World Cup: 5 rising stars

World Cup: 5 rising stars
Mattia De Sciglio, Mario Goetze, Serge Aurier, Mateo Kovacic and Paul Pogba.


Italy and AC Milan

Brazil seems to conjure up happy memories. He made his Azzurri debut last March in a friendly against Brazil. He played in four Confederations Cup games last year in Brazil. And Brazil is where he is set to add to his 10 caps.

That he is tipped to start at left-back for the Azzurri despite playing primarily at right-back for Milan is testament to his versatility and how comfortable he is with both feet. An intelligent player, his positional sense allows him to make key clearances, interceptions and tackles. When his team have possession, he makes himself available and useful to his team-mates. When he has the ball, he rarely gives it away.

But he had an injury-ravaged season that limited him to 16 Serie A games. In the previous term, he was in the league's team of the year.



France and Juventus

He was the player of the tournament when he skippered France to victory at the Under-20 World Cup final last year. Now, Pogba is ready to shine on the senior stage.

He might have only nine caps under Didier Deschamps, but he has already forced his way into the manager's first team with his athleticism, dynamism, and intelligence.

The 1.91m-tall midfielder is coming off the best season of his burgeoning career.

He played 36 games in Juventus' latest title-winning season - more than any other team-mate. The box-to-box powerhouse contributed seven goals and 11 assists en route to his second straight Serie A winner's medal.



Germany and Bayern Munich

Pep Guardiola's rotation policy at star-studded Bayern Munich saw the attacking midfielder make only 20 Bundesliga starts last term. Still, with seven appearances from the bench, he managed 10 goals and 10 assists.

His limited minutes could be a blessing for Germany, keeping him fresh ahead of a busy schedule in Brazil. Joachim Loew has hinted that he could be employed as a false nine, and it is this versatility that makes him so valuable in a tactically astute side.

Goetze, who won two Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund before joining Bayern, can play anywhere in midfield.

His exceptional balance, pace and dribbling abilities will be worth staying up for.



Ivory Coast and Toulouse

The right-back is tipped to make a big-money move after the World Cup, and he has the perfect platform to attract other suitors that could challenge Arsenal for his signature.

An attack-minded player with a tireless work rate, Aurier likes to overlap down the flank at every opportunity. His pace and strength allow him to recover so that he does not neglect his defensive duties.

In his last season at Toulouse, Aurier showed that he has added goals to his game, scoring six and assisting as many. His impressive campaign resulted in him being named in the French Ligue 1 team of the season.

His energy and youth will be vital to an ageing Ivory Coast team. His crosses into the box for striker Didier Drogba will be among the biggest weapons for Sabri Lamouchi's men.



Croatia and Inter Milan

It takes something special to steal the limelight from Javier Zanetti's San Siro farewell. Kovacic did just that with a hat-trick of assists in Inter's 4-1 win over Lazio.

The problem for the explosive midfielder, however, is consistency. He struggled to stake a claim in the Nerazzurri first team last term, starting just 14 Serie A games while making 18 substitute appearances.

Part of his struggle was down to adjusting to a new tactical role, having moved to a more advanced position after playing as a deep-lying playmaker. But Kovacic, already a great dribbler and accurate passer, ended the season strongly, and became more well-rounded. The adjustments he has made will help him in a Croatian midfield that boasts Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, with the 20-year-old expected to be most attacking player of the trio.

This article was first published on June 9, 2014.
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