It’s credit to the strength and depth of talent that’s in City’s squad that they could almost field a full starting line up of internationals who have been called up for their respective countries for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A trio have been included in the Argentina squad: defender Pablo Zabaleta, defender Martin Demichelis and striker Sergio Aguero. A duo for England: goalkeeper Joe Hart and midfielder (not defender) James Milner. Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko and midfielder David Silva for Spain both also get the nod. Defender Vincent Kompany, Ivorian Coast powerhouse Yaya Toure and Brazilian Fernandinho also feature in their countries squads.
It’s a commendable mass of talent who will all be competing in the World Cup off the back of a double trophy-winning season, but there are notable omissions. Samir Nasri’s absence for France caused uproar, particularly after the impressive season the midfielder’s had. Instead he’s enjoying a summer in Los Angeles with his girlfriend (he doesn’t look too upset!). Both Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo were named in the preliminary squad for Spain, but failed to make it onto the plane.
But out of the 10 Blues heading to South America, who are the top five to look out for during the tournament? With the bar set so high, it was difficult to narrow it down to just five, but these are the players I think will have the biggest say for their countries on the biggest stage of them all. I originally included England goalkeeper Joe Hart, but opted to go for players who’d feature for countries we’d most likely see progress the furthest in the competition. Ouch…
Yaya Toure - IVORY COAST
The Ivory Coast international couldn’t be going into the World Cup in finer form. 31 year old Toure is on the top of his game, having ended the season third best goal-scorer in the Premier League with 20 goals, a mighty haul from midfield. Capable of producing those something out of nothing match-winning moments, Yaya’s unique blend of strength, power and ability often results in incredulous goals and commendable assists. An international veteran of sorts, having played for the Elephants for 10 years and played in five Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, this will be the third World Cup for the midfielder. Expect the unexpected when it comes to Yaya- but I expect him to be the heartbeat of the Ivory Coast side.
Vincent Kompany - BELGIUM
Captain for both club and country, Vincent Kompany is a solid and much-respected defender. The 28 year old led City in a double-winning 2013/14 season and will be taking his consistent form to Brazil, having been named in the PFA Team of the Year for the second time. Belgium are regarded as many as being the dark horses of the tournament: the Red Devils are fifth favourites to win the competition behind Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Spain. Such an occasion calls for a cool head, so Kompany will need to make sure his temperament is in check and his tackling is spot on. He has been an ever-present in the warm-up games, comprehensive wins against Sweden, Luxembourg and Tunisia. This will be his first major international tournament – a major chance to showcase his capabilities amongst the elite.
Edin Dzeko – BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
The Bosnian striker finished the 2013/14 with 16 league goals to his name, scoring some crucial goals in the latter part of the season to propel club side City to their second Premier League title in three years. He made his senior international debut seven years ago and has since scored 35 goals in 61 games for his country. Nicknamed ‘The Bosnian Diamond’, Dzeko played a pivotal role in their World Cup qualifying campaign, scoring 10 goals to help them secure their place in Brazil. With a further two goals in a warm-up game against Ivory Coast, Bosnia will be pinning hopes on their talisman to shine bright in Group F with tricky games against Nigeria, Iran and Argentina.
Sergio Aguero - ARGENTINA
The striker’s third season with the Blues was blighted by a reoccurring hamstring injury, but Sergio Aguero still managed to score 17 league goals for City. Blessed with a rapid turn of pace, agility and power, the Argentine is regularly compared to his legendary countryman and former father-in-law Diego Maradona . This will be Aguero’s second World Cup, having featured in 2010 at South Africa, and he’s surrounded by a monumental array of talent, including Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Rodrigo Palacio. He was an unused substitute in the warm-up game against Trinidad and Tobago but came off the bench against Slovenia to assist Messi with Argentina’s second goal in a 2-0 win. Expect fireworks from Kun- if given the right opportunities.
David Silva - SPAIN
It’s very rare that you see David Silva put a foot wrong. A delightful, mercurial midfielder who dances his way through defences, Silva was a key figure throughout the title-winning season for City. The 28 year old suffered a World Cup scare when he was stretchered off with an ankle injury against West Bromwich Albion in April, but is fit to feature for Spain. With eight years of international football behind him, he played in both Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa- the latter two competitions the Spaniards won. He’s up against a wonderful array of midfield stars in the Spanish – Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata and Andres Iniesta for starters- and has mainly featured in a substitute role during the warm-ups for the tournament. He did provide the assist of one of David Villa’s goals in the 2-0 win against El Salvador and is capable of sublime moments of magic. He deserves more game time in Brazil- hopefully he’ll get it.