The Key Player for Each of the 32 2014 World Cup Nations

Karla Villegas Gama@karlitsvFeatured ColumnistNovember 25, 2013

The Key Player for Each of the 32 2014 World Cup Nations

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    The 32 nations qualified for Brazil 2014 will have to combine their talent and technique to support their key footballer if they want to have a shot at lifting the World Cup.

    We will see footballers that have proven themselves, like Andrea Pirlo, Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o, and some youngsters that surely have what it takes to play in football’s biggest tournament, such as Keisuke Honda and Xherdan Shaqiri.

    So let's find out which players will be crucial for each squad.

Madjid Bougherra, Algeria

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    The captain of Algeria is a tough and strong centre-back that has given the defence direction and leadership.

    Madjid Bougherra plays for Qatari club Lekhwiya but he made quite an impression during the four seasons he spent with Scottish club Rangers.

    Bougherra scored the winning goal in the second leg against Burkina Faso, giving Algeria their ticket to Brazil 2014.

Samuel Eto'o, Cameroon

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    Samuel Eto'o is a top-class footballer who holds the record as Cameroon's top scorer, with 55 goals to his count.

    Although he is a natural finisher, Eto'o can very well create plays and support the back line when in trouble.

    At the age of 32, he brings to the pitch his experience with some of the world’s best clubs—Barcelona, Inter and Chelsea—to give his national team order and power.

Kevin-Prince Boateng, Ghana

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    The return of Kevin-Prince Boateng to the Ghana national team has resulted in more mobility and depth for the squad.

    Boateng is a clever midfielder that can attack and defend, which sets him as one of the best footballers in this position.

    He has proven to be reliable under pressure; he was instrumental in the World Cup play-off against Egypt.

Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast

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    The Ivory Coast will rely on Didier Drogba to finish plays. He is fast and lethal when he has the ball.

    He makes a wonderful partnership with Yaya Toure, who feeds him balls and creates plays.

    Drogba can shoot with both feet but his aerial game will be key for the Ivory Coast.

John Obi Mikel, Nigeria

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    John Obi Mikel gives Nigeria security in the midfield. He is great with ball possession, plus he sends accurate passes to the forwards.

    He is also a valuable asset when he adds up to the attack, as he is fast and strong.

    When Mikel plays just in front of the defence he is relentless.

Mile Jedinak, Australia

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    Although Tim Cahill is Australia's top scorer, Mile Jedinak is the brain of the team.

    Jedinak holds the Socceroos midfield in style and becomes a fearless player when he goes up front.

    This 29-year-old surely knows how to distribute the ball and give depth to his team but he is also great in set pieces as he usually leaves the defenders behind.

Reza Ghoochannejhad, Iran

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    Twenty-six-year-old Reza Ghoochannejhad currently plays for Belgian club Standard Liege. This season he has scored two times in eight appearances.

    The Iranian striker is fast and can shoot with both feet either from close range or long distance.

    He was instrumental in his team's qualification to the 2014 World Cup—where he put the ball away three times—and the 2015 Asian Cup—where he was the top scorer with five goals.

Shinji Kagawa, Japan

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    Japan have developed a fantastic strain of scorers. Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazaki are two good examples, but it is Shinji Kagawa who will be the key player for the Blue Samurai.

    The Manchester United midfielder is one of the most gifted playmakers in world football. He is fast and accurate, but he is also good with ball possession.

    Kagawa will be instrumental in creating goal opportunities for Japan.

Heung-Min Son, South Korea

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    South Korea have a young squad whose average age is 25 years old. One of those youngsters is Heung-Min Son.

    This talented forward debuted with Bayer Leverkusen this season and he has already established himself as a cunning and witty footballer.

    He gives South Korea flexibility and speed when he comes from behind. His dribbling is first-class.

Vincent Kompany, Belgium

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    Belgium have a strong squad set for the 2014 World Cup, which includes footballers of the likes of Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini and Kevin De Bruyne.

    However, Vincent Kompany will be instrumental for two reasons: he is the heart of the defence and his game inside the box in set pieces is superb.

