Soccer World Cup

2014 World Cup: Every Team’s Most Underrated Player

2014 World Cup: Every Team's Most Underrated Player

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More often than not, every team in the World Cup has a star player who is celebrated above them all. And of course, that overshadows other players who also deserve the attention, sometimes more so than the actual star players. These 32 players will be among the best in the tournament, and it's about time we recognize their talents.

Algeria: Islam Slimani

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Algeria: Islam Slimani

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Not many people know much about the Algerian team, so one could argue a large amount of their players are underrated. That said, Islam Slimani might be the most underrated. He plays for the Portugese side, Sporting CP. The 6-foot-1 forward is amazing in the air and can finish with his feet as well, with 10 goals in 19 appearances for Algeria proving that. Not to mention, he scored eight goals for Sporting this season.

Argentina: Pablo Zabaleta

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Argentina: Pablo Zabaleta

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For the past several years, Argentina tried out a number of right-backs to fill the void left by legend Javier Zanetti. Among the names were Ariel Garce, Marcos Angeleri and Clemente Rodriguez. But out of Manchester City came Pablo Zabaleta, who with his precise timing, well-timed runs and irreplaceable leadership became the starting right-back. His game has never been about flash but has substance. His importance to Argentina can't be ignored.

Australia: Mathew Ryan

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Australia: Mathew Ryan

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When legendary Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer retired from international football, Australians wondered who would attempt to fill the shoes (or gloves, as it were) of Schwarzer. After a bout for the position with Mitchell Langerak, Club Brugge goalie Mathew Ryan came out as the starting No. 1. His reflexes and agility will make scoring on Australia a difficult task.

Belgium: Axel Witsel

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Belgium: Axel Witsel

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When a team has such flashy players like Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, players like Axel Witsel are overlooked. He's a definite starter for Belgium at the middle of the field, linking up the defense and the offense. His understanding of the game and passing ability provide yet another offensive option to an amazing Belgium squad.

Brazil: Paulinho

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Brazil: Paulinho

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Although Brazil relies heavily on the offensive brilliance of Neymar, one could argue that they depend just as much on the balance and defense provided by Paulinho. Considered a star player for Tottenham this season, Paulinho will be called to break up counter-attacks any way possible and guide the team from behind in high-pressure situations.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Asmir Begovic

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Bosnia-Herzegovina: Asmir Begovic

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For years now, Asmir Begovic has proven time and time again that he's one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League. But because he plays for a relatively small team like Stoke City, he isn't valued as highly as Petr Cech, David de Gea or Hugo Lloris. Begovic will want to put the world on notice as he faces off against Lio Messi and Victor Moses in the group stage.

Cameroon: Aurelien Chedjou

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Cameroon: Aurelien Chedjou

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Cameroon was handed a tough group alongside Mexico, Croatia and Brazil. If they want to qualify, they'll need a fantastic performance from their best defender, Aurelien Chedjou. Fast, strong and athletic, Chedjou has proved for both Galatasaray and Lille that he can handle his own against top forwards.

Chile: Jorge Valdivia

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Chile: Jorge Valdivia

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While many see Chile as a team that is operated by Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, they seem to forget one magician: Jorge Valdivia. His vision and passing ability make him a huge part of Chile's formation. The Chilean squad plays very high up, usually occupying most of the possession. When teams are defending very well against that, look for Valdivia to pull off a brilliant play.

Colombia: Teofilo Gutierrez

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Colombia: Teofilo Gutierrez

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Colombia will need to find a forward to replace their injured star, Radamel Falcao. And while that worries some, River Plate forward Teofilo Gutierrez will be more than happy to take up the pressure. He's scored 11 goals for Colombia and is always a main threat for "Los Cafeteros".

Costa Rica: Keylor Navas

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Costa Rica: Keylor Navas

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If you haven't heard of Keylor Navas, remember his name now. The Costa Rican goalkeeper has proven for multiple seasons that he's one of the best in the world, and this World Cup will only confirm that status. He will shine against star forwards like Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney and Mario Balotelli.

