Every World Cup is defined by the stories it creates. Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’, Iran and USA taking a group team picture and Zidane’s head-butt are all iconic events that have characterized a World Cup. In South Africa, there were quite a few contenders: Lampard’s disallowed goal, Suarez’s goal-line handball and Casillas’s last second save.
Besides creating stories and drama, the World Cup is also famous for transforming young prospects into superstars. In 2010, it was Thomas Müller who exploded onto the scene after scoring five goals and registering three assists on his way to picking up the Golden Boot. Now that we head into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the question on everyone’s mind is who will be this summer’s star? Here are some of the biggest contenders:
Antoine Griezmann, France
Some of the greatest heroes rise in the form of replacements. One of the greatest stories about replacements come from baseball. In 1925, Wally Pipp was the first baseman for the New York Yankees. One day Pipp had a severe headache and asked to take a day off. The manager complied and replaced him with a promising youngster named Lou Gehrig. The rest is simply history, as Gehrig went on to become the greatest first-baseman in Major League Baseball history.
With the absence of Frank Ribery, Antoine Griezmann is being built up as his replacement for this summer’s World Cup. The Real Sociedad youngster has had an incredible season to say the least, scoring 16 times in the La Liga. He has already translated that form into results for Les Bleus, scoring twice in a friendly against Jamaica. He’s quite well known in Spain, but this could be his stage to launch himself into superstardom.
Stefan De Vrij, Netherlands
The Dutch are traditionally known for their stylish brand of attacking football. Their defense has never been able to match the high standard set by their attack. Louis van Gaal has taken note of this deficiency and opted for a five-man back-line.
The 22-year-old Stefan De Vrij is set to be an invaluable part of that back-line. He has impressed all season long for Feyenoord and seems ready to impress in the famous orange kit. His technical ability on the ball is a perfect fit for Louis van Gaal’s side.
William Carvalho, Portugal
For many years now, Portugal have had trouble finding a solid defensive midfielder. However, after years of searching, it does seem that A Seleção das Quinas have found their man in William Carvalho.
After impressing all season long, he nearly sealed a switch to City in January. Carvalho is tipped by many to displace Miguel Veloso in the heart of the Portuguese midfield. Alongside creative players such as Moutinho and Meireles, Carvalho might be the perfect man to balance the midfield. This could be his chance to further impress the several suitors that are already itching for his signature.
Erik Durm, Germany
One of the surprise selections of Joachim Löw’s squad was Borussia Dortmund starlet Erik Durm. Durm was initially signed as a winger, but Klopp was forced to convert the 22-year-old to left-back when Marcel Schmelzer was ruled out with a long-term injury.
Since then, Durm has impressed many with solid performances in defense. With Phillip Lahm’s conversion to a holding midfielder and Schmelzer’s injury, it might be Durm’s chance to become a fixture in the defense of Die Roten.
Paul Pogba, France
Not much can be said about this lad that hasn’t been said already. The 2013 European Golden Boy has taken the world by storm after a couple of fantastic seasons at Juventus. His pace, power and technical ability are something that the French midfield haven’t been able to acquire since the days of Zidane.
This is his first real opportunity to shine for Les Bleus, and he will look to further increase his already stellar reputation. If France are to go far in this tournament, Paul Pogba will be an essential part of their success.