As the 20th edition of the World Cup begins today, we profile the six players who could be saviours for their country at the world's greatest footballing extravaganza in Sambaland
Despite his age, 35-year-old Andrea Pirlo will be the one player opposition midfields will be eager to contain in Brazil. In fact, England boss Roy Hodgson is said to be contemplating using a player to man-mark Pirlo when the two sides meet on Sunday (newspapers believe Wayne Rooney will be asked to do this job). Hodgson's tactics are justified, considering that the last time the two sides met in a major competition (the quarter-finals of Euro 2012) Pirlo put together more passes than England's entire midfield quartet.
Andrea Pirlo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar
This is the season that Ronaldo has eclipsed Lionel Messi. His scintillating form has seen him snatch the coveted Ballon d'Or from his arch-rival besides taking Real Madrid to the Champions League and the Copa del Rey titles. He even scored a hat-trick against Sweden to help Portugal make it to the World Cup in the first place. And now the onus will be on him to help the Iberian side win their first World Cup ever.
He has never scored for England in a World Cup encounter — this fact is likely to be topmost on Wayne Rooney's mind when he takes the pitch for the Three Lions' clash against Italy on Sunday. In fact, Rooney's World Cup appearances have often been mired in controversy — the temperamental striker was sent off against Portugal in 2006 and lashed out at England fans four years later. This time around, controversy has followed him to Brazil before the event has even begun, thanks to calls from Paul Scholes and Gary Lineker that he be dropped from the starting XI.
Although the Uruguay striker is recuperating from a knee injury, coach Oscar Tabarez might be tempted to give him a run against Costa Rica and England as even a half-fit Suarez is a terrifying prospect for defenders. It is an endorsement of just how good Suarez is that he is still the main striker in a side that boasts of attackers like Diego Forlan and Edinson Cavani. Suarez, who ended last season as EPL's top scorer with 31 goals, can single-handedly tear apart defences when in the mood.
The Argentine forward has endured an uncharacteristically barren season with Barcelona and will be keen to make amends with his national side. He would also like to put to bed once and for all the accusation that he is just not the same player in a La Albiceleste jersey.
According to Brazil forward Fred, their strategy at the World Cup will be to pass the ball to Neymar when they run out of ideas on a difficult day. The forward, who had a mixed first season with Barcelona, will be carrying the hopes of millions of Brazilians at the World Cup.
The number of World Cup matches Germany have played — a record
The number of matches Brazil have won over 19 editions of the World Cup — a record
The number of goals scored by Brazil in the World Cup — a record
The number of goals conceded by Germany in the World Cup — a record
The number of matches lost by Mexico over 19 editions of the World Cup — a record
The number of World Cups England have been knocked out from without losing a single match
The number of World Cups Brazil have managed to stay unbeaten in
Number of countries that have won the World Cup as the host country
Number of countries that have qualified for just one World Cup
Number of times a Latin American country has won the World Cup when the tournament has been held in Latin America. The footballing extravaganza has been hosted by Latin american country only seven times
Number of times Brazil have reached the semi-finals of the World Cup
This 2008 documentary by Serbian director Emir Kusturica captures not only Diego Maradona, the footballer, but also Maradona, the personality who was loved and hated in equal measure by fans. The 90-minute documentary sees Maradona air his strong political views about everything and sometimes even a philosophical disposition towards issues like his cocaine addiction.
The game of their lives
This 2002 documentary by BBC's Daniel Gordon captures possibly the greatest underdog story of the FIFA World Cup -- North Korea's performance in the 1966 tournament. The spirited North Koreans upset title-favourites Italians in the group stage and reached the quarter-finals in their maiden appearance in the showpiece event. The 80-minute long documentary includes interviews with many of the players who played a part in that World Cup.
The football fanatic's essential guide
The FIFA World Cup in Brazil that kicks off today will be the 20th edition of the showpiece event. But if you want a quick recap of everything that happened in the earlier 19 editions, 'The football fanatic's essential guide' is what you are looking for.
The book, authored by football expert and renowned commentator Novy Kapadia, is equally rich in anecdotes, trivia and statistics. This book also busts the myth that India did not participate in the 1950 World Cup because their players did not want to play with shoes as stipulated by FIFA.
There's also a handy schedule for the 2014 World Cup at the end along with an assessment of all the 32 teams that will take centrestage in Brazil from today.