Croatia: Ivan Rakitic

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Croatia: Ivan Rakitic

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Real Madrid's Luka Modric is seen as the star midfielder in Croatia, but his midfield partner Ivan Rakitic is just as important to the Croation system. He was Sevilla's best player this season, leading the team from behind with fantastic technique and killer through balls.

Ecuador: Christian Noboa

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Ecuador: Christian Noboa

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Christian Noboa has long been Ecuador's second-best player behind Antonio Valencia. The center midfielder is one of the best box-to-box midfielders in South America, being able to pass and shoot just as well as he defends. Noboa doesn't mind doing all of Ecuador's dirty work, and they'll need a lot of that if they want to pass the group stage.

England: Jordan Henderson

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England: Jordan Henderson

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Liverpool had their best season in years, and while most of the praise rightfully goes to Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, one can't ignore Jordan Henderson's fantastic season. After a tumultuous start to his Liverpool career, Henderson has begun playing at a much more consistent level. While he likely won't start for England, he will be an extremely viable option off the bench.

France: Antoine Greizmann

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France: Antoine Greizmann

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Real Sociedad's return as one of Spain's best teams has been thanks to the amazing play on the part of Antoine Greizmann. His speed, fancy footwork and finishing ability make him a headache to defend on the wings. While France may not start him, he will surely be spark off the bench for them.

Germany: Bastian Schweinsteiger

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Germany: Bastian Schweinsteiger

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Some might be surprised by his inclusion in the list, as Bastian Schweinsteiger is thought of highly in the soccer world. But even then, he isn't spoken of nearly as much as he deserves. He's one of the best central midfielders in the world. Very few can match his work-rate, passing, strength, technique and intelligence.

Ghana: Kwadwo Asamoah

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Ghana: Kwadwo Asamoah

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Of all the rising African nations in the world, Ghana might just have the best players. And of those players, the least celebrated might be Kwadwo Asamoah. He plays as a left-back or winger for Juventus but never tops the headlines. His speed, defense and athleticism make him a serious two-way option for Ghana's success in the World Cup.

Greece: Giannis Maniatis

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Greece: Giannis Maniatis

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The 27-year-old defensive midfielder, Giannis Maniatis, has long been producing quality games for both Greece and Olympiacos. His tireless efforts on defense and ability to play multiple positions on the field make him a favorite of head coach Fernando Santos. Greece will rely heavily on the balance given by Maniatis.

Honduras: Roger Espinoza

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Honduras: Roger Espinoza

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Honduras isn't expected to go too far in the World Cup, but if they do, it will likely be due to the tireless efforts of Roger Espinoza. Espinoza can always be seen giving his all on the field, and he shows hints of offensive talent from time to time. Him and Wilson Palacios will make an interesting duo in the middle of the field.

Iran: Ashkan Dejagah

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Iran: Ashkan Dejagah

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Ashkan Dejagah has made a name for himself in Europe as an extremely useful winger. But because of injuries and spells of poor form, he never received the recognition he deserved. His time at Hertha BSC, VfL Wolfsburg and Fulham all prove that he's good enough to play for some quality European teams.

Italy: Marco Verratti

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Italy: Marco Verratti

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With the injection of youth into an aging side, head coach Cesare Prandelli has changed the mentality of a historically-defensive Italy. One of those youngsters is Marco Verratti. While he plays as a defensive midfielder, the 5-foot-5 Verratti is tenacious enough on defense to quickly start up the offense. There are questions as to whether he'll get much playing time, but there's no doubt he's a future Italian star.

Ivory Coast: Wilfried Bony

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Ivory Coast: Wilfried Bony

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Ivory Coast boasts one of the most talented African squads in this World Cup, but the least known of those stars is Wilfried Bony. He's had a fantastic season over at Swansea city, scoring an impressive 16 goals. And his national team record isn't bad either, having scored eight goals in 23 appearances. Bony will be counted upon to make a difference for Ivory Coast in the World Cup.

