Who To Watch at the 2010 WORLD CUP

This summer the world’s greatest footballers will be on display in South Africa. Different from club football, players will have the weight of an entire nation on their shoulders. All 32 teams that qualified for this summer’s tournament displayed loads of talent on the pitch, and banded together for the chance to represent their countries. They will play the beautiful game at the very highest of levels. It is the honor of Whitsport to present you with a list of the top players from each team to watch this summer:

GROUP A:

South Africa: as the host nation, the focus will be on the team as a whole. Only few players stand out, like Steven Pienaar and Aaron Mokoena, but it’s midfielder Bernard Parker who will likely be the one to watch, after he scored the only two goals RSA recorded in last summer’s Confederations Cup.

Mexico: outside of the “friendly” confines of El Stadio Azteca, El Tri have a fairly average record, but what was once an aging squad looks much revamped this year, with just a handful of players over 30. One player to watch may be 21-year old Javier Hernandez. With just 11 caps to his name, “El Chicarito” has already scored 7 goals, and recently agreed to a deal to play with Manchester United.

Uruguay: they may boast the first World Cup title, but this South American troop was one of the last teams to qualify for this year’s World Cup. Despite their limited projections, they feature one of the hottest strikers around, Diego Forlan, who is fresh off a two goal performance in his Europa League title winning match.

France: while Thierry Henry grabbed all the headlines in Les Bleus’ final qualification match against Ireland, and Franck Ribery steals the remainder for his off-the-field issues, the up and coming star to watch for France will be Yoann Gourcuff. The 23-year old midfielder has thrived at Bordeaux, and has been touted as the next Zidane… let’s just make sure the head-butting incidents are avoided this time around.

GROUP B:

Argentina: the name’s Messi, Lionel Messi. It reads just like a spy, although the Barcelona wizard will not be sneaking up on anyone this summer. The player who has been quoted as “playing football with Jesus” is established, and much will be expected of him, as he headlines Maradona’s troops on the pitch. Despite some struggles in qualification, Argentina will have some help on the pitch from guys like Mascherano, Higuain, and Aguero.

Nigeria: as I mulled over the possibilities of Nigeria making it to the knockout stage, I assessed their defensive options, finding some shortcomings; but after taking a look at their offensive record, I realized that they had some talent and experience up front. Experienced midfielder Peter Odemwingie leads the African squad down the continent into familiar territory.

South Korea: Two Cups ago, South Korea impressed the masses by knocking Italy and Spain out of the World Cup. Only problem is that away from home, the Korea Republic has been inconsistent. Captain Ji-Sung Park will lead an assault, which may have some trouble in the group. They will need to rely on stealth defensive play to stop opposing attacks.

Greece: appear to be in a group that they may just succeed in. Their lack of size has hurt them against teams like Switzerland. Speaking of being in the right place at the right time… Theofanis Gekas, has a knack of doing just that, and looks to add to the 10 goals he tallied in qualifying.

GROUP C:

England: with all eyes on the young Lions this summer, the spotlight falls on Wayne Rooney. A nation sobbed when David Beckham tore his Achilles and was ruled out for what would have been his 4th World Cup, it’s up to the young striker to lead the Lions up front. The most critiqued man in the UK, Fabio Capello has tough choices to make in terms of whom to send out on the pitch; the Man United striker will be out there, no questions asked.

United States: despite Landon Donovan leading the charge, and calming critics during his time at Everton, the U.S. boasts another star making waves across the pond. Midfielder Clint Dempsey has excelled against top class opposition, and has scored some clutch goals in international play. With the now experienced Tim Howard in net, the US may have the balanced team needed to make it out of a deceivingly tough group.

Algeria: although their fans have booed them, and pundits are proclaiming them as the weakest side in Group C. Algeria’s chances largely rely on Madjid Bougherra, who must come back from an injury if he is to continue to score clutch goals for his underdog side.

Slovenia: with their impressive defensive record (allowing just 4 goals in qualifying), the Slovenian side is heavily reliant on their goalkeeper, Samir Handanovic, who has impressed at Serie A side Udinese, and internationally. The 6’4” net-minder has seemed like a wall at times during his career.

GROUP D:

Germany: With Michael Ballack out for the tournament, the German side loses their ageless captain who has led them into battle for the last 2 World Cups. Die Mannschaft will now rely on Lukas Podolski on the attack, as strike partner, and former Golden Boot winner, Miroslav Klose’s star begins to fade.

Australia: Robbed against Brazil in 2006, and with a well played group stage fixture last go around, the Socceroos might be out for revenge. Attacking midfielder Tim Cahill leads the boys from down under into familiar territory, a group in which they are not the favorites to advance. Against two imposing European giants, the Aussies will rely on their scrappy mentality to steal some goals along the way, and who better to help than the popular Evertonian.

Serbia: The big bodied Serbians will look to push around the smaller teams in the group. Defender Nemanja Vidic, who is now experienced on the biggest of stages, will lead the troops, and is also a threat on set-pieces. Milan Jovanovic will also look to set things right on the attack.

