By Jack Williams
This series first appeared in the World Cup Issue of 8by8mag, available now.
Drawing comparisons to Brazilian legend Kaka, Oscar, with a price tag of around $30 million at just 20, showed how highly Chelsea -- and the world of football -- rated the young South American. Capable of turning on a sixpence and with flair in abundance, Oscar, 22, is one of an exciting crop of players who helped Brazil lift the Confederations Cup on home soil in 2013. That victory means many fans of this year's hosts now expect Oscar, Neymar, et al., to go all the way and win the country's sixth World Cup.
Croatia: Ivica Olić
The jury is still out as to whether Olić was born with a third lung, given the amount of running that the Wolfsburg striker does in a game. At 34, the Forrest Gump of strikers is enjoying one of the most prolific seasons of his career -- something that will please head coach Niko Kovač, who hopes Olić can profit from the technically gifted players who surround him. Croatia will face Brazil in the tournament's opening match.
Mexico: Oribe Peralta
Though predicting the Mexican lineup may be pure guesswork, the 30-year-old Peralta scored 10 goals in qualifying -- including five goals in a playoff against New Zealand -- and must stand a good chance of making his nation's starting 11. An accomplished header of the ball, the center forward has a strike rate for his country of better than a goal every two games. He and his teammates will have to be on top form if they are to advance from a tricky group that includes host Brazil.
Cameroon: Samuel Eto'o
With 100-plus caps and his tally still increasing as his country's all-time leading goal scorer, Eto'o has been pivotal in any Cameroonian success for more than a decade and a half. Under the stewardship of fellow Champions League winner, manager José Mourinho, the 33-year-old has enjoyed a steady season with Chelsea, despite briefly going into international retirement in September after a dispute with international boss Volker Finke. Cameroon face a tough group of Brazil, Croatia, and Mexico.
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