LIONEL MESSI (ARGENTINA)
Becoming the highest goalscorer in Barcelona's history is no mean feat - a statistic made particularly remarkable by the fact the forward does not even turn 27 until the day before Argentina's final Group F match against Nigeria.
Thistournament looks his best chance to add major international honours to his glittering club CV.
EDEN HAZARD (BELGIUM)
The Chelsea man has been striking fear into the hearts of Premier League defences since the Blues captured him from
Lille in June 2012.
During his stay in London, the 23-year-old has already won the Europa League and was named as the PFA's Young Player of the Year in April. Hazard has now become the focal point of Jose Mourinho's Chelsea attack
following the departure of Juan Mata to Manchester United.
This has been an important 12 months for the man seen as Brazil's big hope, with the attacker proving himself on the international stage at the Confederations Cup and then enjoying an impressive first season in European football with Barcelona.
ANDRES INIESTA (SPAIN)
Neymar's club team-mate is arguably the main man for Spain, who are aiming to become the first side since Brazil in 1962 to win back-to-back World Cups.
Blessed with superb technique which always seems to afford him a few extra seconds on the ball than lesser talents, he will, as ever, be at the heart ofSpain's slick passing style.
THOMAS MUELLER (GERMANY)
He is not a guaranteed starter for Bayern Munich, but that is only down to the strength Pep Guardiola's side possess.
Mueller is key to Joachim Loew's national team, who arguably look best placed of the European sides to challenge for the title.
Mueller was one of the stars of the 2010 Finals, winningthe Golden Boot in South Africa.
YAYA TOURE (IVORY COAST)
The midfielder has blossomed at Manchester City, helping Manuel Pellegrini's men win the Capital One Cup then reclaim the English Premier League title.
He scores and creates goals in equal measure, and is by far the most creative player to be found in his national team.
WAYNE ROONEY (ENGLAND)
The Manchester United forward has never quite fulfilled the promise he showed when he burst onto the scene before and during Euro 2004, but remains the most potent threat in an England team which lack inspiration if not perspiration.
Rooney has endured a tough campaign with United and will be desperate to prove his ability at the highest level ofinternational football.
ROBIN VAN PERSIE (HOLLAND)
Rooney's United strike partner is another who struggled this season, but has remained an important part of Louis van Gaal's side. Van Persie has been handed the captaincy of a Dutch team much changed from the one which flopped at Euro 2012.
There are few more accomplished or deadly finishers in the game than van Persie, who top-scored in the European section of qualification with 11 goals.
JAMES RODRIGUEZ (COLOMBIA)
With Radamel Falcao out with a knee injury, the pressure will be on Monaco team-mate Rodriguez to perform.
There is no doubting who Los Cafeteros' star man is, but their return tothe sport's greatest stage for the first time since 1998 will need to be a true team effort, with the 22-year-old key to that.
LUIS SUAREZ (URUGUAY)
The play-acting, the biting and the agitating may all make Suarez a difficult character to warm to, but there is no questioning his importance to club and country.
Capable ofoperating anywhere along or behind the forward line, he was inspirational as Uruguay won the 2011 Copa America and three years on he should be one of the stars of the show so long as he adequately recovers from a knee injury.
This article was first published on June 10, 2014.
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