Ghana: as Michael Essien misses his chance to return to a side where he is the most recognizable name, his recent injured status thrusts the workload upon teammates. Attacking midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah impressed in this years African Cup of Nations and the 21 year old, looks to set off some fireworks in his first World Cup

GROUP E:

Netherlands: divisional favorites are young and fairly inexperienced at the world level. Some would argue that they have no stand-out superstar, but Arjen Robben would beg to differ. His stellar performance and ability to look like a rocket on the wing for Bayern Munich showed his impact on any given match. If he can continue his recent form, the Dutch are a dangerous side coming out of Group E.

Denmark: a centerpiece of the under-rated Danish team, Christian Poulsen will be the key to stopping opposing attacks. The defender is even more crucial in pushing the ball forward as Denmark will need to excel in transition in order to find the back of the net.

Japan: several things will need to go right in order for the Samurai to advance from the group; they’ll need to defend well against quicker and bigger opponents, and they’ll need to stick to their counter attacking formula.  Former Celtic winger Shunsuke Nakamura will look to bury a few set-piece opportunities and steal an upset or two in South Africa.

Cameroon: with Samuel Eto’o looking like one of the only sources of goal-scoring, the Lions may have trouble if he’s not on his top form. The mix of young and old may not be a formula for success this year, but possibly in tournaments to come.

GROUP F:

Italy: the defending champions will field a side missing a few key pieces from their victories 4 years ago. Without Fabio Grosso and Francesco Totti, Italy appears to usher in a more youthful side featuring guys like Giuseppe Rossi and Giorgio Chiellini. Overall, veteran striker Alberto Gilardino will try and propel the Azzurri to glory once again.

Paraguay: with a few recognizable names on the roster, the South Americans could look to a variety of players to steal the show. Due to the loss of Salvador Cabañas (narrowly survived a shooting in January) and lack of form for striker Roque Santa Cruz, the spotlight turns to Oscar Cardozo.

Slovakia: a young team in footy standards, as they make their first World Cup appearance. The Slovaks have little to show on their resumes, but a youthful core of guys you’ve never heard of may surprise in a weak group. Marek Hamsik impressed in Serie A with Napoli, and picked up his first cap in November. He could be one of the breakout stars of this year’s tournament.

New Zealand: in only their second ever world cup appearance… the Kiwis have very little going for them, aside from getting to play in the lower Southern Hemisphere. Captain Ryan Nelsen will lead the defense in a group where the All Whites have a slim chance of advancing.

GROUP G:

Brazil: as the odds on favorite to win the tournament almost every year, you can be sure to find plenty of big names on this squad. One glaring omission is Ronaldinho, and without the experienced pace-setter, the Brazilian squad is looking at a slightly weaker group than normal. While they will look for Kaka and Robinho to get back in form, Luis Fabiano will be the man to find the back of the net this summer.

North Korea: with political issues and the Group of Death staring them in the face, the tumultuous nation will rely on Captain Hong Yong-Jo, who plays in the Russian Premier League and has seen more of European play than anyone else on the Korean squad.

Ivory Coast: most people would immediately point to Didier Drogba, and they’d be right to do so. But the big forward’s broken arm has left his teammates with the burden of scoring goals.Familiar faces like Eboue, Toure, and Kalou will be highlighted, but Didier Zokora will be all over the pitch, and will be crucial in this competitive group.

Portugal: after making the Cup by the skin of their teeth, Portugal fans wonder about their chances in the toughest group. Regardless, everyone on the planet knows that the man to watch will be Cristiano Ronaldo. Even Homer Simpson could tell you that… Ronal-DOH!

GROUP H:

Spain: in one of the least competitive groups, the Spaniards enter the World Cup as favorites to grab their first ever World Cup title. Their impressive squad features names like David Villa, Torres, Fabregas, and Puyol, but anyone that follows La Liga knows that Xavi is the man that makes La Roja vamos!

Switzerland: two-time Coach of the Year Ottmar Hitzfield uses a blend of old school style and 21st century strategy. His leadership will attempt to reproduce the result of not allowing any goals at the last World Cup; only this time, the Swiss want to advance to the knockout stage. To do this, they’ll need to bag some goals this time around. Captain Alexander Frei could help with this task.

Honduras: with older players on attack, and younger guys on the defense, Honduras will have trouble with the European teams in Group H. As all time leading scorer Carlos Pavon closes in on 100 caps, he’ll also try and add a few more goals to the career tally.

Chile: despite looking like a solid team during CONMEBOL qualifying, Chile still lacks that outright threat on the pitch. This young team is still surely capable of knocking off teams at high altitudes, and speedy striker Alexis Sanchez will look to find goal on more than one occasion. P.S. he’s only 21 years old.

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One Response to Who To Watch at the 2010 WORLD CUP

  1. Pingback: Who to watch in English Football this year « Whit's Sport Weblog

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