Time Out picks the best players from the 2010 World Cup
Cameroon Samuel Eto’o: Samuel Eto’o stands alone as the only mega-star in the team. Regarded as one of the best strikers in the world, he left Barcelona for Inter Milan last summer. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s Alexandre Song and Benoit Assou-Ekotto of Spurs will look to continue their good club form.
South Africa Teko Modise: Though his name might not be familiar to many European football fans, midfielder Teko Modise is widely considered to be the beating heart of his national side. Teko was recently crowned South African Player of the Year after an impressive season with club side Orlando Pirates. It’s likely that after the World Cup he’ll have a string of big-name European clubs vying for his signature.
Mexico Carlos Vela: Despite showing great promise as a youngster with Arsenal, Vela has yet to make an impact on the Premiership. However, the dynamic forward has already proved his worth for his country after helping Mexico win the 2005 FIFA U17 World Championship, scoring five goals in the process. This World Cup gives him the chance to prove his world-class calibre.
Uruguay Diego Forlan: After scoring the winning goal in the 2010 Europa Cup final, Diego Forlan has already proven he’s a big-game player. Uruguayans will be hoping the Athletico Madrid striker’s rich vein of form will continue in South Africa, where he’ll be hoping to add to the 23 goals he’s already tallied for his country.
France Thierry Henry: After the ‘Hand of Gaul’ incident in the play-off against Ireland, Henry will be looking to redeem himself. Taking the captain’s armband is a good start, and he is France’s all-time top goalscorer, plus a veteran of the 1998 World Cup-winning team.
Argentina Lionel Messi: The pint-sized prodigy is widely regarded as the world’s best player. Though he hasn’t yet replicated his domestic form for his country, it’s hard not to expect great things from a man who scored 47 goals for Barcelona in one season. What’s more, Messi is only 22 – here’s a man who really does have the world at his feet.
Nigeria Lukman Haruna: The obvious option would perhaps be Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel, but Time Out is more excited by young talent Lukman Haruna. The Monaco midfielder captained the Nigerian U17s to victory in last year’s World Championship, and if he can transfer any of his dynamism to this tournament, we could witness the birth of a new African football sensation.
Korea Republic Park Ji-Sung: The Manchester United wing has made himself an important player, creating space and opportunities for his teammates. He has World Cup experience, having played in the last two tournaments, and he scored five goals during qualifying. He looks set to be an inspiration in his role as captain.
Greece Theofanis Gekas: The most notable player in the Greek ranks is Theofanis Gekas, who scored 10 goals during qualifying, becoming the top goalscorer in the European Zone. Whether he’ll be as effective against Asian, African and South American opposition, remains to be seen.
England Wayne Rooney: Without doubt the player to watch is Rooney. Really, it’s impossible to take your eyes off him. If this scouse lad is in the mood, there are few people on earth that can stop him from scoring. Keeping him injury free will be England’s biggest worry.
USA Clint Dempsey: Many US players have been snapped up by the European leagues, including striker Clint Dempsey. Currently playing for Fulham, he scored against Juventus in the UEFA Europa League, taking the unlikely London team to the final. England beware.
Algeria Antar Yahia: Yahia is a bit of a hero in Algeria, as he was responsible for the goal that put his team through to the World Cup. Earlier this year he was voted Best Arab Player in a poll created by TV channel MBC.
Slovenia Milivoje Novakovic: This striker plays for club side Cologne, and scored five times in the qualifying stages. His name is often on the score sheet, most recently in a friendly against Qatar.
Germany Bastian Schweinsteiger: A lot of fans’ eyes will be on Bastian Schweinsteiger now Ballack’s out. With 73 caps, he has proven particularly dangerous around the penalty box thanks to his pin-point crosses. He’s also managed to net 19 goals himself.
Australia Tim Cahill: Despite his diminutive stature, Cahill’s massive presence on the pitch makes him crucial to the squad’s success. His well-timed runs and ability in the air make him a serious threat to opposition defences. Cahill was also the first Australian to score in a World Cup.
Serbia Milan Jovanovi: Following disappointing spells at Shakhtar Donetsk and Lokomotiv Moscow, the 29-year-old attacker relaunched his career in Belgium, at Standard Liege. He was Serbia’s leading scorer in the qualifiers and is set to join Liverpool for the 2010/11 season.
