The 2014 World Cup has been one of the most entertaining tournaments for many years and the quality of the competition is helped by the fact that the best players have all hit form. The likes of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben have done all that was expected of them but they have been helped by some stunning performances from lesser-known individuals.
So who are the players to have made a significant breakthrough in Brazil?
James Rodriguez [Colombia]
As the World Cup headed to the semi final stage, James Rodriguez’s Colombia had already been eliminated but six goals from the 22 year old made him favourite to take the Golden Boot award.
The 2014 tournament has certainly been a landmark in the midfielder’s career but he first came to the world’s attention as a teenager with Porto. In 2013, a big money deal to Monaco followed but it’s thought that his performances at the World Cup could lead to a move to La Liga at a reported fee of around £65m. Rodriguez is also in line to win the Golden Ball as the player of the tournament and who would have predicted that at the start of the competition?
Memphis Depay [Netherlands]
20 year old PSV Eindhoven winger Depay scored his first goal in international colours with a long range effort against Australia and while his follow up strike against Chile was a mere tap in, it was arguably even more impressive.
Depay showed commitment and electric pace to keep up with Arjen Robben and to latch on to his cross and those are the types of attributes that have seen him compared to Cristiano Ronaldo. The youngster is an outside contender for the Golden Ball while it’s felt that his performances in Brazil could land a big money move to Real Madrid where he would team up and be directly compared to Ronaldo.
Enner Valencia [Ecuador]
At 24, some might consider Ecuador’s Valencia to be a little too old to be making a breakthrough but after a subdued start to his career, the striker’s performances in 2014 have been simply stunning. Prior to the start of the year, Valencia averaged around one goal in every five in Ecuadorian domestic football but a move to Mexican side Pachuca has seen him return 18 in 23 matches.
But it’s his displays in the 2014 World Cup that have made the world’s biggest clubs take notice. Valencia scored all three of his country’s tournament goals and would have been a serious contender for the Golden Boot had Ecuador been able to progress beyond the groups.
Divock Origi [Belgium]
19 year old Origi was labelled a sensation when he climbed off the bench to score Belgium’s winner against Russia. The Lille striker’s performance in that game meant that he kept Romelu Lukaku out of the side and claimed the lone centre forward slot for the remainder of the Belgian campaign.
Origi may be raw but he has pace, power and a keen eye for goal that has seen a number of top clubs linked with a summer swoop.
Yeltsin Tejeda [Costa Rica]
Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell may have taken the headlines as Costa Rica won Group D but a solid defence conceded just once in their opening three games. The back four were impressive but sitting just in front of them was central midfielder Yeltsin Tejeda who is a transfer target for clubs in England and Belgium.
Tejeda shows great maturity that belies his 22 years and should have received more credit for his role in Costa Rica’s progression from the so-called ‘Group of Death’.