long way round

12 Players To Watch This World Cup: Part 1

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One thing I'm looking forward to most is seeing how certain players perform at soccer's biggest stage. This is a chance for budding stars to break into the scene. It's also a chance for older athletes to prove that they still have what it takes to change the game. And then for some, it's an opportunity to be grouped with the best of the best, where their exploits will be made into legends and folklore, passed to future generations through Youtube. 

Here are the players that I will be watching closely this World Cup. Right off the bat, there is no Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, or Kaka. I didn't include token USA player Landon Donovan either. People are going to pay attention to them anyway, for their star power, and to see if they can outperform the expectations set upon them. This list of twelve players is mostly to see developing talent (with a few already established players), ones who truly have potential to breakthrough into the top tier of world soccer players, and perhaps those who have quite a story to tell at the world's biggest stage for football. 

Robin Van Persie (Netherlands) 

During Robin Van Persie's first few years at Arsenal, there was an outbound Dutch compatriot legend named Dennis Bergkamp. I suspect those few years together gave Bergkamp the chance to pass on his legacy to an upcoming star. The similarity of their style of play is very striking. 

Although RVP has been injured most of last season, he is still a force to be reckoned with. He is a superb passer and an out and out goal scorer. He has deadly accurate free kicks, and a knack for finding the back of the net from awkward angles. And for a European, he has deft footwork and creative ability to get past defenders… much like the Brazilians. Man, I can't say enough good things about him. I expect team Nederland to perform very well this year, even though they lack a strong defense (as usual). Their scoring options are endless, and as the originators of total football, I expect every match to be amazing to watch. And if RVP shines, then the world will know what Arsenal fans have known for a long time, that what a top class player he is. 

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez (Mexico)

Javier Hernandez, also known as "Chicharito", is Mexico's newest sensation. He's no longer a secret, as Manchester United signed him for an undisclosed fee back in April. At age 22, he is young enough to continue to develop and arrive at his peak around when he's 26. I've seen a few friendlies and didn't think he was on target at all, but still the prospect of him doing well is there. Will he choke in front of the whole world watching? Or will he be laser sharp in front of goal? We'll find out soon enough.

Marek Hamsik (Slovakia)

Everyone is talking about the 23 year old Marek Hamsik these days. Yesterday, he was virtually an unkown footballer, quietly plying his trade in Napoli (who follows Napoli unless they live in Naples?) Today, seems like all the big clubs want him, including money-is-no-object Manchester City. 

He is most often compared with Xabi Alonso, for his passing ability and creative play in the midfield. Slovakia may not have a strong team this time around, but watching Hamsik will be a treat in my opinion. And depending on how he does, he will definitely be bought by a bigger club. Just look at what Euro 2008 did for Arshavin.

Gervinho (Ivory Coast)

Gervinho, also known as Gervais Yao Kouassi, is a Ivory Coast striker that's going to be eager to overcome the shadow of Didier Drobga as a threat from the Elephants this summer. He has an interesting Brazilian name, supposedly a nickname given to him during his youth academy days by a Brazilian coach. He's only 22 so he has a long way ahead of him, and if all the scouting reports are true, he can easily break into a bigger club in Spain or England. I remember rumors of him joining Arsenal a few years back, and although that never materialized, I wouldn't be surprised if other big clubs come knocking on his door depending on the performance of the Elephants in South Africa. 

With the powerful Drogba and Kalou up front, Ivory Coast is going to field an impressive squad with the likes of the Toure brothers, Keita, and the resurgent Aruna Dindane. I don't think Gervinho will start ahead of Kalou and Dindane, but hope when he does, he will deliver a performance everyone will remember.

Guiseppe Rossi (Italy)

Also known in some circles as Il Traditore (the traitor), Guiseppe Rossi actually is a New Jersey native that decided to play for the Azurri rather than the Red White and Blue. At 5 foot 8, he's pretty small but he has a good sense of space and can finish on either foot. Once again, there's a lot of talk of moving Rossi to a bigger club than Villareal, but I really don't think he will be any better than he is now. The World Cup obviously is the stage to prove skeptics like me wrong, but with an aging Italy squad behind him, and with the likes of Gilardino and Toni starting ahead of him, not sure if he will create too much buzz with his play. But of course, I can imagine all the ESPN announcers lamenting how he got away from the US national team's grasps every time he comes on the pitch. Maybe a special segment on his family back in New Jersey, and an interview of his hometown friends. Suffice to say, our American broadcasters will definitely make a big deal out of him.

Mesut Özil (Germany)

Germany is another one of those teams, like Italy, who have an aging squad that is virtually unchanged from World Cup 2006 and Euro 2008. However, this is a great time to see Mesut Özil rise to prominence. At only 21 and already competing in German Bundesliga (9 goals last season for Werder Bremen) at the highest level, it seems that there is nowhere but up to go for the young midfielder. Frankly, there hasn't been any German player worth following since Ballack, and he is definitely past his prime. Özil seems to carry a lot of promise, and I'm anxious to see how well he fares. Plus, it puts me in good graces with my wife who was born in Germany.  

Next week, I'll finish it off with the rest of the 12 players I'll be watching carefully this World Cup. But for now, I leave you with this Youtube clip, Dennis Bergkamp's wondergoal back in the 1988 World Cup. You won't see a prettier first touch than this. 

 

Posted via email from Long Way Round

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Written by shindz

May 22, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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