Five rojiblancos to watch at the World Cup

Grant Coutts looks at five of our own that travelled to Brazil

The setting for 2014's FIFA World Cup(pic: Telegraph)

The setting for 2014's FIFA World Cup
(pic: Telegraph)

It feels like Christmas to many football fans, the most highly-anticipated World Cup in over a decade is here at last.

Among the exciting talent on show in Brazil are a handful of rojiblancos, eager to help take their respective countries as far as possible. Join me as I run through my five top Atlético players on show in South America (excluding Diego Costa, who has already packed his bags. The others – we’re not so sure.)

Koke – It is no surprise the skilled midfielder made Del Bosque’s 23 man squad, after he enjoyed his best season in an Atletico Madrid shirt to date. How big of a part Koke will play for Spain this year, we will have to wait to find out.

One thing is for sure – he is more than capable of causing numerous problems for opposing teams and may very well unlock defenses the way he has many times for Atleti this season.

Thibaut Courtois – Belgium have an excellent squad of players, and are expected to be this years ‘Dark Horses’. If they live up to expectations, Thibaut will almost certainly have his reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in world football. Three years on since replacing David de Gea, Courtois has become one of the biggest prospects in world football.

The shot-stopper has been exceptional all year, and it is expected that he will shine on the big stage as he has done so often for Atleti this season. He may not truly be an Atleti player – but he is undoubtedly a rojiblanco at heart.

Diego Godin – Super Diego Godin from Uruguay has been absolutely magnificent, not only in the final weeks of Atleti’s historic season, but consistently over the whole year. A vital part of perhaps the best defence in Europe, leaking only 26 domestic goals, Godin will be looking to replicate his club form. Solid at the back, and a huge aerial threat -he will be a tricky player to get past if any nation want to overcome Uruguay.

Cristian Rodriguez – Another player that could be an exciting asset to the World Cup is Cristian Rodriguez. ‘Little onion’ may not have the talent of his compatriots in Edison Cavani or Luis Suarez, but he will still have an important role in Uruguay’s campaign.

The winger will hope to be a thorn in the side of England, Costa Rica and Italy – their first round opposition in Brazil.

Juanfran Torres – The 29 year old will have to wait and see if he gets the nod ahead of Cesar Azpilicueta. If he does, he will have to continue the superb form he displayed this season. His awareness and defensive capabilities have improved hugely over the past few seasons at the Calderon.

Still somewhat underrated, it is unlikely he will star in a Spanish side that contains the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Diego Costa, but his role as a full back will be massive and his discipline may be something La Roja can benefit from this year if they want to win their fourth consecutive major trophy!

Over the next 30 days we will see an array of footballing talent. Sixty-four matches, thirty-two nations, and only one winner, but the question is, will we witness a World Cup winner at the Calderon next season?

  • I can see Thibaut’s stock rising even higher after this World Cup – if it can get any bigger!

    Koke too – I hope he really shines for Spain and plays ahead of Busquets.

  • Ringo ST Gambo

    That embarked hilariously

    Thats what you get for not playing Koke hehe

  • Atleti

    You forgot Jose Maria Gimenez

  • starvs

    After that failstrosity by Spain wouldn’t be surprised to see Koke and Juanfran play, so that is good. De Gea too, he should at least, but VDB may be to loyal to Iker…

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    You forgot about Toby… Come on

  • Brad

    Juanfran better get a start. I guess del Bosque didn’t notice that he was a part of the best defense in la Liga this season!

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Angel Correa is to undergo a heart surgery
    but Atleti did not buy a sick player, they knew about his condition and they had an agreement with San Lorenzo that they will not pay anything until he is fully recovered

    I wish he has a successful surgery and a fast recovery, but I want to focus on one point :
    the press just knew about this now,
    another reminder that they usually don’t have a clue about a lot of things, most of their reports are just speculations

    and since I already wrote a comment, did anybody else felt very happy like me for the “manita” Spain got from Netherlands ?!
    some would say it’s odd since you are an Atleti fan, but others could argue that Atleti is never treated as a Spanish club in Spain, in best cases, they are treated as a second-class citizen !

    I only know one Dutch person here, Ringo,
    and despite that he doesn’t care a lot about his country’s national team (as he mentioned before) I must say congrats man !

    Football owe Netherlands a world cup title .. maybe this year she finally decided to pay its debt !!

