapore. The press conference announced a partnership with Courts and launched the start of the New York Cosmos Asia Tour 2
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Throughout the roughly 100-year history of the beautiful game, the Selecao have been regarded as the most formidable football side in the world. 

    Not only defeating but dominating their opponents in most contests, Brazilian squads always consist of 11 players who can each pass, dribble, and shoot. 

    In the past two World Cups, Brazil has surprisingly not advanced past the quarterfinals, yet with the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil, they will surely be heavily favored to once again hoist the majestic FIFA World Cup Trophy.

    While Brazil currently lacks a superstar in the mold of Pele or Ronaldo, here is a list of the top 25 players who will likely play an important role in the shaping the future of Brazilian football.

25. Ronaldhino

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    MILAN, ITALY - DECEMBER 08:  Ronaldinho of AC Milan and Eyong Enoh of AFC Ajax compete for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between AC Milan and AFC Ajax at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on December 8, 2010 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Clau
    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Winner of the 2002 World Cup and the 2006 Champions League with Barcelona, Ronaldhino makes this list as a result of his cumulative contributions to the game. 

    Known for his signature ponytail and mesmerizing dribbling skills, Ronaldhino elected to leave his former club, AC Milan, for Flamengo in his native Brazil. 

    At age 31, El Gaucho still has several solid footballing years remaining in his career, so it would have been nice to see him continue his career in Serie A or perhaps in the English Premier League (EPL) with Blackburn Rovers.

24. Heurelho Gomes

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    LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 07:  Heurelho Gomes of Spurs reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Blackpool at White Hart Lane on May 7, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Gomes' inclusion in this list is highly debatable considering his recent gaffes against Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Blackpool

    However, the Tottenham keeper has played a central role in his side's Champions' League success. 

    Specifically, his string of sensational saves in the return leg of Spurs' round-of-16 match-up against AC Milan allowed an over-matched Tottenham side to advance to the quarterfinals.

23. Ramires

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 12:  Ramires of Chelsea brings down Nani of Manchester United and is subsequently sent off during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on April 12, 2011
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    The hard-tackling midfielder has deservedly earned a regular spot in the Chelsea outfit as either a holding or box-to-box midfielder. 

    However, with Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel already cast into primarily defensive midfield roles and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard not getting any younger, it would be nice to see Ramires develop into a more attack-minded player.

22. Michel Bastos

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01:  Michel Bastos of Lyon in action during the Emirates Cup match between AC Milan and Lyon at Emirates Stadium on August 1, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    The talented Olympique Lyonnais player has used his impressive pace and howitzer left foot to compile an impressive total of 20 goals from his right wing position over the past two seasons. 

    However, playing for a Brazilian World Cup squad loaded with offensive talent, Bastos demonstrated his versatility this past summer by successfully occupying the wing back position opposite of Maicon.

21. Luis Fabiano

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    PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 02:  Luis Fabiano congratulates Robinho of Brazil after he scored the opening goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Quarter Final match between Netherlands and Brazil at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on July 2,
    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Perhaps the most under-appreciated player in the world, Luis Fabiano quietly scored a combined total of eight goals for Brazil in the 2009 Confederation's Cup and the 2010 World Cup. 

    Yet, currently at age 30, he appears too old to secure a move from his current side Sevilla to a bigger club such as Madrid or Barcelona. 

    Nevertheless, he continues to perform well for Los Rojiblancos accounting for 50 goals over the past three seasons.

20. Kaká

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    SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 07:  Kaka of Real Madrid celebrates after he scored Real's third goal during the La Liga match betweenevilla and Real Madrid at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on May 7, 2011 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Once the poster child of Brazilian football, Kaká has been plagued by injuries since moving from AC Milan to Real Madrid

    Having just recently returned to Jose Mourinho's squad, the 29-year-old has performed well in several recent league contests but has been rumored to be surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu. 

    However, with his hefty transfer fee and ridiculously high wages keeping potential bidders at bay, I expect the versatile playmaker to combine with Cristiano Ronaldo to eventually help Los Blancos return the La Liga and Champions League titles to Madrid.

19. Fabio

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 01:  Fabio da Silva of Manchester United in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on May 1, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Though not earning as much playing time as his twin brother Rafael, the 20-year-old Man U wing back has taken advantage of his opportunities. 

    Most recently in the Champions League semifinal against Scalke and in an EPL heavyweight bout against defending champions Chelsea, Fabio has demonstrated both the intensity to defend vigorously and the pace to lead the counterattacks. 

    Look for Fabio to eventually replace Patrice Evra as United's first choice left back.

18. Sandro

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 30:  Sandro of Spurs and John Obi Mikel of Chelsea compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on April 30, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey
    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Similarly taking advantage of limited opportunities, Sandro performed well as a holding midfielder throughout Tottenham's Champions' League campaign. 

    He recently scored his first goal for Spurs with a spectacular long range strike against Chelsea, but manager Harry Redknapp appeared mortified that he had moved so far into attack leaving the defense vulnerable to a counterattack.

