The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil hasn't taken over every minute of the news channel but it certainly has dominated many recent conversations. Its probably the most frequent topic in some homes, schools, workplace, sports clubs and the local pubs.
Watching on a huge screen during the FIFA Fan Fest in Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA)
The World Cup has definitely scored conversation goals with regular talks about scores, team and the favorite players to win the hearts of spectators, fans and women in their home countries and around the globe. Here are 9 favorites repeatedly mentioned by friends who are touted to shine at World Cup 2014 in Brazil. Look forward to hearing about your favorites too.
Mario Barwuah Balotelli is already one of the most talked-about players in the world of football, both in Italy and around the world. He is one of the best goal scorers and a favorite to watch on the field with his natural ball handling techniques and single strikes of the ball. He buried all 13 of his penalty attempts as well as both his spot-kicks during shoot-outs. Fans are definitely keeping their eyes on the Italian's guided missiles as he lets them fly.
Netherlands - Robin Van Persie
Netherlands' forward Robin van Persie (L) vies for the ball with France's defender Raphael Varane (AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE) / Photo courtesy of FIFA
Netherlands is not just about windmills, cheeses and tulips. Conversations have turned to Manchester United striker and captain of the Netherlands national team, Robin Van Persie. Dutch friends are hoping that he can repeat his stellar performance of singlehandedly leading Manchester United to a Premier League trophy in 2012 for Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup. Van Persie seems to be carrying the weight of a nation on his shoulders but his fans believe in his natural talent to score goals from any angle.
South Korea - Son Heung Min
Son Heung-Min of South Korea (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images) / Photo courtesy of FIFA
How quickly a meal over Bibimbap in Seoul can turn into an excited conversation about South Korea's chances at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The attention is on Son Heung Min who earned his Bundesliga club fourth place and led South Korea's scoring charts with 11 to his name since the previous World Cup. His national fans are looking toward to celebrate with soju when this top striker of the German league repeats his heroic goals in Brazil.
Belgium - Romelu Lukaku
Belgium's forward Romelu Lukaku (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS) / Photo courtesy of FIFA
Chocolates are no longer the sweet spot in Belgium this month when the FIFA World Cup fever takes over. All the local bets are on Romelu Menama Lukaku who is a striker for Premier League club Chelsea and the Belgium national team. Named by The Guardian as one of the ten most promising young players in Europe in January 2014, he can certainly outrun defenders. If he is as technically brilliant at football as he is with his rap skills, there will be more beer flowing freely around the country this month.
Argentina - Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi of Argentina (Photo by Shaun Botterill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images / Photo courtesy of FIFA
The whole world of football knows Argentina's favorite player, Lionel Messi. He is recognized by many as the best player of his generation, having awarded the World Player of the Year 4 times in 4 years and winning every major club trophy at Camp Nou. Back home, Lionel's fame is as ubiquitous as asados. He is regarded as the heir apparent to the throne left vacant by football legend Diego Armando Maradona, who has praised Lionel. The Argentina star is under pressure to perform at the FIFA World Cup 2014 but all bets are him to shine.
France - Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba of France / Photo courtesy of Fédération Française de FootballCity Council
The French are not only big on good food and wine but also increasingly on Paul Pogba. Touted as one of the best ball handlers in the world, this midfielder can play both attack and defense with ease and efficiency. With his growing fame in Europe and prowess on the field, fans in France can't wait for Paul to steal the show in Brazil. Now I can't seem to enjoy my French truffles without a friend talking Paul Pogba shop in Paris.
Australia - Mile Jedinak
Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) / Photo courtesy of FIFA
It used to be about AFL, NRL and Cricket. Suddenly conversations with Aussie mates in Sydney and Melbourne are all about their team of young players heading off to Brazil and delivering the best game of their lives. I can't even escape the World Cup topic while hiding out in Hobart. The current favorite is Socceroos captain Michael John Jedinak or Mile Jedinak who has 100 football matches under his shoe. If anyone can make something happen for Australia at the World Cup, they reckon its Mile.
Chile - Alexis Sánchez
Alexis Sanchez of Chile (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) / Photo courtesy of FIFA
You would think that the Chileans you meet at the Good Food & Wine Show in Melbourne would be talking non-stop about their country's food and wine. How quickly conversations turn to Chile's opportunity in the World Cup 2014 and their favorite player Alexis Alejandro Sánchez Sánchez. This popular footballer who plays as a forward or winger for FC Barcelona in La Liga had scored 19 goals this season. Alexis is favored to help take the Chilean national team forward with his precision scoring from wide and through the middle.
Brazil - Neymar
Neymar of Brazil celebrates with Hernanes (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images) / Photo courtesy of FIFA
Brazil is abuzz with World Cup fever, not only as the host country but because football is as much a local staple as feijao. There are too many favorites with Brazilians like Paulinho, David Luiz and Hulk. However Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior has emerged in regular conversations about Brazil's World Cup squad. And its not because the young man is the 3rd highest paid athlete under 25 in the world according to Forbes. Neymar has proven skills and scores on the field. He was the top scorer in the 2011 South American Youth Championship; voted best player in both 2010 and 2011; and awarded the Bronze Ball in the 2011 World Cup. Brazilians believe the other national teams will have to shut down Neymar to win Brazil this year.