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Five Unsung Heroes of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

06/07/2014 22:59 BST | Updated 04/09/2014 10:59 BST

The World Cup is the stage upon which football's greatest entertainers look to step up to the plate and show their worth to the world.

Everybody knows the famous names of the past and the present, but it can be easy to forget about those who perform brilliantly for their sides without necessarily stealing the show.

Here are five players who have performed incredibly well for their side so far in the World Cup, but have not received the plaudits they deserve:

5. Luiz Gustavo

When you think of Brazil, you immediately think of Pele, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Neymar - technique, skill, flair and excitement. What you don't think of is Luiz Gustavo.

The tireless midfielder embodies the very European principles of good work ethic, positioning, tackling and discipline. Gustavo has plied his trade in Europe for the past seven years and has excelled in his role at every club that he has played for and was unfortunate to be sold by Bayern Munich, a club with incomparable central-midfield depth.

His impact on the national side, however, has perhaps been underrated.

His importance to the side is arguably on a par with the likes of Neymar and Thiago Silva - he provides the platform on which Brazil's attacking talents can flourish.

The fact that he is banned for Brazil's quarter-final against Colombia could be devastating for the home side, especially given James Rodriguez's rise to goalscoring prominence during the tournament.

Without Gustavo to shackle the Monaco man, Brazil could have a very tough challenge on their hands.

4. Rafael Marquez

You would have been forgiven for forgetting that Rafael Marquez still played football at the highest level, having left Europe to play in the MLS in 2010.

Nevertheless, Marquez is still around, turning out for Leon FC in Mexico. During the World Cup, Marquez displayed the sort of class that allowed him to become the first ever Mexican player to win the UEFA Champions League in 2006, fettering Thierry Henry at his peak in the process.

He is an absolute leader on and off the pitch and has captained the Mexican side in the every World Cup since 2002.

The extent of his prowess on the pitch is displayed by the fact that his inevitable lack of pace (he is 35) was a non-issue in all of Mexico's games.

He was instrumental in marshalling the three-man Mexican defence and even popped up with a vital goal against Croatia to put his side 1-0 up in the critical clash between the two sides.

3. Dirk Kuyt

Dirk Kuyt has never been the most aesthetic of players and his career at the top level of football has been based on the fact that he will give his manager 100% in every game and never give up, no matter what the circumstances.

He is also a very versatile player. In the last 16 match against Mexico, he played the first half in the blazing 38 degree sun and was likely looking forward to swapping sides and getting in the shade for the second half.

It wasn't to be, however, as Louis van Gaal switched Kuyt to the other side of the field to face another 45 minutes in the heat that saw many fans abandon their seats to sit in the shade.

Nevertheless, on a day when the likes of Robin van Persie failed to find a way past the solid Mexican defence, it was Kuyt who won the corner that got the Netherlands back into game.

If the Netherlands progress further in the tournament, then it is thanks to Dirk Kuyt's work-rate in the dying stages of a match that his side were looking likely to lose. Without his boundless energy they may already have been heading home.

2. Blaise Matuidi

Another player who gives 100% and runs all over the pitch, Blaise Matuidi adds far more than just work-rate to the French side.

His quality can perhaps be underlined by the fact that he is a regular starter for club PSG, where Yohan Cabaye has struggled to make the first team regularly since his move from Newcastle.

Nevertheless, while Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba have grabbed the headlines for France's successes so far in this World Cup, Matuidi has almost gone under the radar.

The left-footed central midfielder plays in more of a reserved role than Pogba and where his midfield partner Yohan Cabaye dictates the French tempo, Matuidi plays in more of a box-to-box role.

He has excelled so far in the tournament, providing defensive cover while also being a menace going forward. He also chipped in with a goal against Switzerland in the 5-2 drubbing.

1. Keylor Navas

Keylor Navas is a name relatively unfamiliar to those who don't follow La Liga. He plays for Levante and is the side's first-choice goalkeeper.

So far during Brazil 2014, Navas has faced 16 shots on target and has only conceded two goals. One of those goals was an Edinson Cavani penalty in Costa Rica's opening game of the tournament.

Not only this, but he also managed to keep his cool when the pressure was on against Greece as Costa Rica triumphed in the penalty shoot-out that many expected them to lose.

Navas will face his biggest test yet when he comes up against Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, yet he and Costa Rica have shown no fear against any side that they have faced so far.

Navas will hope that he can be instrumental in pulling off another upset at this electrifying World Cup.

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