By Jack Williams
This series first appeared in the World Cup Issue of 8by8mag, available now.
Spain: Sergio Busquets
Behind the metronomic tick of Xavi and Iniesta, there is Busquets: a player Vicente del Bosque said he would most like to be like, if he could choose. At 25 and with over half a century of caps already to his name, the defensive midfielder has been ever present in Spain's lineup since the country's 2010 triumph. Great at dispensing the ball, as well as having the vision to intercept and recover it, the Catalan will be crucial as Spain chase their fourth major title in a row.
Chile: Arturo Vidal
Once known for his versatility, Vidal, or Il Guerriero ("the Warrior") as he has been dubbed by the Italian press, has now found his place as a tough-tackling, box-to-box midfielder at Juventus. Also capable of picking a pass, he will offer vital solidity as the likes of Alexi Sánchez and Eduardo Vargas look to shine on their home continent. Chile face a tricky group, which includes 2010's finalists, the Netherlands and Spain.
Australia: Tim Cahill
The scorer of three goals in the Socceroos' qualifying campaign, Cahill brings vital experience to a nation heading into its fourth World Cup. The attacking midfielder, known for his remarkable heading ability, has scored a goal nearly every two games in his 60-plus caps for his country. He will need to be head and shoulders above the opposition, though, if Australia are to progress from a tricky group, which includes 2010 finalists Spain and the Netherlands.
Netherlands: Rafael Van Der Vaart
With more than a century of caps to his name, van der Vaart has produced some of his best performances for the Dutch national team in recent years. The attacking midfielder, best known for his vision, passing, and capacity with both feet, scored nearly a third of his 25 international goals in 2012 and 2013 alone -- during which he was also talismanic for the German club Hamburg SV. Finalists in 2010, the Dutch will be hoping for a better display than in Euro 2012, where they lost every match.
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