  • BlasiusMagnus

    as a hungarian my favourite NT is netherlands since 2000. loved that team with kluivert, cocu, de boer bros, davids, overmars, etc on board. i still like the dutch team, but not that much. hell, i barely know these new players.
    i expected a 2-0, 2-1 victory for spain, but boy… i was laughin so haaard when robben scored his goals. the defence was chaos. xavi is slow. costa is… dirty. casillas is a joke. i felt bad for koke, and juanfran. but spain really deserved it after all these succesfull years, just like barcelona.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I only knew van Persie, Rubben, Sneijder & de Jong, and I saw Kuijt & Huntelaar on the bench .. I expected a 2-2, but man, van Persie & Rubben played one the best games in their entire careers

    I’m sure many Dutch fans were saying “if only Ruben scored one of those goals in 2010 final” !

    Costa was dirty .. I thought he will be different in the world cup where he won’t suffer the provocations he suffers in La Liga, but looks like he is just a dirty person
    He will never change, especially if he played under another dirty person like Mourinho

    Casillas was a joke, but it wasn’t his fault, it was the fault of who played him

    Keeping Spain’s goal is not his birth right !
    You can’t be a sub at your club and a starter (and a captain) at your national team .. I knew his mistake against us in UCL final won’t be his last

    But I do not feel bad for Koke & Juanfran, in fact I feel happy for them, I didn’t wan’t to see them with a side that lost 5-1
    actually, I believe if they have played, the biased Spanish media and the idiot Real & Barca fans would have blamed them for the defeat

  • colcho

    * Robben
    I agree with every word man.

    I saw Holland’s player BLIND (he got 2 assists VS Spain) a few times this season and he is awsome! He’ll fit Atleti like a glove.

  • Ringo ST Gambo

    Haha thanks I guess, though I still dont care about the term country. Did you know Derek is dutch too?
    I do like the squad the Dutch have though, quite some talent in the players. And I’ve always liked Van Persie and Robben.

    About Daley Blind, a lot of Dutch folks were angry he or Kongolo (feyenoord player) was picked over Van Aanholt, I guess they aren’t now.

    I wasn’t sad for Spain, mainly because Koke wasn’t on the pitch. Maybe his time has come finally

  • Nam Hoang
  • Ringo ST Gambo

    “I had the right to choose, so the public also have the right to boo me.”

    some nice words, in my opinion, respecting their opinion and actions coming along with them.

  • Palantine

    The more I watch Alderweild, the less I am convinced by him. Hope he improves with time and matches.

  • Kris

    Ummmm… With Courtois most likely leaving,,,, sign Ochoa maybe since he doesn’t even have a fucking CONTRACT right now? Thank you.

  • Chewie

    The guy is a genius. With him playing like this we will forget Courtois very soon.

  • Alex21

    I watched the Belgium game twice today. The first time, I wasn’t really engaged in individual players performances. I saw the team as a whole. Belgium was sloppy in the first hour of the game until Fellaini came on. He truly made a worlds difference – Belgium eventually finished with the result that was expected. Then I watched the game to see individual players performances, in particular Toby, Lukaku, De Bruyne, and Vertonghen. Lukaku had some poor first touches, yet I didn’t think the team was able to give him enough chances to prove himself in the game. Ultimately Oriji came in and was able to use the tired Algerian defense and his pace to his advantage whereas Lukaku could not. I thought Romelu played well do to the chances and off the ball movement however. De Bruyne had a poor first 45. The second got better with his vision and execution – not to mention the equalizing assist. And here’s the kicker – Toby and Vertonghen. Both play in the center for their club and they played opposite of each other on the wings for their country. Vertonghen played much better for me than Toby even with the penalty conceded. The only thing exciting Toby did was keep the ball in play with his head on a long cross from a winger, that’s really it. His passes were poor, his touches were poor, and most importantly, his defense was horrid. It was like he was playing man-to-man defense in basketball. He would run up behind the attacker, stab at the ball, miss, and get blown by only to have Van Buyten or Kompany save his ass. Is this really who we want to replace Miranda if he leaves? Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but I didn’t see anything that was in the slightest hopeful. Vertonghen on the other hand was able to cross the ball and move up the pitch with Hazard quite effectively. His presence was known and I felt he shut the right side down pretty efficiently as well. I hope there is more left in the tank for Toby since he is an Atleti player and I want to see him excel, but at this very moment, I am a little skeptical about him. I’d almost rather see Giménez play than Toby and I’ve seen José play for one game earlier in the year. I sure hope I stand to be corrected guys.

