Who's that? - 5 world cup stars you might not have heard of
Oribe Peralta (Mexico)
Having played his entire career in the Mexican leagues, Peralta is a relative unknown to many fans. However, this is not the case in Mexico. Dubbed the “Mexican Ronaldo” at a young age, Peralta took his time to live up to those lofty expectations. However for the last few years Peralta has shone for club and country. In 2012 he scored 2 goals as Mexico beat Brazil in the final of the Olympics, it seemed he had realised his potential. The 30-year old striker became the most expensive Mexican transfer and he signed for América for $10million in May. Recently “The Brush” has been keeping Javier Hernandez on the bench, and rightly so. Peralta is a player with power and an eye for goal, he might need to repeat those two strikes against Brazil if Mexico are going to qualify from a tough group.
Jorge Valdivia (Chile)
Often surrounded by controversy, “El Mago” is Chile’s wildcard. The 30 year old Palmeiras man divides opinion wherever he goes, seemingly never-ending cheating rumours coupled with bizarre appearances on reality TV shows mean he is one of the more unpredictable characters for “La Roja”. His performances on the pitch often mirror those off it. On his day he can be brilliant, playing in a playmaker role he combines unpredictability with a glorious technique and an eye for a pass. One of a rare breed that has the abilty to give themselves that extra split second of time on the ball, he can be almost unplayable on his day. Unfortunately like many maverick playmakers he can also appear lazy and uninterested if things aren’t going his way. In Chile’s system he will probably be deployed behind two strikers with the instructions to pull the strings. With a hard-working midfield behind his, don’t be surprised if Valdavia flourishes this summer.
Majeed Waris (Ghana)
In 2012 a 20-year old Waris, playing for a small club in Sweden, was given an unexpected call up to the Ghana squad for a friendly against Chile and since then the youngster hasn’t looked back. On the back of his first cap, Waris went on to win the Swedish league player of the season with 23 goals in 29 games. This brought about a transfer to Russia in the form of Spartak Moscow and more recently a loan move to Valenciennes where he bagged 9 goals in 15 for the relegated side. Now 22, Waris has developed into a fine striker and undoubtedly has a great future ahead of him. He knows when to move, when to shoot and has all the physical attributes to cause some German and Portuguese defenders nightmares in Rio.
Mat Ryan (Australia)
With this world cup likely to be a struggle for the Aussies, it is imperative they are strong at the back if they want to leave Rio with their pride intact. 22-year old goalkeeper Mat Ryan looks set to be first choice and will be more than up to the challenge. After his move from the A-League, Ryan has established himself as a solid performer for Club Brugge. The youngster has all the attributes to hold his own against the likes of Robin Van Persie and Diego Costa in Brazil. His time in Australia has shown he has the concentration needed by top keepers, although this is unlikely to be a problem this summer. His main attribute is shot stopping which is helped by his lightning reflexes, he is also good with his feet which is a must for the modern keeper. He will have plenty of chances to display his talents in Rio and with reported interest from Real Madrid, a solid world cup could see Ryan’s career take off.
Éder Álvarez Balanta (Colombia)
Having made his senior debut around a year ago, Balanta’s rise has been nothing short of incredible. In just one year he has established himself in the River Plate team and made his way into Colombia’s world cup squad with only 2 international appearances, all the age of 20. Balanta has been praised by Javier Mascherano among others and appears to be developing into a true all round defender. A series of performances from the youngster displaying organisation, awareness and solidity have brought interest from top clubs in Europe including Barcelona and Inter Milan. If Balanta gets a chance in Rio expect him to take it. With Colombia expected to qualify from their group, this world cup could give Balanta invaluable experience he will no doubt use to benefit Colombia in future tournaments. Who knows, he could even be their hero in Brazil.