World Cup 2014: Ones to Watch
With this year’s World Cup now under a week away, Betting Instinct has the lowdown on some players to look out for in Brazil.
Admir Mehmedi – Switzerland
The Swiss national side are regarded by many to be the weakest of the eight seeds, but they have some top talent in their squad, including a number of players of Albanian descent.
Xherdan Shaqiri has blown hot and cold since moving to Bayern Munich last summer, while another former FC Basel youngster, Granit Xhaka, has also laid down a marker in the German Bundesliga. In central midfield, captain Gökhan Inler will be flanked by Napoli duo Valon Behrami and Blerim Džemaili, but much of the talk going into the tournament surrounds Mehmedi.
After an unremarkable spell with Dinamo Kyiv, the former FC Zurich man has top-scored for SC Freiburg this season with 12 goals, earning a permanent move to the German club last month. He will face competition for a starting place with the likes of Josip Drmić, but there is no doubt that the 23-year-old comes into the tournament in high spirits.
Betting Instinct tip – Switzerland to win their opener against Ecuador is 2.28 with GR88.com
Shinji Okazaki – Japan
Another German-based player, Okazaki has more international goals than any other player in Group C with the exception of Côte d’Ivoire captain Didier Drogba.
The experienced forward stood out at last year’s Confederations Cup, scoring the third goal in an agonising 4-3 defeat against Italy and also finding the net against Mexico, and he will hope to flourish in Brazil for the second summer running.
Japan are in one of the more open groups in this year’s World Cup, but will need Okazaki and team-mates such as Shinji Kagawa to fire on all cylinders if they are to make it to the knockout stages.
Betting Instinct tip – More than 2.5 goals in Japan’s opener against the Ivorians is 2.34 with GR88.com
Keylor Navas – Costa Rica
On paper the rank outsiders in Group D, Jorge Luis Pinto’s side were dealt a huge blow when their squad’s top scorer Álvaro Saborio suffered a metatarsal injury that will rule him out of the entire World Cup.
This puts even more pressure on the Central Americans’ defence, and goalkeeper Navas is expected to be in the thick of the action as Los Ticos take on three formidable opponents in England, Italy and Uruguay.
However the 27-year-old shot-stopper has relished his underdog status at Levante, helping the minnows to a top-half finish in La Liga for only the second time in the last 50-years. After helping his country to a second-place finish in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying – with the best defensive record in the confederation – Navas and his team-mates will hope to spring a surprise or two.
Betting Instinct tip – Costa Rica to hold Uruguay to a 0-0 draw is 8.60 with GR88.com
GR88.com is holding a $1m prediction challenge for the World Cup. Anyone who wants to give themselves a chance of scooping the seven-figure jackpot, or the very generous $100,000 consolation prize, needs to head to worldcup.gr88.com/picks and make their selections for the 48 group games. Terms and conditions apply.
TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+.