Top 5 World Cup Wing Wizards
This summer’s World Cup in Brazil, which in fact starts only later today, is the perfect stage for the most talented players in world football to strut their stuff. Teams are affected by performances in all areas of the pitch, meaning one is no more important than another, but it is the general consensus that some of the most naturally gifted, exciting to watch, and skilful players in the world play on the wing. Out there, pace and trickery are kings, and here are the 5 wingers at the World Cup that I believe are set to amaze us more than any other.
The weight of a nation is on the shoulders of such a diminutive figure, but Brazil’s prince has all the ability required to deliver on that expectation. Neymar is the star man of the Samba Stars, and when you examine his game and the effect he can have on proceedings, there is no wonder why. He may be slight, but you’d be a brave defender to try and get up close with the Barcelona man. One of the most slippery customers in world football, Neymar can always find a way to get his body between the defender and the ball, and as such drawing a foul nearly every time. If he is able to turn and face the opposition, then this is no improvement either. His feet are mesmeric at times, and his ability to combine step overs, fakes and a drop of the shoulder is rivalled only by Cristiano Ronaldo. Neymar’s acceleration is also in the top bracket, making him nearly impossible to stop once he has even a yard of space. What will make him most dangerous to defenders at the World Cup is the fact that he can produce magic once he has made space for himself. It has been seen recently in friendlies when he scored a wonderful free-kick and provided a sublime assist with a back-heel. He will surely have a huge impact on proceedings at the World Cup; a player of his talent simply has to perform, and he may well drag Brazil to eventual victory.
Another member of Barcelona’s attacking line-up, Pedro Rodriguez is a vital part of any team he plays for. Rather atypically for the current crop of Spanish players, his game is not built completely around maintaining possession at all costs. Instead, his first thought is often to attack his opposite number and try to create a goalscoring opportunity, whether for himself or a team mate. Pedro has a very direct running style and this makes stopping him in full flow a highly difficult task. For some time, you could see the potential he had to be special, but his final ball would still let him down on occasion. Now though, he has added that extra facet to his game which in my opinion makes him one of the first names on the team sheet. Not only can he beat a man, but his finishing is now up there with any top striker in world football and he regularly grabs more than 15 goals a season from the flank. In Spain’s World Cup qualification campaign, Pedro was the man to pop up with important goals throughout, especially when Del Bosque had the problem of which misfiring striker to pick in his side. If the Spanish coach chooses to play without a classic number 9 in Brazil, then Pedro’s goalscoring exploits will be a crucial part of their push for the World Cup.
The Chilean is the third and final member of the Barcelona contingent in this list, but is no less effective at what he does. Sanchez is tremendously versatile; not only able to play on either wing but also through the middle. He forms a lethal partnership in the forward areas of the pitch with Vargas, acting as both the supplier and the finisher. Alexis is supremely strong and barrel-chested, so once he is up to speed it is very difficult to knock him off the ball or interrupt his stride. His pace can also be underestimated, but he can cover the ground as well as anyone. Chile are many people’s tips for a surprise package at the World Cup and if Alexis Sanchez can be fed with quality passes, he can be the reason they succeed. Having a goal threat from wide areas drastically takes the burden off the central strikers and Sanchez may well prove to be the match-winner on several occasions.
Seemingly on a constant upward curve of improvement as he ages, Arjen Robben is arguably the most talented member of his side, and possibly the most naturally gifted left-footer in world football today. He really cemented the trend of wingers playing on the ‘wrong’ side, and the threat he provides when cutting in-field is legendary. Robben is given the license for both Bayern Munich and Netherlands to have an almost free role, as his coaches acknowledge the supreme skill he brings to the table. Defenders are constantly on the back foot when facing the Dutch winger, always seemingly chasing him, desperately attempting to keep him off his favoured foot. However, he is not averse to getting to the by-line and pulling back a cross for his strikers, and because of this ability to keep defenders guessing, they are always in two minds as to the best way to defend against him. We have seen in the Bundesliga and the Champions League over the last few years that defenders tire readily when facing the Dutch master, and in the searing heat of Brazil, this process will only be accelerated. As Holland progress further into the World Cup, you may well find games being on a knife edge, only to be settled in the dying minutes when a shattered full-back simply cannot close down sufficiently and his team concedes due to the space he left.
Chelsea’s brilliant Belgian has cemented his position as a world class talent with some simply dazzling displays since he joined The Blues, particularly this last season. Generally operating from the left, Eden Hazard has lightning quick feet and can shift direction rapidly, making it tough for a defender to even challenge him when on a dribble. With an eye for the spectacular, you will often see Hazard cutting across the pitch, beating players at will and engaging in one-twos, before launching a powerful strike towards goal. He plays in a similar formation and role for Belgium; off the left of a primary striker, and should therefore easily be able to transfer his skills you would feel. However, his performances for his country have never reached the heights of those on the domestic scene even when he was at Lille. Such a promising Belgium side travel to the World Cup in Brazil with a youthful blend; including Hazard at the pinnacle, who have the potential to be special but have so far not proved themselves. Eden Hazard is the epitome of this state of affairs and you imagine that if he rises to the occasion, his team mates will not be far behind, and he can lead them to possibly the latter rounds of the tournament.
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