Who will be the Muller of World Cup 2014? The potential breakout stars

With the tournament finally here, Goal looks at the players with little international or Champions League experience who could take Brazil by storm.
World Cup 2014 kicks off this week, with the globe's 32 best nations hoping to make it a summer to remember on the grandest stage of all.

Eyes will be on Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Wayne Rooney and the other superstars looking to cement their legacies in Brazil.

But every tournament also sees the emergence of players who, while being without much top-level experience, go on to make a breakthrough. One prime example is Thomas Muller, who fired Germany to third place with five goals in 2010 as a 20-year-old with only one full season under his belt at Bayern Munich.

Here, Goal reviews the players who may have limited Champions League or international experience going into the tournament, but could still be set to make their mark in the competition.


Ross Barkley has only played one full season as a Premier League regular with Everton, but some stunning performances in 2013-14 were enough to earn him a place in England's World Cup squad.

Playing mainly in an attacking midfield role behind a sole striker, the 20-year-old has terrorized defenders with his driving runs, stunning dribbling, impressive skill and dangerous long-range shooting.

Whether he starts or comes on later in games from the substitutes’ bench, Barkley represents an impressive weapon in England’s armory ahead of his first World Cup appearance.


Even some of Tottenham’s most vociferous supporters were not aware of Nabil Bentaleb when Tim Sherwood brought him on for a debut against Southampton in his first game as coach.

Now, though, the midfielder is preparing to play in his first World Cup for Algeria after declaring for the African nation over France, the nation of his birth.

Still just 19, Bentaleb impressed Spurs fans after coming into the team with his confidence in possession, even as part of a side that endured some difficult moments in 2013-14.

An energetic box-to-box midfielder who also has a tenacious streak, Bentaleb has already scored his first Algeria goal, in a World Cup warm-up match against Romania.


Bosnia-Herzegovina is being backed as a candidate to reach the World Cup knockout stage in its tournament debut and youngster Muhamed Besic is one of their lesser-known faces who looks set to play a key role.

The 21-year-old defensive midfielder left Hamburg in controversial circumstances in 2012 and now plays for Ferencvaros in Hungary. Despite that lack of top-level experience, he is ready to sample the big time as part of his country’s campaign in Brazil.

Besic played the full 90 minutes in both of his side’s warm-up games ahead of the competition, where it impressively beat World Cup opposition twice in the shape of Cote D’Ivoire and Mexico.


Erik Durm is Germany’s wild-card selection for the World Cup this summer and will be hoping to build upon his success with Borussia Dortmund.

Having signed initially as a winger or forward player from Mainz, Jurgen Klopp converted the 22-year-old to left back, where he performed impressively after being thrown into the deep end after an injury to Marcel Schmelzer.

Durm will be hoping to add to his one cap in Brazil and establish himself as an international regular as the Germans look to reach the latter stages.


Uruguay may have world-class attacking stars in the form of Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, but it would be foolish to completely dismiss the rest of its team.

Not only does it have Atletico Madrid star Diego Godin — one of world soccer’s best defenders over the past 12 months — in the back, it also has his lesser-known club teammate Jose Maria Gimenez.

The 19-year-old is in the unusual situation of having played more times for Uruguay than he has for his club (just once) over the last year, although the form of Diego Simeone’s first-choice back line makes that quirk more understandable.

The speedy youngster, who can play right back or centef back, played his part in helping Uruguay to the Under-20 World Cup final in 2013 and is hoping to repeat his exploits at the main tournament his year.


Despite struggling to get near the Bayern Munich first team, Julian Green has already been the subject of an international tug-of-war.

Born in Florida but brought up in Germany since the age of 2, the 19-year-old winger eventually opted to play for the United States under German coach Jurgen Kilnsmann.

His decision was rewarded with a place in the World Cup squad, a call that caused controversy when Landon Donovan was left out. Green will hope to justify the hype once the tournament gets underway, even though he has underwhelmed in his limited minutes with the USA thus far.


Ciro Immobile will attempt to launch his career to new heights in the coming months after making his mark in front of goal over the course of 2013-14.

After starting the season at Torino, the Italy striker finished the campaign as Serie A's top scorer, and is about to play in the World Cup on the back of sealing a lucrative move to Borussia Dortmund.

While the World Cup will simply be Immobile's first of many appearances in the spotlight with the Champions League and regular international caps awaiting him, the tournament in Brazil presents him with a perfect opportunity to underline his dramatic progress with a breakout performance.


The Netherlands has always had flair and style going forward, but often been hamstrung by a lack of top quality defenders at previous major tournaments.

That is a concern for 2014 too, although the Oranje hope their next generation is going to change all that. One of its promising prospects is Stefan de Vrij, who has successfully stepped up to the senior side after appearing at various youth levels for his country.

The 22-year-old Feyenoord center back, who is a classic ball-playing defender and should suit the team's style of play, will be hoping to put himself in the shop window in Brazil and is expected form a key part of Louis van Gaal’s five-man defense.

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