long way round

12 Players To Watch This World Cup: Part 2

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14 days left till the World Cup in South Africa. Anyone else getting excited? Last time around I was lucky enough to have a flexible schedule and ended up watching every single game live. I was so pumped back then, I remember blogging about every game after the group stage, but alas, I have since moved platforms and my old blog is nowhere to be found. Those were the glory days when my beloved France surprised everyone (even myself) and went to the final. I tried to reminisce through my writings of that time, but I guess the internet doesn't remember everything. Sigh.

Interesting figures coming out of South Africa are none of the 64 games have been sold out, and over 160,000 tickets are still available. It goes to show the African continent is yet still not as attractive for a global event, and the world economy has put a major dent in spending. But that won't deter fans from enjoying one of the best sporting events in the world.  Now, on to the other six players to watch. To read the previous post, go here

Park Chu Young (Korea)

Everyone is raving about the double dragon, Ki Sung Yong and Lee Chung Yong. Sure, I'm looking forward to them succeeding this time as well, as they are both 21 in age and both have started to play in Europe this past season. Heck, my Korea jersey has Sung Yong in the back of it. I'm definitely a fan of them. But I'm an even more of a fan of Park Chu Young, the AS Monaco striker that has been given the privilege to wear the coveted number 10 shirt for a European team. To me, that's a huge feat for an Asian person trying to break into the European top flight. 

I really hope that Park Chu Young performs well this year. He did well enough last world cup to get a call from a European club, but so far hasn't really made his mark yet, as AS Monaco hardly gets the publicity as a Manchester United or a Real Madrid. Will Park Chu Young elevate his game and play for a top tier club once in his career? I'm hoping that this summer will prove that he can.

Yoann Gourcuff (France)

France may not have its field general Zidane this summer, but they never cease to have great talent coming from the ranks. The 23 year old Gourcuff just might be Zizou's successor for the French national team. While Ribery is more comfortable on the wings, Gourcuff is out and out a midfield playmaker. He likes to roam in the middle, distribute the ball, and even score when necessary. Although he started out at AC Milan as a hot prospect, he unfortunately had to compete with Kaka (and Seedorf, Pirlo and Ambrosini) for a starting position and ended up warming the bench during his two year stint there. After moving to Bordeaux, he took them to a Ligue 1 title last year and a Champions league quarter-final this year. 

France barely made it into the World Cup this year, thanks to "le hand of God". Domenech is an incompetent coach. Yet, I'm still rooting for Les Bleus. France has a solid defense with an awesome keeper Hugo Lloris, the back held by Evra, Sagna, Clichy, and Squillaci, and an impressive midfield in Diarra, Gourcuff, Malouda, and Ribery (depends on Domenech goes with a 4-4-2 or a more attacking 4-3-3), and Anelka and Henry up top. Hopefully they will advance the group stages behind Gourcuff's midfield magic. 

Angel Di Maria (Argentina)

Many consider the reason why Messi has never shined on the international stage is because unlike his Barcelona teammates, his national side teammates do not have the same style of crisp passing and "on-the-ground" play where Messi thrives. While Di Maria has all the footwork and skill to keep possession and beat players, scoring is more of his strength rather than passing. That means, don't expect him to be a Xavi for Messi. Argentina is one of the few countries with endless scoring options (Higuain, Tevez, Milito, Messi) both from midfield and from up top. Regardless of how Argentina fares, Angel Di Maria is bound to leave Benfica for more glory. Hopefully, there will be enough organization from Maxi Rodriquez and Mascherano to provide their forwards with many chances.
 
Roque Santa Cruz (Paraguay)

Some call him the "most good looking footballer in the world," but regardless of his good looks, Roque Santa Cruz is first and foremost a great soccer player. He's had a bad bout with injuries this past season and didn't contribute much to Manchester City this year, so the World Cup is definitely an opportunity to prove the world that he still has what it takes to be counted among the best. Paraguay is no longer with their first choice striker, Salvador Cabañas, but Roque Santa Cruz and Oscar Cardozo (Benfica teammate with Angel Di Maria) will fill that gap. At 28, Roque (pronounced Rocky) is a through and through veteran, and will provide much leadership for Paraguay. Everyone considers Group F to be the weakest, and Paraguay should have no problem advancing through.

Diego Forlan (Uruguay)

Diego Forlan is one of those stars that continues to shine, in spite of his age. He's performed some last minute heroics to keep Atletico Madrid in the Europa League, eventually scoring in the final and giving Atletico the title. For an aging star, I'm looking forward to Forlan playing, because it's always a joy to watch older players still outperform many of the younger ones. Uruguay is currently the favorites in a tough Group A, where France, Mexico and South Africa will battle it out to come out of it as well. Everyone knows the tremendous advantage home field is, and France and Mexico have been very inconsistent as of late, so should be interesting to see who will push through.

On any given day France will easily overcome, but the new firepower in Carlos Vela, Dos Santos, and now Chicharito, Mexico may outperform and advance beyond the group stage. Look to Forlan to deliver some magic yet again. 

Cesc Fabregas (Spain)

And finally, I'm looking forward to seeing Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas perform this world cup. No, I'm not biased. I just think all eyes will be on him. Iniesta is injured, Xavi will probably be playing his last world cup, so this is Cesc' moment to shine. With all the hype and rumor about Cesc making a move to his boyhood club Barcelona this summer, everyone is buzzing about his future. Spain is considered the favorites to win it all and they do have an impressive squad, but whether they can shed their perennial "great squad that never wins" stigma, we'll have to see.

At 23, Fabregas is still quite young and already shows loads of talent. Depending on playing time this summer, I have no doubt that everyone will count him among the best, right up there with Messi, Rooney and CR. 

Next week, I'm going to gaze into the crystal ball and lay my predictions for who will go to the finals and who will win it all. 

Posted via email from Long Way Round

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Written by shindz

May 28, 2010 at 1:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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