Only 15 more days

So, here we are, little over two weeks from the start of the first ever World Cup to be held on African soil.

In recent weeks I have given you an insight into some of the world-class players missing out on the tournament, but what about those who are going?

I have chosen three players who you may not know about, all of whom I have tipped for stardom at this year’s tournament.

1. Keisuke Honda (Japan and CSKA Moscow)

Honda will turn 24 the day before Japan’s World Cup opener against Cameroon, and few would put it past him to celebrate with a goal. The talented midfielder has a superb left foot and brilliant footwork, reminiscent of Alvaro Recoba in his pomp, and a flurry of fine goals for Dutch side VVV-Venlo earned him a move to CSKA Moscow this season. Having been given a taste of Champions League football at his new club, Honda is more than capable of excelling on the biggest stage in this summer. Japan have few others like him at their disposal, so coach Takeshi Okada will hope the rising star can bring the best out of his team-mates in South Africa.

2. Miroslav Stoch (Slovakia and Chelsea)

Fans of Chelsea will be aware of the ability of this young winger, having seen him turn out for the Blues in six league and cup ties. Last season he was farmed out on loan to Steve McLaren’s FC Twente side, scoring 10 goals as his adopted side raced to the Eredivisie title. At only 20 years of age, ‘Miňo’ surely has his best years ahead of him, but if he is given his chance to shine this summer he can pose a threat to even the tightest of defences. An immensely talented footballer, Stoch made his professional debut at the age of 16, and will look to continue his meteoric rise in Slovakia’s first ever World Cup appearance.

3. Eren Derdiyok (Switzerland and Bayer Leverkusen)

A few eyebrows were raised when Derdiyok was named in the Swiss squad for Euro 2008. He became the youngest player in the tournament when he replaced West Ham star Valon Behrami in the opening defeat against the Czech Republic, but aside from that he struggled to leave his mark on the tournament. Since then he has moved to the Bundesliga, netting an impressive 12 goals in 20 games for Leverkusen. Not bad for someone who will not turn 22 until next month. A striker of Turkish descent, Derdiyok is one of Switzerland’s best natural goalscorers to emerge in recent years, and his country will be relying on him to form a productive partnership with captain Alexander Frei as fellow striker Blaise Nkufo nears ever closer to retirement.

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