The 2014 World Cup promises to be an exciting time for some of the world's great young players destined to make their name on the biggest stage of them all.
The cyclical nature of the game, however, dictates that it is also time to say a World Cup farewell to some of the tournament's veterans.
Here is a list of some of this summer's stars that will be looking to enjoy their World Cup swansong:
The Ivory Coast hero is a true legend of modern football and his international record reflects his impressive domestic goals record. With 65 goals in a 101 games, Drogba has changed the face of football in his home nation and will be sorely missed by the Ivory Coast in years to come. Colombia, Greece and Japan await Ivory Coast with their top goalscorer undoubtedly hungry for goals.
The 2010 World Cup announced Diego Forlan on the world stage at the experienced age of 31. Forlan guided Uruguay to fourth place position on route to picking up the Golden Ball award for the tournament's best player as well as finishing joint top goal scorer with five goals. The ex Manchester United star will be looking to the likes of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez to guide his country to greatness this time around but Uruguay will be sad to see that back of a great servant on the international scene.
Similarly to Drogba, Eto'o has had a massive impact on the game in Cameroon, earning legendary status for his 56 goals at international level. Cameroon are going to miss the predatory presence of Eto'o and the former Barca and Inter striker will be looking to out with a bang in Brazil. The four time African Player of the Year faces a tough task to get his team out of the group with Brazil, Croatia and Mexico standing in Cameroon's way.
A peerless name in modern Spanish footballing history, Xavi has been at the heart of Spain's incredible success under Vicente Del Bosque. The Barca man is the most successful player in Spanish football history having guided his side to two European Championships and a World Cup. When asked why Xavi was voted the best player of Euro 2008 the FIFA Technical Committee explained, 'We have chosen Xavi because he epitomizes the Spanish style of play. He was influential in the whole possession, passing and penetrating kind of game that Spain played.' These words could easily have described his performances both at the last World Cup and Euro 2012 and Xavi's name will go down in history as one of the international footballing greats.
Robin van Persie
Averaging over a goal every other game Van Persie is Netherlands’ most prolific goal scorer ever with 43 goals in 84 games. Now the Dutch captain, Van Persie has shaken off his former bad boy image and his close relationship with Dutch, and new Manchester United, manager Louis Van Gaal could see the prolific front man return to form at the best possible time for Holland. Van Persie is likely to play a role at Euro 2016 but by 2018 he will be 34 and with a chequered injury history this is likely to be his last World Cup. The Dutch national team may have to wait a long time before they have another striker with the quality of Van Persie.
Since making his international debut 14 years ago, Gerard has been a stalwart of English football. This summer's World Cup will be Gerard's sixth major tournament with England and after being chosen as captain in 2010, his third leading the side. Although now playing a more refined role as a deep lying playmaker, Gerard will be a crucial player for England this summer and he will be hungrier than ever for success on the international stage.
Few can boast of possessing a better tournament goal scoring record than Miroslav Klose whose ratio of 1.08 goals per World Cup game for Germany leaves him one shy of Ronaldo’s record with 14 World Cup goals. Klose will go down in history as Germany’s most prolific striker with his 69 international goals and after Marco Reus' injury, Germany may well need their talisman to perform once again if they are to have a chance of claiming the biggest prize of them all.
Despite having to wait until Euro 2004 for his major tournament debut, Lampard announced himself on the international stage scoring three goals in four games as England reached the quarterfinals before getting knocked out on penalties to Portugal. Lampard has been a great performer for England over the last decade scoring an impressive 29 goals and although first team opportunities could be minimal in Brazil, he may well have a big part to play when called upon.
A mesmerising talent who, like Xavi, has been the anchor in his national side’s success for nearly a decade. After winning the 2006 World Cup and finishing Runners Up in Euro 2012, Italy have been an ever present threat in international football and Pirlo has been a huge factor in their stability as an international force. Pirlo may yet continue to have a big influence for Italy after the World Cup but at the age of 35, this is more than likely to be his last chance to repeat the 2006 triumph on the biggest stage of them all.
Despite being fairly young for a goalkeeper, 33-year-old Casillas may well be featuring in his last World Cup this summer. Having lost his place in Real Madrid’s La Liga XI to Diego Lopez, Casillas is no longer the first name on the team sheet for Spain with David De Gea hungry to take the veteran’s no.1 shirt off him. Casillas is a true legend of Spanish football having captained the national team to two European Championships and a World Cup and his name will forever be in the history books of Spain’s footballing achievements. There is every chance Casillas could have one more World Cup in him but it may not be as the first choice goalkeeper. The Real Madrid legend will certainly not go down without a fight and we are to expect some determined performances from a truly world class keeper.
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/1a2u3KU