|The 2010 Soccer World Cup is upon us. Here we discuss the five key players to look out for in South Africa, in no particular order.
1. Wayne Rooney
A young player who is already on the track to earning a place as one of the great strikers of his time, and perhaps one of England’s greatest in memory, Rooney first came to worldwide attention in the last World Cup, in which his blurring speed, shooting ability and ruthless passion for the game and for victory cemented his place as a global name. Since then, he has led Manchester United to three straight EPL titles, and this season alone has 14 goals to his name. His second World Cup may be his chance to help his country win its first since ’66, and whatever the outcome, he will be a key component of his team.
2. Lionel Messi
Like Rooney, Messi burst on to the world scene in the ’06 Cup, scarcely 18 years old. His speed and incredible technical prowess led Argentina to the quarter-finals, and since then he has been an essential weapon in Barcelona’s arsenal, cutting through defenders and scoring brilliant goals like the leaping header that secured their Champions’ League victory over United. No one can play football like Lio Messi. Like Rooney, he made his mark with his first World Cup, and now that he is an established star, the world looks forward to his second.
3. Gianluigi Buffon
After two young players, we stop to consider an older one. While Buffon surely has years left in his career before he even considers giving up his spot between posts, he is a veteran player whose experience playing for Italy and Juventus should serve him well. Considered by many to be the best keeper on the planet, he certainly has a reputation to uphold, and his performance will have eyes around the world watching.
4. Bastian Schweinsteiger
A brilliant German midfielder, Schweinsteiger was a standout in the ’06 World Cup, proving himself one of the best long-range shooters on earth, particularly with his hat-trick in the third place match against Portugal. He is one of Bayern Munich’s backbone players, with only a few goals to his name this season but countless assists and the center of much of Bayern’s attacking play. Germany will be relying on his play side-by-side with Klose, Ballack and Lahm to go far in 2010.
5. Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba has proven himself to be one of the world’s most capable finishers, and his power and control are a large contributing factor in Chelsea’s rampage through the EPL this season. With a massive 14 goals this season for the Blues and an incredible ability to muscle past defenders and slot home narrow shots, Ivory Coast will look to Drogba to lead them far on their native continent.