Five to watch over World Cup weekend

Posted: June 20, 2014

THE WORLD CUP is heading into its second weekend, and the second game in the group stage.

Here are five players to watch in the matches from today through Sunday that even the casual fan will recognize, and the once-every-4-year fan will learn to love to watch.

Didier Drogba

During Ivory Coast's first match of the World Cup, it was down 1-0 to Japan. Drogba started on the bench, but came in over an hour into the match and instantly changed the flow of the game. His team scored two goals in less than 10 minutes, giving it a 2-1 victory. Ivory Coast takes on Colombia at noon today in a match of two teams that both have three points after one match. A win for either team would basically put it past the group stage. Drogba may come off the bench, but he will certainly make an impact.

Mario Balotelli

Italy came into the World Cup after not winning a match in 2010. The pressure was on to put forth a better performance this time around, and Balotelli delivered in the first match. He headed home the winning goal against England to set expectations for the rest of the tournament. Balotelli is one of the most intriguing and polarizing players on the roster. He plays for A.C. Milan during the club season, where he has scored 26 goals in 43 matches. Costa Rica pulled an upset over Uruguay in the first match of group play, so Italy will need a big performance tomorrow from its best player to ensure it gets past the group stage.

Mesut Özil

Coming off a nomination for the Golden Ball, the award presented to the tournament's best player in the 2010 World Cup, expectations are high for the 25-year-old midfielder. He is not known for his goal-scoring, but he sets up his teammates for success. He had one goal and three assists in the 2010 tournament, and is expected to make even more of an impact this time around. His German squad has the task of Ghana on Saturday afternoon, in which Özil will have to play well for the Germans to win.

Lionel Messi

Messi is the best and most recognizable player in the world. All eyes are on him at all times when he is on the pitch. Why is he still a player to watch? He gets it done on the big stage. He scored in Argentina's 2-1, opening-round win over Bosnia, commanding the attention of the defense. He and his team should have an easy time against Iran in their second game on Saturday, so he should be fun to watch flying around the pitch. He could have multiple goals on the day.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo is also considered one of the best players in the world, and his talents will be on full display to the American public on Sunday. His Portugal team takes on the United States in prime-time. He plays for Real Madrid during the club season and is averaging more than a goal per appearance. His ability to find the back of the net, whether it is from set pieces or making his own shots, is beautiful to watch.

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