Ghana Michael Essien: The midfielder is the beating heart of the Ghana team. A versatile player, Essien can effortlessly switch from defensive midfielder to playmaker. He’s currently recovering from injury, but should
be ready for
Netherlands Wesley Sneijder: The scorer of the acrobatic volley against Italy in Euro 2008, Sneijder has been a key player for Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan.
Denmark Simon Kjaer: Denmark’s hopes lie in defence and, seeing as Liverpool’s Daniel Agger’s youthful promise is in danger of turning into mid-career mediocrity, a lot lies on the shoulders of Simon Kjaer. Champions League regulars Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid have already expressed an interest in buying the blond giant off Palermo, and Tottenham Hotspur failed with an GBP11million (more than Dhs60million) bid to land him in January. A couple of good performances during the World Cup could see blank cheques flying his way.
Japan Shunsuke Nakamura: Nakamura is a lithe attacking midfielder in the Joe Cole mould (only taller). Able to turn the game on its head in the blink of an eye, the former Celtic star now plies his trade with Espanyol.
Italy Gianluigi Buffon: It’s not often you can call a ’keeper a match winner, but, then, it’s not often you find a keeper as unique as Buffon.
Paraguay Roque Santa Cruz: Having had a quiet season for Manchester City, Roque Santa Cruz will hope that a handful of goals and some eye-catching performances could arouse the interest of European clubs, or at least win him a starting place at Eastlands.
New Zealand Ryan Nelsen: After being one of the few shining lights in an otherwise dour season for Premiership team Blackburn Rovers, Nelsen will lead his side by example. For many fans, his will be the only familiar name in a team of relative unknowns.
Slovakia Marek Hamsik: Hamsik has not only become a cult hero at Napoli but is actively being courted by a number of Premiership giants, most recently Chelsea and Man City. Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel has also boosted the Slovak squad by announcing his timely fitness.
Brazil Luis Fabiano: Fabiano helped Brazil triumph against USA in the qualifiers with a spectacular brace of goals. He’ll play a pivotal role for his country – not to mention be a likely source of excitement for neutrals – especially in Group G, which pits Brazil against South Korea, Côte d’Ivoire and Portugal.
Korea DPR Hong Yong-Jo: One of the few players to play internationally, Hong Yong-Jo, currently playing for Rostov FC, captained the side to their current success, scoring four goals in as many games.
Cote D'ivoire Yaya Toure: Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, both of Chelsea, have long been a formidable team up front. But their star-status might well be eclipsed by Barcelona midfielder Yaya Toure. A strong, sturdy player, Yaya holds the midfield together
Portugal Cristiano Ronaldo: Whether you view the world’s most expensive player as the greatest ball artist the game has ever seen or a show pony more interested in trickery, dives, hair cream and mirrors, the former World Player of the Year may have something to prove having basked in the shadow of Lionel Messi for much of the domestic season. While the odds are against Portugal making it all the way to the final – or to the semis – if anyone can carry a team there, it’s Ronaldo.
Spain Xavi Hernandez: It’s difficult to choose one standout player from the Spain squad. However, at a push, we’d pick Xavi – the midfield maestro with quick feet and even quicker thinking. He’s the beating heart of the team – his quick passing and deft touch ensures that Spain’s target men, Fernando Torres and David Villa, always have plenty to work with.
Switzerland Alexander Frei: The captain will be out to show he can cut it on the world stage. Frei bagged an impressive five goals in nine qualification matches and has a notable tally of 40 goals in 71 international matches. The Swiss version of Alan Shearer, some might say.
Honduras Wilson Palacious: A feisty box-to-box
midfielder who would make it into most
Palacious has proved himself in The English Premier League –
arguably the world’s toughest league – and has already clocked up appearances for Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic, and is now playing for Tottenham Hotspur. Tottenham paid Wigan GBP14-
million for Palacious’s services, which is a good approximation of his worth to the national side.
Chile Humberto Suazo: This 28-year-old, currently on the books at Mexican club Monterrey, topped the South American qualifying round with 10 goals – not easy with Brazil and co around. He’ll be keen to show off his talents and earn himself a lucrative contract in Europe. Suazo is not the only one to watch, though; Chile has a number of players who could catapult themselves to stardom with positive performances in SA.