The 2014 World Cup kicks off on June 12 when the host Brazil takes on Croatia.
There’s just one week until the opening whistle, and if you haven’t been paying attention it’s time to get up to speed on all the big names you’ll be hearing about over the next month.
There are 736 players headed to Brazil. Here are the six best.
1. Lionel Messi
Why he’s so good: His feet are lightning quick and he slips around defenders more seamlessly than anyone in the world. Add supreme vision and an even better nose for goal and you start to get a sense of all Messi’s capable of. He’s also the only player ever to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or — the award for world player of the year — four times.
Messi dribbles through three defenders and finishes:
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Why he’s so good: Nobody explodes down the wing on a counter-attack quite like Ronaldo, and his dribbling ability isn’t half bad, either. And then there’s his knuckleballing free kick, which is, in a word, nasty.
A trademark Ronaldo free kick:
3. Luis Suarez
Why he’s so good: He’s one of the world’s most polarising players (with a penchant for biting his opponents), but there’s no denying he’s a world class striker and lethal finisher from anywhere on the field. He scored 31 goals in 38 matches for Liverpool this season, tying the English Premier League record.
Suarez’s volley from 55-yards:
4. Yaya Toure
Team: Ivory Coast
Why he’s so good: He’s the best holding midfielder in the world, meaning he distributes the ball all over the pitch as well as anyone and does the dirty work defensively, too. He’s known for the occasional bombing run forward, and he’s deadly from long-range, helping Manchester City capture its second Premier League title in three years in 2013-14.
Toure’s stunner from outside the box:
5. Andres Iniesta
Why He’s So Good: Iniesta, nicknamed The Illusionist, may very well be the best passer in the world, threading the ball through the smallest of openings for some dazzling assists. He also scored the game-winning goal in the 2010 World Cup Final, which Spain won 1-0 over the Netherlands in South Africa.
Iniesta dances his way through traffic and keeps possession:
6. Franck Ribery
Why he’s so good: Ribery’s a true winger, beating defenders one-on-one down the line and usually playing on the left side so he can cut inside and onto his left foot for a shot on goal. He finished third in Ballon d’Or voting last season (behind Ronaldo and Messi), helping Bayern Munich win five trophies.
Ribery cuts inside and scores against Chelsea:
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