Players to watch out for
With just days left for the FIFA World Cup 2010, we profile the players who could make a big impact on the field.
Every four years, the world comes together to celebrate 'Greatness on Greens' as the best in the world of football clash against each other in the FIFA World Cup. This year the carnival travels to the continent of Africa for the first time and there are a wide variety of players who will showcase their skills.
Most of these players belong to footballing powerhouses who will fight for supremacy in this showpiece event. With the entire world glued to their TV sets, every player would want to prove his worth and take home the coveted trophy. So as the football fever begins, we take a look at some of the players who can be crucial for their team's chances in the World Cup this time.
Their individual brilliance and presence on the pitch is a testament of the quality that they possess. Let it be a striker or a mid-fielder or a defender, each and every player in this list has already proved himself at the club and country level and a good performance in South Africa will help them conquer a lifetime's joy.
It was on October 19, 2002 that most of the world first became aware of Wayne Rooney.
A stunning, last-minute winner against Arsenal had the Sky Television commentator breathlessly exorting viewers to "remember the name," of the homegrown Everton youngster who, five days short of his 17th birthday, had just become the youngest goalscorer in Premier League history.
That particular record has since been eclipsed but there have been plenty of other milestones to takes its place on YouTube or in the Rooney family scrapbook.
Less than two years after that first goal, Rooney was on his way to Manchester United in a 30-million-pound transfer that made him the most expensive teenager in football history.(AFP PHOTO)
Regarded as the conductor of the orchestra for club and country, midfielder Xavi Hernandez is often an unsung hero for Barcelona and Spain.
His importance cannot be underestimated with his simple, yet highly effective, passing crucial to make Spain tick and he will have to be at his best if the European champions are to go all the way at the 2010 World Cup finals.(AFP PHOTO)
The latest in a long line of elegant, attacking Brazilian full-backs, Maicon will approach the World Cup looking to embellish his reputation as the finest right-back in the modern game.
The 28-year-old's superb performances for both Inter Milan and his national side mean that the retirement of former Brazil great Cafu after the last World Cup has not been too keenly felt by the five-time champions.
Dutch winger Arjen Robben may well light up the World Cup in Oranje in South Africa, but he arrives in the Republic after a stellar season in the red of Bayern Munich.
Robben has scored 23 goals for Bayern this season and each of his strikes against Fiorentina, Manchester United and Lyon played a large part in getting the German giants to the Champions League final.(AFP PHOTO)
Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo is the archetype of the modern attacking player.
Blessed with blistering pace, immense physical strength and bewildering technical dexterity with both feet, the 25-year-old is also courageous in the air and possesses a thunderous shot.
Ability and hard work have turned him into one of the most recognisable athletes on the planet and his stock shows no sign of falling after a largely successful first year at Real Madrid.(AFP PHOTO)
Thierry Henry has ridden a seemingly smooth path through a wave of criticism to be the sole survivor of France's victorious 1998 team to travel to South Africa for this year's World Cup.
Henry, a widely-respected poster-boy in the world of football who has appeared alongside Tiger Woods and Roger Federer in adverts, was guilty of an outrageous handball that ultimately secured France's spot at the June 11-July 11 finals.(AFP PHOTO)
Liverpool forward Fernando Torres has seen injuries blight his season and Spain will hope their star forward can make a full recovery following knee surgery and get match sharpness back in time to spearhead his country's attack at the World Cup.
Torres scored the winning goal in Spain's Euro 2008 final win over Germany to help his country lift a first major honour since 1964 and confirm his status as one of the most deadly strikers on the planet.
However, his build-up to the South Africa showpiece has been ruined by injuries and he has not played since injuring his knee in the Europa League match against Benfica on April 8.(AP PHOTO)
South Africa football talisman Steven Pienaar has come a long way since cowering on the floor of his childhood home to ensure he was not hit by a stray bullet.
He was voted Everton Player of the Year last week, testimony to accurate passing and a high work rate that triggered media speculation of a move to champions Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur.
And after a short end-of-season break to recharge batteries drained by a punishing English season, Pienaar will join his international team-mates and Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira at their Johannesburg base.(AFP PHOTO)
After he destroyed Arsenal with a four-goal salvo in the Champions League, the world's best footballer reverted to type and scurried shyly from the scene to escape the welter of eulogies which rained down in his wake.
Lionel Messi had, not for the first time at club level, delivered.
If the diminutive genius they call the "atomic flea" had spiked the Gunners with a full catalogue of mazy runs and dribbles and rapier accuracy, he also knows how to use his head - as Manchester United can testify after the Argentine nodded the clincher in the 2009 Champions League final.(AFP PHOTO)
Four years after his dream World Cup debut, France's Franck Ribery travels to South Africa hoping a stellar display will help eclipse a nightmare season filled with injury and scandal.
The 27-year-old made his France debut just before the 2006 World Cup and played a leading role in getting France to the final, including scoring a superb individual goal with trademark flare in the last 16 win over Spain.(AFP PHOTO)
With dyed blonde hair, a self-avowed "big mouth" and a hunger for scoring goals, CSKA Moscow rookie Keisuke Honda is the rising star in Asia's World Cup contingent.
He has emerged from the shadow of former Celtic man Shunsuke Nakamura in Japan but still has some way to go before matching South Korea and Manchester United winger Park Ji-Sung as the continent's brightest talent.(AFP PHOTO)
Brazilian midfield star Kaka will be doubly keen to land World Cup glory with Brazil after admitting to a hit-and-miss first season with Real Madrid.
Injuries and some tepid form have meant the jury is still out on the 65 million-euro signing from AC Milan, whose contributions, even when fully fit, have been less than spectacular.
As Kaka admitted recently: "I'm not happy with my performances, but it's all physical. I suffered a lot since I got injured.(AFP PHOTO)
With France plagued by scandal, an unpopular coach and a key players lacking form and fitness, Patrice Evra is one of the few members of their squad who will go to the World Cup at the top of his game.
The Manchester United left-back has established himself as one of the world's pre-eminent full-backs since moving to England in January 2006 and has amassed a wealth of silverware during his time at Old Trafford.
A small, athletic defender, Evra is as effective going forwards as he is in reverse and his form in recent seasons has forced Raymond Domenech to deploy Barcelona's Eric Abidal -- whose club coach Pep Guardiola describes him as "the best left-back in the world" -- in central defence.(AFP PHOTO)