The teams are starting to make their way down to Brazil, in a few days the 32 nations that will participate in the FIFA World Cup will hit the grounds of stadiums like the Maracana, and the Arena de Sao Paulo. The four CONCACAF representatives will also hit the pitch of those stadiums with the idea of taking home the world cup. An integral part of those four teams is the midfield. Managing the midfield can make a difference for any team. These players have dual jobs, to recover and assist. They recover the ball and move it forward to the strikers, or fall back and assist on defense. In this edition we’ll take a look at three midfielders from each nation:
Michael Bradley - USA
Michael Bradley epitomizes U.S. Soccer. He is what you see on the fields of ball parks across the United States, the son of the coach. However, in Bradley’s case, his call ups to the USMNT were meaningful under his father, former U.S. coach Bob Bradley. Michael has played in 86 games for the USMNT and scored on 12 occasions. His current client on the world stage is regional rivals Mexico. Bradley has put four goals in the net of El Tri. The Toronto FC midfielder is a “tank” in the center of the pitch moving past any opposition with ease. He’s no stranger to scoring in international competitions. The 6’1” Princeton, N.J. native pierced the net at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, as well as the 2010 South Africa World Cup. The 26 year-old will have to be a “field general” in Brazil as the USMNT face tough opposition. His strength will be crucial in the game against Germany.
Alejandro Bedoya - USA
Alejandro Bedoya currently plays for French Ligue 1 side Nantes. The 27 year-old Englewood, N.J. native has made 28 appearances with the USMNT since 2010 and has scored one goal. He has two variables, he can play as an attacking midfielder and a winger. At 6 feet tall, the Colombian-American is fast on the wings, something that the USMNT will need when facing a team like Ghana. He will also be expected to defend, so his speed will also be crucial in returning to assist attacks against players like Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Julian Green - USA
Julian Green is very young, but a player to keep an eye on. The 19 year-old Bayern Munich player made his debut with the USMNT in the 2-2 draw against Mexico last April. Green has two appearances with the USMNT, but was called up to join the 23-man roster in May 2014. He may not see much playing time due to experience, but is a player to keep an eye on as the future of the USMNT.
USMNT midfield analysis:
The USMNT will depend on the presence of Michael Bradley in the midfield. The former USMNT coach’s son will have to step up into a leadership position. He is the best qualified for the position as his age and build will help him in his endeavors. If Bradley and the rest of the midfield is not in tune, the team could suffer, especially when dealing with Portugal and Germany.
Celso Borges - Costa Rica
Celso Borges is one of Costa Rica’s best players in the midfield. With 60 games since 2008, he has managed to break the net on 14 occasions. The 26 year-old plays for Sweden’s AIK. Since arriving in Sweden, Borges has broken the net 20 times in 54 appearances. Borges reaches the world cup at a good point in his life when it comes to playing, not a brash youngster, nor a seasoned veteran. This will give him the opportunity to be creative in the midfield, while not carrying the responsibility of managing the team’s attacks. Brazil 2014 could be a stepping stone for Borges to move to a bigger team. A good performance against England, Italy and Uruguay can transport him to a premier league.
Christian Bolaños – Costa Rica
Christian Bolaños is a very diverse player. He has the ability to shoot with both legs, an incredible achievement for a soccer player. He is also very fast and handles the ball well. On a set-piece, Bolaños is very dangerous. The 30 year-old FC Copenhagen midfielder arrives in Brazil with the experience of the Germany 2006 tournament. While Borges will have free reign of the midfield, it will be up to Bolaños to command the area. Bolaños and the Ticos have a daunting task, as they face three former FIFA World Cup champions.
Yeltsin Tejada - Costa Rica
Yeltsin Tejada is one of Costa Rica’s younger players making his first appearance at the big tournament. The 22 year-old Deportivo Saprissa midfielder was a key player in Jorge Luis Pinto’s team that qualified directly to Brazil 2014. Tejada has a good presence in the midfield. With youth and heart on his side, he is quick to go after the ball and recover. He is also solid when it comes to moving the ball forward, not being afraid to send a pass from the back line to a waiting forward. He is the future for Costa Rican football and a breakout performance in Brazil could open doors for him in bigger leagues.
