As It Kicks Off Today , Like the Grand National, the World Cup has become a great participation event in offices, clubs and schools.

Join the sweep, pick the top scorer, guess how far England will go, perhaps even have a bet.

So to help, here’s a team of men who are probably not big names in your household or workplace – but might be in a month’s time.

:: Thibos Courtois, goalkeeper (Belgium/Atletico Madrid)

Belgium's goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saves a free kick during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Scotland at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels

Actually a Chelsea employee, but doing so well on loan at Atletico that his future has become a big debating point in the last few months.

If Belgium are to do as well as the bookies predict, then he is certain to have enhanced his reputation even further.

Italy’s veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon has picked him out as a man to watch – and he should know.

:: Mauricio Isla, attacking right-back (Chile/Juventus)

Chile against Northern Ireland during international friendly soccer match, in Valparaiso

Older than some of his colleagues in this fabled team at the age 25 and with almost half a century of appearances for Chile behind him, he has a great chance to win more admirers of his charging runs down the right.

Chile are in the same group as Spain and Holland but do not rule out Isla helping dump one of those giants out at the first hurdle.

:: Raphael Varane, central defender (France/Real Madrid)

Netherlands' Van Persie challenges France's Varane during their international friendly soccer match at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis

He has only played five times for France, but at 21 years old he is part of a badly needed new generation for the 1998 world champions.

Big and strong – not to mention fiery – he got involved in an altercation on the pitch with opposition boss Diego Costa at the end of the Champions League final, in which his Real team beat city rivals Atletico Madrid.

Jose Mourinho says he’s the world’s best young defender.

:: Mats Hummels, central defender (Germany/Borussia Dortmund)

Portugal's Oliveira is challenged by Germany's Hummels during their Group B Euro 2012 soccer match at the New Lviv stadium in Lviv

If Germany go a long way in the World Cup, Hummels has the potential to be one of the stars of the tournament.

A dominant figure who can play as well as block, he also has a memorable name and a girlfriend, Cathy Fischer, who has been described as Germany’s top WAG.

:: Yuto Nagatomo, left-back (Japan/Inter Milan)

Japan's Nagatomo fights for the ball with Syria's Hussien during their 2011 Asian Cup Group B soccer match in Doha

Nagatomo has talked ambitiously about Japan winning the World Cup. One day, perhaps. Although they did reach the last 16 in 2010.

If they are to do it again, he will need to be at his best, both in defence and marauding down the left.

:: Juan Cuadrado, midfield (Colombia/Fiorentina)

Colombia against Jordan during international friendly soccer match in Buenos Aires

Top scorer from midfield for Fiorentina in the Italian League with 11 goals last season, Cuadrado was converted from a right-back and is already interesting many of Europe’s top clubs.

There is every chance there will be a long queue at his agent’s door after the World Cup.

:: William Carvalho, midfield (Portugal/Sporting Lisbon)

You thought Angola was not the place to look for football talent?


This young man from Luanda has to force his way into Portugal’s team but he is big and powerful (think Manchester City’s Yaya Toure) with a future to match.

:: Paul Pogba, midfield (France/Juventus)

Still only 21, he has been in the headlines since Sir Alex Ferguson decided he was not good enough for Manchester United.

France's Pogba celebrates after scoring the first goal for the team during their international friendly soccer match against Norway at the Stade de France Stadium in Saint-Denis

His poise belies his years. Zinedine Zidane, a World Cup winner in 1998, says his young countryman will become one of Europe’s best central midfielders.

:: Ciro Immobile, striker (Italy/Borussia Dortmund)

This guy could be huge and may even be the World Cup’s top goalscorer – worth a punt at around 50-1 if you like a bet.

Italy's Ciro Immobile kicks the ball as England's Craig Dawson challenges during their European Under-21 Championship soccer match at the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv

No one got more than him in Italy last season and he has just signed for Dortmund.

Mario Balotelli is the big name in the Italians’ attack … so far.

:: Carlos Bacca, striker (Colombia/Sevilla)

Now carrying a nation’s goalscoring hopes on his shoulders after injury ruled out his more illustrious colleague, Radamel Falcao, but he is up to the task.


He scored four goals towards the end of the season for his Spanish club, the Europa League winners.

And Bacca has every chance of helping Colombia progress from a group that also includes Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan – therefore boosting his own reputation.

:: Joel Campbell, striker (Costa Rica/Arsenal)

You’re going to hear plenty about Joel Campbell because he is a big threat to England’s hopes of progress from Group D.

Australia v Costa Rica

Arsenal have loaned him out for the last three seasons, most recently to Greek club Olympiakos, for whom he scored against Manchester United in the Champions League.

His mum told him to read Psalm 27 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” – before matches and apparently he does so.

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