    Since Tottenham will likely not return to the Champions' League next season, I suspect the young Brazilian will generate a great deal of interest from both Milanese sides as they look to replace aging incumbents in the central midfield.

17. Philippe Coutinho

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    GENOA, ITALY - OCTOBER 29: Coutinho of FC Internazionale Milano shields the ball from Marco Rossi of Genoa CFCduring the Serie A match between Genoa CFC  and FC Inter Milan at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on October 29, 2010 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Massimo C
    Massimo Cebrelli/Getty Images

    A budding No. 10, Coutinho's emergence as a top-class footballer this season has unfortunately been overshadowed by Inter Milan's poor form. 

    At only 18 years old, Coutinho dribbles as if the ball is a mere extension of his leg, regularly maneuvering between several defenders while continuing to maintain possession. 

    I would expect him to occupy a prominent role in Inter's future plans as Samuel Eto'o, Diego Milito, and Dejan Stankovic reach the twilight stages of their careers.

16. Maicon

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    UDINE, ITALY - JANUARY 23:  Maicon of FC Internazionale Milano during the Serie A match between Udinese and Inter at Stadio Friuli on January 23, 2011 in Udine, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Largely regarded as the best fullback in the world, Maicon has served as a more than adequate replacement to his predecessor, Roberto Carlos. 

    Swinging in lethal crosses for both club and country, Maicon would have earned a top-five spot if he had not been utterly and completely humiliated by Tottenham winger Gareth Bale in the Champions League group stage. 

    Nevertheless, Maicon's mere presence usually alters the game by forcing the opposing team's wingers to play far more conservatively in order to prevent his dangerous forays forward.

15. Júlio César

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    MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 30: Julio Cesar goalkeeper of Intenazionale  celebrates after winning the Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and US Citta di Palermo at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 30, 2011 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Tullio M. Pug
    Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

    While not quite demonstrating the same range as Edwin Van der Sar or Iker Casillas, Júlio César is still an elite keeper. 

    Remarkably consistent for both Inter Milan and Brazil, his mistake against Holland in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals was highly unusual and perhaps cost Brazil the chance to capture their 6th World Cup. 

    However, he was spectacular for Inter Milan throughout their 2009-2010 Treble-winning campaign, most notably denying Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller an equalizer from close range in the second half of the Champions' League (CL) Final. 

    César also assisted Diego Milito's opening goal in the CL Final with a punt which traveled 3/4 of the pitch.

14. Lucas

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14: Lucas Leiva of Liverpool during a training session ahead of their UEFA Europa League Group K match against Utrecht at Melwood Training Ground on December 14, 2010 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Im
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    After four seasons and over 100 appearances for Liverpool, Lucas has finally seemed to reach his full potential as a footballer. 

    Playing as a box-to-box midfielder, the 24-year-old is a superb tackler whose work rate and deft touch allow him to quickly convert opponent breaks into Liverpool counterattacks. 

    With Liverpool now armed with strikers Luis Suarez and Andrew Carroll, look for Lucas to regularly provide them with the service which unlocks the opposing team's defense.

13. Renato Augusto

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    Another unheralded Brazilian, Renato Augusto has quietly marshaled an underrated Bayer Leverkeusen squad which currently sits second in the Bundesliga table.  A pure number 10, his pace and touch enable him to create scoring opportunities for both himself and teammates where most other players would be dispossessed.  At age 22, he is quite young and seemingly destined for a move to a bigger club.  Additionally, with his transfer fee likely to be in the region of £20 million (as opposed to at least £50 million for similar players such as Argentinian Javier Pastore), he would come at a huge discount to a major team such as Manchester United or Liverpool.

12. Dani Alves

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    MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27:  Daniel Alves of Barcelona is stretchered off the pitch after being fouled by Pepe of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on A
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Playing from touchline to touchline, Dani Alves uses his powerful pace to open space on the Barcelona right flank. 

    Though his crosses and free kicks are wildly inconsistent, his shameful willingness to simulate fouls makes him a perpetual nuisance even when he is playing poorly. 

    For instance, in a recent Champions' League match against Real Madrid, Dani Alves flailed around in apparent agony after being tackled by Pepe. 

    While the referee showed Pepe a red card, Alves was stretchered off of the field only to return within minutes.

11. Alex

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    A stalwart defender, Alex will probably earn more regular playing time alongside countryman David Luiz as John Terry reaches the latter stages of his career. 

    Replacing Luiz at halftime during a recent bout with Man U, Alex did well to shadow Wayne Rooney and made a crucial sliding save which would have put the game to bed. 

    He has also developed into somewhat of a dead ball specialist with his free kicks deadly when taken within 30 yards of goal.