    Atleti Forever.

  • Mrtn

    I’m watching the game the second time right now and I just have to disagree: Toby showed some good skills on the ball, while Vertonghen just refuses to play as a full back. In the first half he just refused to follow the attacks, Hazard and Witsel are searching for a left wing but Vertonghen is just walking 20 m behind them.
    IMO the whole Belgian team underperformed, very bad team-play, very bad individual efforts, very bad selection from Wilmots (Chadli starts while Mertens and Mirallas subs), and disharmony in the team: they are fighting each other, shouting at each other the whole game. Lukaku particularly seems to be nervous and out-of-shape.
    Toby isn’t close to being neither a top central defender nor a top fullback, but he could be a good sub for both positions.

  • Mrtn

    yes, Ochoa… he was fantastic yesterday, he is also a constant player as he also delivers in Ligue1 for years, but I read a few times already that he is in advanced talks with Milan.
    I think we should get Willy Caballero or Keylor Navas. Navas has the best reflexes, but I still prefer Willy.
    I am confident that any keeper would shine with a defence like ours. I don’t say that Thibu isn’t good, but he made a few mistakes in the second half of this year, he is far from being perfect (yet).

    And we should not forget that if Courtois is Chelseas Nr1. than there is a very top keeper in the market: Cech.

  • I’m watching Netherlands x Australia here. Netherlands is just like an Atlético de Madrid with Arjen Robben. They defend strongly and are fast in counter.. Both great coaches… Man U will be tough from this season..

  • Funny reading this now but he was linked with Atletico 6 years ago:
    He has always been my first sign playing Football Manager 🙂

  • AndersAT

    Screw Spain. If they don’t use the two best spanish players in there position, in the league this season (Koke and Juanfran) then they deserve to get beaten blue and red (Barca). Btw have any of you been following Oliver Torres’ progress in Villareal? I would love to se him partner up with Koke, Arda, Mario and Gabi next season.

  • Kris

    Del Bosque has lost it. Lmao.

  • Brad

    For some reason he figured “Let’s not start players from the best team in la Liga”

    My girlfriends dad thinks it’s because he wants to give them a chance to get back to Spain for Felipe’s coronation if they want to XD

  • Kris

    Atletico players should remember that Simeone made them in to what they are. Without him, they are like what Costa was today lmao. Spain are out of the World Cup and I don’t feel sorry for them at all. Brazil might also pay the price for not taking two of the best defenders in the planet in Filipe and Miranda. I know they are wanting a leave too, but you have to give credit to them for being such a beast of a back line. I have a feeling that all these players that leave Atleti will flop because, I don’t really believe it was them playing themselves to the best but El Cholo being there for them, guiding them to play their best.
    WELL done Chile.

  • Ash

    Well, Villa, Juanfran, Koke, and Diego Costa are now all out….pity Juanfran didn’t even had a chance to play…this is probably his last World Cup trip.

  • AaX

    Strike Two and Spain is Out !! Their time has ceased and started when Casillas is losing his magic touch thanks to Portuguese Mourinho. But Spain failed to recognized the important presence of Atleti players that will close vital opportunities and space very very well in critical matches like these unlike others.

    When Koke is playing Spain did not concede! (I did not include Costa as Atleti’s, Only Chelsea bound traitors will end up playing that way). Anyways no Atleti players played and suffer in any part of a losing match.
    And most Real players truly suffers 4 goals defecits both in Salvador. Payback is coming.

    I have been the supporter of La Furia Roja since 1997 but their time as passed when they decide to win the last Euro and wanting more to dfend the World Cup after that is at the least very much short minded and laughable. When they celebrated the Euro Finals, I was sad knowing they will not be achieving any in Brasil. And The Heavens has shown That.

    Forza Atleti !!

    (Should have played Juanfran over Azpicuelta and Koke over Busquets at the very beginning, but what do you expect from Madrid, so now don’t reject the consequences because it was Atletico that has started this revolution in the very beginning with Luis Aragones and Fernado Torres)



  • Ahmad Hossainy

    from what I read everyday in Spanish press, it looks like that Oliver is staying with Villareal for another season

    I wish they’re wrong .. he needs to start partnering up with Koke & Arda right away

    I just can’t understand Simeone on this point, he gave Koke a full chance when he was at the same age as Oliver, so why not treat Oli the same way ?!

