10 Players to Watch on World Cup European Playoffs’ First Leg
10 Players Worth Watching
Eight European teams will fight for their last chance to get a berth in the 2014 World Cup in the following six days.
The eight teams that finished second in their respective groups in the European qualifiers (Denmark was exempt as they were the worst of all the second-placed teams) will battle through a final playoff round that will give four sides the chance to participate in next year’s tournament while the four losing squads will have to wait four more years.
In these four contests, there are several players that are worth to keep an eye on.
The matches will be Croatia against Iceland, Portugal facing Sweden, Ukraine clashing with France and Greece taking on Romania. All the mentioned teams have several quality players on their squads and as team stand in front of their last chance to qualify to the biggest tournament in the world, look for them to make an impact right when their teams need it the most.
The 10 players that will be mentioned in this slideshow all give something specific to their teams. Whether is leadership, being a difference-maker or being the main goal scoring threat, the truth is that these stars will have a golden opportunity to shine right when the eyes of the world will be placed on their games.
Without further ado, please join me through this slideshow as we check the 10 players worth keeping an eye on in the first leg of the World Cup European Playoff Round.
10. Ciprian Marica - Romania
The Getafe striker is the main offensive threat of Romania in this leg against Greece. He’s the ultimate poacher. While neither he nor his team have a lot of prestige, they are more than ready to return to the World Cup, a tournament Romania can’t qualify since 1998.
09. Giorgos Samaras - Greece
The Celtic winger is the most experienced player on his team. While elements like Sotiris Ninis or Konstantinos Mitroglou have been more recognized thanks to their performances this year, Samaras is the heart and soul of the team. He’s the offensive leader of a Greek side that will look to qualify for their second straight World Cup.
08. Luka Modric - Croatia
Luka Modric is not only the leader of this team, he’s certainly one of the most skilled midfielders in the world. His spectacular performances for Real Madrid this season has him as one of the better playmakers through the early part of the year and he will lead Croatia’s attacking chances against Iceland.
07. Gylfi Sigurdsson - Iceland
The Tottenham midfielder is Iceland’s brightest star. The attacking midfielder can be a decisive player when given enough space and he will be the leader of the Scandinavians, who are looking to qualify to a World Cup for their first time.
06. Karim Benzema - France
The Real Madrid striker hasn’t been criticized on his club alone as the fans of the National Team also feel he’s not been producing as he should based on his quality. A strong performance in the World Cup Playoffs would surely put most of those thoughts behind him as he’ll be the main offensive threat of Les Blues against Ukraine.
05. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk - Ukraine
The veteran midfielder spent several years with Bayern Munich and now he plays at Zenit where he’s one of the leaders of the team. He has been playing regularly in the UEFA Champions League for several seasons and his experience could be key in a tough encounter against France.
04. Mario Mandzukic - Croatia
Mario Mandzukic is one of the deadliest strikers in Europe. He’s been showing his quality playing for Bayern Munich where he’s been able to feature consistently despite the number of attackers in the club. He’s also the offensive leader of the Croatian side and he will need to be at his best if his team wants to have a chance against Iceland.
03. Franck Ribery - France
One of the strongest candidates to take home the Ballon D’Or award at the end of the year, Franck Ribery is the heart and soul of the French team. The Bayern Munchen star won everything this past season with Die Roten and he would crown a perfect year leading his country into Brazil 2014.
02. Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Sweden
Some people love him and some people hate him, but the quality of Zlatan Ibrahimovic inside the pitch is undeniable. He’s the captain, leader and most potent offensive threat of a Swedish side that will have a tough encounter as they will go against Portugal, a squad that’s led by the number one player on this list.
01. Cristiano Ronaldo - Portugal
It seems like the eyes of the world are constantly over Cristiano Ronaldo and this time it’s not going to be different. The Real Madrid star has been the best player in the world since the start of the season and while he has a reputation of disappearing in important matches, he will look to silence the critics leading Portugal to Brazil's World Cup in a tough playoff tie against Sweden.