Big teams like Germany and Brazil, and bigger players like Ronaldo and Messi will occupy most discussions right before the World Cup. However, let’s not underestimate some lesser known names that are likely to shine on the biggest global platform this summer:
Every World Cup has a “group of death” and in 2014, Costa Rica was in such a group with England, Italy, and Uruguay. Despite the odds, Costa Rica topped their group, killing the World Cup chances of giants like England and Italy in the process. This isn’t a team that relies on superstars or rare moments of glory – just good, old-fashioned grind and teamwork.
Harry Kane (England)
If England is looking to redeem itself from its abysmal World Cup outing four years ago, they will likely turn to Harry Kane. Premier League’s deadliest striker battles some of the strongest opposition all year long and is expected to make a definite impact against Tunisia, Panama and Belgium. Talented players have carried entire teams forward in the past and they don’t come more talented than Kane.
Never underestimate the power of playing on home turf. Add a lot of money on top of that, and you have a motivated contender with something to prove. Though lacking in footballing tradition, Russia counts on a passionate following and now it has the infrastructure needed to host the best players in the world. They’ve shown an intensity in their style of play that is worth paying attention to.
Albert Gudmundsson (Iceland)
The forward, who plays for the Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, will debut in the World Cup against powerhouse Argentina just one day after he turns 21. The unlikely rise of Iceland in arguably the toughest football confederation on earth (UEFA) opened a door for Gudmundsson to showcase his talents to the world. He’s a natural and pacy left winger and his presence will especially be felt when Iceland launches its counter-attacks while defending against more well-known opposition.