Costa Rica midfield analysis:
Yes, Costa Rica has a tough group. But no team goes into the world cup to get beaten. There are positives. The Ticos have a good midfield led by an experienced Bolaños. Against their competition, Costa Rica looks inferior. However, with players like Tejada taking risks, don’t be surprised to see a memorable moment coming from the team that enjoys “pura vida.”
Roger Espinoza - Honduras
Roger Espinoza is a defensive midfielder who grew up in the U.S. college soccer system. He signed with Sporting KC before moving on the EPL’s Wigan Athletic. The 27 year-old has good passing ability moving the ball to the front, and quickly moving into a defensive position. Espinoza arrives with 42 games under his belt and four goals. His experience in the EPL will be crucial for the Catrachos who have an accessible group as they take on Switzerland, Ecuador and France.
Wilson Palacios - Honduras
Wilson Palacios will participate in this second world cup with Honduras. The 29 year-old Stoke City FC player will take command of the central midfield for the Catrachos as they try to take a step forward at the world level. Palacios and Honduras participated in three games in South Africa 2010, and despite earning a draw against Switzerland, they did not score a single goal. Palacios will have the responsibility for serving the forwards, while controlling the center of the pitch. If he has the ability to make good decisions, Honduras could be a thorn in their competitors’ side.
Marvin Chavez - Honduras
Marvin Chavez is an experienced player who practices his trade with the Colorado Rapids. The 30 year-old is a constant player with Honduras, but was not part of the team that travelled to South Africa. Luis Suarez will be counting on the player’s experience in Brazil. Chavez has 42 games with the national team and has scored four goals, including one against Cuba during the Brazil 2014 World Cup Qualification.
Honduras midfield analysis:
The Catrachos arrive in Brazil with a team that is full of experience with players that are in their peak, not too young, nor too old. These players will have to use that wisdom to handle Ecuador and Switzerland, two teams that appear accessible to Honduras. The advantage that Honduras can exploit against France is the absence of Franck Ribery, and the fact that Les Bleus is a team of very young players. Honduras can have a memorable world cup if the team uses their experience to their advantage.
Carlos Peña – Mexico
Carlos “Gulit” Peña has been making waves in the Mexican league since his team, Leon FC, was promoted to La Liga MX. Peña received his first call up in 2012 and has played in 11 games with two goals. His performance became a standout in the final games of qualification where he played in the last four games that pushed Mexico into Brazil 2014. Peña is a strong player who enters the goal area from the middle of the pitch and can power through any defense. In 81 games with his club, he has broken the net on 19 occasions. The 24 year-old is a player to keep an eye on. If he has a good performance, the doors could open to European clubs.
Hector Herrera - Mexico
Hector Herrera is a key piece of Portuguese side FC Porto earning play minutes in 17 games and scoring three goals. With the Mexican national team he has appeared on 10 occasions. Herrera is a stopper in the midfield. He has the ability to stop an opponent and keep the ball. He also has the ability to center to teammates, or taking a long distance shot. The 24 year-old Tijuana native is also an Olympic gold medalist taking the London 2012 Men’s Football Tournament with El Tri. His abilities will be crucial for Mexico as they take on Cameroon, Brazil and Croatia.
Javier Aquino - Mexico
Javier Aquino came aboard the Mexican National Team due to the injury suffered by Luis Montes against Ecuador in a friendly. But the 24 year-old Villarreal CF player had already made his name known with El Tri. He is small, but fast and creative. In his match against Italy at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, the 5’5” midfielder drew marks from players like Andrea Pirlo, yet the midfielder never gave up at any time. It is his drive and heart that earned him a call up from Miguel Herrera as a substitute. With a good performance, he could prove that he should have been on the list from the beginning.
Mexico midfield analysis:
While three players are represented here, Mexico also uses two wingers who act like midfielders. Players like Andres Guardado, Miguel Layun, and Paul Aguilar could be added to this list. Mexico handles the ball well in the midfield, with defenders moving up on attack and forwards falling back at times to recover. If Miguel Herrera’s team comes together, they can validate the recent international titles they have won. Remember, Mexico is the London 2012 Olympic gold medalist, with nine players from that historic team reappearing. Amongst those are Herrera and Aquino.