Football

OTHERS WHO COULD SHINE

Here are some of Lionel Messi's main rivals for Player-of-the-Tournament honours...

CRISTIANO RONALDO (PORTUGAL)

On current form, he's the world's best player. The winger benefits from Paulo Bento's 4-3-3 attacking line-up. The only drawback is he has to overcompensate for Luis Nani on the other flank.

LUIS SUAREZ (URUGUAY)

His countrymen are not up to his level, few players are, and Uruguay are not helped by a tough group with Italy and England. But if he comes close to replicating his Liverpool consistency, group qualification could be just the beginning.

NEYMAR (BRAZIL)

In truth, his hype superseded his performances for Barcelona last season, but there is a sense of a date with destiny in his homeland. Still only 22, he has matured quickly through his La Liga apprenticeship. He must form a cogent link with Oscar to truly thrive.

ANDRES INIESTA (SPAIN)

A throwback to an almost distant era of precise passing tiki-taka, the 30-year-old Barca veteran represents his country's only chance of sustained success. If age does not whither him, he can dictate performances like Andrea Pirlo at Euro 2012.

EDEN HAZARD (BELGIUM)

The brightest thoroughbred among the dark horses, Chelsea's inverted winger is ready to explode in Rio. He cuts in from the left with the lethal precision of a parang.

BLAISE MATUIDI (FRANCE)

With little fuss or fanfare, the PSG midfielder is slowly evolving into the Yaya Toure of his generation. A real French connection, everything goes through him in Didier Deschamps' preferred 4-3-3. A monster of a man, he could rule central midfield for club and country for years to come.

RANK OUTSIDER: ROSS BARKLEY (ENGLAND)

Paul Gascoigne did it at Italia 90 and, well, you've got to have a dream, haven't you?