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    “Chelsea is one of the greatest clubs in the world”
    Diego Costa, 2 days ago

    I can’t remember that he called Atleti “one of the greatest” or at least “great” or even “big” club .. if any of you remember that he said it please tell me
    The only thing I can remember him saying about Atleti is “I’m happy here .. I’m comfortable here”

    I can’t be happier for what happened to Spain, because of benching Koke for a long time and not using Juanfran at all, the best Spanish right back, and using Azpilicueta instead, and especially for Diego Costa

    Many of you called him a flop, and I totally agree
    and this is not the anger talking, I believe I’ve made my opinion about him very clear long time ago
    He only scores the easy goals, they are either from inside the box after great assists from his teammates, or from counter attacks
    He never scores from outside the box, not from open plays or free-kicks,
    how could he even score from free kicks when he can’t score from penalties ?!!

    He was picked by Mourinho only because he is very aggressive and with bad manners
    fits with Mou plans very well !

    I wish we sell him very soon so we can find a better replacement

    Again, this is not the anger talking .. this is my old and genuine opinion.

  • Ali

    Koke over busquets!
    I thought it was xabi Alonso which led to 2 chile goals first he give away possesion and second free kick so I think Alonso should have been benched for koke!
    Sad but true that Australia played better then spain and that Cahill goal simply world class volley and I bet 34 years old was better then costa!

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    He’s going to Porto and I’m upset he’s not being given a chance here

  • Kris

    Oliver is going to Porto for one season. I’m thinking this is a move to let him gain experience in the Champions League.. Come on Cholo,,,, whatever it is, I trust Cholo so this is probably a good move for all three parties.

  • AaX

    ‘He never scores from outside the box, not from open plays or free-kicks,
    how could he even score from free kicks when he can’t score from penalties ?!!’

    ‘He was picked by Mourinho only because he is very aggressive and with bad manners
    fits with Mou plans very well !’

    Well said. Like what was said they CAN’T make any shred part of Atletico out of even the best part of Chelsea. They don’t play at the at ‘The Calderon’ ! they play at the bridge and one of this days it be ‘falling down’, All Down!

  • AaX

    I just think whatever Azpilcueta did Juanfran would definitely do better. First 2 Dutch goals may not be if Juanfran is there to apply pressure and the Chile’s opening, who went from right back up to left central of defence to leave the middle open? Answer : chelsea defender.

  • Ringo ST Gambo

    who are their offensive midfielders right now? Hope he gets the space to improve but is still stimulated to perform at a certain level to stay on pitch.

  • Uruguay will play with Gimenez, Godin and Cebolla in the first team against England today.

    Let’s see how Gimenez performs. If he’s this good already we wont need a backup for Miranda.

  • starvs

    Awesome, Very excited to see Gimenez play. Guess they realized Lugano’s lack of speed was not gonna cut it against England’s fast attack.

  • starvs

    Not too worried about this, I expect Oli to be at a point where he is going to be seriously competing for a starting spot on almost any team, certainly any team looking to take a player on loan.

  • Chewie

    Gimenez was good, certainly more confident and reliable than Toby. And he’s only 19. Cebolla gave his all throughout the match, very much in a way of Atletico. And Godin was solid as always. Overall Uruguay reminded me of Atleti – an overly excited and emotional counterpunching, merciless and uncomfortable team. Hope to see them through to the play-offs.

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    Agreed but I think Toy wasn’t bad in his first match, plus he’s naturally a cb

  • Palantine

    Impressed by Gimenez today, was solid

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I was very happy when I saw Diego Godin captaining a side that has Suarez & Cavani, he is a natural leader, and I’m sure that El Cholo will pick him to fill up Tiago’s spot as a vice captain

    Cebolla was good, but it’s still better for him and for Atleti to find another club

    Gimenez made some mistakes, but considering his very young age and the long time he spent on Atleti bench I must say I was impressed
    I can’t see why not Simeone give him a chance in some easy games like those against Almeria, Granada, Elche, Celta, Getafe and the newcomers : Eibar, Deportivo and one of Las Palmas & Cordoba, at least when we play them at the Calderon
    even if Miranda stayed, he is 30 and Godin is 28, the time to start giving Gimenez a decent number of minutes is now, and he needs to get them with Atleti, not with Rayo !!

