This summer’s World Cup provides a fantastic stage for the globe’s greatest attacking talent to show off their skills. Great strikes and wonderful team goals will undoubtedly light up stadia all over Brazil this month, and I examine the 5 strikers most likely to dazzle and amaze us all.
After his best ever season in a superb club career to date, Luis Suarez will be looking to take the World Cup by storm. He ran away with the Premier League golden boot and formed a formidable relationship with Daniel Sturridge; one which almost brought the title to Anfield. Emulating this sort of formula is something he will be looking to emulate with Uruguay. His partnership with Edinson Cavani at the forefront of the Uruguayan attack is a lethal one and as a pair, are realistically shouldering the hopes of an entire nation. Cavani did not have anything like the season that Suarez did, and so despite the recent minor knee surgery, he will carry the greater threat. For much of last campaign, Liverpool’s number 7 had a goal ratio of better than 1 a game. That is simply phenomenal and you can only imagine that his sense of national pride will drive him to possibly even greater heights. Whoever faces the might of the controversial figure; England included, should be seriously fearful.
The squat Argentinian’s season was wrought with aggravating muscular injuries that refused to subside. He was rushed back to first team action on several occasions and this has probably had a derogatory effect on his recovery. Even considering these problems, Aguero was still capable of achieving a good return for the campaign in terms of goal output. Managing 28 strikes from only 38 appearances in all competitions, including 6 in 6 in the Champions League, is nothing to be sniffed at. His part in a brilliant attacking portion of the Argentinian side will be very important and Aguero’s work-rate, skill, acceleration, and brilliant finishing prowess, are invaluable traits in the straining Brazilian climate. I can see him running many a defender absolutely ragged and scoring vital goals in the process.
Another member of Argentina’s phenomenal foursome of attackers, Lionel Messi is the captain and leader in so many senses of the word. The dazzling forward is a four time winner of the World Player of the Year award and so it is natural that truly great things are expected of him. This season’s preparation has not exactly been perfect for Messi however, as he was troubled with recurrent hamstring problems that restricted his ability to perform at his peak.
The effect of his absence was keenly felt on the Barcelona first team as they went trophy-less for the first campaign in a long while. While the left-footed wizard never did quite return to his best by the end of the season, a marked improvement was there for everyone to see and he was contributing with goals and assists at a similar rate to years past. I imagine that the lack of constant matches since the end of La Liga will have helped his recovery no end and he will be fit and ready to go by Argentina’s first group game. Comparisons have been frequently made between Messi and another Argentine legend; Diego Maradona, not only because of their play style but also their career paths. While there are some who would already place Messi above Maradona, to truly put this beyond all reasonable doubt, Barcelona’s talisman needs to perform at a World Cup. He has been disappointing to say the least at previous tournaments and guiding Argentina to victory as captain on Brazilian soil would cement Messi’s place in history as the greatest ever. With that sort of motivation, he is a force to be truly frightened of this summer.
After carrying Portugal through to the finals with a wonderful performance in the play-off game against Sweden which included a hat-trick, Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to make his mark at the tournament itself. He is without question his country’s star man, and the captain’s armband only seems to add a little extra to his game. Whether it is from his direct free-kicks, penalties, aerial prowess, or trickery and dribbling, Ronaldo has so many strings to his bow with which to influence proceedings with. As he has matured through the latter half of his twenties, the stroppy and childish streak which used to be all too prevalent has almost vanished, leaving behind it the finished article for a footballer. He can score all sorts of goals, he has an impressive physique and is not shrugged off the ball easily, and can test defenders in all regions of the pitch. With all of these problems to be concerned about, it is a wonder how any of his opposition can sleep on the night before the game. At 29 years of age, it may well be the case that this is his last World Cup at the absolute peak of his powers, and so he will be fired up to push Portugal as far as he can.
Is there anyone in world football today who can blow so hot and cold in consecutive matches? On his day, he is truly brilliant; using his tremendous strength to shake off defenders and natural skill to score outrageous goals. However, he can just as easily be found strolling around a pitch looking disinterested before getting himself sent off for a silly lunge. The ex-Man City man had a terrific Euro 2012 and was one of the key figures in their rather unexpected run to the final. He ran England’s centre halves ragged in their match and although he did not find the net on that occasion, he posed a constant threat. Mario has left the public eye slightly for the English media in comparison to his time at The Etihad, but his performances for AC Milan have not gone completely unnoticed. There have been spectacular goals a plenty, and although I hope they do not happen against England, it would be fantastic for the tournament to be lit up by a Balotelli pile-driver.
Playing at the fulcrum of Italy’s forward line, he provides many options for the Azzurri’s play. Should they wish to play longer balls forward, he certainly has the upper body strength to set up a platform for his team. He is a willing runner into the channels when his motivation is there and playing the ball into feet is certainly not a bad choice. In addition, giving away a penalty when facing Balotelli on the opposing team is effectively the same as conceding a goal. His unique style and supreme confidence from the spot is something to behold. As long as Mario comes mentally prepared, the technical aspects of his game will surely fall into place and give opposition defences a horrible 90 minutes.