Neymar — Brazil
Born: 5/2/1992 — 48 caps
The 100 million dollar Neymar is the most recognisable face of the Brazil side. The 22-year-old carries the hopes of a nation as he attempts to inspire his country’s first World Cup triumph on home soil. The young striker was the star of Brazil’s victory in the Confederations Cup last year, finishing with four goals and the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. The latest holder of Brazil’s coveted No.10 jersey, previously worn by World Cup greats such as Pele, Neymar had a mixed first season in Europe after joining Spanish giants Barcelona in a controversial transfer from Santos valued at more than 100 million dollars. He suffered a foot injury at the end of the season which ruled him out for several weeks, but has looked sharp in Brazil’s games leading into the tournament.
Javier Hernandez — Mexico
Born: 1/6/1988 — 61 caps
The 26-year-old Hernandez, known as ‘Chicharito’ (Little Pea) is Mexico’s best-known player after spending the past four years at English giants Manchester United and catching the eye at the 2010 World Cup. His youthful promise was first put on display at the World Cup in South Africa, where he bagged goals in games against France and Argentina. Football is part of a proud family tradition however. His father and grandfather played in the World Cups for Mexico. Hernandez quickly became a fans favourite at Manchester in his first season, contributing key goals during the club’s march to the Premier League title and run to the Champions League final.
Luka Modric — Croatia
Born: 9/9/1985 — 75 caps
The diminutive attacking midfielder arrives at the World Cup in the best form of his career after establishing himself as a key part of Real Madrid’s Champions League-winning side. The 28-year-old’s vision and creativity will be key to Croatia’s chances of progressing to the knockout rounds, although he has sometimes been deployed in a deep-lying defensive role by coach Niko Kovac. A veteran of the 2006 World Cup, Modric started his career with Dinamo Zagreb before signing for English side Tottenham Hotspur in 2008 when he also emarged as one of the stars of the European Championship. Modric’s childhood was scarred by the Balkans conflict. His family became refugees to escape the Croatian war.
Samuel Eto’o — Cameroon
Born: 10/3/1981 — 115 caps
The grand old man of Cameroon football, Eto’o, 33, will be playing in his fourth World Cup in Brazil, after making his debut one day before his 16th birthday in a 5-0 defeat to Costa Rica. As a 17-year-old, he scored at the 1998 World Cup finals in France. He is Cameroon’s most successful player, having won African Footballer of the Year a record four times while winning the Champions League three times with Barcelona (2) and Inter Milan (1) during a stellar career in European football. The 33-year-old, reunited with Jose Mourinho after joining Chelsea in 2013, is also a polarizing figure in Cameroon football. He has twice retired from international football only to be persuaded back by the country’s president.
Thiago Silva — Brazil
Born: 22/9/1984 — 45 caps
Arguably the world’s best centre back and with his dual role as team captain will become a national hero if the team pull off their sixth title. Silva converted from right winger to central defender while playing in Brazil, signed for FC Porto in Portugal but was mainly kept in the reserve team and then caught tuberculosis when he moved to Dynamo Moscow. That kept him out for six months. Silva returned to Brazil and became a defensive star with Fluminense and his career took a meteoric turn. In 2008, he joined AC Milan for 10 million euros and in 2012 made a 42 million euro move to Paris St Germain where he is also team captain.
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