    Kompany is Belgium's rock. Unlike many, when he is in the attacking zone he can shoot from long distance or make headers, without neglecting defending his own box.

Edin Dzeko, Bosnia-Herzegovina

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    If there is someone who knows how to leave defenders hanging, that someone is Edin Dzeko.

    He is superb in the aerial game but he is also skilful with his feet. During the World Cup qualification the Bosnian striker put the ball away 10 times, only surpassed by Robin van Persie.

    Dzeko's strength and speed set him as the man that will make the difference for this team.

Luka Modric, Croatia

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    Few players can craft plays as good as Luka Modric. Although he had a tough time adjusting with Real Madrid, now he is back to his usual self and has given Croatia a lot of goal opportunities.

    He is the kind of midfielder that not only controls the ball and sends accurate passes to his teammates, but he also finds spaces to harm rivals and takes his chances as well. 

    Modric is a natural game changer.

Steven Gerrard, England

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    Wayne Rooney may have been England's top scorer during the World Cup qualification but without the leadership and control of Steven Gerrard the team would not have qualified.

    He is instrumental in the midfield, especially when put in a deeper role. His vision and creativity make up for his fitness, which is obviously not what it used to be.

    Gerrard has great ball possession and superb passing accuracy. He will be decisive in Roy Hodgson's system.

Franck Ribery, France

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    The 2013 winner of the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award scored five times in the first round of the World Cup qualification, scoring one-third of France's goals.

    Franck Ribery is one of the best ball strikers in world football, plus he is superb at dribbling.

    He has been at his best, both at club level and with France, and will definitively take advantage of his brilliant partnership with Karim Benzema.

Mesut Ozil, Germany

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    Germany's playmaker has been at his best since he joined Arsenal. Mesut Ozil is a specialist of unlocking teams.

    His creativity and speed are his most lethal weapons. He has a fine touch and ball control that have helped establish him as one of the most complete attacking midfielders of our time. 

    Ozil was the top scorer of Group C in the World Cup qualification with eight goals, proving he can craft plays and also finish them.

Konstantinos Mitroglou, Greece

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    Greece's captain, Giorgos Karagounis, has been the heart of the team, but it is Konstantinos Mitroglou who will make the difference in Brazil.

    The Olympiacos striker has scored 17 times this season, 14 in the Superleague and three more in the UEFA Champions League.

    With the national team, Kostas has also been instrumental. In the World Cup play-off against Romania he scored three times.

Andrea Pirlo, Italy

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    Andrea Pirlo is absolutely brilliant despite his age. He has taken a new role with Italy that makes him fundamental in their midfield.

    He creates plays, supports the defence and puts the ball away in set pieces on a regular basis.

    Pirlo will continue to be a thriving force for Italy. His technique, creativity and vision are fundamental in helping the Azzurri to have goal opportunities and diversity.

Robin Van Persie, Netherlands

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    Robin van Persie keeps getting better as time goes by. In 2013 he appeared in seven games with the Netherlands and scored eight times.

    His ball-striking and technique were fundamental during the World cup qualification, where he scored 11 times, including one hat-trick and two braces.

    Van Persie will team up with Arjen Robben to try to take the Oranje all the way to the final match of the World Cup for the second time in a row.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

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    Cristiano Ronaldo has cleared all doubts about his endurance with Portugal after a sublime performance against Sweden in the World Cup play-off.

    Ronaldo has scored more goals than any other footballer this year, which proves he is possibly on his way to having his best tournament with the national team.

    The Portuguese must bring his momentum with Real Madrid to the World Cup.

Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Russia

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    Thirty-year-old Aleksandr Kerzhakov is Russia’s top scorer, with 24 goals to his name.

    Kerzhakov plays for Zenit Saint Petersburg and has earned Fabio Capello's trust since his arrival to the team after the 2012 European Championship.

    He is a strong striker who has a powerful right-foot shot and superb ball control.

Andres Iniesta, Spain

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    Andres Iniesta continues to be one of the brightest attacking midfielders in world football.

