By Jack Williams
This series first appeared in the World Cup Issue of 8by8mag, available now.
Argentina: Marcos Rojo
On a team with so much attacking talent, it is easy to overlook the work of defenders. But given Argentina's weak back line in previous tournaments -- think Jonás Gutiérrez at full-back in 2010 -- Rojo may play a vital if relatively unnoticed role in this year's tournament. Athletic and fond of getting forward, the 24-year-old will be hoping for a good tournament, which could pique the interests of some of Europe's top clubs. In fact, if rumors are to be believed, some have already come sniffing around Lisbon.
Iran: Reza Ghoochannejhad
Born in Iran, raised in the Netherlands, and currently based in England, the well-traveled "Gucci" (pronounced fully as Gooch-an-ee-chad) also boasts the longest name in English football. The Charlton player, whose main traits are his pace and nifty dribbling ability, possesses a great strike rate for his country, often playing as a winger cum striker. Iran's chances in the tournament look slim; they face Ghoochannejhad's role model, Lionel Messi, and Argentina in the group stage.
Nigeria: John Obi Mikel
With more than 50 caps for the Super Eagles, Mikel, 27, is seen as one of the more senior members of a Nigeria team that has undergone a radical transformation under manager Stephen Keshi, who has tried to slash the team's average age. Keshi's changes seem to be working, though. In 2013, Nigeria won their first African title since 1994. The nation has qualified for five out of the past six World Cups since its first tournament, USA '94, but Nigeria will need to improve on their Confederations Cup showing if they are to make it deep into the knockouts.
Bosnia-Herzegovina: Edin Dzeko
This is the first-ever World Cup for the imposing striker and for his country. This tournament's only debutant, Bosnia will be hoping for six-foot-four Dzeko to lead their line with the same authority that has seen him score better than a goal every two games in his previous 60-plus appearances for his country. Supported by the likes of the technically gifted Pjanić, no one really knows what to expect from Bosnia. Reaching the final 16 should be received with smiles in Sarajevo.
Download a free preview of the 8by8 mag World Cup issue here.
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