Japan: Shinji Okazaki

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Japan: Shinji Okazaki

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The Japanese attack is highlighted by the names of Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa. But if you haven't heard, it's time to add another name to that list: Shinji Okazaki. The 28-year-old is Japan's fourth highest goalscorer of all time and will probably become the highest goalscorer. He scored 15 goals for Mainz this season and will be a surefire goalscoring threat in Brazil.

Mexico: Carlos Peña

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Mexico: Carlos Peña

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Unfortunately for Carlos Peña and a number of other promising Mexican players like Hector Herrera or Raul Jimenez, they'll always be overshadowed by the overrated Javier Hernandez. Regardless, Peña will continue to be Mexico's workhorse midfielder, fame or no fame. "El Gullit" Peña is known for his ability to destroy opponent attacks in the midfield while leading the midfield to create chances on the other side.

Netherlands - Dirk Kuyt

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Netherlands - Dirk Kuyt

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At 33 years old, Dirk Kuyt is the oldest player on this list. And the rhetoric on Kuyt has always been the same: he's been underrated his entire career. His willingness to give it all on the field, even defend, and score goals are always a huge help to his team. Coach Louis van Gaal has even asked him to play as right-back for Netherlands. And knowing Kuyt, he wouldn't mind at all.

Nigeria: Emmanuel Emenike

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Nigeria: Emmanuel Emenike

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Many see the Nigerian offense as running through Victor Moses, but a player like Emmanuel Emenike can't be ignored. He's scored 10 goals in 21 appearances for the Nigerian national team, and he's scored 12 goals for Fenerbahce this season. Needless to say, he's got an amazing ability to put the ball in the back of the net. If teams don't prepare for Emenike, he will be a major headache for them.

Portugal: Joao Moutinho

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Portugal: Joao Moutinho

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Head coach Paulo Bento has been criticized heavily for his dependency on Cristiano Ronaldo to win games. If Ronaldo is having a rare bad game, then Portugal's chances aren't very good. Midfielder Joao Moutinho should be given opportunities to lead the team from the midfield. His passing, vision and work-rate make him a quality player.

Russia: Igor Denisov

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Russia: Igor Denisov

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The Russian captain, Igor Denisov, will be one of Russia's best players in Brazil, but you probably won't even notice him. He does all the dirty work and all the small things that lead to victories for his team. His tenacity, tackling ability and positioning make him one of the World Cup's best defensive midfielders.

South Korea: Koo Ja-cheol

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South Korea: Koo Ja-cheol

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The creative midfielder, Koo Ja-cheol, will be called upon by South Korea to create chances for himself and for others. But that's just another day at the office for Koo, who has made a name for himself in Germany. The 25-year-old has scored 12 goals for South Korea and will be one of their stars.

Spain: Juanfran

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Spain: Juanfran

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Atletico Madrid's wonder-season was built on the idea of teamwork and chemistry, but it also had a number of quality individuals. Right-back Juanfran is one of those. He defends very well, chooses his runs extremely well and always makes sure to throw in great crosses. With Alvaro Arbeloa out, Juanfran might be the chosen one to cause danger on the Spanish wing.

Switzerland: Ricardo Rodriguez

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Switzerland: Ricardo Rodriguez

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The VfL Wolfsburg player is perhaps the best left-back you've never heard of. At only 21 years old, he's very young, but the Swiss national team has already counted on him 21 times to defend his country. He boasts blazing speed that is coupled with a willingness to defend at all costs, and he's a very smart player for a 21-year-old.

USA: Tim Howard

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USA: Tim Howard

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When Tim Howard dons the Stars and Stripes, he becomes one of the best goalkeepers in the world. His form at his club, Everton, is very good as well, but he seems to turn it on when he plays for the U.S. If Cristiano Ronaldo, Kevin Prince Boateng and Miroslav Klose want to score against him, they'll find it to be an extremely daunting task.

Uruguay: Diego Godin

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Uruguay: Diego Godin

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Yet another Atletico Madrid player makes the list. If Diego Godin played for a higher-reputation club, he'd be recognized as one of the best center-backs in the world. He is beyond amazing in the air, his timing on his tackles is always precise and he hardly ever gets beat on the dribble. Uruguay's backline will be a wall during this year's World Cup.