    He will be a key player in the World Cup because he can create and finish plays.

    When the ball is at his feet he does everything right with it: control, dribble, passes and reception.

    The Barcelona footballer will be a game changer for Spain in Brazil, especially when it comes to unlocking their rivals.

Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland

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    Twenty-two-year-old Xherdan Shaqiri has established himself as one of Switzerland's most trusted footballers.

    He has played for FC Basel and Bayern Munich; with both clubs he has been an unbalancing and fast player that can surprise rival defences in the blink of an eye.

    Shaqiri will make his second appearance in a World Cup. In 2010 he came on as a substitute in all three games of the group stage. Four years later he is set to be Switzerland's cornerstone.

Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica

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    Costa Rica have a deadly threat in Bryan Ruiz. The Fulham midfielder has become an instrumental piece in the national team's attack.

    Ruiz does more harm when he plays behind the striker, floating between the centre of the pitch and the box.

    He is strong and has an enviable physique.

Wilson Palacios, Honduras

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    Honduras are characterized for being a side whose players have superb physical conditions.

    Some of the key strikers include Carlos Costly and Jerry Bengtson, but it is Wilson Palacios who weaves the plays in the midfield and also supports the defence.

    Currently playing for Stoke City, Palacios has been capped 92 times with the national team.

Oribe Peralta, Mexico

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    Oribe Peralta may be a late bloomer with El Tri but his fantastic performances in times of need set him as a standard bearer for the team.

    Peralta scored 11 times from August to November, more than any other Mexican in 2013.

    El Cepillo is a relentless striker who will try to secure every ball and will give his best to every shot he has in front of him.

    He is undeniably a very complete footballer who can shoot and head in style.

Michael Bradley, USA

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    The United States had been longing for a player of the likes of Michael Bradley for a while.

    He is a beast when he has the ball at his feet. He is a great passer and distributes the ball with ease.

    The Roma midfielder is no stranger to scoring either. He kicks the ball with his right foot and has a good aerial game too.

Lionel Messi, Argentina

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    The Argentine has to be very careful in the second half of the season if he wants to finally succeed at the World Cup.

    Lionel Messi has undergone a series of injuries in 2013; the most recent sidelined him for the rest of the year.

    With the help of Javier Mascherano, Angel di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain, Messi will be the key player in Alejandro Sabella's formation.

Neymar, Brazil

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    After securing the Golden Ball for best player at the 2013 Confederation Cup, Neymar has been better than ever.

    With Barcelona he has taken a different role which lets him assist and feed balls to his teammates instead of only sending the ball away.

    This will be an advantage for Brazil because now Neymar is a more complete footballer.

Arturo Vidal, Chile

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    The Juventus midfielder is a superb commander in the centre of the pitch.

    Vidal distributes the ball in style, but he is also a very valuable asset when he adds to the attack. He assists and finishes plays, giving Chile a lot of diversity.

    He will be key in creating opportunities for Alex Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas.

Radamel Falcao, Colombia

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    The Monaco striker will need to be at his best to help Colombia advance to the round of 16.

    Radamel Falcao can shoot with both feet, while his aerial game is also strong.

    During the World Cup qualification he scored nine times, the most effective Colombian of the tournament.

Jefferson Montero, Ecuador

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    Currently wearing the Monarcas Morelia jersey, Jefferson Montero is a fast and resourceful midfielder who can pose a real threat when he runs through the flanks.

    He has become a fundamental player under the management of Reinaldo Rueda, especially because he is in great shape and can assist or finish a play.

    With the help of Antonio Valencia, Montero will shine even more at Brazil.

Luis Suarez, Uruguay

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    Luis Suarez has been Uruguay's rock for a while now. During the World Cup qualification he scored 11 times, more than any other footballer in CONMEBOL.

    He can harm opponents from many places thanks to his diversity in attack. From outside the box he has a mean long-distance shot, while he can easily find space once inside the rival's goal area. His aerial game is another valuable asset.

    However, Suarez has to keep his cool because indiscipline can bring down all of his technical brilliance.