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7 World Cup Breakout Stars: Where Are They Now?

 
 
Guillermo Ochoa #13 goalkeeper of Mexico gets ready to throw the ball during an intetnatonal friendly soccer match at AT&T Stadium on March 27, 2018 in Arlington, Texas.

Today, we’re looking at seven past World Cup breakout stars and how they’ve got on since announcing themselves to the world.

Naturally, as we want it to be current players, we’ve only gone back as far as the 2002 World Cup, and four of our seven are from the most recent finals in Brazil. It’s also worth pointing out that players like James Rodriguez in 2014 and Thomas Muller in 2010 - although they performed beyond expectations - were already established as very good players, so they don’t feature. The list is in no particular order.

Here are 7 former World Cup breakout stars: Where are they now?

7. Guillermo Ochoa - Standard Liege

What a tournament the 2014 finals were for Guillermo Ochoa. Playing his club football for Ajaccio in France at the time, the former Club America man was Mexico’s standout player. Having kept a clean sheet in their opener against Cameroon, his finest performance came in the second match against Brazil. Ochoa made a string of superb saves, the most notable of them being a fiercely struck shot by Neymar. His heroics saw the match end 0-0, and Mexico won their final group game 3-1 against Croatia, finishing level on points with Brazil. They ended up going out to Netherlands in the first knockout round, but Ochoa made a summer move to La Liga side Malaga. He never cemented a place as first choice in Spain, though, and last summer he joined Belgian outfit Standard Liege. Ochoa is still expected to be Mexico’s number one in Russia.

6. Stefan de Vrij - Lazio

Stefan De Vrij of SS Lazio looks dejected at the end of match the serie A match between SS Lazio and FC Internazionale at Stadio Olimpico on May 20, 2018 in Rome, Italy.Stefan De Vrij of SS Lazio looks dejected at the end of match the serie A match between SS Lazio and FC Internazionale at Stadio Olimpico on May 20, 2018 in Rome, Italy.

A man in the news right now, Stefan de Vrij is technically still a Lazio player, but he is on the verge of joining Inter Milan. That isn’t why the Dutchman is in the news, though - that's because he gave away a penalty against his soon-to-be club Inter Milan whilst playing for Lazio, a penalty that was subsequently converted by Mauro Icardi to confirm that it would be Inter, not Lazio, who will be playing in the Champions League next season. It has to be said, however, that de Vrij has been exceptional for Lazio this season. The 26-year-old joined the Serie A side from Feyenoord in 2014 off the back of his impressive breakout performances at the World Cup. De Vrij scored in the Netherlands 5-1 defeat of Spain and looked generally very solid, ultimately making the Team of the Tournament.

5. Asamoah Gyan - Kayserispor

In fifth place we depart the 2014 World Cup briefly and head back to the 2010 tournament, where Asamoah Gyan was very much a breakout star. Back then, it was the loveable Ghanaians wowing the world with Gyan as their star man, up against the might of two-time World Cup winners Uruguay and their serial cheat Luis Suarez. Fast forward almost a decade, and now Asamoah Gyan is known as the money man. He joined Sunderland after his performances in South Africa, but left for Al Ain of the UAE Pro League after just a single season. From the UAE to China and then back to the UAE again, Gyan’s career has been a mercenaries dream. Now aged 32, Gyan is currently playing for Kayserispor in Turkey, where he has scored 4 goals in 14 games.

4. Joel Campbell - Real Betis

Joel Campbell #28 of Arsenal FC kicks the ball up field against the MLS All-Stars during the first half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose,...Joel Campbell #28 of Arsenal FC kicks the ball up field against the MLS All-Stars during the first half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose,...

Joel Campbell only actually scored one goal at the 2014 World Cup, which isn’t particularly impressive for a forward, but it sure felt like more. That is because the Costa Rican was a real live wire in Brazil. His pace and directness frightened the life out of teams, and Arsenal fans were understandably excited about the prospect they had on their hands. Campbell had been at the Emirates since 2011, but had been loaned out every season. Since then, well… nothing has really changed. He got a few opportunities in the 2015-16 season, but didn’t really make them count. He just had an injury-plagued loan spell at Real Betis, and his Gunners contract is set to expire this summer.

3. Landon Donovan - Club Leon

The player who takes us the furthest back in this seven, the 2002 World Cup seems like a long time ago now. Landon Donovan may have immediately become the poster boy for soccer in the US after the finals, but his inclusion in the squad was far from a certainty before the tournament. Having done very little over in Germany, Donovan had shown decent but hardly awe inspiring form with the San Jose Earthquakes. Bruce Arena took a chance on him, though, and boy did it pay off. Donovan scored twice - once against Poland and once against Mexico - as the US reached the Quarter-Finals. He was named as the tournament's Best Young Player, and joined LA Galaxy in 2005, going on to become one of the greatest players in the history of the MLS. Now aged 36, the veteran forward is playing his club football in Mexico with Club Leon.

2. Keylor Navas - Real Madrid

Keylar Navas attends the photocall for 'Hombre De Fe' during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 13, 2018 in Cannes, France.Keylar Navas attends the photocall for 'Hombre De Fe' during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 13, 2018 in Cannes, France.

The 2014 World Cup was truly a tournament for goalkeepers. Manuel Neuer performances put him in the top three of Ballon d’Or voting, Guillermo Ochoa has already featured in this seven, and next up is Keylor Navas. In three group games against England, Uruguay and Italy, Navas conceded only one goal, and even that came in a 3-1 win against Uruguay. In the round of 16, he was named as the man of the match as Costa Rica beat Greece on penalties. In the Quarter-Finals, he added another clean sheet, and was named as the man of the match once more, but Costa Rica were beaten by the Netherlands on penalties. Soon after the tournament, Real Madrid triggered his buyout clause to bring him to the Bernabeu from Levante. Since then, Navas has spent three out of four seasons as Real’s number one, winning the Champions League twice.

1. Lukas Podolski - Vissel Kobe

Lukas Podolski will soon have Andres Iniesta as a team mate at Japanese outfit Vissel Kobe. Although Podolski already had a growing reputation in Germany, and had already agreed on a move to Bayern Munich, he was still very much a breakout star at the 2006 World Cup. The youngster had scored 12 goals in 33 games for Koln the previous season, but only compatriot Miroslav Klose scored more in the 2006 finals on home soil. Podolski was named as the tournament's Best Young Player, but things never quite clicked for him at Bayern Munich, or Arsenal for that matter. He joined Japanese side Vissel Kobe in 2017, where he has since scored 5 goals in 18 games.

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