10. Lúcio

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    GENOA, ITALY - FEBRUARY 27:  Lucio of FC Inter Milan and Massimo Maccarone of UC Sampdoria compete for the ball during the Serie A match between UC Sampdoria and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on February 27, 2011 in Genoa, Italy.  (Pho
    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Defending the world's best players for the past 10 years, the 6'2" 33-year-old is surprisingly agile. 

    However, his 2002 Champions League Final goal for Bayer Leverkeusen and his game-winning goal for Brazil in the 2009 Confederation's Cup prove he is capable of moving forward to collect critical goals.

9. Rafael

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 12:  Rafael Da Silva of Manchester United and Abou Diaby of Arsenal battle for the ball during the FA Cup sponsored by E.On Sixth Round match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on March 12, 2011 in Manchester
    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Throughout his time at United, Rafael has always demonstrated the capacity to move forward into attack, but the 20-year-old only recently proved (this season) that he can defend as well. 

    If he can avoid injury, he will retain his post as United's first choice right back for the next decade.

8. Alexandre Pato

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    ROME, ITALY - MAY 07:  Pato of AC Milan celebrates after claiming the Serie A title following victory in the Serie A match between AS Roma and AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on May 7, 2011 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
    Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

    A pure No. 9, Pato has flourished throughout his tenure with AC Milan

    An integral part of Milan's Scudetto-winning side, Pato has bagged 15 goals for the Rossoneri this season

    Consistently demonstrating a knack for scoring difficult goals, don't be surprised when he continues to attract serious suitors from Spain and England.

7. David Luiz

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 30:  David Luiz (L) and John Terry of Chelsea celebrate following their team's 2-1 victory during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on April 30, 2011 in London, England.  (Ph
    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Though the former Benfica center half was woefully exposed by Chicharito in Chelsea's most recent defeat to Man U, Luiz has been solid since moving to Stamford Bridge. 

    While his tackling and work rate are both superior, his ability to score using his head or his feet distinguishes him from his colleagues. 

    Look for him to form a long term partnership with fellow countryman Alex in the Chelsea central defense.

6. Ganso

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    The talented 21-year-old forward has recently begun to generate interest from Italy, Spain, and England following his recent run of good form for both Santos FC and the Brazilian national team. 

    Generally vying for accuracy over power, Ganso regularly finds the back of the net from well outside the 18 with his lethal left foot. 

    Don't be surprised if Chelsea or Real Madrid snap him up this summer with the expectation that he can lead a successful Champions League campaign.

5. Marcelo

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    SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 07: Cristiano Ronaldo (C) of Real Madrid celebrates with Pepe (L) and Marcelo   after Ronaldo scored Real's second goal during the La Liga match between Sevilla and Real Madrid at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on May 7, 2011 in Sevill
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Flourishing under new manager Jose Mourinho, Marcelo has evolved from a relatively unknown fullback to arguably the best left back in the world. 

    Constantly moving forward, Marcelo is largely responsible for providing Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo with the service to perpetually create scoring opportunities. 

    With Marcelo occupying the left flank and Dani Alves or Maicon on the right side of the field, look for the 2014 Brazilian World Cup side to keep opponents pinned deep into their own half of the pitch.

4. Robinho

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    ROME, ITALY - MAY 07:  Robinho of AC Milan in action during the Serie A match between AS Roma and AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on May 7, 2011 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
    Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

    One of the most recognizable faces in the current Brazilian squad, Robinho has always represented his country well despite occasionally struggling at the club level. 

    Following a short loan spell with childhood club Santos, Robinho secured a move away from dreaded Manchester City to Milan where he has resurrected his brilliant career. 

    His opening goal against Holland in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals should have been sufficient to send Brazil through to the semis, but a monumental second-half collapse nullified his neat finishing. 

    Though not quite as lethal as his predecessor, Ronaldo, Robinho is a bonafide star who may even captain Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.

3. Thiago Silva

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    The third AC Milan player in the top 10, Thiago Silva is tremendously strong both in the air and on the ground. 

    Unlike most fellow central defenders, he can catch and dispossess some of the fastest forwards in the world without drawing a card. 

    Also, when moving forward into attack, he demonstrates remarkable composure in front of goal. 

    As Lúcio approaches the end of his career, look for Thiago Silva to replace him in the Brazilian first team.

2. Neymar

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    First watching Neymar in a friendly between my Yanks and the Selecao last year, I was amazed by how easily the then 18-year-old Neymar penetrated our back line. 

    Bagging two more international goals in a friendly against Scotland Neymar possesses the world class speed and dribbling skills, to fill the void in the Brazilian side created by Ronaldo's retirement.

    Watch the video and decide for yourself, but I suspect he will secure a big money move away from childhood club Santos to join a major European side.

1. Hulk

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    Surprisingly not well known, this winger/striker has the speed to run by you, the touch to run around you, and the strength to run through you. 

    Starring for FC Porto over the past two seasons, Hulk will undoubtedly secure a move to a major side in the near future. 

    By 2014, his fitting nickname and irresistible skills should endear him to fans throughout the world as the new face of Brazilian football.

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