    But comparing him to Toby with Belgium is not fair in my opinion,
    Toby plays as a right back with Belgium and not as a central defender

    and against Algeria, he practically played as right winger
    Algeria just laid back and didn’t try to attack very hard, even when they were down by 2-1
    it’s their style, I’ve watched them many times since they are one of Egypt’s rivals, and they are happy with that
    in the last world cup they didn’t score a single goal and yet they were very happy and even bragging because they draw 0-0 with England
    I guess you can’t judge any defender against such team !

  • Brad

    I think that the younger players getting playing time in “easy” matches depends on how the season is going. Last season it seemed like those easy matches were early in the year and they were trying to bury them for goal differential’s sake, or late in the year and not nearly as easy as advertised.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    The goal difference is not the first tie-breaker in La Liga, it’s the head-to-head results
    and yes, some of “on paper easy games” could be in the last weeks of the competition, making them difficult or on best cases not so easy, but I believe Simeone can find at least 7 or 8 games where he can use one or two of our younger players .. he just need to learn how to rotate
    it’s obviously one of his few weaknesses

  • Nam Hoang

    I just wonder why we havent made any bid for Keylor Navas?

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Toby was better today vs Russia than he was vs Algeria, Tibu wasn’t tested too much, but Lukaku was disappointing for the second game in a row
    I believe if Man City would agree to sell us Negredo then we should go for him and forget about Lukaku, we can’t afford him anyway, with Chelsea asking for 38M it will be a loan deal for 1 or 2 seasons, and I guess we are all tired of loan deals

    and suddenly, I hate Negredo no more,
    maybe the season he spent in Manchester made me forget that he is a former Sevillian, or maybe paying 25M for Sevilla was too hard for me
    Now I see him a Vallecano, from that humble but proud neighborhood of Vallecas, the one that gave us many great players, the last of them is Koke

  • Chewie

    Toby was better but he’s definitely not a full-back. Belguim in no way deserved this victory. They pretty much sucked. I was a bit disappointed. However, it’s clear that playing like this, Russia doesn’t deserve to go through. It was a bleak, overly cautious performance. It seems like our players left their cojones at home.

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    Unlike Lukaku Negredo has la liga experience. This is what I meant by players being hyped up by the bpl, I never wanted Lukaku anyway

  • Chewie

    Yeah, I guess watching player highlights on Youtube isn’t the best way to assess him. He was totally unimpressive against Russia yesterday. Suddenly Negredo seems a good candidature. Provided that we do buy another striker or employ one of Baptistao/Correa to their fullest.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    you are Russian, so you must say that 😉
    but from my “neutral” point of view, it would have been unfair if Belgium didn’t win, they dominated the game

    I don’t think Russia can beat Algeria, they are one of the best national teams who can play for a draw and get it

  • Ringo ST Gambo

    Koke <3

    also Juanfran playing, playing well

  • AaX


    DE GEA





    No Goal conceded when Atletico Players played.
    Atletico Juanfran-Villa connection created their FIRST open play (tiki-taka) goal!
    From there on normal game play resume.

    Anyways, Adios Espana.
    Thanks for the Historic Memories.


  • I went yesterday to Maracanã to watch Belgium x Russia. Toby was pretty good but nobody was really tested. Lukaku was awful. He couldn’t control the ball, he didn’t fight for the ball.. He didn’t seem fit.. I don’t know. He already showed he is a lion and can’t be judge by these two matches but Origi was better twice.w

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    I agree. It’s going to be interesting no matter who we buy tho

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    some could argue that those 2 games are actually the real judgment, big games, world cup games, not games against Stoke or Hull or Swansea
    and we can say the same about Costa

  • Gert

    why not go for Origi? The 19 y/o sub that scored for Belgium? Has a huge pace and great technique. Better game view as well as he runs better into spaces and comes ask for the ball (unlike Lukaku who wants to be sent deep in the box)

  • Kris

    MIRANDA WANTS TO LEAVE?? LET HIM LEAVE FOR 25 MILLION, NOTHING LESS! I say this now because we have a great player to replace him in Jose Maria Gimenez who wasn’t given that many chances. He paired absolutely GREAT with Godin for Uruguay in today’s game against Italy!

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    his clause is 30 million, and I wouldn’t accept a single euro less

    however, I’ve been reading in the last few days that he have changed his mind and wants to stay
    but either he stayed or left, Gimenze definitely deserves much more games than the single La Liga game he played this season

    Godin-Gimenze is a very solid partnership

  • Randy Ved Jawahir

    Gimenez had an excellent game today for Uruguay! If Miranda leaves I think Gimenez should be given a chance and we would rotate alderweireld and gimenez more if that is the case