The FIFA World Cup is ready to kick off (with the opening ceremony on June 12), and for a month, football is going to dominate all conversations. We’re not the only ones who are super excited; so are a bunch of Bollywood actors who are self-confessed football addicts.
We rope in four enthusiasts —John Abraham, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sidharth Malhotra and Tiger Shroff — to pick their top six players, who they think are likely to kick up a storm in Brazil.
Read:Tourist numbers up in Brazil ahead of FIFA World Cup
John Abraham, actor-producer
The actor says he would have played the sport professionally if he hadn’t pursued an MBA and become an actor.
Lionel Messi (Argentina): Easily one of the best players in the world right now. He must be eager to deliver at the world stage, which I am sure he will.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal): The Ballon d’Or winner is an outstanding player. He has a lot of hopes riding on him, but a lot will depend on the support he gets from his teammates.
Wayne Rooney (England): He is an all-heart player. Also, I feel, he has largely been an underrated one. But Rooney is one of the most gifted players. He is one of the most lethal forwards we’ve seen.
Neymar (Brazil): A very bright forward, he has it in him to become the best player in the world. In this World Cup, he will be under a lot of pressure. I would forgive him if he doesn’t perform as well, because there is so much expected from him.
Luis Suárez (Uruguay): It won’t be surprising if Suárez’s fitness is Uruguay’s preoccupation, since he recently had a meniscus operation. Again, a lot is riding on his skills andtalent, from his team’s point of view.
Robin van Persie (Netherlands): He is one of the most clinical strikers today. Interestingly, we have to see how coach Louis van Gaal uses Persie, as he also plays for Manchester United and Gaal is coaching the club now.
Sidharth Malhotra, actor
He has grown up watching football, and playing it too. He used to play for his college team.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal): Arguably, he has the best skills, looks and speed. He will definitely create a lot of buzz.
Lionel Messi (Argentina): He’s one of the best ever; he plays very well for the club, but has a lot of expectations, and needs to prove his worth for the country.
Wayne Rooney (England): Possibly the best forward England has produced till date, he is very aggressive, on and off the field.
Neymar (Brazil): Dubbed as the Brazilian ‘Messi’, he has amazing skills for a young player.
Luis Suárez (Uruguay): He has a keen eye for the goal, and is always hungry to score whenever he gets the ball.
Sergio Ramos (Spain): One of the best defenders the world has seen. He might not be a star player, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t make his presence and influence felt by everyone.
Aditya Roy Kapur, actor
He is a hard-core football aficionado. He travelled to Spain to watch a Real Madrid-Barcelona game.
Lionel Messi (Argentina): Wasn’t Messi quoted saying something on the lines of: ‘One cannot be considered one of the greats unless you win a World Cup?’
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal): The Ballon d’Or holder has unmatched desire and ambition. His knack for scoring goals can’t be ignored.
Neymar (Brazil): Brazil’s local hero is playing on home turf. He will be lethal. He had an average season at Barcelona, but I am sure he wants to prove that he isn’t just a one-trick wonder.
Robin van Persie (Netherlands): It’s maybe his last chance, since he is 30.
Andrés Iniesta (Spain): A wonderful player, he also scored the winning goal in the last final (World Cup 2010).
Wayne Rooney (England): He has a point to prove, for himself and his country, after failing to perform since Euro ’04.
Read:A snapshot of Brazil's World Cup host city Curitiba
Tiger Shroff, actor
The young actor has played the game since childhood, and said in a past interview that he actually wanted to be a footballer.
Lionel Messi (Argentina): Come what may, he will be extremely focused on the game. He has a big job in hand this time around.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal): He is the kind of inspiring player who can lift his team’s spirits even when things aren’t going too well for them.
Wayne Rooney (England): All the English fans know who they have to look at, if their team has to turn things around.
Neymar (Brazil): He is clearly one of the most exciting young players that we all should watch out for.
Fernando Torres (Spain): In order to defend their ‘world champions’ title, Torres will be Spain’s biggest trump card. He just needs to peak at the right time.
Thomas Müller (Germany): For me, he is an all-rounder. Besides being consistent in terms of scoring and helping create goals, he can be effectively used in various positions.
Teams to watch out for
Argentina: They are my top favourite. Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuaín and Sergio Agüero make the world’s deadliest offensive trio.
Brazil: Nothing can be more beautiful than Brazil playing in their homeland. With Luiz Felipe Scolari as their coach and Neymar in the team, they are a strong contender.
Germany: With most of their players being under 24, they have, by far, one of the youngest teams ever in a World Cup. Names like Thomas Müller, Miroslav Klose, Mario Götze and Sami Khedira make the team a solid unit.
Spain: With Vicente del Bosque as the coach, and players like Cesc Fàbregas, Andrés Iniesta, Diego Costa and Pedro, the defending champions will put in their best effort to retain the title this year.
Belgium: Eden Hazard is one of the brightest young players in the world right now.
Italy: We might criticise the kind of football they play, but you can never take the risk of counting them out.
Germany: They never fail to perform in the big tournaments and, this year, they are equipped with some young, talented players.
Brazil: They are the clear favourites this year, and they are playing in their own backyard.
Argentina: With Messi and company, Argentina must finally deliver at the world stage now.
Spain: How can one not count on the current World and European Champions to give it all to defend their trophy?
Belgium: Since they didn't qualify for the last World Cup, the world is still unaware of their strengths and weaknesses. For all we know, they might just surprise us with a win.
Brazil: They are playing in their own country. Do I need to say anything more?
Germany: You can never underestimate their potential, or count them out as one of the possible winners.
Spain: Being the defending champions, they have a lot of expectations riding on them right now.
England: They can be a lethal team if they play to their full potential.
Argentina: With Messi leading the team, they are clearly one of the hot favourites who could lift the trophy this year.
Argentina: It’s high time that they deliver, especially with Messi at the helm.
Germany: It’s a very dependable and young team. And if they peak at the right time, you never know. Brazil: Playing on their own soil makes them one of the biggest favourites.
Spain: Trust the Spaniards to put in their best effort to defend their title with a very resourceful team.
England: This team always had potential. Let’s hope things go right, and that Wayne Rooney fires.