Oluwamayowa Idowu: Australia are probably going to be the worst team at the World Cup but Mile Jedinak has been one of my best players in the Premier League this season and should acquit himself well.
Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann are two of the finest young players in the world and they could really light up the show with a France team I’m tipping for success. It’s so easy to forget that just last summer, Pogba was captaining the French World U20 championship winning side (alongside Kurt Zouma, Geoffrey Kondgobia and Yaya Sanogo) but that is indicative of the strides he has made in such a short time. At just 21, he’s already billed as a 60 million buy.
Amidst Paul Scholes’ criticism and his injury problems, it’s oft forgotten how prodigious a talent Jack Wilshere is. This is a kid who was man of the match against Barcelona at the peak of their powers in his debut season. He also provided another man of the match display in a friendly against Brazil at Wembley last year. Essentially, he’s never overawed and this should serve the Three Lions well. Arsene Wenger was wise enough to hold Wilshere back at the end of season arguing that it would be best he built his fitness base for Brazil.
Gary Neville provides two takes that sum him up;
Exhibit A: “When he was at Bolton he was calling me ugly, hammering me all game, saying I have a big nose. He’s a tenacious little horrible thing. He’s got something about him”
Exhibit B: “I wanted to say something about Jack Wilshere after he spoke this week about me giving him Paul Scholes’ number so he could speak to Paul about his comments on Sky a few months back. He’s a fantastic talent. The more I’ve worked with him with England, the more I like him as a person. He’s actually very similar to Paul Scholes in his nature. He’s got a fight about him. He’s got immense talent.”
“The way in which he has handled the conversation he had with Scholes and how he has talked about it this week shows a mature man who isn’t sitting there whingeing. He’s fronted up to it and that’s what I like about him. In interviews, he’s willing to comment on the difficult things, he’s willing to stand out. He’s got an opinion and he’s a big character. If he stays clear of injury at the World Cup he is the type of player who could impress this summer in Brazil.”
“Some of his performances for England have been outstanding. He brings something completely different and when I watch him in training, he’s one of those players, like Scholes, that if you have him on your team, he dominates possession and keeps things moving.”
A shout for William Carvalho who I’m led to believe is one of the best young midfielders about.
Folarin Gbenro: Hardest question here to answer. The squads are brimming with talent. So I’m going to pick 3 one in defence, one in midfield and one forward.
An honorable mention would go to Raphael Varane who I’m not sure would start in the French team. And he’s so injury prone (24 starts in 2 seasons tells a clear story there) I get worried any time he touches the ball.
In midfield, Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic is going to come to the fore even more this competition. There’s a reason he’s off to Barcelona after leading Sevilla to Europa League triumph. I feel Ross Barkley and especially Adam Lallana if they aren’t overawed can also perform adequately to justify their inclusion on the trip. Barkley, I worry about because of his age and his tendency at times to walk through games without an impact but his impact from the bench could be massive if managed very well.
The average Premier League fan knows what Romelu Lukaku can do but the world in generally might be slightly oblivious. Benteke’s injury means he’s basically odds on to start in that Belgian team. His physicality and surprisingly deft touch would prove very difficult for many defenders. Also deserving a mention here I feel is Adnan Januzaj: his impact from the bench could also be very important as bringing him on to run at tiring defenders would create space and opportunities.
Somto Mbah: Kenneth Omeruo
He has proven himself continentally, and after being parked out on loan at Middlesborough under Aitor Karanka’s tutelage, he would be keen to show the world and Jose Mourinho what he is made of. Confident, and a strong marker, his defensive performances are going to be crucial if Nigeria wish to go all the way.
Tomi Idowu: This has got to be the perfect chance for Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge to show what they’ve got. Sturridge in particular has found himself compared to the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s due to his impressive scoring rate in the past season He’s got to do it on the world stage to validate them. Shouts to James Rodriguez, Julian Draxler and Raheem Sterling.
Emeka Nwani: Michael Owen in 1998 or Thomas Muller in 2010, the World Cup is famous for having young talents shock the world. The question is who will it be this summer? The breakout stars will come from the teams where the managers have gone for exuberance over proficiency. France and England epitomise this by choosing relative novices on the World Cup stage. Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Raheem Sterling are my tips for greatness.
Paul Pogba (21) is already a star in his own right. He was a key player in the record breaking Juventus team last season and has been linked with multi-million pound moves to Real Madrid and oil rich Paris Saint Germain. He has had a fantastic start with Les Bleus, with 10 caps and 3 goals and one gets the sense his momentum will only continue in Brazil. This kid has it all, physique, technique, grit and brains, which has been molded into the perfect package to make him the best young player in the world.
Raheem Sterling (19) was breathtaking to watch last season. An English winger with both speed and brains is a rare thing indeed but Sterling ticks both boxes in abundance. He was a key player in Liverpool’s title charge and one that can give England something they have been lacking. Schooled by Brendan Rodgers, Sterling is adept both on the wings and in the hole. He is skilled at keeping possession as well as delivering the final pass and will give Roy Hodgson many options this summer.
Antoine Griezmann (23) scored 16 goals in La Liga for Real Sociedad last season as a winger. His left foot is one of the best in the game (if you don’t believe me, check his goal at the Bernabeu last season). He is quick and can also play upfront as cover for Benzema and Giroud due to his finishing ability. His lack of upper body strength is his one weakness but his decision-making abilities more than cover up for that. Didier Deschamps picked him over Premier League champion Samir Nasri and I expect big things from him in Brazil.
Michael Famoroti: Ciro Immobile: Cesare Prandelli’s decision to cut Guiseppe Rossi from the final 23 has taken up most of the Italy-related news in the past week or so but it is worth noting that Borussia Dortmund have spent €20million to bring last season’s capocannoniere to the club. Immobile is neither particularly quick, strong nor technically gifted but he combines his clinical finishing with outstanding off-the-ball movement and directness that makes him hard to handle. With Balotelli’s groin injury still giving cause for concern as well as his tendency to throw all his toys out of the pram at certain moments, Immobile may be the most reliable No.9 at Prandelli’s disposal. Expect him to step up and show why Dortmund are still doing the best transfer deals.
Demeyin Agbeyegbe: Aside from the obvious likes of Eden Hazard and Neymar, there are those who aren’t as established and are using this World Cup as a means to boost their reputation.
A player I think will have a really good tournament is Romelu Lukaku. The striker holds the responsibility of being the only striker in the talented Belgian team due to the injury to Christian Benteke. He has an array of midfielders who will look to supply service to him and I do believe he will step up to the plate.