Brazil 2014, the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup kicks off in less than sixty days. The best 32 national teams from around the world will slug it out for the coveted golden trophy over a period of four weeks. But the battle for the world’s best will not only be fought between the teams but also amongst individual players right across the field. Football fans are especially fascinated by the intense rivalry between the world’s best strikers, the guys who will be banging in the goals. So, who are the top 10 best football strikers to watch in World Cup 2014? Here is our comprehensive guide.
10. Romelu Lukaku – Belgium
Belgium is being tipped by many as the most likely surprise package of this year’s tournament. The team is bubbling with young, exciting talent that has made the big guns start to look over their shoulders in the run up to the finals. Lukaku perfectly represents this bunch of up and coming stars full of promise and ambition. The 20 year old striker was instrumental in the Belgian canter to the top of their European qualification group. After enjoying what is a relatively easy draw, there is every reason that Lukaku will have the leeway to display his talismanic talent all the way to the final stages of the tournament.
9. Didier Drogba – Ivory Coast
Didier Drogba is larger than life in his native Ivory Coast as well as across the entire African continent. Over his stellar career at Chelsea he proved he has the nerve and self belief to overcome adversity and produce match winning performances at the biggest stages. In what is almost certain to be his last FIFA World Cup finals, the Ivorian is carrying the expectations of millions in Africa. Many may argue he is past his prime but Drogba has made a habit of confounding critics even at their most vocal.
8. Wayne Rooney – England
Wayne Rooney has been tipped severally to put up a defining performance on behalf of his team and country in major international tournaments but the Manchester United striker has never really lived up to expectations. Could this be the tournament where the diminutive striker finally lives up to his unquestionable promise? England have a tough group as they slug it out with Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica for a place in the knockout stages. This tough setting could be all that is needed for Rooney to make his legendary workhorse reputation count.
7. Mario Balotelli – Italy
Mario Balotelli, the mercurial Italian striker, is anything but predictable so it is a bit of a gamble to include him in this list. However, no one can dispute the fact that when he is in his element; Balotelli has all the ingredients to turn around a match with his wizardly on the ball. However, the opposite is true as well: the self-styled “Super Mario” has the incendiary nature that can turn combustible at any moment and cost his team a win. Whichever of the two ‘Balotellis’ shows up at Brazil 2014, you can bet your money that the performance will be anything but boring.
6. Radamel Falcao – Colombia
Since moving to Monaco last summer, Falcao has been banging in goals almost at will for his club. His country also counted on the fleet-footed striker in their impressive South American qualification campaign. As Colombia make their first appearance at the elite completion since France ’98, Falcao will be called upon to make his incredible talent count for his country.
5. Robin van Persie – The Netherlands
Netherlands proved they are a team with plenty to show during the last edition of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. During the 2010 tournament, van Persie only managed a solitary goal but he has enjoyed his most productive years of his career since the finals, his goal tally since running into triple figures. The Spanish defense managed to restrict the Dutchmen from scoring the goal they needed to win the title in 2010 but this time around, van Persie is certain to be better set up to overcome the wiles of even the most physical defenders. His countrymen and many others will be hoping and praying that he manages to remain fit before and throughout the tournament.
4. Neymar – Brazil
Perhaps the first among a crop of youthful players making their first appearance at the World Cup finals in this year’s tournament, Neymar has already proved how exceptional he can be on the big stage when he guided The Selecao to an impressive Confederations Cup triumph. Can he repeat the heroics of last summer this time round? With a complete season of European football under his belt already, there is nothing to stop Neymar from doing exactly that.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo -Portugal
Portugal almost missed out on a place in the finals after being forced to go through the ignominy of the playoffs to earn it teh hard way. But when push came to shove, Cristiano Ronaldo proved just how much of a heroic performance he can put up. He single handedly decimated the Swedes during the last match and propelled Portugal to the finals. For a player who has spent most of his career as a flying winger rather than an out and out striker, his goals tally is certainly the stuff of legend. In Brazil 2104 the current World Footballer of the Year has the perfect opportunity to dig into his bag of tricks and cement his name among the legends of the game once and for all.
2. Luis Suarez – Uruguay
The last time Luis Suarez donned the Uruguay shirt in a World Cup finals match, he ended up being red carded after a blatant handball to deny Ghana who were on the verge of a semi final berth. While his countrymen adored him as his heroics ended up being the difference in the match, Suarez will be looking forward to winning it in less controversial fashion this time round. If the performances he has been producing in the Premier League are anything to go by, he has more than enough to propel his team all the way.
1. Lionel Messi- Argentina
Is he or is he not the greatest football player on the planet? There are few who are willing to insist that Messi is anything but the most prodigiously talented footballer playing today, perhaps the greatest ever. While he has collected virtually every honour there is for his performances in the Barcelona shirt, his performances for Argentina have however been more understated, failing to spur his country any further than the quarterfinals of the World Cup for instance. If there ever was a time for Messi to eclipse the legend of Diego Maradona, this is certainly it. And what a stage! He would attain immortality if he used his wizardly to propel Argentina to the ultimate prize on Brazilian soil.
The World Cup finals is the ultimate stage for the best players on the globe to display their talent to their widest audience ever. It is where legends are born, hearts broken and villains earn their infamy. As 32 teams from around the world assemble in Brazil this summer, everything points to the ten players profiled above providing the most enduring memories of the tournament.