Brent Latham recently wrote about 11 players who could see their value increase on the transfer market with a big World Cup. On a related topic, here are three players to keep an eye on as potential breakout players.
Javier "El Chicharito" Hernandez, Mexico
As accomplished in possession as El Tri is, the team has been desperately searching for a reliable goal scorer. During World Cup qualifying, the likes of Omar Bravo, Carlos Vela and Guillermo Franco were given opportunities to make one of the forward spots their own and couldn't provide the consistency needed. In Hernandez, Mexico may have found its man. The 21-year-old has been devastating for Chivas de Guadalajara during the Mexican Bicentenario, scoring 10 goals in 11 games. He's delivered the goods in Mexico's recent spate of friendlies, as well, netting four goals in as many appearances. Hernandez can also score in a variety of ways, with his ridiculous leaping ability making him a threat in the air as well as on the ground.
The only question for Hernandez is: Can he translate his form from friendly matches into games when the stakes are highest? With fellow breakout candidate Giovani Dos Santos by his side, Hernandez looks like a player who can do just that.
-- Jeff Carlisle
Eljero Elia, Netherlands
It seems foolhardy to go up against such world-class flank players as Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel and, oh yeah, Robin van Persie for playing time. Yet the really bad bet going into this World Cup seems to be overlooking Eljero Elia, the Netherlands' feisty young winger. A dying breed even in a country known for them, Elia represents a lot of what is good and right in attacking soccer. He'll zip by an opponent, lay off the ball or send a long cross with equal insouciance, just as he'll skin anybody dumb enough to get too close to him. A speedster with a soft touch, Elia could see considerable minutes off the bench, tormenting exhausted backs and making the difference.
-- Leander Schaerlaeckens
Angel Di Maria, Argentina
That Argentina won Olympic gold at the 2008 Beijing games thanks to a goal from a young winger, who only recently had celebrated his 20th birthday, was no surprise. What was mildly startling was that the scorer was not Lionel Messi -- though the brilliant Barcelona man did provide the assist -- but Angel Di Maria.
Now 22 and approaching the end of a fine club campaign with Benfica, in which he has contributed six goals and nine assists, Di Maria looks set to make Diego Maradona's squad for South Africa. La Albiceleste is blessed with talent in abundance, meaning that his chances to shine may be fleeting. If his name is called, however, he already possesses a résumé which shows he can succeed on the big stage.
-- Andrew Hush